McCartney and Mercury

Once Upon A Long Ago – UK single, 1987.

“Once Upon a Long Ago” is a Paul McCartney song, released as his fortieth single on 16 November 1987, as part of his compilation All the Best!, released two weeks before the single. The track was produced by Phil Ramone and mixed by George Martin, and features violin by Nigel Kennedy.

It was reported that the origin of this song is with the film “The Princess Bride”. McCartney was approached by Director Rob Reiner to compose a couple of songs and the incidental music for the film. Reiner rejected the two songs Paul submitted, “Once Upon a Long Ago” and “Beautiful Night”, as “too sentimental”; he contracted with Mark Knopfler to complete the soundtrack.

McCartney & Mercury at Live Aid.

Originally it was intended that this song would be a duet between McCartney and Freddie Mercury. The two had known each other only casually in the past as Mercury was a fan of Buddy Holly and would occasionally attend McCartney’s annual “Buddy Holly”-weeks over the years. However, they became friends properly following socialising that took place after Live Aid. McCartney wrote the song with Mercury in mind. Mercury however was inundated with work, both solo and with Queen, and McCartney continued the project without him. However McCartney’s pitch, phrasing and key on the finished track are all very similar to the guide vocal demo he created for Mercury when he was attached to the project.

Linda McCartney revealed that Paul was devastated by Mercury’s death when she appeared alone on British TV a few days after Mercury died.

Paul McCartney took a chance when he included the song on his “All The Best” compilation in the UK, as it had not yet been released as a single, so it was not a safe bet as a “best” song. However, the song proved a hit, and went to number ten on the UK singles list. In Belgium, it went as high as number four. The video has since become a seasonal favourite with its Christmas inspired animation sequences.

The song was released on a single (backed with the first outing of the McCartney-MacManus collaborations, “Back On My Feet”), on two different 12″ singles (also containing the first four samples from the yet unreleased “Russian” CHOBA B CCCP” cover album), a CD EP and the video was released on a video cassette, “Once Upon…a Video”. The song went rather unnoticed in the USA, where it didn’t appear on the “All The Best” album and was not released as a single.

McCartney took it upon himself to provide sketches for the storyboard of the animated sequences for the music video, and now, one of these have appeared for sale on ebay!

Paul McCartney’s sketches for the second animated sequence in the music video for “Once Upon a Long Ago”.

From the description: This is an amazing and rare item of memorabilia in the hand of Sir.Paul McCartney.

Comprising: a large (32″ X 12″) animator’s sheet of 14 annotated sketches by Paul McCartney in black marker.  Further annotations in unknown hand (likely animator Geoff Dunbar). This was offered through Bonhams sale of Entertainment Memorabilia on 29th June 2016.  It includes a Letter of Provenance from the video’s co-director Michael Ross.




2 Responses

  1. Lee Beddow says:

    It's not much of a stretch to imagine Freddie singing this – another sad 'what if' moment…

  2. Teddy Salad says:

    Most of Paul's music in the 80's was pap. This is no exception.

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