The lyrics of the single from 1993’s OFF THE GROUND album recall the stiff upper lip of World War II–era Britain. They’re married to bossa-nova percussion, an accordion, and a twelve-string acoustic guitar vaguely reminiscent of Trini Lopez’s “If I Had a Hammer” or a relaxed take on the 1940s Latin hit “Besame Mucho,” an old standby of the Beatles in their Cavern days.
The storyline of McCartney’s 90-minute classical piece LIVERPOOL ORATORIO followed his own life, beginning with his childhood in Liverpool. When he returned to Liverpool to write it, he was flooded with memories from the 1940s. Perhaps the same memories informed this song as well. Maybe the 1987 feature HOPE AND GLORY also inspired him. The film was based on director John Boorman’s experience as a little kid in London during the Nazi bombings and how his family tried to hold together during the chaotic times. The film’s title came from the 1902 patriotic British song “Land of Hope and Glory.”
McCartney’s song expresses the same unsinkable determination not to give into despair despite the encroaching darkness. As it sprang from English history, the song resonated more in the United Kingdom, making it to number fifteen there but only number eighty-three in the United States. (It did reach number nine on the US adult contemporary chart.)
Despite the possible World War II connotations, it became the most played record on German radio ever. It was one of McCartney’s biggest-selling singles in Europe, with sales of over 4 million, helped by a colorful dance remix video in which it looks like the crowd is all on really good ecstasy.