Off the Ground – 1993

Off the Ground is the ninth solo studio album by Paul McCartney under his own name (discounting then his Wings-era discography, among other releases), released in 1993. As his first studio album of the 1990s, it is also the follow-up to the well-received Flowers in the Dirt (1989).

After planning another world tour simply entitled The New World Tour in 1993 to promote the album, McCartney opted to record Off the Ground with his touring band. Blair Cunningham joined on drums to replace Chris Whitten, who departed to join Dire Straits.

McCartney decided to record the album “live in the studio”, meaning that the band would rehearse an entire song then record it in one take, instead of recording each vocal track and instrumental track separately. This approach gave a new, raw and direct feel to the work, but was not overly liked by critics.

The compositions also seemed less complex than on Flowers in the Dirt, with some of them having been out-takes from the earlier album. “Mistress and Maid” and “The Lovers That Never Were”, which emerged from McCartney’s songwriting collaboration with Elvis Costello, made their appearance on this album. Unlike Flowers in the Dirt, however, Costello did not appear on Off the Ground.

The first two songs taped were Biker Like an Icon and Peace in the Neighbourhood, both derived from some album rehearsals in November 1991.

McCartney’s increased interest in social issues came to prominence on this album, with the anti-animal cruelty rocker “Looking for Changes” (McCartney and his wife Linda both being long-time vegetarians by this time) or paeans for a better world (“Hope of Deliverance” and “C’Mon People”). The B-side “Big Boys Bickering” lambasted politicians, with the phrase “Big boys bickering, fucking it up for everyone” showing a more aggressive side to McCartney.

The CD hidden track, a short excerpt of “Cosmically Conscious”, was originally written by McCartney in 1968 during The Beatles’ stay in Rishikesh. A full length version of the recording was released as the B-side of the “Off the Ground” single and later included on Off the Ground: The Complete Works.

The lead single, “Hope of Deliverance”, was released in the last week of December 1992 and the album followed on 2 February 1993. Off the Ground was the first Paul McCartney album to not contain a sizeable US hit single since Wings’ Wild Life in 1971. The album’s first single barely reached number 18 in the UK, where “C’Mon People” became a minor hit as well. In the US, the album’s title track also entered the Adult Contemporary chart at number 27. Singles from Off the Ground floundered on the US and the UK charts. However, “Hope of Deliverance” achieved commercial success elsewhere. It became McCartney’s first international hit single since “Say, Say, Say” with Michael Jackson in 1983, cracking the top 5 on the charts in over five European territories except his homeland and selling over 250,000 copies just in Germany.

In the United Kingdom, the album itself debuted at number 5 and quickly fell off the chart, spending only 6 weeks inside the top 100. In the United States, it peaked at the number 17 on the Billboard 200 with the first-week sales of only 53,000 copies, managing to receive Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Although it met with mixed reviews from critics and suffered from lackluster sales in the UK and North America, the album fared better in other key markets such as Spain. In some countries like France and Japan, it was able to surpass its predecessor Flowers in the Dirt in cumulative sales. In Germany, Off the Ground has been McCartney’s best-selling album there, spending 20 weeks on the top-ten and eventually achieving Platinum for shipments of over half a million copies.

Some weeks after its release, McCartney launched “The New World Tour”, taking in many successful shows across the globe during the summer months. These gigs were documented on the album Paul Is Live, which followed at the end of 1993.

The feet on the album cover are of McCartney, his wife Linda and his touring band.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Paul McCartney, except where noted.

No. Title Length

1. “Off the Ground” 3:40
2. “Looking for Changes” 2:47
3. “Hope of Deliverance” 3:22
4. “Mistress and Maid” (Paul McCartney, Declan MacManus) 3:00
5. “I Owe It All to You” 4:51
6. “Biker Like an Icon” 3:26
7. “Peace in the Neighbourhood” 5:06
8. “Golden Earth Girl” 3:45
9. “The Lovers That Never Were” (Paul McCartney, Declan MacManus) 3:43
10. “Get Out of My Way” 3:32
11. “Winedark Open Sea” 5:27
12. “C’Mon People” (ends at 5:46 followed by six seconds of silence; features ‘Cosmically Conscious’ as a hidden track)

Off the Ground: The Complete Works

Off the Ground: The Complete Works is a two-disc set released in Germany and the Netherlands. The first disc contains the original Off the Ground album, with the second collecting together various B-sides and previously unreleased songs. This edition included McCartney’s rare use of swear words in the song “Big Boys Bickering”, a protest song. Other notable songs on this edition are “Long Leather Coat” (a Linda McCartney composed protest song) and “I Can’t Imagine”.

Despite the title, the set is missing two B-sides and three promo remixes: “Deliverance” and “Deliverance (Dub Mix)”, dance-oriented reworkings of the song “Hope of Deliverance”, released as B-sides of the “C’mon People” CD single #1, and the three promo remixes of “Off the Ground” released to American radio, namely the Bob Clearmountain remix, the Keith Cohen remix, and the Keith Cohen AC remix. When the iTunes Store added McCartney’s catalogue of music in 2007, they included “I Can’t Imagine” as an exclusive bonus track on the main Off the Ground album.

Off the Ground: The Complete Works has not been reissued since its original release and is now unavailable either via CD or digital download.

All songs written and composed by Paul McCartney, except where noted.