Once Upon a Long Ago

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"Once Upon a Long Ago"
Once Upon a Long Ago.jpg
Single by Paul McCartney
from the album All the Best!
B-side"Back On My Feet"
Released16 November 1987 (7" single, CD single)
23 November 1987 (12" single)
Format7", 12", CD,
Recorded11–12 March 1987
LabelMPL Communications
Parlophone Records
Songwriter(s)Paul McCartney
Producer(s)Phil Ramone
Paul McCartney singles chronology
"Only Love Remains"
"Once Upon a Long Ago"
"My Brave Face"

"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.[1]

It was reported in a 2011 biography[which?] 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.


Originally it was intended that this song would be a duet between McCartney and Freddie Mercury. The two had known each other only casually: Mercury was a fan of Buddy Holly and would occasionally attend McCartney's Holly inspired events over the years. However, they became friends properly following socializing that took place after Live Aid. McCartney (who had a lot of sympathy for Mercury due to the press stalking him for stories about his health) wrote the song with Mercury in mind. Mercury however was inundated with work, both solo and with Queen and was also, at this point, in the advanced stages of his battle with AIDS and an understanding but saddened 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. The track was recorded at Hog Hill Studio on March 11 and 12, 1987 with overdubs added in Abbey Road in July. During this session, a full orchestra was overdubbed as well as instrumental contributions by Stan Sulzmann (saxophone), Nigel Kennedy (violin), and Adrian Brett (flute).[2]

Release and charts[edit]

The song was released in four versions. Two different 12" singles feature "long" and "extended" versions (mixed by George Martin and Peter Henderson, respectively); the 7" single and the CD single (McCartney's first) features an edit of the long version and a b-side from each the two 12" singles, as well as "Back on My Feet", a b-side for all four iterations; and the album version featured on All the Best! contains an alternative ending. "Back on My Feet" was also the first released song from the songwriting collaboration between McCartney and Elvis Costello. Both 12" and CD singles also featured songs from yet to be released McCartney's cover album Choba B CCCP.

"Once Upon a Long Ago" reached number ten in the United Kingdom Singles Chart,[3]. The single was not released in the United States nor included on the US version of All the Best!, although it did appear on the longer UK/Canada version. The song has not been included on any major US-released album; however it did appear on the promotional album Never Stop Doing What You Love.

Track listings[edit]

7" single (R 6170)
  1. "Once Upon a Long Ago" – 4:12
  2. "Back on My Feet" – 4:20
12" single, version one (12R 6170)
  1. "Once Upon a Long Ago" (Long Version) – 4:34
  2. "Back on My Feet" – 4:21
  3. "Midnight Special" – 3:56
  4. "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" – 2:51
12" single, version two (12RX 6170)
  1. "Once Upon a Long Ago" (Extended Version) – 6:06
  2. "Back on My Feet" – 4:21
  3. "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" – 3:15
  4. "Kansas City" – 4:00
CD single (CDR 6170)
  1. "Once Upon a Long Ago" – 4:12
  2. "Back on My Feet" – 4:21
  3. "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" – 2:51
  4. "Kansas City" – 4:00

Once Upon a Video[edit]

Along with the single and the All the Best! album there was also released an 18-minute VHS for sale called Once Upon a Video,[4] consisting of four music videos:

  1. "Once Upon a Long Ago" – the video was shot in Valley of the Rocks, North Devon.
  2. "Stranglehold"
  3. "Pretty Little Head"
  4. "We All Stand Together" – the music video was an edit of the songpart from the movie Rupert and the Frog Song

"We All Stand Together" was included on the UK/Canada-release of All the Best! along with "Once Upon a Long Ago".


  1. ^ "Once Upon a Long Ago". JPGR. 2000. Retrieved 25 September 2013.
  2. ^ Luca Perasi, Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969–2013), L.I.L.Y. Publishing, 2013, ISBN 978-88-909122-1-4, pp.265–267.
  3. ^ "Official Charts: Paul McCartney". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  4. ^ www.discogs.comPaul McCartney – Once Upon A Video