Press to Play

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Press to Play
Paul McCartney Press to Play.jpg
Studio album by
Released25 August 1986 (1986-08-25)
RecordedMarch–May 1985 at McCartney's Sussex studios, and from October–December 1985 at McCartney's Scottish studios
Length45:11 (LP)
58:53 (CD)
LabelParlophone (UK)
Capitol (US)
ProducerPaul McCartney, Hugh Padgham
Paul McCartney chronology
Give My Regards to Broad Street
Press to Play
All the Best!
Singles from Press to Play
  1. "Press"
    Released: 14 July 1986
  2. "Pretty Little Head"
    Released: 27 October 1986 (UK only)
  3. "Stranglehold"
    Released: 29 October 1986 (US only)
  4. "Only Love Remains"
    Released: 1 December 1986

Press to Play is the sixth solo studio album by English musician Paul McCartney, released in August 1986. It was McCartney's first album of entirely new music since Pipes of Peace in 1983, and his first solo album to be issued internationally by EMI following a six-year alliance with Columbia Records in the United States and Canada. Keen to re-establish himself after his poorly received 1984 musical film Give My Regards to Broad Street, McCartney enlisted producer Hugh Padgham to give the album a contemporary sound.

On release, Press to Play received a mixed critical reception and was McCartney's poorest-selling studio album up to that point. Although it failed to make the top 20 in America, the album peaked at number 8 on the UK Albums Chart and achieved gold status from the BPI in September 1986.[1] Four singles were issued from Press to Play: "Press", "Pretty Little Head", "Stranglehold" and "Only Love Remains". "Press" was a minor success, peaking at number 21 in the US. The music video for the song featured McCartney walking around Bond Street and Charing Cross tube stations in London, catching a tube train and speaking with members of the general public.

Production and recording[edit]

After the box office flop of the musical film Give My Regards to Broad Street, McCartney decided that it was time for a change of pace in his solo career. In an attempt to give his music a more contemporary sound, he joined forces with Hugh Padgham, an in-demand, multiple award-winning producer famed for having recorded Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Genesis, The Human League, The Police, and XTC. McCartney began recording Press to Play in March 1985, having written several new songs, many with current collaborator, 10cc guitarist Eric Stewart who co-wrote six of the album's ten songs. Three additional songs co-writen by McCartney and Stewart were released as additional CD tracks ("Write Away", "Tough on a Tightrope") and b-sides ("Hanglide"), while two more songs were later released on 10cc albums ...Meanwhile and Mirror Mirror.

McCartney recalled in 1986: "When we started working on the record, Hugh came in one day and said he'd had a dream. He dreamed he woke up one morning and had made this really bad, syrupy album with me, an album he hated, and that it had blown his whole career. We took that as a little warning".[2] Guesting on the album would be The Who's lead guitarist, Pete Townshend, Genesis' drummer and lead vocalist Phil Collins, Split Enz's keyboard maestro Eddie Rayner and Eric Stewart. Carlos Alomar also overdubbed electric guitar on several tracks, including "Press", "Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun", "It's Not True", "Tough on a Tightrope", "Write Away" and "Move Over Busker", according to his recollections included in the book Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969–2013).[3]

The album was not finished until the end of 1985, by which time only one song would see release from its sessions – the title track to the film Spies Like Us, joined by Phil Ramone in the producer's chair. "Spies Like Us", a non-album single backed by Wings' 1975 recording "My Carnival", was a US top 10 hit.

Cover artwork[edit]

The album's cover features Paul McCartney and his then-wife, Linda McCartney. The album cover's photograph was taken by George Hurrell, using the same box camera that he used in Hollywood in the 1930s and the 1940s.[4] Hurrell was renowned for his photographs of movie stars of the 1930s and 1940s like Clark Gable and Greta Garbo, to which the album's cover was meant to pay homage.[5]


"Press", a slick up-tempo pop song, was released in July 1986 and went on to become the album's sole top 30 hit. Press to Play itself appeared on 25 August in the United States[6] and 1 September in the United Kingdom.[7] It received lukewarm reviews[8] and proved to be McCartney's weakest-selling studio album up to that point.[9]

Peaking at number 8 in the UK, its chart life was brief, while in the US, Press to Play failed to go gold, peaking at number 30 and selling only 250,000 copies.[10] The follow-up singles, "Pretty Little Head" and "Only Love Remains", performed poorly on the charts. As a result of this disappointing commercial reception, author Howard Sounes writes, McCartney appointed a former Polydor Records executive, Richard Ogden, as his manager, "to help revive his career".[11]

In 1993, Press to Play was remastered and reissued on the CD as part of The Paul McCartney Collection series with his 1985 hit "Spies Like Us" and an alternate mix of impending 1987 UK success "Once Upon a Long Ago" as bonus tracks. In this edition "Press" (4:25) was replaced by the 4:43 remixed version.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic2.5/5 stars[12]
Chicago Tribune(mixed)[13]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music2/5 stars[14]
The Essential Rock Discography4/10[15]
Los Angeles Times(unfavourable)[16]
Q2/5 stars[17]
Rolling Stone(favourable)[18]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide2/5 stars[19]
Stylus Magazine(mixed)[20]

AllMusic editor Stephen Thomas Erlewine admired the track "Press", but gave the album a star rating of 2.5 out of 5, saying: "McCartney is dabbling in each of his strengths, just to see what works. It doesn't wind up as one of his stronger albums, but it's more interesting than some of his more consistent ones, and those aforementioned cuts demonstrate that he could still cut effective pop records when he put his mind to it."[12]

In a review for the Chicago Tribune, critic Lynn Van Matre wrote of the album: "No doubt about it, this is McCartney's most rocking album in ages. Much of it's catchy, most of it's fun, and it's superior to McCartney's efforts of recent years."[13] In the Los Angeles Times, Terry Atkinson praised "Press" as "a sprightly, sunny delight – one of the most playful, positive pop songs ever written about the joy of sex and its link with love", but opined that overall "the album finds McCartney as lost as usual and Stewart of little help". Atkinson concluded: "'Press to Play,' though it shows some signs of recovery, is basically just another in a long line (over 12 years!) of post-'Band on the Run' letdowns by a once almost unimaginably creative artist."[10]

More recently, Kit O'Toole of Blogcritics has contended that much of the album belongs among McCartney's "most ambitious work" and that the adventurousness of the project is unfairly overlooked. O'Toole adds: "Press to Play, along with McCartney II, arguably laid the foundation for his future musical experiments under the name The Fireman (particularly the first two albums, Strawberries Oceans Ships Forest and Rushes)."[21]

Track listing[edit]

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

Side one
1."Stranglehold" 3:36
2."Good Times Coming/Feel the Sun"McCartney4:44
3."Talk More Talk"McCartney5:18
4."Footprints" 4:32
5."Only Love Remains"McCartney4:13
Total length:22:23
Side two
2."Pretty Little Head" 5:14
3."Move Over Busker" 4:05
4."Angry" 3:36
5."However Absurd" 4:56
Total length:22:34
Additional tracks


Additional musicians
  • Paul McCartney – producer
  • Hugh Padgham – producer
  • Bonus tracks: "Once Upon a Long Ago" produced by Phil Ramone, "Spies Like Us" produced by McCartney, Ramone & Padgham
  • Hugh Padgham – engineer
  • Tony Clark – assistant engineer
  • Jon Kelly – assistant engineer
  • Peter Mew – assistant engineer
  • Matt Howe – assistant engineer
  • Steve Jackson – assistant engineer
  • Haydn Bendall – assistant engineer
  • Hugh Padgham – mixer except "Press" mixed by Bert Bevans and Steve Forward; and "It's Not True" mixed by Julian Mendelsohn. (And on CD reissue, "Once Upon a Long Ago", mixed by former Beatles producer George Martin.)

Sales chart performance[edit]


  • A^ Until January 1987, Japanese albums chart had been separated into LP, CD, and cassette charts. Press to Play also entered the cassette chart at number 21, and peaked at number 8 on the CD chart.


  1. ^ "Paul McCartney: Artist: Official Charts". Official Chart Company. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Luca Perasi, Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969–2013), L.I.L.Y. Publishing, 2013, ISBN 978-88-909122-1-4, pp.245–258.
  4. ^ a b "Paul McCartney – Press To Play (CD, Album) at Discogs". Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Madinger, Chip; Easter, Mark (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium. Chesterfield, MO: 44.1 Productions. p. 601. ISBN 0-615-11724-4.
  7. ^ Badman, Keith (2001). The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Break-Up 1970–2001. London: Omnibus Press. p. 376. ISBN 978-0-7119-8307-6.
  8. ^ Madinger, Chip; Easter, Mark (2000). Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium. Chesterfield, MO: 44.1 Productions. pp. 281, 291. ISBN 0-615-11724-4.
  9. ^ Sounes, Howard (2010). Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney. London: HarperCollins. pp. 405–06. ISBN 978-0-00-723705-0.
  10. ^ a b Grein, Paul (28 May 1989). "McCartney: Low-Key With New Album". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  11. ^ Sounes, Howard (2010). Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney. London: HarperCollins. p. 407. ISBN 978-0-00-723705-0.
  12. ^ a b Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Paul McCartney Press to Play". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  13. ^ a b Van Matre, Lynn (12 September 1986). "No Silly Love Songs On 'Press To Play'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  14. ^ Larkin, Colin (2006). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th edn). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 1257. ISBN 0-19-531373-9.
  15. ^ Strong, Martin C. (2006). The Essential Rock Discography. Edinburgh, UK: Canongate. p. 696. ISBN 978-1-84195-827-9.
  16. ^ Atkinson, Terry (31 August 1986). "Paul: Signs Of Hope Before The Letdown". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  17. ^ Nicol, Jimmy (October 1993). "Re-releases: Paul McCartney The Paul McCartney Collection". Q. p. 119.
  18. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (23 October 1986). "Paul McCartney Press To Play". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  19. ^ Randall, Mac; Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds) (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th edn). New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 526. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  20. ^ Soto, Alfred (8 February 2005). "Press to Play – On Second Thought". Stylus Magazine. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  21. ^ O'Toole, Kit (22 April 2010). "Want to hear Paul McCartney's Most Adventurous Album? Just Press to Play". Blogcritics. Retrieved 22 December 2014.
  22. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  23. ^ "Top Albums/CDs – Volume 45, No. 2" (PHP). RPM. 4 October 1986. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
  24. ^ " Paul McCartney – Press to Play". (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  25. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1986" (in Italian). Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  26. ^ a b Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  27. ^ " Paul McCartney – Press to Play". VG-lista. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  28. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  29. ^ " Paul McCartney – Press to Play" (in Swedish). Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  30. ^ "Paul McCartney – Press to Play –". Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  31. ^ "Paul McCartney: Artist: Official Charts". Official Chart Company. Retrieved 5 March 2014.
  32. ^ "The Pop Life – The New York Times". The New York Times. 5 July 1989. Retrieved 21 October 2011.
  33. ^ "Album Search: Paul McCartney – Press to Play" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 1 May 2013.
  34. ^ "British album certifications – Paul McCartney – Press to Play". British Phonographic Industry. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Press to Play in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[edit]