The Beatles icon Paul McCartney admitted on his website to ripping off a Professor Longhair bass line:
To coincide with the recent reissue of Professor Longhair’s Live On The Queen Mary, in this instalment of ‘Sticking Out Of My Back Pocket’ Paul brings the New Orleans – or ‘Nawlins, as they like to say!’ – atmosphere to our ears with Venus and Mars hidden gem ‘My Carnival’.
‘My Carnival’ was originally released as the B-side to Paul’s ‘Spies Like Us’ but was recorded in New Orleans alongside many of our favourite Venus and Mars tracks such as ‘Rock Show’ and ‘You Gave Me The Answer’. Paul says that even though ‘Venus and Mars didn’t have a “New Orleans sound”, the flavour of us being there for so long is in there’. And that flavour comes out stronger than a gumbo in the French Quarter for ‘My Carnival’!
Recorded in the post Mardi Gras haze at Sea-Saint Studios, the song embodies the communal “NOLA” (New Orleans, Lousiana) spirit, recruiting an ensemble of ‘Nawlins’ finest including George Porter Jr. from The Meters and local R&B singer Benny Spellman [Benny did the original version of ‘Fortune Teller’, covered by The Who and The Rolling Stones and others].
Although Professor Longhair doesn’t appear on ‘My Carnival’ the track is a tip-of-the-hat to one of his best-known numbers ‘Mardi Gras in New Orleans’.
Paul told us: ‘I just loved the style so much that I composed something called ‘My Carnival’ and it’s got the same riff, basically, that he plays… I just couldn’t play it as well! But it’s the bass line definitely [sings Professor Longhair-style bass line]. It was very similar. So I thought, well I can’t just rip him off and have him find out about it and think, “Oh, he’s just ripped me off!” So I’ll invite him to the session and be honest about it! So I did and said: “Hey listen, you’ve totally influenced me, but I’ve done this song”.’