“Press to Play”. It’s a Paul McCartney album. From 1986? It had the hit song “Press” on it.
Still doesn’t ring a bell?
I guess you’d really have to be a McCartney fan to remember this album as it’s one of the poorest selling albums of McCartney’s entire solo career, at least in the United States.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad album, on the contrary, I think it’s pretty darn good.
Even McCartney himself seems to shrug the album off but that’s probably because it got such a lukewarm sales reception (it only hit #30 on the Billboard Hot 200) and it came at a time in his career when he was sort of lost and floundering a bit as to what kind of music he should make.
The “Press to Play” album arrived only a couple of years after the critically drubbed film and album project he made called “Give My Regards to Broad Street” (1984).
Up until the Broad Street film and album, McCartney had pretty much been a hit-making machine but after 1985 McCartney stopped hitting the Top Ten in the singles chart though his albums still continued to chart high and sell well.
Stunned by the very lukewarm reception to “Give My Regards to Broad Street”, McCartney pinned his hopes on a major commercial comeback with the “Press to Play” album and was disappointed and rudderless for a while after it failed to ignite the charts.
Looking back, I still think the “Press to Play” album is a pretty solid record and holds a unique place in McCartney’s catalog.
Produced by the then young hot-shot producer Hugh Padgham (who had produced Phil Collins and The Police), “Press to Play” seems to walk a fine line (McCartney pun intended) between the experimental/adventurous McCartney and the slick pop production McCartney.
While “Press to Play” at times tries too hard to be current and suffers from a bit of 1980’s sterile production, the album still manages to succeed with a slew of really interesting songs.
Tunes like the more experimental and esoteric “Talk More Talk” and “Pretty Little Head” mingle freely with the lovely McCartney ballad “Only Love Remains” and the haunting acoustic “Footprints” (with its weathered vocals from McCartney) as well as a trio of classy and melodic pop – “Write Away”, “Tough on a Tightrope” and “It’s Not True”.
Only “Stranglehold”, “Angry” and “Move Over Busker” strike me as a bit flat and generic though certainly not bad by any means.
The other interesting thing about the “Press to Play” album is the extreme variety of remixes of the songs that were released as singles.
(Note: in a future blog I will examine these various remixes and singles from this album but for this post I’m just going to mention the remixes for the song “Press”)
The first single “Press” for example was released in several variations. A rare mix by producer Hugh Padgham was released in the UK on I believe on a 45, a limited edition 10-inch single and also on some early vinyl pressings of the album as well as some very rare CD versions.
The more familiar mix of “Press” that was released in the US (and the majority of UK vinyl and CD versions) was mixed by Bert Bevans and Steve Forward and that’s the version that most people who remember the song think of and that’s the version that was used on the video of the song as well.
I knew of the rare mix of “Press” but had never actually heard it until a couple of years ago. I didn’t buy the UK 45 or 10-inch singles of the song but finally managed to track down one of the elusive UK CD versions of “Press to Play” that contains the rare mix.
I have several photos (above) of the two UK CDs I own of the “Press to Play” album and have highlighted the CD disc hubs of both CDs – one with the rare mix and one with the regular mix.
You can’t tell by the cover of the booklets if you have a CD with the rare mix, you have to examine the hub (see above) or play the disc.
The rare mix of “Press” has a run time of 4:23 and the regular mix has a run time of 4:42. Obviously the two mixes sound fairly different and just a few seconds in you can tell right away if you have the rare mix of “Press” or not.
I actually prefer the regular mix of “Press” as that’s the one I grew up listening to but the rare mix is a nice variation and fun to hear.
I’ve also highlighted in the photos above a rare DJ vinyl US promo of the “Press to Play” album with gold promotional stamp that has translucent vinyl which you can see when holding it up to a good light source.
And of course I’ve included the 1993 UK McCartney Collection CD of “Press to Play” which includes some nice bonus tracks like McCartney’s last Top Ten hit (I don’t count the one he did with Kanye West recently as it’s not truly a McCartney single) “Spies Like Us” from the film of the same name.
In the future I will show some of the many other “Press to Play” vinyl singles, etc. I own but for today enjoy this quick look at “Press to Play” and these two different mixes of “Press”.
Unfortunately I know of no US version on either vinyl or CD that contain the rare mix of “Press” so if you’re looking for it you need to check out UK copies.
Some McCartney fans aren’t even aware there are UK CDs of the album that do actually contain the rare mix so for those out there looking for it I hope the photos above help you in your search.
I hope to track down an early UK vinyl pressing of “Press to Play” with the rare mix of “Press” and if I ever find one I’ll post it here!
Until next time,