"Coming Up" was the opening track from Paul McCartney's McCartney II album, written by McCartney and released in 1980. Like the rest of the album, the song had a minimalist synthesized feel to it. It featured humorously-processed lead vocals from McCartney, who played all the instruments and shared harmonies with wife Linda.
A live version of the song was recorded by Wings in concert December 17, 1979, in Glasgow, Scotland. This version had a much fuller sound and was included as one of the two songs on the B-side of the single; the other B-side was also a Wings song, "Lunchbox/Odd Sox", that dated back to the Venus and Mars sessions. Both B-sides were credited to Paul McCartney & Wings (see the alternate cover), the first time this credit had been used for a Wings record since "Junior's Farm."
In the US, radio stations bypassed the McCartney solo A-side and played the live Wings B-side. To help sales of McCartney II, a special single-sided 45rpm promotional white-label copy of the Wings version was included with the album in North America.
The live Wings version has since appeared on various McCartney best-of compilations. For example, on the McCartney and Wings greatest hits album Wingspan, the live Wings version is included on the US/Canada releases, while the McCartney solo studio version is included on the UK release.
A different live Wings recording of "Coming Up" appears on the album version of the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea, with an additional verse that was edited out of the Glasgow release.
"Coming Up" is also well known for its video. It is an early example of electronic trickery, with Paul McCartney playing ten roles and Linda McCartney playing two. The "band" features Paul and Linda's imitations of several famous rock musicians; some are more easily recognizable than others. According to one source, the characters include Hank Marvin (guitar), Ginger Baker (drums), Ron Mael of Sparks (keyboards), a 'Beatlemania-Era' version of Beatle Paul (bass and backing vocals), Andy MacKay (sax), Frank Zappa (sax), as well as a long-haired guitarist (strongly resembling Neil Young), two sax players and a male backing singer (performed by Linda) that have yet to be identified with any certainty.
McCartney himself, though, said that the out-of-step sax player is just a "hippie guy. In audio commentary on a 2007 video collection, McCartney claims that only three of his characters in the video were impersonations of a single person: Hank Marvin, Ron Mael and "the bass player from The Beatles.
The B-side, the live Wings version of "Coming Up", became a #1 U.S. Billboard Hot 100 hit in June 1980. The A-side, the McCartney solo version, reached #2 in the UK.
"Coming Up" is the only Paul McCartney song to hit the top of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart that was officially credited by Billboard to McCartney as a solo artist, despite the fact that the "Live At Glasgow" version of "Coming Up" that actually topped the U.S. chart was performed by (and credited to) McCartney & Wings. All other Billboard number-one singles involving McCartney after The Beatles are officially credited to either Paul & Linda McCartney ("Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"), Paul McCartney & Wings ("My Love," "Band On The Run"), Wings ("Listen To What The Man Said", "Silly Love Songs," "With A Little Luck"), Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder ("Ebony & Ivory") and Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson ("Say, Say, Say"). That oddity makes McCartney the ex-Beatle to top the charts both the most (in conjunction with Wings and others) and the least (by himself) after the band's breakup. Ringo Starr and John Lennon each registered two U.S. pop number-one hits, while George Harrison had three, all of which were credited to them alone.
|U.S. Billboard Hot 100||1||Wings|
|U.S. ARC Weekly Top 40||1||Wings|
|UK Singles Chart||2||solo|