This nu-disco banger originated from a lyrical idea from Tame Impala's Kevin Parker and American author Michael Chabon about a fictional designer drug. The majority of Uptown Special's lyrics were written by Chabon, who is the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist behind 2000's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. "It's probably my favorite piece of modern fiction," Ronson told Billboard magazine, "I've basically bought it for everybody. I knew [Chabon] was a huge music fan because his last book, Telegraph Avenue, has details on '50s, '60s and '70s jazz albums."
Australian musician Kevin Parker played a large role on Uptown Special, lending his voice to three songs, as well as playing drums, guitars and synths on other tracks. Mark Ronson revealed to NME that Parker looked toward The Streets for inspiration when co-penning the lyrics for this number. "I know Kevin really loves that song, and he was really trying to describe the feeling of coming down to Michael Chabon, who is not necessarily a big druggy at all," he said. "He just said 'Listen to this song by The Streets, and I can't remember what it was, I think it was 'Blinded By The Lights', and said that's what I want it to feel like."
Ronson told the story of the song to The Guardian: "Kevin sent me a demo of this riff and vocal idea maybe a year and a half ago, and I instantly loved it. When he came to Memphis to work on the album, he sat in a corner and wrote the lyrics with Michael. Then I added some synths with Riton and James Ford, and Kirin J Callinan laid this insane guitar solo. Finally, while we were mixing the song in New York, Tom Elmhirst (the mix engineer) took some of our synths and made this crazy drop happen around 4 mins 13 seconds."
Michael Chabon told NME about the experience of writing the lyrics for this song with Kevin Parker: "That was the hardest lyric writing experience because I hadn't worked with Kevin Parker before," he recalled. "I love Tame Impala and he writes his own lyrics. He writes entire complete songs and here I was stepping into this groove that he had come up with. I felt nervous, but Kevin was very gracious. He didn't express any doubt or frustration that I was intruding."
"Kevin gave me a couple of rounds of notes on it, one more thematic and the other technical," Chabon continued. "I was working hard - I wanted the lyrics to be as good as anything he could have come up with. In he end he smiled when he was singing so that was a great experience."
Photographer Theo Wenner shot the song's music video, which features Snapchat personality and model Sarah McDaniel. The clip also includes another Kevin Parker sung track, "Summer Breaking