Friday, August 21, 2009

All Together on the Wireless Machine: McCartney or Not?

On November 25, 1967, BBC Radio 1's programme Where It's At broadcast a special on the Beatles' new Magical Mystery Tour double-EP set, and along with the program came the first broadcast of a piano/vocal jingle for the show's hosts Kenny Everett and Chris Denning, performed and composed by Paul McCartney - or so reports Mark Lewisohn in his book Complete Beatles Chronicle.

There are many who disagree with this fact: Allen J. Wiener in The Ultimate Beatles Recording Guide calls 'All Together On The Wireless' an Everett composition with "Paul on piano and doing some minimal vocals behind Everett."

And Doug Sulpy reported in an issue in The 910 newsletter: "...'All Together On The Wireless Machine,' which I don't believe has Paul McCartney (or any other Beatle) on it." (Vol. 8 No. 1, June 2000)

"The lyric 'Kenny Everett and Chris Denning all together on the wireless machine' should give you a clue who's performing it" -Doug Sulpy

Does it? Here are the lyrics:

"While sitting at my piano one day,
A magical thought came my way,
To write a number for the BBC
Kenny Everett and Chris Denning
All together on the wireless machine
Kenny Everett and Chris Denning
All together on the wireless machine..."

These lyrics reveal quite a few things about its composer...

"While sitting at my piano one day"
This could be interpreted as Paul describing himself sitting at his psychedelically-painted upright Knight piano, on which McCartney composed many of his songs, located in his music room inside his home on Cavendish Avenue.
"It had a lovely tone, that piano, you'd just open the lid and there was such a magic tone, almost out of tune, and of course the way it was painted added to the fun of it all." -McCartney

"A magical thought came my way, to write a number for the BBC"
Paul was not adverse to writing songs for others, or writing them from titles ("One And One Is Two", "Sgt. Pepper", "Magical Mystery Tour" being some examples, and later "Live And Let Die" and "Spies Like Us" from his solo career). In this case, Paul, being a composer, is describing his decision to write a number for the British Broadcasting Corporation and more specifically, DJs Denning and Everett's radio show Where It's At. Everett would often ask, half-jokingly, for songs written by the Beatles especially for him (like the "Goodbye Kenny Everett" jingle from 1968, or Lennon's "Monte Carlo" in 1971).

"Kenny Everett and Chris Denning"
In this line Paul mentions the two radio DJs of Where It's At. McCartney does not mention himself in this line because he probably intended it to be used in future broadcasts, and not just the November 25th edition. The various edits appearing on bootlegs in decades that followed proved that indeed it was used on multiple occasions.

"All together on the wireless machine"
Paul probably had this line in his mind and then wrote the rest of the song around it. The two people "together" on the "wireless machine" (radio) programme were Everett and Denning, which again explains why Paul does not mention himself in the song (but he does so in another way...). The title also bears a slight resemblance to "All Together Now", a song which he would release on Yellow Submarine a year later.

Though the vocal on the recording is somewhat uncharacteristic of McCartney, he had used this type of voice before. Two examples of it include the BBC "posh voice" from the Top Gear promo spot recorded in July 1964, and on the Beatles' 1966 Christmas record entitled Pantomime: Everywhere It's Christmas. McCartney often would usually alter his voice in some way when playing material jokingly or on recordings that were not serious (with great evidence of this in his piano rehearsals during the Get Back sessions). With this song, Paul jokingly changes his voice to sing this off-the-cuff composition for the BBC. There are some minimal backing vocals, provided by none other than the zany Kenny Everett.

The melody of this song provides the greatest evidence that McCartney is present on the recording. Starting off with the beginning, the opening piano melody up until "Kenny Everett and Chris Denning" is the exact piano part to "Hello, Goodbye", complete with its descending riff. This piano part was played by Paul on the final recording of "Hello, Goodbye" and his piano playing can be heard quite clearly on take 1 of the song (at the time title "Hello Hello"). Not only is the playing authentic, but "All Together On The Wireless Machine" was broadcast on November 25, and the "Hello, Goodbye" single was first released November 24. This means that "Hello, Goodbye" was an unreleased song at the time of "ATOTWM"'s recording, because Where It's At was pre-taped. Paul's jingle in all likelihood was the first item for the show to be recorded. The second section to the song, with a bouncy melody, bears a great resemblance to Paul's piano song "Please don't bring your banjo back..." from the Beatles' 1966 Christmas Record. Everett and Denning were DJs, not musicians, and there is no evidence that suggests they could even play the piano. And even if they could, what would have been the chances of them accurately reproducing the piano part for "Hello, Goodbye" (an unreleased song), and McCartney's disctinctive piano playing? The explanation for the use of the "Hello, Goodbye" in "All Together On The Wireless Machine" is simple enough: Paul was never afraid to plug one of his own compositions whenever the occasion arrived, and in this case it was the Beatles' newest single, so McCartney craftily put it in.

"All Together On The Wireless Machine"
Recorded: 7 Cavendish Avenue, St. John's Wood, London - November, 1967
Broadcast: November 25, 1967, on BBC Radio 1's Where It's At programme
Paul McCartney: piano, vocal
Kenny Everett: backing vocal, "crashing" sound effects

John C. Winn pointed out this after this article was first published:
"I have a recording of the 11/25/67 broadcast which provides further evidence.
It ends thusly:

CD: Listen, you!
KE: What?
CD: When we did that interview with John Lennon, I was there too. Why have I
not just been on the wireless with you two talking?
KE: You, Chris, are lying on the editing-room floor.
CD: Oh. In that case, a quick whistle from Paul McCartney.
(ATOTWL starts up, from the whistling part)
CD: Lovely. Come on, sing, Paul!
(Paul sings the chorus: "Kenny Everett and Chris Denning..." etc.)

It definitely sounds like Paul to me."

Me too.

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