The birth of the Magic Piano

Late 1966
Timeline More from year 1966
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Location:
7 Cavendish Avenue, St John’s Wood, London, UK

Related song


Carnival of Light

Unreleased song

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About

In June 1966, Paul McCartney moved into his new house at 7 Cavendish Avenue in St. John’s Wood, London. On the top floor, he created a music room, where he stored many different instruments, including a small Alfred E. Knight piano.

A friend, Tara Browne, introduced Paul to David Vaughan, a member of the pop-art collective BEV (the initials of Douglas Binder, Dudley Edwards and David Vaughan). Browne had commissioned BEV to hand-paint his AC Cobra MK3, and Paul was impressed with the results. He asked Vaughan and his colleagues to paint his Knight piano in psychedelic colours.

The piano took several weeks to complete. In December 1966, Vaughan delivered it to Paul and asked him to contribute a piece of music for a planned event called “A Million Volt Light & Sound Rave.” Paul agreed and, with The Beatles, created a track called “Carnival of Light” for the event, which was held on January 28, 1967.

In 1967, Dudley Edwards painted a mural in Paul’s house, and also in Ringo Starr’s.

For his 1989/1990 World Tour, Paul made a replica of the Magic Piano, which he continued to bring on subsequent tours. The replica was a wooden shell decorated like the original, with an electric piano inside.

In March 2020, a collection of original design sketches by Binder, Edwards, and Vaughan for the Magic Piano was auctioned.


It was a Knight piano that I had them paint, a small upright; they have a short string length, they’re more like cabaret pianos but they’re very easy, the best of that type. So they did my piano, which is still my magic piano.

Paul McCartney – From “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

It was around this time [Sgt. Pepper’s] that Paul McCartney had indicated to his friend Tara that he would like Doug and I to paint his piano. Not just any piano, but the one upon which Paul composed many of his classics.

Dudley Edwards

Paul took us into his music room and showed us around. It has a piano painted by Dudley. That piano is the freakiest thing you’ve ever seen. It’s lavender, gold, blue, orange… everything you could imagine… It’s got millions of colours.

Micky Dolenz of The Monkees – From Dudley Edwards Page (godfreytownsendmusic.com)

The piano took a while to customise because it had no back on it. They had to make one from plywood and prepare the surface before painting it with a sunburst. Paul missed his piano and tried to hurry them up.

[Paul] said, ‘I want that piano for tonight.’ I said, “Well, it’s ready but you won’t be able to use it tonight.’ He said ‘Why not?’ I said ‘Because it needs retuning. We’ve just put a back on it.’ ‘Ah. Good thinking, good thinking.’ He gave us a few points for that. So he got his piano back. It was £250. I said, ‘It’ll be about 300 quid.’ He said, ‘I’ve heard that one before!’ I said, ‘I’m not trying to rip you off just because you’ve got some loot. I’m just saying, the original quote was without the back. That’ll be a bit extra, that’s all.’ He wouldn’t let anybody take advantage of him, and he knew if anybody was trying to pull the wool over his eyes.

David Vaughan – From “Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now” by Barry Miles, 1997

It wasn’t really what I wanted to do. We did meet lots of famous people and celebrities: all the Beatles, for example, The Monkees, Jimi Hendrix, lots and lots of people. We went round in a car we’d painted ourselves which was really quite something. It was a Buick and we used to tour London in that with ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ playing as loud as we could. That’s about the only good that came from it really. In another nine months we were exporting to Macy’s in New York and that kind of thing. We sold to The Beatles. We did Paul McCartney’s piano!

Douglas Binder – From Sixties City – Binder Edwards and Vaughan – BEV

I wrote ‘Getting Better’ on my ‘magic’ Binder, Edwards & Vaughan piano… One raised the lid and one heard this magic sound… Of course, the way in which it was painted added to the fun of it all.

Paul McCartney – From Dudley Edwards Page (godfreytownsendmusic.com)

From Tara Brown Art Car by Dudley Edwards — AVA (studioava.com) – BEV Stood next to the art cars they hand-painted in the ‘60s
Dudley Edwards painting Paul McCartney’s ‘magic piano’, UK, 1966

Paul McCartney – One On One tour 2017.
From Paul McCartney: The Lyrics – The British Library (bl.uk) – Paul at home with his original ‘Magic Piano’. ©Mary McCartney

From Omega Auctions

PAUL’S PIANO

As you all know, Paul has had a special music room built into his new St. John’s Wood home. It contains many unusual things but the centre-piece is a mini piano. As far as size, contents and sound go, it is just an ordinary mini piano, but the outside has been painted with a fantastic pop-art design in every colour of the rainbow.

From The Beatles Monthly Book – December 1966
From The Beatles Monthly Book – December 1966

Last updated on May 11, 2024

Going further


The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years

"With greatly expanded text, this is the most revealing and frank personal 30-year chronicle of the group ever written. Insider Barry Miles covers the Beatles story from childhood to the break-up of the group."

We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!

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https://sixtiescity.net/Culture/BEV.htm


http://webgrafikk.com/blog/paul-mccartney/the-story-behind-paul-mccartneys-magic-piano/

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