The birth of the Magic Piano

Late 1966

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Paul McCartney commissioned the pop-art collective BEV (the initials of Douglas Binder, Dudley Edwards and David Vaughan) to paint the small Alfred E. Knight piano in his music room.

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

We got invited around for dinner when they were writing the music for Sergeant Pepper. We went up to Paul McCartney’s bathroom and they were writing and singing there and they asked if we’d wait downstairs – ‘We’ll only be an hour and then we’ll come and have dinner’. I thought we couldn’t really crowd them like this, so we went downstairs! We had dinner with them a couple of times. On the second occasion, we’d stayed rather late and were watching television. In those days everyone was taking drugs and we were no exception – nothing too heavy, just some smoking – and we were just watching a blank television with all the electrical spots coming on and bleeps and all that. Paul McCartney was thinking we were looking at the night sky. We all joined in and tried to see the same pictures

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

In December of 1966 BEV had recently carried out a psychedelic decoration of Paul McCartney’s piano. On delivering it to Paul’s Cavendish Avenue address, David enquired whether McCartney would like to contribute a piece of music for the planned ‘Million Volt’ show and was pleasantly surprised when he agreed. According to descriptions of the session given in Record Collector magazine the four-track recording begins with track one as basic drums and organ rhythm backing and track two as sound effects and distorted guitar. Track three consisted of John and Paul screaming like “demented old women”, according to one account, with John crying “Barcelona!” while Paul screams, “Are you alright?,” with added whistling and water gargling. Track four had more sound effects, tambourine shaking and tape echo. The track ended with Paul shouting to the sound engineer, “Can we hear it back now?”. The 13 minute 48 second track was mixed down to mono and a copy was given to Binder, Edwards and Vaughan. It was used for this one event and hasn’t been heard in public since.

In November 2008, Paul McCartney confirmed he still owned the master tapes, adding that he suspected “the time has come for it to get its moment. I like it because it’s The Beatles free, going off piste”. Beatles producer George Martin, however, felt it was a waste of time. When asked twenty years later if he remembered it he replied “No, and it sounds like I don’t want to either!” The event was an art festival organised by Binder, Edwards and Vaughan as a showcase for their music and electronic light shows and featured performances by Unit Delta Plus, whose members included electronic music pioneers Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and electronic artist Peter Zinovieff.


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

“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.

“I did a mural in Paul’s house and lived with him for about six months [..] Paul liked having me around as a sort of companion [..] Every time I got started painting, Paul would say, ‘Come on, let’s go off to the recording studio!’”

Dudley Edwards
Dudley Edwards painting Paul McCartney’s ‘magic piano’, UK, 1966
From Paul McCartney: The Lyrics – The British Library ( – Paul at home with his original ‘Magic Piano’. ©Mary McCartney

“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

Last updated on November 7, 2022

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