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Saturday, January 28, 1967

A Million Volt Light & Sound Rave

Last updated on May 11, 2024


  • Location: Roundhouse, London, UK


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In December of 1966, Paul McCartney received his Knight piano that had been decorated in psychedelic colors by the pop-art collective BEV (the initials of Douglas Binder, Dudley Edwards, and David Vaughan). David Vaughan delivered it and then asked Paul to create a piece of music for an upcoming electronic music festival called “A Million Volt Light & Sound Rave,” that BEV organized.

Paul agreed and, on January 5, 1967, along with The Beatles, created a track called “Carnival Of Light.” At one point, and recorded on the tape, he plays a version of “Fixing a Hole“, from the upcoming “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, on piano.

The posters for the event advertised “music composed by Paul McCartney and Unit Delta Plus.” The latter was an electronic music group that included composers Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, as well as synthesizer pioneer Peter Zinovieff. The festival also featured Tonics, Soft Machine, Electric Poets (consisting of Soft Machine’s Daevid Allen and Robert Wyatt with Gilli Smyth and Early Fuggle on welding kit), New Vaudeville Band, and Jimi Hendrix (although he wasn’t mentioned on the event posters).

To prepare for the event, Dudley Edwards took Paul McCartney to meet Peter Zinovieff at his home in Putney, southwest London. Zinovieff played an experimental composition for them “at such intense decibel frequencies,” according to Edwards, “that many parts of my anatomy (including internal organs) began to perform an involuntary dance. I can only describe it as ‘ecstatic twitching’.

A Million Volt Light & Sound Rave” was held on January 28, 1967, at the Roundhouse Theatre in Chalk Farm, North London. None of the Beatles attended. Instead, Paul McCartney and George Harrison went to see the Four Tops perform at the Royal Albert Hall.

Paul was upset with the organizers when he found out that the tape of “Carnival of Light” was allowed to play past the agreed point, giving the crowd a preview of “Fixing a Hole.” Dudley Edwards said this was not intentional, but he and Douglas Binder had been busy with the rave’s light show.

I said “all I want you to do is just wander around all the stuff, bang it, shout, play it, it doesn’t need to make any sense. Hit a drum then wander on to the piano, hit a few notes, just wander around.” So that’s what we did and then put a bit of an echo on it. It’s very free. […] I like it because it’s The Beatles free, going off piste.

Paul McCartney – recalling his suggestions for “Carnival of Light”, from BBC Interview, 2008

We booked Jimi Hendrix for fifty pounds. That was his first gig in the British Isles. And of course we were dead chuffed about this. And then we got The Pink Floyd on the bill, and The Soft Machine. So all the music was live, apart from these f***ing awful tapes that Paul McCartney did. You know, where he thought he’d do something without words, that was very mysterious. He just proffered his services and that’s what we got. I can’t remember but I don’t think it was up to much. It didn’t last with me. It was more or less how he came to turn himself on, and everybody else on, to this new abstract music without words.

David Vaughan – From “The Unknown Paul McCartney: McCartney and the Avant-Garde” by Ian Peel, 2002

I can’t remember much [about The Beatles’ ‘Carnival of Light’ collage] but it paled into insignificance when you heard this guy, this Hendrix on the stage. What happened there with Hendrix was also very comical, because at the end of the night somebody pissed off with his guitar!

David Vaughan – From “The Unknown Paul McCartney: McCartney and the Avant-Garde” by Ian Peel, 2002

Later, after working with quite a lot of composers, two people from the Radiophonic Workshop, Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire, asked me whether we would like to form a company to make commercial electronic music, and we formed Unit Delta Plus. Unit Delta Plus was a sort of part-time activity as part of my music studio. The trouble was that neither Brian nor Delia could understand the studio. In fact, nobody could. I was the only person who could control it, and I didn’t like the idea of making commercial music. It was extremely boring to me. It wasn’t the sort of thing that I hoped the studio would be used for. We did make one jingle for Philips and I don’t know if we made – well, we must have made some money from that, but we never made anything else.

Although it’s mentioned quite a lot, this Unit Delta Plus, it was actually nothing. Then we did do a thing with Paul McCartney at the Roundhouse. That was a pity, in a way: the Beatles have – or the Beatles Society, or whatever – refused to release the music. There is something that Paul McCartney was involved in. I still want to contact him and say, “Come on, what did we actually do together there?” It would be interesting because he came to the Putney studio once or twice. I also gave Ringo Starr some lessons with the VCS 3, too.

Peter Zinovieff – From Early Electronic Pioneer Peter Zinovieff, In His Own Words | Red Bull Music Academy Daily

From A Million Volt Light & Sound Rave | DJ Food
From A Million Volt Light & Sound Rave | DJ Food
From Melody Maker – January 28, 1967

BEATLE Paul McCartney has prepared a tape of electronic noises – known as music in some circles – for use at a “carnival of light” at Centre 42’s Round House next month.

Carnival of light? This is a new art form combining sound with light coming mostly from 15 automatic projectors playing onto 60ft-high screens, which changes colour according to the sound.

There will be another five projectors developed from a Russian invention, which create patterns, blending and blurring vividly coloured shapes. They will be hand-operated by artists and designers David Vaughan, Douglas Binder and Dudley Edwards, the three men behind this form of entertainment.

The occasion threatens to be one of those eye-dazzling ear-splitting affairs that the trendy have already dubbed “psychedelic son et lumiere.”

Unknown source – From WikiDelia: Delia Derbyshire’s papers include a clipping from an unknown newspaper of an article entitles Trendy Beatle about Paul McCartney’s tape experiments for the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave.
Unknown source – From WikiDelia: Delia Derbyshire’s papers include a clipping from an unknown newspaper of an article entitles Trendy Beatle about Paul McCartney’s tape experiments for the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave.

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