Recording "Ebony And Ivory"

Saturday, February 28, 1981 • For Paul McCartney

Part of

"Tug Of War" sessions at AIR Studios, Montserrat

February 2 till March 3, 1981 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Tug Of War

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Tug Of War Official album.
AIR Studios, Montserrat

Master release

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Stevie Wonder arrived in Montserrat on February 26th, after much uncertainty, as remembered by Paul McCartney:

It was a saga getting Stevie there [Paul does a shaking-head smile at the memory] … the saga to end all sagas. […]

I fixed the timing with George [Martin]: it was all locked in. I got back to Stevie and said, ‘This timing … how do you feel about that?’ and he said, ‘Okay, great’. Then I think it was about a week before he was due. I rang Stevie again and said, ‘Okay, so it’s next week Just want to check you’re okay. Everything’s cool?’.

And it was at this point that a sort of a little bit of doubt crept in! He said he was doing an album with Wonderlove [Stevie Wonder’s female backing group]. I called them Wonderloaf. He was doing an album with them. So I said, ‘Oh, so does that mean I haven’t got you locked in?’

‘Oh no, it’s okay, man. I’m just doing this and that’. That was Stevie. It was getting a bit fraught. But it was just his way. For me, if anyone booked me, well I’d pretty much go if I said I would, or not go. But if I said I would go, then I would go! I remember being panicked and thinking, ‘He’s not going to come to Montserrat.’

I arrived out there, believing he was coming out at the same time. But then … he wasn’t there. Oh. So I filled in the time, doing recordings, and saying to myself. ‘Well, he’ll get here when he gets here.’ But there were a lot of phone calls.

‘So, what do you reckon then. Steve? Next Monday? Is that sounding good?’

‘Yeah, yeah, I’m going to be there …’

Then Monday would come…

‘Oh, it’s going to be tomorrow, is it?’

But, you know, he’s such a fantastic person to work with that you just go along with it. He’s worth it! He may not always show up when he says he will. Maybe he has got to finish this other album he’s doing, whatever. You just have to make a lot of allowances. He’s such a great musician. It’s all fine, in the end.

When he eventually got there and started working, it was perfect. I thought, ‘Oh God, everything he does is perfect.’ I’m talking about even handclaps here… you know, just handclaps. I remember being just a little bit out on the handclaps. We were round a mic clapping, and he just went, ‘Hey Paul, stop! Hey man, you’re not in the pocket!’ And I’m going, ‘Okay, alright, I’m not in the pocket! Let’s get it in the pocket.’

On the Beatles records we weren’t that precise with handclaps! ‘In the pocket’ means being exactly on the beat.

So Stevie is saying, ‘You’re not in the pocket, man!’ and I’m going, ‘Oh shit! Okay, let’s get it right!’

So we just worked at it until we got it. He’s very much the perfectionist. Stevie, if not about time itself. Tim-ing, yes, but TIME … no!

Paul McCartney – From Tug Of War Archive Collection, 2015
From TIME – Stevie Wonder (left) and Paul McCartney (right) are shown working on the album Tug of War, in a series of recordings on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat. The first single released from the album was “Ebony and Ivory” in 1982. Bettmann/Corbis

Last updated on May 9, 2020

Songs recorded


Ebony And Ivory

Written by Paul McCartney


Going further

Paul McCartney: Music Is Ideas. The Stories Behind the Songs (Vol. 1) 1970-1989

With 25 albums of pop music, 5 of classical – a total of around 500 songs – released over the course of more than half a century, Paul McCartney's career, on his own and with Wings, boasts an incredible catalogue that's always striving to free itself from the shadow of The Beatles. The stories behind the songs, demos and studio recordings, unreleased tracks, recording dates, musicians, live performances and tours, covers, events: Music Is Ideas Volume 1 traces McCartney's post-Beatles output from 1970 to 1989 in the form of 346 song sheets, filled with details of the recordings and stories behind the sessions. Accompanied by photos, and drawing on interviews and contemporary reviews, this reference book draws the portrait of a musical craftsman who has elevated popular song to an art-form.

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Eight Arms to Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium

We owe a lot to Chip Madinger and Mark Easter for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details!

Eight Arms To Hold You: The Solo Beatles Compendium is the ultimate look at the careers of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr beyond the Beatles. Every aspect of their professional careers as solo artists is explored, from recording sessions, record releases and tours, to television, film and music videos, including everything in between. From their early film soundtrack work to the officially released retrospectives, all solo efforts by the four men are exhaustively examined.

As the paperback version is out of print, you can buy a PDF version on the authors' website

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