Recording "Ebony And Ivory"

Saturday, February 28, 1981 • For Paul McCartney

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

Songs recorded


Ebony And Ivory

Written by Paul McCartney



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

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