Sessions with Michael Jackson

April 1982 • For Paul McCartney

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Pipes Of Peace Official album.
Sigma Sound Studios, New York City, USA
Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles, USA

Songs recorded



The Man

Written by Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson



In October 2014, Bill Wolfer, the keyboard player on the song, was the first to share his recollection of the making of Say Say Say. He related how Michael Jackson called to ask him to make a finished demo using a cassette on which he and Paul McCartney had recorded their two voices plus a single guitar line. Bill Wolfer described in detail the process of making the demo, explaining how the rhythm had been worked out on a Linn LM-1, before a basic version was laid on a four-track recorder using a Rhodes piano, with bass notes and percussion played on a synthesizer. This initial demo was used in the studio a few days later to lay Nate Watts’s bass line and Ricky Lawson’s drums. Those same lines had originally been given to the drummer Jonathan Moffett and bass player Mike McKinney, who were regulars on the Jacksons’ tours, but their experience of live performance did not suit the more rigorous discipline of the studio. David Williams came on the scene later to overdub some guitar. Little by little the demo was completed, with the addition of further overdubs on the synthesizer, a brass track, and a harmonica solo by Chris Smith. The harmonica player remembered his astonishment at finding himself in the studio with Michael Jackson, who was standing close to him and began to sing in his ear. Nevertheless, he still managed to wrap it up in one take. Gradually, the young star began to admit to Bill Wolfer that he wanted to produce a complete 24-track recording, in the hope that Paul McCartney would use this version. All that would remain was to add their voices and mix everything. And this sophisticated demo did indeed become the final version, just as he’d hoped – with the difference that the bass line by Nate Watts was replaced by a new track played by the ex-Beatles.

When the cassette with this demo on it reached Paul McCartney’s team and they listened to it, they were very surprised at how well finished it was. The British team then decided to fly to Los Angeles to rework the brass with Jerry Hey, Ernie Watts, and Gary Grant. At the same time, work began on The Girl Is Mine.

From Michael Jackson: All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Track, By François Allard, Richard Lecocq

When I worked with Michael Jackson, he said, “How’d you do those harmonies, man?” So I said, “Well, it’s me and Linda.” “Can we ask Linda to…?” So she sang harmonies on those sessions. And he was right, there was a quality that first started in the harmonies of The Beatles’ Let It Be. […]

Paul McCartney, from McCartney II Archive Collection, 2011
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