The Paul McCartney Project

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

Album This song officially appears on the Ram Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1971
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is a song by Paul and Linda McCartney from the album Ram. Released in the United States as a single on 2 August 1971, but premiering on WLS the previous week (as a “Hit Parade Bound” (HPB)), it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on 4 September 1971, making it the first of a string of post-Beatles, McCartney-penned singles to top the US pop chart during the 1970s and 1980s.

“Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” is composed of several unfinished song fragments that McCartney stitched together similar to the medley from the Beatles’ album Abbey Road. The song is noted for its sound effects, including the sounds of a thunderstorm, with rain, heard between the first and second stanza, the sound of a telephone ringing, and a message machine, heard after the second stanza, and a sound of chirping sea birds and wind by the seashore. Linda’s voice is heard in the harmonies as well as the bridge section of the “Admiral Halsey” portion of the song.

McCartney said “Uncle Albert” was based on his uncle. “He’s someone I recall fondly, and when the song was coming it was like a nostalgia thing.” McCartney also said, “As for Admiral Halsey, he’s one of yours, an American admiral“, referring to Admiral William “Bull” Halsey. McCartney has described the “Uncle Albert” section of the song as an apology from his generation to the older generation, and Admiral Halsey as an authoritarian figure who ought to be ignored.

Despite the disparate elements that make up the song, author Andrew Grant Jackson discerns a coherent narrative to the lyrics, related to McCartney’s emotions in the aftermath of the Beatles’ breakup. In this interpretation, the song begins with McCartney apologizing to his uncle for getting nothing done, and being easily distracted and perhaps depressed in the lethargic “Uncle Albert” section. Then, after some sound effects remeniscent of “Yellow Submarine,” Admiral Halsey appears to him calling him to action, although McCartney remains more interested in “tea and pie.” Jackson sees a possible sinister allusion in the use of Admiral Halsey as a character in the song, since Halsey was famous for fighting the Japanese in World War II and claiming that “after the war, the Japanese language will be spoken only in hell,” and McCartney’s ex-Beatle partner John Lennon had recently married a Japanese woman, Yoko Ono. The “hands across the water” section which follows could be taken as equivalent to the cry “all hands on deck,” rousing McCartney to action, perhaps to compete with Lennon. The song then ends with the “gypsy” section, in which McCartney resolves to get back on the road and perform his music, now that he was on his own without his former bandmates who no longer wanted to tour.

Paul McCartney won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists in 1971 for the song. The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies.

According to Allmusic critic Stewart Mason, fans of Paul McCartney’s music are divided in their opinions of this song. Although some fans praise it as “one of his most playful and inventive songs” others criticize it for being “exactly the kind of cute self-indulgence that they find so annoying about his post-Beatles career.” Mason himself considers it “churlish” to be annoyed by the song, given that song isn’t intended to be completely serious, and praises the “Hands across the water” section as being “lovably giddy.”

Paul McCartney in "Wingspan: Paul McCartney's Band on the Run":

I had an uncle – Albert Kendall – who was a lot of fun, and when I came to write Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey it was loosely about addressing that older generation, half thinking ‘What would they think of the way my generation does things? ‘That’s why I wrote the line ‘We’re so sorry, Uncle Albert’. There’s an imaginary element in many of my songs – to me, Admiral Halsey is symbolic of authority and therefore not to be taken too seriously. We recorded it in New York and George Martin helped me with the orchestral arrangement. I was surprised when it became a big hit.

Last updated on November 6, 2018

Lyrics

We're so sorry, Uncle Albert,
We're so sorry if we caused you any pain;
We're so sorry, Uncle Albert,
But there's no one left at home
And I believe it's gonna rain.

We're so sorry, but we haven't heard a thing all day;
We're so sorry, Uncle Albert,
But if anything should happen we'll be sure to give a ring.

(Spoken) We're so sorry, Uncle Albert,
But we haven't done a bloody thing all day;
We're so sorry, Uncle Albert,
But the kettle's on the boil
And we're so easily called away.

Hands across the water, (water),
Heads across the sky.
Hands across the water, (water),
Heads across the sky.

Admiral Halsey notified me,
He had to have a berth or he couldn't get to sea,
I had another look and I had a cup of tea and a butter pie.


Hand across the water, (water),
Heads across the sky.
Hand across the water, (water),
Heads across the sky.

Live a little, be a gypsy, get around, (get around),
Get your feet up off the ground,
Live a little, get around.
Live a little, be a gypsy, get around,(get around),
Get your feet up off the ground,
Live a little, get around.

Hands across the water (water),
Heads across the sky,
Hands across the water (water),
Heads across the sky.

Officially appears on


Ram

Official album • Released in 1971

4:55 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar, Piano, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Producer
George Martin:
Orchestration
Denny Seiwell:
Drums
Hugh McCracken:
Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar
Eirik Wangberg:
Mix engineer
Marvin Stamm:
Brass
Mel Davis:
Brass
Ray Crisara:
Brass
Snooky Young:
Brass
David Nadien:
Violin
The New York Philharmonic Orchestra:
Strings
Paul Beaver:
Synthesizer

Recording:
Nov 06, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Overdubs:
January 3rd and 11th, 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Overdubs:
March 1st, 9th, 10th, 12th, April 7th, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

7" Single • Released in 1971

Studio version


Thrillington

Official album • Released in 1977

4:58 • Studio versionC • Instrumental version

Percy "Thrills" Thrillington:
Producer
Richard Hewson:
Arrangements, Orchestration
Tony Clark:
Mixing, Recording
Vic Flick:
Guitar
Clem Cattini:
Drums
Herbie Flowers:
Bass
Steve Gray:
Piano
Jim Lawless:
Percussion
Alan Parsons:
Second engineer
?:
Flutes, Harpsichord, Recorder, Strings, Trombones, Trumpets
Carl Dolmetsch:
Recorder
Carl Dolmetsch Family:
Recorders

Session Recording:
Jun 15, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 16, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 17, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 18, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Wings Greatest

Official album • Released in 1978

4:42 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar, Piano, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Producer
George Martin:
Orchestration
Denny Seiwell:
Drums
Hugh McCracken:
Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar
Eirik Wangberg:
Mix engineer
Marvin Stamm:
Brass
Mel Davis:
Brass
Ray Crisara:
Brass
Snooky Young:
Brass
David Nadien:
Violin
The New York Philharmonic Orchestra:
Strings
Paul Beaver:
Synthesizer

Recording:
Nov 06, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Recording:
January 3rd and 11th, 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Recording:
March 1st, 9th, 10th, 12th, April 7th, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles


Paul McCartney ROCKS

Official album • Released in 1990

4:50 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar, Piano, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Producer
George Martin:
Orchestration
Denny Seiwell:
Drums
Hugh McCracken:
Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar
Eirik Wangberg:
Mix engineer
Marvin Stamm:
Brass
Mel Davis:
Brass
Ray Crisara:
Brass
Snooky Young:
Brass
David Nadien:
Violin
The New York Philharmonic Orchestra:
Strings
Paul Beaver:
Synthesizer

Recording:
Nov 06, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Recording:
January 3rd and 11th, 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Recording:
March 1st, 9th, 10th, 12th, April 7th, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles


Ram (1993)

Official album • Released in 1993

4:55 • Studio versionA

Recording:
Nov 06, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Overdubs:
January 3rd and 11th, 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Overdubs:
March 1st, 9th, 10th, 12th, April 7th, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Wingspan Hits And History

Official album • Released in 2001

4:51 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar, Piano, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Producer
George Martin:
Orchestration
Denny Seiwell:
Drums
Hugh McCracken:
Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar
Eirik Wangberg:
Mix engineer
Marvin Stamm:
Brass
Mel Davis:
Brass
Ray Crisara:
Brass
Snooky Young:
Brass
David Nadien:
Violin
The New York Philharmonic Orchestra:
Strings
Paul Beaver:
Synthesizer

Recording:
Nov 06, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Recording:
January 3rd and 11th, 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Recording:
March 1st, 9th, 10th, 12th, April 7th, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles


Ram - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2012

4:55 • Studio versionA • Stereo version

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Bass, Electric guitar, Piano, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Producer
George Martin:
Orchestration
Denny Seiwell:
Drums
Hugh McCracken:
Acoustic guitar, Electric guitar
Eirik Wangberg:
Mix engineer
Marvin Stamm:
Brass
Mel Davis:
Brass
Ray Crisara:
Brass
Snooky Young:
Brass
David Nadien:
Violin
The New York Philharmonic Orchestra:
Strings
Paul Beaver:
Synthesizer

Recording:
Nov 06, 1970
Studio:
CBS Studios, New York City

Recording:
January 3rd and 11th, 1971
Studio:
A&R Studios, New York City

Recording:
March 1st, 9th, 10th, 12th, April 7th, 1971
Studio:
Sound Recorders Studio, Los Angeles


Ram - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2012

4:55 • Studio versionB • Mono • Mono album: 2012 remaster


Ram - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2012

4:58 • Studio versionC2012 • Thrillington: 2012 remaster

Percy "Thrills" Thrillington:
Producer
Richard Hewson:
Arrangements, Orchestration
Tony Clark:
Mixing, Recording
Vic Flick:
Guitar
Clem Cattini:
Drums
Herbie Flowers:
Bass
Steve Gray:
Piano
Jim Lawless:
Percussion
Alan Parsons:
Second engineer
?:
Flutes, Harpsichord, Recorder, Strings, Trombones, Trumpets
Carl Dolmetsch:
Recorder
Carl Dolmetsch Family:
Recorders

Session Recording:
Jun 15, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 16, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 17, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio One, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 18, 1971
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Bootlegs


James Paul McCartney

Unofficial live

2:20 • Live


The Alternate Ram

Unofficial album • Released in 2004

4:52 • Alternate take • Original mono promo LP, especially made for the American AM stations. All the songs have different mixes


Studio Rarities Vol. 1

Unofficial album • Released in 2014

4:52 • Outtake


Alone Together Vol.1

Unofficial album • Released in 2014

2:13 • Studio version


Ram - Ultimate Archive Collection

Unofficial album • Released in 2015

4:55 • Studio version


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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Robert Szymanski 2 years ago

I can't find the info I'm looking for. The part where Paul says "wa-ter", what is that effect used on his voice? Land across the water "wa-ter", land across the sky! Land across the water "wa-ter"...... For several years I been trying to find this interesting sound effect! My email address is .. Robert


The PaulMcCartney Project 2 years ago

Hi Robert,
I can't help you on this one, but promise to do a bit of research
I'll keep you posted!
Thanks !