In December 1966, about the same time as he delivered the piano, [David] Vaughan asked Paul if he would contribute some music for a couple of Carnival of Light Raves that Binder, Edwards and Vaughan were promoting at the Roundhouse as part of their idea of bringing art to the community, in this case in the form of light shows, experimental music and films. David: ‘I asked Paul to do it and I thought he would make more of it than he did, I thought this was a vehicle for him, if anything was. My trouble is, I expect everybody to drop everything. I forget other people have got things on.’ Amazingly, perhaps, Paul agreed to make a contribution, despite being in the middle of the recording sessions for Sgt. Pepper.
So it was that on 5 January, after overdubbing a vocal on ‘Penny Lane’, the Beatles under Paul’s direction freaked out at Abbey Road, producing an experimental tape just under fourteen minutes long. The tape has no rhythm, though a beat is sometimes established for a few bars by the percussion or a rhythmic pounding on the piano. There is no melody, though snatches of a tune sometimes threaten to break through. The Beatles make literally random sounds, although they sometimes respond to each other; for instance, a burst of organ notes answered by a rattle of percussion. The basic track was recorded slow so that some of the drums and organ were very deep and sonorous, like the bass notes of a cathedral organ. Much of it is echoed and it is often hard to tell if you are listening to a slowed-down cymbal or a tubular bell. John and Paul yell with massive amounts of reverb on their voices, there are Indian war cries, whistling, close-miked gasping, genuine coughing and fragments of studio conversation, ending with Paul asking, with echo, ‘Can we hear it back now?’ The tape was obviously overdubbed and has bursts of feedback guitar, schmaltzy cinema organ, snatches of jangling pub piano, some unpleasant electronic feedback and John yelling, ‘Electricity.’ There is a great deal of percussion throughout, again much of it overdubbed. The tape was made with full stereo separation, and is essentially an exercise in musical layers and textures. It most resembles ‘The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet’, the twelve-minute final track on Frank Zappa’s Freak Out! album, except there is no rhythm and the music here is more fragmented, abstract and serious. The deep organ notes at the beginning of the piece set the tone as slow and contemplative.
DAVID: That organ is exactly how I used to see him. I used to picture him as a maniac from the seventeenth century: one of those brilliant composers who’d suddenly been reincarnated into this century, let loose with modern technology. A lot of people thought Paul McCartney was shallow. I didn’t see him as that at all, I saw him as very very deep. He had this open fire with a big settee in front of it, there would be no lights on, and he’d be playing music at top volume. I used to sit there watching him for hours. I think that’s the real him; this real deep, dark … I thought, who knows what he could do if they’d leave him alone for a bit? Because he could absorb a lot without encountering any mental block, he could express that Machiavellian, European horror.
— paul mccartney: many years from now, by barry miles
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