Mostly recorded during the sessions for 1982’s Tug Of War, Pipes Of Peace contained two collaborations with Michael Jackson, then the biggest pop star on the planet.
Completed over a three-year period, Pipes Of Peace was originally scheduled for release on 7 February 1983, but was initially delayed until April. Its eventual October release was due to the late recording of the title track, which was completed on 23 July.
Although its long gestation period may indicate a period of sustained work, Pipes Of Peace was actually mostly assembled from songs held over from the Tug Of War sessions. McCartney had recorded more than 20 songs for the earlier album, with several being omitted to keep it to a single disc. They included ‘Keep Under Cover’, ‘Sweetest Little Show’, ‘Average Person’, ‘Hey Hey’, and the ‘Say Say Say’ b-side ‘Ode To A Koala Bear’.
Way back when we started Tug Of War, my thoughts to Paul were, ‘Let’s make a slightly harder, a more funky album than perhaps you have done in the past’… In fact, the Pipes Of Peace album became more what we were looking for in Tug Of War.
The newer songs included ‘Pipes Of Peace’, ‘The Other Me’, ‘So Bad’, ‘Tug Of Peace’, and ‘Through Our Love’. Ringo Starr played drums on two of the tracks, ‘So Bad’ and ‘Average Person’, suggesting further continuity with Tug Of War.
The newer songs were recorded at McCartney’s Sussex farmhouse studio in September and October 1982. The album’s release was delayed, however, by various other projects with which McCartney became involved. Chief among these was Give My Regards To Broad Street, the ill-conceived film which took up much of his time in 1983.
In its production and styles, Pipes Of Peace was more forward-looking than Tug Of War had been, with McCartney adopting 1980s funk and rock sounds in an attempt to modernise his music. It is likely that this was inspired partly by his collaborations with Michael Jackson.
McCartney and Jackson co-wrote ‘Say Say Say’ and ‘The Man’, working together on the melodies and arrangements. Recording began in May 1981 at AIR Studios in London, and again in March and April 1982 at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles.
The Pipes Of Peace duets were completed in February 1983, when Jackson stayed with the McCartneys in England. It was at this time that Jackson revealed to McCartney his desire to purchase The Beatles’ songwriting publishing rights.
Another collaborator on Pipes Of Peace was Eric Stewart, the former Mindbenders and 10CC member who had previously worked on Tug Of War. Stewart’s trademark method of mass layering of backing vocals to create a choral effect can be heard on several of the album tracks.
But, as before, the main partnership was between McCartney and George Martin. On Tug Of War the pair had rejected the idea of a stable line-up of musicians, drafting in session musicians whenever the songs dictated. As many of the Pipes Of Peace songs were recorded during the Tug Of War sessions, many of the same musicians appeared on both releases.
For Pipes Of Peace they conceiving a concept which would see the album presented as a stage production. Although the idea was set aside during the production process, McCartney wanted to use sound effects and between-song interludes to make the songs appear part of a coherent whole.
Linda McCartney took the photography for the cover of Pipes Of Peace. The original vinyl release had a gatefold sleeve which had song titles and photographs of some of the musicians featured on the album.
The inner sleeve featured the lyrics to the songs, and images of two artworks: Vincent’s Chair with Pipe by Vincent Van Gogh (1888), and Van Gogh’s Chair, a sculpture in chrome by Clive Barker (1966).
Barker’s artwork also featured on the label on side two of the disc, whereas side one was a 1950s-style blue and gold Parlophone label.
Anticipation was high ahead of the release of Pipes Of Peace. ‘The Girl Is Mine’, McCartney’s last-recorded duet with Michael Jackson, had been released as the first single from Jackson’s Thriller album in October 1982, and was followed a year later by ‘Say Say Say’.
Pipes Of Peace was released on 31 October 1983, but was not a commercial success. It peaked at number four in the UK, but did manage to spend a total of 23 weeks in the album chart. Its highest worldwide placing was in Norway, where it topped the VG-lista albums chart.
In the US it only managed to reach number 15, but was certified platinum. It marked the beginning of McCartney’s commercial slide in America; his next top 10 album wasn’t until 1997’s Flaming Pie.
Pipes Of Peace was the first Beatles-related compact disc release from EMI. Its release was delayed until February 1984, as EMI was at the time manufacturing the discs in Japan and importing them worldwide.
It was reissued in March 1991, and again in June 1993 with three bonus tracks: ‘Twice In A Lifetime’, ‘We All Stand Together’, and ‘Simple As That’, the last of which was recorded in 1986.
‘Pipes Of Peace’ was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically, but lost to The Police’s ‘Every Breath You Take’.
The success of the single helped sales of the album at Christmas. Its video featured a reconstruction of the 1914 ceasefire on a French battlefield during World War One, where both sides ceased fighting to play football.
The video was filmed over two days at Chobham Common in Surrey, England, and featured 100 extras and three film crews. It was completed on 12 December and won the Best Video of 1983 award at the following year’s British Rock & Pop Awards.
The b-side to ‘Pipes Of Peace’ was ‘So Bad’, which became the album’s second single in the US. ‘So Bad’ was not a success, getting no further than number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100.