A standalone single credited to Wings, ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ was released as a double a-side with ‘C Moon’ at the end of 1972.
‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ was Paul McCartney’s fifth post-Beatles single, and the third in 1972. The previous two, ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’ and ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’, had been controversial for different reasons – political and artistic, respectively – which alienated large swathes of his fanbase.
McCartney needed a solid hit, and came up with this uptempo rocker about sex and drugs. Hi, Hi, Hi was written in June 1972 in Benidorm, Spain, for Wings’ European tour in August 1972. It closed the main part of their set on that tour, proving to be a high point of the show.
I suppose it is a bit of a dirty song if sex is dirty and naughty. I was in a sensuous mood in Spain when I wrote it. To me, it was just a song to close our act and since it went down well when we toured the Continent, I thought it would be a good single. I think it’s the best single we’ve done as Wings.
The Beatles: The Dream Is Over, Keith Badman
‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ was recorded towards the end of the Red Rose Speedway sessions, shortly after Wings had completed ‘Live And Let Die’ and ‘C Moon’.
That was a very difficult 12 bar to get down. I think we did something like 50 takes of it!
Eight Arms To Hold You, Chip Madinger and Mark Easter
It was recorded at EMI Studios on Abbey Road, London. The engineer was John Leckie, who would later become an acclaimed music producer.
It took a few days with all the overdubs and most of the vocals. I remember them having lots of goes at it. Paul played rhythm guitar on the track. The sessions went on till 6 or 7am and they’d come in at 4pm the next day and tried it again. Paul played the natural Rickenbacker bass but we spent ages getting the sound and even put it through a huge JBL studio monitor. There are a lot of guitar parts on the track and some lines from Henry were captured live on backing track and some overdubbed.
Paul McCartney Recording Sessions, Luca Perasi
McCartney thought the lyrics of ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ would be subject to interpretation, perhaps suggesting that his fondness for smoking weed had dulled his critical faculties. He hoped it would be received in a similar spirit to Bob Dylan’s 1966 single ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’.
It was like, ‘Ooh, what does Dylan mean? Does he mean you get high? Or does he mean getting stoned, like getting drunk?’ So there was the ambiguity, and I assumed the same would apply to me.
Man On The Run, Tom Doyle
In 1972 the McCartneys were well-known cannabis advocates, and had twice encountered problems with the law. The first incident occurred during the Wings Over Europe tour in the summer of 1972.
On 10 August, following a Wings performance at the Scandinavium Hall in Gothenburg, Sweden, armed police appeared in the auditorium. As Wings made their way into their dressing room the way was blocked, and Paul, Linda and Denny Seiwell were arrested for possession of cannabis.
Earlier that day the McCartneys had collected a package addressed to Seiwell from their hotel. The package containing marijuana, and the authorities had been surveilling the McCartneys ever since their arrival in Sweden. They had recorded a telephone call placed by Linda to MPL in London, arranging for two cassette cases filled with weed to be sent to the band in Gothenburg.
The trio eventually admitted the seven ounces of marijuana were theirs, and managed to convince the police it was for their own personal use. They were given fines totalling around £1,000 and the tour was allowed to continue.
The case brought much publicity to the band, and the McCartneys became outspoken advocates of the drug. Five weeks later, a police constable in Scotland, decided to pay a visit to the couple’s High Park Farm. Five cannabis plants were discovered, and Paul was charged on two counts of possession and one of growing the drug. He was later given a £100 fine.
The two drug busts, although with potentially disastrous consequences for McCartney’s freedom and ability to tour, brought some welcome publicity to Wings and helped improve Paul’s reputation after the misguided release of the ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ single. “The police action against us was an excellent advertisement,” one unnamed member of Wings was quoted as saying. “Our name flies now all over the world.”
‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ was banned by BBC Radio 1 and Radio 2 upon its release, making it Wings’ second single within a year to be banned. The first had been ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’, which called for a united republic of Ireland and was deemed too controversial by the broadcaster.
Remarkably, however, it wasn’t the drug references in ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ that initially caught the BBC’s notice. The song’s publisher, Northern Songs, had sent radio stations a lyric sheet which erroneously transcribed the line “Get ready for my polygon” as “Get ready for my body gun”.
The absurdist dramatist Alfred Jarry figures in a couple of my songs, including ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’. He was a real character, and his writing was very playful. I first came across him in a radio production of his play Ubu Cocu, the sequel to the much better known Ubu Roi, around the time of writing Sgt Pepper. One of the main characters in Ubu Cocu is a character called Achras, who is a breeder of ‘polyhedra’. That’s why I use the term ‘polygon’ in this song. ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ was banned by our friends at the BBC for being sexually suggestive. I believe they thought I was singing ‘body gun’ rather than ‘polygon’. I’m not sure if that’s more, or less, suggestive.
The ambiguity of the line most likely concealed a sexual innuendo anyway, but, regardless of McCartney’s true intention, it was deemed beyond the pale for sensitive listeners in 1972. Instead, radio stations gave more air time to the single’s flipside, ‘C Moon’.
I just had some line, ‘Lie on the bed, get ready for my polygon.’ The daft thing about all of that was our publishing company, Northern Songs, owned by Lew Grade, got the lyrics wrong and sent them round to the radio station, and it said, ‘Get ready for my body gun,’ which is far more suggestive than anything I put. ‘Get ready for my polygon’ – watch out baby. I mean it was suggestive, but abstract suggestive, which I thought I’d get away with. Bloody company goes round and makes it much more specific by putting ‘body gun’ – better words, almost.
Together Alone, John Blaney
The song’s opening lines – “When I met you at the station/You were standing with a bootleg in your hand” – refers to a visitor at High Park Farm in Scotland.
The ‘bootleg’ reference goes back to a visit we had on our farm in Scotland by a guy from Norman, Oklahoma. This guy showed up one day with a vinyl record in a sacking bag – a burlup bag – which was, he announced, a bootleg. So that was probably what I was thinking of at the start of the song.
‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ was released on 1 December 1972 in the United Kingdom. It peaked at number five in the singles chart.
It was issued three days later in the United States. The song reached number 10 in January 1973, becoming Wings’ first top 10 hit outside the UK.
The bottom line here is that sex and drugs are two of the staples of rock and roll. More than that, this is a genre that openly recognises sex and drugs as being fun.
On Saturday 25 November promo videos for ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ and ‘C Moon’ were shot at Southampton Studio of Southern Television in the UK. They were directed by Steve Turner, and were distributed on 16mm film.
‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ was included on the compilations Wings Greatest and Wingspan: Hits And History.
The song was performed during Wings’ 1973 British Tour and the 1975/6 Wings Over The World Tour, in both cases as an encore. A live version, recorded at the McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, was included on the Wings Over America triple album in 1976.
‘Hi, Hi, Hi’ returned to McCartney’s live set on a number of dates during his long-running Out There tour in 2014 and 2015.