Also known as ‘The Frog Song’, ‘We All Stand Together’ was credited to Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus, and released in the UK as his Christmas 1984 single.

Shortly after The Beatles broke up, McCartney established McCartney Productions Limited (MPL), an umbrella company for his various business interests. Among his new ventures were investments in music publishing, buying the catalogues of Buddy Holly and Broadway shows, and the acquisition of the rights to the cartoon character Rupert the Bear.

McCartney toyed with an animated Rupert project for several years, and in 1978, during the Back To The Egg sessions, Wings recorded an entire soundtrack for a film. The project was never finished, although McCartney continued developing other Rupert ideas.

I was looking through one of these annuals, and I remember looking at the endpaper, the first page when you open the annual. It was a double-page spread in colour. I could almost hear the music. It showed a violinist frog with some singing frogs in a sort of choir. I got the idea that I wanted to make a full-length feature film with Rupert, and I wrote some songs with that in mind, but I didn’t realise what a daunting task it was going to be. I remember when The Beatles were still together, I told John, ‘I really fancy doing a full-length Rupert.’ And he said, ‘Great. Go on then.’ That was good encouragement, but you need a little more than just ‘go on then’.

It turned out I’d bitten off more than I could chew, but it was a good learning experience. All sorts of things were involved, like getting the rights from the newspaper, and it all became too difficult. So I decided to do a short with a friend of mine, Geoff Dunbar, who was an animator I admired. We basically took the inspiration for the song and its instrumentation from this one big drawing on the endpaper.

Between 1981 and 1983, Rupert And The Frog Song, a 13-minute animated short film written and produced by McCartney, was created. The 13-minute animated short film was directed by Geoff Dunbar, and included ‘We All Stand Together’.

Rupert And The Frog Song was intended to be a pilot for a full-length animated film. Voices were provided by McCartney, June Whitfield, and Windsor Davies.

The film was shown in cinemas as an opener to McCartney’s 1984 film Give My Regards To Broad Street. The following year Rupert And The Frog Song won a Bafta award for Best Animated Short Film.

I’ve always loved animation. It started with the Disney cartoons and went on from there. As a kid I would always get the Rupert Annual at Christmas. I remember getting the idea for a film project when looking through one of them. There was a standout image in colour and when I saw it I could imagine a concert of frogs with them all doing different parts, a choir and an orchestra, and I could almost hear the music.

I had wanted to make a Rupert feature film for a while but didn’t realise what a difficult task it actually was. I remember telling John Lennon about it and he encouraged me to have a go which was great but you need more than that to make a film. There were so many different things to think about, things like securing the rights. It was all too much. Eventually I had the idea to make a short film with an animator I admired, Geoff Dunbar.

In the studio

The earliest known recording of ‘We All Stand Together’ dates from August 1980, when McCartney and Denny Laine made a series of demos at Rude Studio at his home in Campbeltown, Scotland.

It was one of a number of songs recorded, a mixture of new and older compositions, ahead of a proposed Wings album to be produced by George Martin. That album never materialised, although several did make it onto McCartney’s 1982 album Tug Of War. The demo recordings emerged on a 1987 bootleg titled Rude Studio Demos.

‘We All Stand Together’ was recorded at George Martin’s AIR Studios in London. It was the first recording of McCartney’s reunion sessions with Martin, although it became the last to be released.

In ‘We All Stand Together’, I sang the lead vocal, but I also did various other voices in the frog chorus, because I like mimicry, and in animation it can be really difficult to get an actor in and teach them exactly what you want. We auditioned tons of stage kids from London. They all came streaming through the doors, and we gave them a little bit of dialogue to say, and the strange thing was that they nearly all said, ‘Wupert, Wupert, Wupert’. And I kept going, ‘No, it’s Rupert. “Hello, my name’s Rupert.”‘ In the end Geoff said, ‘You should do it.’ So I ended up being Rupert’s spoken voice too.

The first recording session took place on 31 October 1980, and continued with overdubs on 3, 10, 15, and 17 November.

I don’t remember hearing a demo before the session. In the studio were the usual six singers: me, Nigel Perrin and Alastair Hume, Bill Ives, Anthony Holt and Simon Carrington. Paul had already put down a vocal track for himself and we operated as a backing group. We just sang the music from the vocal score which had been prepared for us.

The thrill of the session was simply being in the studio with Paul… We knew he’d bought the rights for Rupert The Bear, so there wasn’t any need to explain the song! The only funny thing about the song was me having to start the whole thing off with a low note, intentionally badly sung to avoid sounding too well bred! The sounds we made were all part of the funny opening to the song!

Brian Kay
Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013), Luca Perasi

Additional vocals were from the London Community Gospel Choir.

I’m from Montserrat, where there’s George Martin’s AIR Studios and he has a house. And it was him that invited me. He wanted the sound that we created as a gospel choir. I took about 20 singers into the studio. Paul made suggestions and we tried whatever he suggested. It didn’t go quickly, because it was in a different style for us, so it took some time to achieve what he wanted. We also recorded another song, but I can’t remember which one it was.
Bazel Meade, choir director
Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013), Luca Perasi

Further sessions took place in 1984 at McCartney East Sussex home studio.

It was in Hastings at his farm. Four of us, Robin Williams on violin, myself, John Barclay on trumpet and Pete Swinfield on flute went down to his farm to do some overdubs. I played euphonium on that one. I remember we had to leave at six o’clock in the morning for a 10am start.
Pete Beachill, trombone
Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013), Luca Perasi

The b-side of the single was a ‘Humming Version’ of the song, credited to McCartney and the Finchley Frogettes. It featured McCartney on acoustic guitar and electric piano, and St Paul’s Cathedral Choir on backing vocals.

One memorable aspect was recording with The King’s Singers and the choir of St Paul’s Cathedral. The recording was supervised by George Martin, whom I hadn’t worked with since ‘Live And Let Die’ in 1973, so that was a session I didn’t want to miss. When someone like George Martin was involved, he was in charge, and you were there as a spectator, so if he ever said, ‘Paul, what do you think?’ he might value my opinion, but I didn’t have the responsibility. The King’s Singers sang the parts of the frogs – in harmony, so they had to sing it correctly. Which, being The King’s Singers, they did.

Paul McCartney's handwritten lyrics for We All Stand Together

The release

‘We All Stand Together’ was released as a single on 12 November 1984. A vinyl picture disc version followed on 3 December.

The single was a hit in the UK, peaking at number three in the charts, held off the top by Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ and Wham!’s ‘Last Christmas’. It was not issued in the United States.

The record was a huge success, reaching number three in the UK charts. Years later I hard that a very good comedienne in England [Sarah Millican] was getting married, and she and her husband chose it as their marriage song: ‘Win or lose, sink or swim/One thing is certain, we’ll never give in/Side by side/Hand in hand/We all stand together’. It was nice that she’d been amused enough to feature it at her wedding.

In March 1985 ‘We All Stand Together’ won an Ivor Novello Award for Best Film Theme.

A promotional video was also made for the song which featured McCartney in an attic, opening his childhood Rupert book, which led to clips from Rupert And The Frog Song. The video was directed by Geoff Dunbar and produced by Andros Epaminondas.

A home video for ‘We All Stand Together’ was issued in February 1985, and sold 130,000 copies.

The single was re-released in December 1985, peaking at number 32 in the UK charts.

‘We All Stand Together’ was the b-side of McCartney’s single ‘Tropic Island Hum’. Released in the UK in 2004, it reached number 21 in the charts. Tropic Island Hum was McCartney’s second children’s animated film, based on his own story and screenplay.

In 2016 the deluxe edition of the greatest hits album Pure McCartney contained ‘We All Stand Together’.

On 6 November 2020 the single was reissued as a 7″ picture disc with remastered audio, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Rupert the Bear. The shaped vinyl disc was a replica of the 1984 original. A new 4k transfer of Rupert And The Frog Song was also released on YouTube.

The song was recorded in 1980, as it took a little while to put the Rupert film together. But ‘We All Stand Together’ was the song I wanted to focus on. It keeps in that tradition of songs aimed at younger ears, like ‘Yellow Submarine’. When I wrote it, Stella and James were still pretty young, so I probably had them in mind as the people I was singing to. It’s a song of encouragement and about not giving up. The lyrics are quite communal and rousing, the sort of thing I can imagine being sung in the playground at school with youthful determination.

Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus – We All Stand Together picture disc (2020)

Congratulations to Rupert on his 100th birthday. The great thing is he never looks a day older. Having been a fan of his since my early days in Liverpool, I know what he means to generations of young and old kids. In his character and attitudes to the world, he sums up the best of British tradition and reminds us of an innocence we would all love to cherish. So, congratulations, my little bear. Your fans are celebrating your 100th birthday, and I, for one, think you deserve a telegram from the Queen.

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