‘What’s That You’re Doing?’ is the fourth song on Tug Of War, Paul McCartney’s third solo album.

It emerged from a jam between McCartney and Stevie Wonder after the recording of ‘Ebony And Ivory’, and was recorded at AIR Studios on Montserrat in early March 1981.

‘What’s That You’re Doing?’ is me and Stevie collaborating. He’s doing the sort of funky riff, and I’m putting the song together. My memory of that is, because he’d only just come up with the lyrics, and he was still writing them as we were recording, he couldn’t remember all the words easily. He had his manager. Stephanie – who I think is still his manager, I run into her when I see Stevie, so she still looks after him – help out. She had a copy of the lyrics. This was a great idea: she would be in an adjoining booth and would prompt him in his headphones. With each line, she would say it through to him, just before he sang.
Paul McCartney, 2015
Tug Of War Archive Collection

Running to 6:22, ‘What’s That You’re Doing?’ is the longest song on Tug Of War. During their initial jam session, Wonder played synthesizer and McCartney was on drums.

It originally just started off with Stevie Wonder jamming – Stevie is an inveterate jammer, as they say – and he was on the Yamaha CS80 synthesiser and started playing…

He’s an incredible controller. He started off on the riff and he built most of the song up actually just from a jam.

Paul McCartney
Club Sandwich, 1982

Wonder brought his backing singers, Wonderlove – Deniece Williams, Lynn Davis, Susaye Greene, and Windy Barnes – to Montserrat. They were joined on the track by Linda McCartney and 10cc’s Eric Stewart.

Completing the line-up was Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay, who played a lyricon – an electronic wind instrument.

A remix of ‘What’s That You’re Doing?’ appears on Twin Freaks, McCartney’s 2005 collaboration with Freelance Hellraiser (Roy Kerr). The album also contained a remix of ‘Really Love You’ which featured McCartney’s drums from ‘What’s That You’re Doing?’.

Previous song: ‘Somebody Who Cares’
Next song: ‘Here Today’
Published: |