A new video of the Paul McCartney-Michael Jackson duet “Say Say Say” with previously unheard vocals by the two singers premiered Oct. 6 exclusively on McCartney’s Facebook page. The 2015 remix, created by Mark “Spike” Stent, features the voices of McCartney and Jackson swapping positions and different vocals than on the song as originally released. The video is the work of Sia and Lady Gaga collaborator Ryan Heffington. Both were to promote McCartney’s newly remastered 1983 “Pipes of Peace” album that was released this week.
“Say Say Say” was one of three tracks on which Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson worked together. McCartney said the partnership with Jackson began with a surprise phone call the former Beatle received after Jackson got hold of his personal number.
“He (Michael) rang me up, and I didn’t believe it was him, so I said, ‘Who’s this?’ He said ‘Michael’. ‘Are you sure… Michael who?,’” McCartney said. “Anyway, we had a joke about that kind of thing, and he said, ‘Yeah, I’d like to come over and write with you’, so I said, ‘Great.’ So he came over to England and we just sat down. I thought, ‘Well, it’s not easy to just sit down with anyone you don’t know and just write, start songwriting because you’ve got to get the chemistry right.’ But I thought, ‘It is Michael, you know, I’ll just try! If it doesn’t work, we’ll just throw it away …’”
“Say Say Say” turned to be the biggest commercial success of their work together. It topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks upon its release in 1983. It also went to No. 2 during a 15-week run on the Record Retailer/Music Week British singles charts. The new version came about in January, 2015, as McCartney worked on the remasters for the 1983 “Pipes Of Peace” album. According to engineer Steve Orchard, McCartney’s chief engineer at his studio in Sussex, the Beatle was listening to an instrumental remix of “Say Say Say” by DJ John “Jellybean” Benitez and recalled there were unused vocals.
“Paul remembered that there were two unused lead vocal performances by Michael and himself,” Orchard recalled. “He said we should try putting the unused lead vocals onto the Jellybean mix. The Jellybean mix is a 12″ and is much longer than the original version. It was originally made by making edit sections of the song with different instruments being muted to make up new sections and then spliced together.”
The original multi-track masters were located and Orchard and McCartney fused the unheard recordings to the Jellybean mix. The extended track brought the song to seven minutes compared to the original single’s 3:56 length. It was then remixed by Mark “Spike” Stent, whose resumé includes working with Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Coldplay.
“I needed to edit and arrange the alternative lead vocals to fit the 12″ format. We then rearranged the vocal sequence and inverted the original performance so that Michael opened the first verse instead of Paul, to give the song a different take to the original version. Then we added additional backing vocal parts from the original multi-track to further enhance the instrumental mix. Paul then said it would be great to get Spike Stent to mix the new version of the track to give the song a new vibe,” Orchard said.
The new dance video was directed by choreographer and performance artist Ryan Heffington, known for his recent work on Sia’s “Chandelier” promo, and was launched exclusively on Facebook. The video, filmed in Los Angeles, follows a teenage boy on a journey through his neighborhood.
The remixed track is part of the “Pipes Of Peace” 2-CD Special Edition, which includes the original album plus a nine-track bonus disc with outtakes and demos. The Deluxe Edition also includes a DVD which features single promos and unreleased clips from Paul’s film archives. A two-LP vinyl edition as well as standard and hi-res digital versions are also available.