Say Say Say

Album: Pipes of Peace (1983)
Charted: 2 1
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Songfacts®:

  • This was the first of three duets Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson worked on. The superstar singers got together when Jackson called McCartney on Christmas Day, 1980, and proposed a collaboration. Jackson flew to England in the autumn of 1981, where they worked up "Say Say Say," which McCartney had already started, and began recording it at George Martin's AIR Studios. In April 1982, McCartney came to Los Angeles and recorded two more duets with Jackson: "The Girl Is Mine" and "The Man." They also finished recording "Say Say Say" and shot the video for the song.

    The first of these duets to appear was "The Girl Is Mine," which released as the first single from Jackson's Thriller album in October 1982. "Say Say Say" and "The Man" appeared a year later on McCartney's album "Pipes of Peace." These songs expanded the audience for both artists, with Jackson drawing some of McCartney's more mature listeners, and McCartney getting in with Jackson's younger fans.
  • The song is about a lovelorn guy alternately pleading with a girl and disparaging her for breaking his heart. The bipolar nature of the song lends itself to the duet format, with McCartney's verses seeming somewhat reasonable ("Don't play games with my affection...") while Jackson is the voice of desperation ("Standing here, baptized in all my tears...").

    The song was derided by critics, especially in the UK, but an objective look at the songwriting here reveals two masters at work, combining their talents to create a contemporary hit.
  • Michael Jackson's Thriller album was still kicking out singles when this song was released. "Say Say Say" went to #1 on December 10, 1983, giving the King of Pop a stunning seven Top 10 singles in 1983, including three #1s: this song, "Billie Jean" and
    "Beat It."
  • Jackson and McCartney's burgeoning friendship was derailed in 1985 when Jackson outbid McCartney for the publishing rights to a collection of Beatles songs, leaving McCartney to negotiate royalty rates with Jackson, who now could decide how the songs were used for commercial purposes (he let Panasonic use "All You Need Is Love" and Nike use "Revolution").

    When Jackson needed to raise cash in 1995, he sold much of his stake to Sony's publishing division.

    After Jackson died in 2009, McCartney released a statement recalling fond memories of Jackson, notably their work on this song. "He became very friendly with my family and we had lots of great times together," McCartney wrote.
  • George Martin, famous for his work with The Beatles, produced this track, giving him his 22nd US #1 hit as a producer. His previous #1 also involved McCartney: "Ebony and Ivory," which was a duet between Paul and Stevie Wonder.
  • The video, which got constant play on MTV, was directed by Bob Giraldi, whose videos were fixture on the network in their early years - he also did the "Beat It" clip and Lionel Richie's "Hello."

    The video is a concept piece that has nothing to do with the song but features a proven winner: Michael Jackson dancing. This posed a problem for Paul McCartney, but he gamely hoofed it alongside Jackson.

    The clip is set in the 1800s and depicts McCartney and Jackson as hucksters conning people into buying "Mac and Jack's Wonder Potion" (implausible race relations were set aside for artistic effect). Linda McCartney and LaToya Jackson both appear in the video, which contains a non-musical opening scene where Jackson is the plant, convincing the onlookers that the wonder potion gives him strength and otherworldly dance moves.

    Jackson and McCartney turn out to be robin hood types, bringing the money to an orphanage where they also entertain the kids.
  • This song stayed at #1 for six weeks, keeping another "Say" song - "Say It Isn't So by Hall & Oates - out of the top spot. The Hall & Oates song was #2 for four of those weeks before dropping down.
  • In 2015, a remix of this song featuring alternate vocal takes from both Jackson and McCartney was released on the special edition issue of McCartney's Pipes Of Peace album.

    A new video was also made; this one was directed and choreographed by Ryan Heffington, famous for choreography on Sia's "Elastic Heart" and "Chandelier" videos (you can see Heffington in the Saint Motel video for "Puzzle Pieces"). The updated video eschews storyline in favor of dancing, with various young people doing modern routines.
  • In 2006 Dutch house group Hi_Tack had a European hit (including #4 in the UK) with "Say Say Say (Waiting 4 U)". Their single was based around Michael Jackson's vocals for this song.

Comments: 15

  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenI always liked liked liked "Say Say Say."
  • Rj from Philapool, PaThis song has the annoying ability to get stuck in your head for hours. Or in my case, days....

    LOOK AT MY FACE THESE TEARS AIN'T DRYIN'!
  • Nick from Cincinnati, OhIt can't be set in the late 19th century. There are cars.
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiI wish the KIng of POP cd would come out in the US,it has everywhere else,but the North America.It has Say,Say Say on it.The music vido isn't bad either,with Mac and jack.
  • Karlitos from Ottawa, OnThis song was important in a round-about way to Micheal's career.

    It was shot on location at teh Sycamore ranch. Micheal loved it so much that he bought it in 1988 for $17M and renamed it Neverland...the rest is history.

    It was also during this video that MJ talked to Paul about making money in teh music biz. Paul told him that the real money resides in owning music publishing rights.

    And so later on Micheal bid and won the rights to the ATV music catalog which included most of teh Beatles songs, for $47M. Today, this catalog is worth over a billion dollars. MJ shared it with Sony and always refused to sell his share of it. In fact he used his share to borrow money to fuel his expensive lifestyle.
  • Julia from Richland, WaI heard this song on the radio just recently, and it was my first time hearing it and now I just can't get it out of my head. Even though I don't really care for Michael Jackson, I really love the song. =)
  • Joe from Monroe, NyI HATED this song back in 1983....but now in 2009 it doesn't seem so bad.
  • Angelica from Boynton, Fli like the video its just so cute to me. and i like the beat and tunes. LOOK AT MY FACE THESE TEARS AINT DRYING!!! R.I.P MICHAEL JACKSON
  • Jimmy T from Nyc, OrI wonder if McCartney thinks of Wacko-Jacko what many of us think he is-- I miguided, demented freek!
  • Ken from Louisville, KyIn 1981, McCartney, George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick were in L.A. as the guests of Jackson, Quincy Jones and engineer Bruce Swieden. That when they recorded "The Girl Is Mine". The next year, Jackson, Jones and Sweiden visited to Martin's studio in Monteserat, where this song was recorded.
  • Eric from Beaverton, OrI agree with Beth from Pittsburgh. I'm surprised that someone other than one of the Beatles has the rights to the Beatles songs, even though 2 of the Beatles are still around. It doesn't seem right, especially since Michael Jackson actually worked with Paul McCartney.
  • Madison from Norway, MeI actually like this song. I'm so embarrassed!
  • Beth from Pittsburgh, Pahmm..whenever i hear this song..i think how Michael Jackson screwed paul mcCartney out of the rights to the beatles recordings..by outbidding him. The first indication Michael wasn't so sweet and shy as he led us to believe.
  • Sanafabich from Santiago, ChileThis song kicks a**!!!! and the video is just amazing, top of the 80's!
  • Randy Lyken from Minneapolis, MnWill McCartney and Jackson ever sing a duet again? Is televangelist pat robertson honest?
see more comments

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