Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
|"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"|
|Single by Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney|
|from the album Ram|
|B-side||"Too Many People"|
|Released||2 August 1971 (US only)|
|Recorded||6 November 1970|
|Songwriter(s)||Paul and Linda McCartney|
|Producer(s)||Paul and Linda McCartney|
|Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney singles chronology|
|Ram track listing|
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" is a song by Paul and Linda McCartney from the album Ram. Released in the United States as a single on 2 August 1971, it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on 4 September 1971, making it the first of a string of post-Beatles, McCartney-penned singles to top the US pop chart during the 1970s and 1980s. Billboard ranked the song as number 22 on its Top Pop Singles of 1971 year-end chart. It became McCartney's first gold record as a solo artist.
Elements and interpretation
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" is composed of several unfinished song fragments that McCartney stitched together similar to the medleys from the Beatles' album Abbey Road. The song is notable for its sound effects, including the sounds of a thunderstorm, with rain, heard between the first and second verses, the sound of McCartney's voice with a "telephone" effect" heard after the second verse, and the sound of chirping sea birds and wind by the seashore. Linda's voice is heard in the harmonies as well as the bridge section of the "Admiral Halsey" portion of the song.
McCartney said "Uncle Albert" was based on his uncle. "He's someone I recall fondly, and when the song was coming it was like a nostalgia thing." McCartney also said, "As for Admiral Halsey, he's one of yours, an American admiral", referring to Fleet Admiral William "Bull" Halsey (1882–1959). McCartney has described the "Uncle Albert" section of the song as an apology from his generation to the older generation, and Admiral Halsey as an authoritarian figure who ought to be ignored.
Despite the disparate elements that make up the song, author Andrew Grant Jackson discerns a coherent narrative to the lyrics, related to McCartney's emotions in the aftermath of the Beatles' breakup. In this interpretation, the song begins with McCartney apologizing to his uncle for getting nothing done, and being easily distracted and perhaps depressed in the lethargic "Uncle Albert" section. Then, after some sound effects reminiscent of "Yellow Submarine," McCartney claims that Admiral Halsey - who had died on 16 August 1959 - notified him that he (Admiral Halsey) needed a "berth" in order to get to "sea" (mixing up Uncle Albert, not an admiral, and who would need a berth to get to sea, with Admiral Halsey, an admiral who would not need a "berth", but rather a "command" to get to sea), although McCartney remains more interested in "tea and butter pie." Although McCartney may have been aware of butter pie as a Lancashire dish he makes a literal interpretation of the term as a nonsensical joke, stating that he put the butter in the pie because it would not melt at all. The "hands across the water" section which follows could be taken as evocative of the command "All hands on deck!", rousing McCartney to action, perhaps to compete with Lennon. The song then ends with the "gypsy" section, in which McCartney resolves to get back on the road and perform his music, now that he was on his own without his former bandmates who no longer wanted to tour.
Paul McCartney won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists in 1971 for the song. The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies.
According to Allmusic critic Stewart Mason, fans of Paul McCartney's music are divided in their opinions of this song. Although some fans praise the song as being "one of his most playful and inventive songs" others criticize it for being "exactly the kind of cute self-indulgence that they find so annoying about his post-Beatles career." Mason himself considers it "churlish" to be annoyed by the song, given that the song isn't intended to be completely serious, and praises the "Hands across the water" section as being "lovably giddy."
In a contemporary review for RAM, Jon Landau of Rolling Stone gave "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" a negative review, saying the song is "a piece with so many changes it never seems to come down anywhere, and in the places that it does, sounds like the worst piece of light music Paul has ever done."
On the US charts, the song set a songwriting milestone as the all-time songwriting record (at the time) for the most consecutive calendar years to write a #1 song. This gave McCartney eight consecutive years (starting with "I Want to Hold Your Hand"), leaving behind Lennon with only seven years.
"Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" appears on the Wings Greatest compilation album released in 1978, even though Ram was not a Wings album (both this song and the Ram album are credited to 'Paul and Linda McCartney').
The song appears on several solo Paul McCartney compilations; the US version of All the Best! (1987), as well as Wingspan: Hits and History (2001), and on both the standard and deluxe versions of Pure McCartney (2016).
- Paul McCartney – lead, harmony and backing vocals, piano, bass
- Linda McCartney – harmony and backing vocals
- David Spinozza – guitar
- Hugh McCracken – guitar
- Denny Seiwell – drums
- Marvin Stamm – flugelhorn
- New York Philharmonic – orchestral arrangement
- The song was used in the episode "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Uncle" of the British sitcom Only Fools and Horses, where the character of Uncle Albert leaves home.
- Harry Shearer uses a looped sample of "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" for the "Apologies of the Week" segment of Le Show, with emphasis on McCartney saying "sorry".
- The film Greenberg includes a scene in which the character Florence, drunk on champagne, sings along to the song which Greenberg included on a mix-CD for her.
- Jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard covered the song on his 1971 album First Light.
- The song is mentioned in the lyrics of the song "Hillcrest" by New Zealand band The Changing Same.
- A portion of "Uncle Albert" is sampled in The Avalanches song "Livin' Underwater (Is Somethin' Wild)" on their sophomore album Wildflower.
- McGee 2003, p. 195.
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- Blaney, J. (2007). Lennon and McCartney: together alone: a critical discography of their solo work. Jawbone Press. pp. 46, 50. ISBN 978-1-906002-02-2.
- McGee 2003, p. 196.
- Benitez, V.P. (2010). The Words and Music of Paul McCartney: The Solo Years. Praeger. pp. 30–31. ISBN 978-0-313-34969-0.
- Jackson, A.G. (2012). Still the Greatest: The Essential Songs of The Beatles' Solo Careers. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0810882225.
- Drury, Bob, Halsey's Typhoon, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007, page 283
- "Past Winners Search". National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
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- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- Mason, S. "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 December 2013.
- Landau, Jon (8 July 1971). "Ram". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
- "Wings Greatest - Wings,Paul McCartney | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
- "Paul McCartney - Wingspan - Hits And History". Discogs. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
- "67 Tracks of Pure McCartney..." PaulMcCartney.com. 30 March 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
- "Paul McCartney - Pure McCartney". Discogs. Retrieved 30 July 2017.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "Top Singles - Volume 16, No. 5". RPM. 18 September 1971. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
- "Single Search: Paul and Linda McCartney – "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"" (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 20 February 2013.
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- Steffen Hung (26 September 2016). "New Zealand charts portal". Charts.org.nz. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
- Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 157.
- Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970-1992. St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- "RPM 100 Top Singles of 1971". RPM. 8 January 1972. Retrieved 11 March 2014.
- "American single certifications – Paul Mc Cartney – Uncle Albert". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
- McGee, Garry (2003). Band on the Run: A History of Paul McCartney and Wings. New York: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 0-87833-304-5.