Scotland

Christmas 'takes me back to' the Mull of Kintyre

Ian McKerral (left) was just 16 when he played bagpipes on Paul McCartney's Mull of Kintyre
Image caption Ian McKerral (left) was just 16 when he played bagpipes on Paul McCartney's Mull of Kintyre

Every Christmas Ian McKerral is reminded of the day in the summer of 1977 when he played his bagpipes on what is still the fourth biggest selling single of all time.

Mull of Kintyre, a song about ex-Beatle Paul McCartney's love for his south-west Scotland hideaway, became a Christmas hit 40 years ago despite containing absolutely no reference to the festive season.

Ian, who was just 16 when he performed on the recording at McCartney's farm in Kintyre, still lives in Campbeltown, where he teaches piping in local schools.

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Media captionIan McKerral and John Lang Brown perform the song

He says: "I just remember walking across the beach and seeing Paul, his wife Linda and Denny Laine sitting on the rocks and hearing the sound of Mull of Kintyre. It was just brilliant."

The song was number one for nine weeks over Christmas and New Year 1977/8 and it keeps coming round again each year, despite it not having a Christmas theme.

"It's a bit unbelievable, with it not being a real Christmas song," says Ian.

Image caption Ian McKerral and John Lang Brown remember their role in the best-selling single

"It was just right at the time obviously and it's just amazing how it keeps coming back and you don't ever get fed up listening to it."

The song was co-written by McCartney's musical partner in the group Wings, Denny Laine.

He is still a little bemused but very happy that a song written and recorded in August ended up as a festive chart topper and a hardy perennial on the radio.

Image caption Denny Laine says the song was not related to Christmas at all

"It wasn't necessarily thought of for Christmas because it wasn't a Christmas theme but that's when it was released," Laine says.

He says they took the pipe band to London to record the Christmas episode of the popular impressionist Mike Yarwood's TV show.

That programme was seen by 21.4 million people, one of the largest light entertainment audiences in UK TV history.

In the hotel after the recording of the Yarwood show, a wedding party in one of the function rooms got a bit of a sneak preview, Laine remembers.

Image caption A signed photo of the band Wings

"The pipers decided to play a trick on everybody and opened the door and marched into this wedding reception playing the pipes," he says.

Drink had clearly been taken.

This was not the case when McCartney first recorded the song in August.

He had been keen to avoid booze affecting the session.

McCartney once told the BBC: "I said we won't drink before the session because it could go horribly wrong.

"We'll break out the drinks when we've got the take."

Once the recording was in the can the party began, he said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption John Lang Brown says he preferred the original demo version they were sent

Another piper who played on the track, John Lang Brown, says, despite its success, the version everyone knows is not his favourite.

"After we made the recording, a few weeks later everybody got a single sent to their houses of the recording we did up at the farm before it got mixed down in London," he says.

"I actually prefer the original recording to be honest. There's more bass in it. But what can I say it was number one for nine weeks and a record breaker."

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