So Many No. 1 Hits!
This is a compilation album of Paul's greatest chart hits post-Beatles breakup that was released the 22 of November of 1978. While the title says "Paul McCartney and Wings," I'm sure you will have noticed that they aren't all Wings songs. However, while "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" and "Another Day" may not technically be Wings songs, they are from that era that is usually considered, if nothing more, "Wings friendly."
|The tea party at Uncle Albert's house|
Two brief factoids in case you are new to Paul: 1) "Wings" the name has nothing to do with aircraft wings or anything like that, it was a reference to the wings of angels after a hospital stay by Linda; 2) my personal theory on "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" is that the character in the song of Uncle Albert is actually in part a reference to the Uncle Albert in Walt Disney's "Mary Poppins."
Let me explain.
Paul has said "Uncle Albert" is his actual uncle, and he should know. No reason not to believe that, it is the perfect prosaic explanation. As in "Let 'Em In," Paul had a habit of including his family members' names in some of his high-profile songs. So, case closed? Maybe, maybe not.
Why pick that name and that uncle, and why all the disjointed references in the song? Beatles songs were famous for having hidden references in them that repaid close study. "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" had been written during the Beatles years.
This film "Mary Poppins" was very popular at the time of the Beatles British Invasion. In fact, it was the top-grossing film in the United States for 1965. It undoubtedly formed part of the backdrop of Paul's life during those years. Anyone who doesn't think that Paul would base a hit song on a children's animated film must not have heard "Martha, My Dear." Children were very much on Paul's mind in the early 1970s.
Fans of the film "Mary Poppins" will recall that Mary and the children visit her Uncle Albert and have a tea party. Poppins' entire family is magical. The singer says he "hasn't done a bloody thing all day," which is kind of true of the characters in the film, who had whiled away the previous day dancing in the park. Two key lines in the song concern having "a cup of tea and a butter pie" and "the kettle's on the boil." This makes sense - at a tea party.
After their visit, Mary "calls the children away" because they have things to do, leaving them and Uncle Albert very sad. This mirrors the "we're so sorry" in the song's refrain.
Paul for some reason affects an arch British accent in some segments of the song, clearly overdoing it for effect. Dick Van Dyke, who played Bert in the film, was notorious throughout Britain for his horribly overdone fake Cockney accent in "Mary Poppins."
I'm not done yet. This is where it gets a little freaky.
As to the other half of the song, Paul also has said that Admiral Halsey is the real life Admiral Halsey, which is all well and good. However, Admiral Halsey had passed away long before then, and wasn't exactly on the tip of anyone's tongue, especially in England. There does, though, just so happen to be an Admiral of all things in "Mary Poppins." It is eccentric Admiral Boom, an old chap who has an assistant and frightens the children. The singer in the song appears to be some kind of valet or something for Admiral Halsey, as the Admiral has informed him of his need for a berth.
Now Paul couldn't exactly call the good Admiral "Boom" or he'd give the whole thing away right there, don't you see? Just as he changed "Father McCartney" to "Father McKenzie" in "Eleanor Rigby," it would have been a simple idea to pick some random famous admiral as the name. Halsey the real-life historical figure has no other reference in the song beyond use of his name.
The refrain "hands across the water, heads across the sky" is also of interest because Uncle Albert floats to the ceiling in "Mary Poppins" (along with everyone else) and the children's outing in the park the previous day (when they all floated about on magical ponies from a carousel ride) had been ruined by rain. "Hands (of friendship and love) across the water, heads (of Uncle Albert and the children) across the sky."
"Live a little be a gypsy get around," another refrain in the song, basically encapsulates the theme of "Mary Poppins," which is to learn to enjoy life to free yourself. Poppins is the ultimate gypsy figure, blowing in and out with the wind. And, of course, the children, Mary and Bert had been "getting around" on the carousel and on the horses that had broken free from it and taking the children hither and thither.
Conclusion: Lyric Interpretation of "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey":
Uncle Albert + tea + haven't done a bloody thing all day + called away + very sad + the Admiral + hand across the water + heads across the sky + live a little be a gypsy get around = "Mary Poppins."
My apologies to all who are offended if I am simply off on my own there, this is strictly my own interpretation based on my knowledge of the song and the film.
As I said, Paul himself said it is just about his uncle and a historical US naval figure, so draw your own conclusions.
Enjoy the songs!