Between Two Worlds » Which synth did Paul McCartney really use on “Wonderful Christmas Time?”

Which synth did Paul McCartney really use on “Wonderful Christmas Time?”

It’s probably one of the most controversial Christmas songs ever, but love it or hate it you have to admit it’s a classic. Quick and clever chord changes, the catchiest of melodies – but most importantly – what makes this tune is that synth sound with the lovely delay.

Most online accounts (wiki / synthtopia) have said it’s a SCI Prophet 5 or CS-80, but without citations of any kind. To really figure out what’s making the sound we need to do a little detective work!

Submitted as Evidence A: this super cool photo of Wings-era Paul in the studio with his synths (click for larger). How can we be sure he’s working on Wonderful Christmas Time though? While we can’t make certain, there are a few tip-offs: (1) the glass of holiday spirit resting on the Pro-Soloist, (2) his late-fall attire and shagging hair (just one trim a way from his look in the video above), and most telling of all (3) Sir Paul’s Movember stache.

But which synth did he use for that memorable line? First of all, the Prophet 5 is nowhere in sight and probably gets credited for this song because it appears in the video. It’s likely the P5 was used more commonly as a road synth for Wings and made a handier prop for the shoot.

And what’s that Roland in the background? Turns out there is another polysynth in this studio pic! That’s a Roland Jupiter 4, make no mistake (compare with this photo of it’s back side, ignoring those 4 aftermarket knobs on the top). Certainly Paul must have used one of Roland’s first poly’s for that chord… why, it even seems like you can trace the patch cable straight from the JP-4 to the Roland RE-201 Space Echo on that amp in the back! Furthermore, since it was released in 1978 the JP4 would have been in Paul’s studio right around the time he was recording ‘Christmas Time. Could all the sources have been wrong?

Probably not. What really settles the score on the matter, and submitted as Evidence B, is this bit of sonic proof provided by youtube user BuggySawtooth. There’s pretty much no denying that the CS-80 is indeed the source of the magic sound:

One last question though. What is that device on the top left corner of Paul’s CS-80?

We hope you have a Wonderful Christmas Time and Happy Holidays from your friends at btw.