The album WILD LIFE now released, Paul itched to take his new band out on the road. The only problems, the sound wasn’t really full enough and what type of tour to do.
He solved the first part by auditioning and hiring Henry McCullough, an Irish guitarist most famous for playing in Joe Cocker’s Grease Band. He is seen in the Woodstock performance.
While he was technically a very good performer, the newest addition to Wings #2 was a hard drinking blues guitarist. It didn’t seem like this would be the perfect marriage for Paul, but the decision was made.
As far as touring, Paul decided to go back to his roots. Really far back in his roots… Like very late 1950’s back.
From 2nd to the 7th of February, Wings held rehearsals for the tour at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). The rehearsals were filmed by Tyncho Films, and titled by McCartney as The ICA Rehearsal, and features footage of: “The Mess“, “Wild Life“, “Bip Bop“, “Blue Moon of Kentucky“, “Maybelline”, “Seaside Woman“, “My Love“, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” and “Lucille“.
A short except of the footage was included in the TV documentary Wings Over the World.McCartney took the band on an impromptu tour of the United Kingdom’s universities, showing up unannounced and performing for whoever happened to be on campus. The band’s intended first stop on the tour, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, had no suitable venue, so the band moved on to the more receptive Nottingham. Admission to the first show which was held at 12 noon in the Portland Building Ballroom was GBP 0.40, proceeds being split up equally among the band members. At Hull, the word circulated fast, and a full hall of about 800 welcomed Wings at 50p per head.
Paul : “We got a band and hatched the plan of the university tour. Didn’t want to have a big supergroup, just wanted to try and learn the whole thing again, hopefully learn some new things rather than repeat the Beatles. Which has been about as successful as anyone in the world was ever gonna get with anything. The theory was that by going out and looking at the whole deal again, you might get a few new clues. So we literally took off in a van up the M1 , got to Ashby-de-la-Zouch [in Leicestershire], liked the name. Great! Turn Off here. But there wasn’t a gig, just a little village. It was a signpost. We kept going until we got to Nottingham University, and then it suddenly hit. “Ah, let’s do universities”. “Otherwise there weren’t any gigs. That’s a captive audience. There’s people.I remember thinking one good thing that might come out of this, in future years we’ll meet people who’ll say, “l was a student when you came”. They might go on to be something, and we’ll be infiltrating with them now.
“Give Ireland Back to the Irish” was the message on that tour, so they’ll know we were being a bit political. If they become a big whizz at the BBC or something, they’ll be able to say, l was there, way back when”. For us it was just to get road experience. We showed up at these places and it was crazy. If we’ve got five hours some time I’ll tell you about it. It’s a whole saga.
I remember telling it to John Schlesinger [the film director] and he said, “Oh, I wish I’d been there, I would have loved to have filmed that”.
“Before John was leaving the Beatles, I was lying in bed at home one night and I thought we could get a band together, like his Plastic Ono Band. I felt the urge because we had never played live for four years. We all wanted to appear on a stage but not with the Beatles.
We couldn’t do it as the Beatles because it would be so big. We’d have to find a million-seater hall or something.” “I wanted to get in a van and do an unadvertised concert at a Saturday night hop at Slough Town Hall or somewhere like that. We’d call ourselves Rikki and the Red Streaks or something and just get up and play. There’d be no press and we’d tell nobody about it. John thought it was a daft idea.”
“My best playing days were at the Cavern lunchtime sessions. We’d go onstage with a cheese roll and a cigarette and we felt we had really something going on. The amps used to fuse and we’d stop and sing a Sunblest Bread commercial while they were repaired. I’d walk off down the street playing my guitar and annoying the neighbors. I couldn’t do that now, but it’s what I want to do with this new group.”
“We just don’t know how we are going to do. I don’t want to start with a Wings concert at the Albert Hall with the world watching and analyzing. I just want to play a small dance, and rock a bit.”
“We will start just by turning up at a place we fancy visiting, and just play a straightforward gig. We might use another name to keep it quiet. We have rehearsed and we can play live together. In fact it sounds quite good. It doesn’t really matter that much.” “I don’t want Wings to become a media group, with our signatures on knickers which are sold for promotion. I don’t like that now. I was happy with that situation in the Beatles, but it died in the end. We are starting off as a new band, but if we ever get to be huge like the Beatles it will be very different.”
“We had decided that we would go back to square one. We wouldn’t book a big tour, we wouldn’t even book hotels, we’d just go in a van – the band, the kids, the dogs – take up the motorway and find somewhere to play. We wanted to play at universities, where there was a captive audience, and our idea was to go in and say, ‘Do you want us to play for you?’ It was as simple and as mad as that.
Our roadie would go in, find someone from the Students’ Union and say, I’ve got Paul McCartney in the van, with his band Wings. Do you want ’em to play for you?’ ‘Yeah, sure, pull the other one.’ ‘No, really. Come and see’. The student would come out to the van and I’d say ‘Hello, yes, it’s me. We’ll play for you if you want’.
We didn’t have many songs. To be precise, we had eleven, which – at about three minutes a song – is a 33 minute act. They wanted longer so we repeated things. ‘We’ve had a request to do Lucille. We did it earlier but now we’re gonna do it again for Jenny Babford on the science course’. Whatever. We just repeated things, especially our new single Give Ireland Back to the Irish. “The gigs went quite well but it’s funny to look back and realize that we had such little material.
The university tour was really a public practice. The Beatles made all their mistakes in private, at the little clubs before we were watched by any critics. With Wings, I knew that when we went public all the critics would be sitting there with their sharpened pencils –‘Oh, he’s not as good as he was.’ It was like I had returned to amateur status, trying to relearn the whole game.
The Beatles were old and comfortable gloves – you just slipped them on and hey, it all happened. Wings was new gloves – you had to break them in. Before certain gigs Linda would suddenly think, ‘God, what have I got myself into here?’ From being a photographer she was suddenly in a band with me. Crazy.”
They did 11 concerts in 14 days. Before the first tour they did go to the recording studio on February 1st and recorded and released (February 25th) their first official single, “Give Ireland Back To The Irish.”
Bloody Sunday was a massacre on 30 January 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, when British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march against internment without trial. Fourteen people died: 13 were killed outright, while the death of another man four months later was attributed to his injuries.
Many of the victims were shot while fleeing from the soldiers, and some were shot while trying to help the wounded. Two days after this Wings went into the studio and recorded McCartney’s very quick reaction to this horrifying event. As a song, it is a mid tempo rocker which chugs along nicely, but does little beside that. The very light lyrics express their horror over the event. I give them an A for effort. The song is credited to both Paul and Linda, as was the production. I give Paul props for trying to come to grips and share with the nation and the world, but as a first single to be released by Wings II, this song was not going to get much airplay or big sales, outside of Ireland itself.
The song was immediately banned in the U.K. due to its very strong political content. The B side was an instrumental version of the A side with a much lighter tone. Henry McCullough, the new Irishman in the band, was put in an awkward place for his first gig with his new band. He, and his family received threats over the song at the time.Rating – 6Back in the studio in early March of 1972, Wings II recorded many of the songs that would come out on 1973’s RED ROSE SPEEDWAY. However, quite a few songs recorded were not released, or eventually came out many years later as bonus tracks on CD singles etc..Paul at a few times in his career attempted to put together a release of all of the unused songs on a discount album called COLD CUTS AND HOT HITS. The record company refused to release this as he only wanted to put a $3.99 price tag on it, which was a few dollars less than a normal release. He would revisit this idea a few more times, even re-recording these unreleased songs all to again, it never happening. It has become a bootleg staple of McCartney fans, each of the three proposed versions of COLD CUTS….—————————————————————————
In 1972 here are the list of songs recorded and intended for a proper release (most for the initial double album proposed for RED ROSE SPEEDWAY) that were never (or came out much much later as we discussed) released….
“Tragedy” A remake of The Fleetwoods 1959 single. Very mellow…harmless remake. Great idea to hold this song back. Rating – 4
“Mama’s Little Girl” A highlight of Paul’s acoustic period he had during these last two years. It saw the light of day in the very late 1980’s. A sweet little gem of a tune. I love the clarinets. Rating – 7
“Seaside Woman” Linda’s first solo composition. Inspired by a Jamaican visit in late 1971, this song was done live at the time, but not released until 1977.
It was released under the guise of Suzy and The Red Stripes.Decent song, done well, and even better in concert.Rating – 6.5
“I Would Only Smile” Denny Laine’s first written song contributed to the band. A mid-tempo country feel. Not a memorable song at all. He later released it “first” on his 1980’s album, JAPANESE TEARS. Rating – 3.5
“Thank You Darling” A Paul & Linda sing as a duet on a song that never really gets going. Has a 1950’s style feel. Rating – 3.5
“Mary Had A Little Lamb” Did Paul record this song (which included his children singing on it) as a gift for the kids worldwide (which he has said) or more likely as a F.U. to British radio for banning his previous single. Either way, they worked very hard on this song, and even recorded FOUR music videos for its release as the 2nd Wings II single. I like this song. It’s harmless and cute, but what did it do to his already tarnished credibility in the music world? And again, what was his new guitarist thinking as they worked and worked on this one. Maybe as a b-side or hidden on an album would have worked better. It is a very well recorded song but…Rating – 6
“Little Woman Love” Recorded during the WILD LIFE sessions and issued as the b-side to “Mary…”. This is a jaunty piano piece that keeps the toes a tapping. He would do this song in concert by combing it with “C Moon” during the future tour. Maybe he should have reversed the single to have this be the A-side.Rating – 6.5
Recording ended in late March, then the band went into rehearsal for their first “proper” tour of Europe. The tour started on July 9th and ran until August 24th. They did 26 shows in 9 countries.
No Beatles songs, but the band did have more material to perform. The best part is they really started to gel and tighten as a unit, and the DVD inclusion in the WILD LIFE archive release “Wings Over Europe” showed off the best of all the material they had at the time.
Quite a few of these live performances from this tour were meant to be part of the 1973 RED ROSE SPEEDWAY proposed double album. When the idea was rejected by EMI, these rocking concert songs were shelved. Only heard at the time on poor quality bootlegs until the WILD LIFE archive release.
On this tour, proper venues were booked, as were hotels etc… but it became a true family thing as they loaded up the wives and girlfriends and kids and dogs on their rented out a double decker bus.
They painted it up for the tour and threw mattresses on top and drove from country to country in true early 1970’s hippie style.
Up next…. The second half of 1972….. Rock on!!!