On May 5th and 6th the new Wings five went into the studio to record a song Paul wrote in anticipation of it being featured as the title track for a major motion picture, Alan Alda starring in, Same Time Next Year. The song was submitted but rejected by the studio because too much of the plot was revealed in the song itself. It was tagged on at the end of the film, and finally released in 1990 as a B-side to “Put It There.
Not a bad little piano song, with lush orchestration, which really kicks in the last 30 seconds. “Same Time Next Year” Rating – 6.5
Only July 5th, the band went into the studio to record the music for the soundtrack for the proposed animated film, “Rupert The Bear.” The project has never seen the light of day, and was started back in the RAM days. A full 12 track album was mastered, but again with no film, no soundtrack. Many are instrumental tracks with McCartney dialog introduction describing the next segment of the story.Rupert Song
Tippi Tippi Toes
When The Wind Is Blowing
The Palace Of The King Of The Birds
Sea / Cornish Wafer
Walking In The Meadow
Rupert Song (reprise) ———————————————————————————— A few of the tracks have come out in ARCHIVE relays (“When The Wind Is Blowing” and “Sunshine Sometime”) but the project has yet to see the light of day.
Paul did revisit Rupert a few years later with “We All Stand Together (The Frog Song)” which highlighted the short animated film released in 1984 (as the opener before GIVE MY REGARDS TO BROAD STREET film.
On June 29-July 27th and again on September 11-29th and from October-December of 1978 the band worked on what would ultimately be the final Wings album, to be released in 1979.
In 1978 Linda made a animated film for her solo recording of “Oriental Nightfish.”
The new Wings made the music video for “I’ve Had Enough,” the last single off of LONDON TOWN.
On November 13th Wings Greatest was released.
Of the 12 songs on the album, two were solo Paul songs, so a bit of confusion. The cover is iconic for the statue on the mountain. It still remains in Paul’s MPL office, but to achieve this cover Paul had the statue flown to the Alps and photographed by helicopter, rather than inside a studio.
This album released ended Paul’s contract with Capitol records in the US. Paul was quite angry at the company for what he felt was lack of support on “Mull Of Kintyre” single, where many radio stations played the B-side “Girls School.” Also, he felt they didn’t go all out in promoting LONDON TOWN.
So when push came to shove Paul signed with Clive Davis and Columbia Records, for distribution in the states. The contract was the largest royalty rate ever for his five year contract (thru 1984).
Buddy Holly week was celebrated for the third year in September.
On October 3rd and 4th the band filmed the recording of The Rockestra Orchestra, again another film project which hasn’t officially seen the light of day as of yet.
Paul really wanted to tour again in as they recorded in 1977, but Linda had become pregnant with fourth child, James, and so that idea was delayed for the time being. With Jimmy and Joe now officially out of the band, the task of finishing the album fell upon the shoulders of the three.
“Mull Of Kintyre” was an amazing success and Paul again began to work much closer with Denny, as he had in 1973 on BAND ON THE RUN.
DENNY would receive five co-writing song credits on the album, as well as two lead vocals.
Sadly, when Denny reached his most difficult financial times after Wings broke up officially in 1980 he reluctantly sold his co-share writing credit of “Mull” back to Paul for a pittance .
Even with the enormous success the band had the last five years Paul was notorious for being very frugal when it came to paying his band members.
So, in early 1978 Paul, Denny and Linda reunited to put the final touches on the next album, which would end up being called LONDON TOWN. From January 4th to the 23rd they finished the album.
Since Paul still envisioned Wings as a touring band he quickly found the next generation of drummer and lead guitarist for the always changing lineup. He hired the young, talented Laurence Juber as his lead guitarist and Steve Holly on drums. In fact, even though they didn’t play on “I’ve Had Enough” didn’t prevent Paul from using them in the music video released when it was pulled as a single.
LONDON TOWN was released on March 31st, one week after the first single “With A Little Luck” was released. Paul, Linda and Denny made an odd video for this track.
Interesting, at this point Linda is no longer listed with any co-writing credits as she had been on nearly every song since RAM.
“Luck” gave Paul his next #1 US single. “I’ve Had Enough” was released as the second single on June 16th and the third single, “London Town” was released on August 26th. Neither of the last two made any dent on the charts.
McCartney had hit his peak and now disco, R&B, punk, funk, new wave and hard rock acts were taking over the charts.
The music world now had Elvis Costello, Cheap Trick, Foreigner, AC/DC, Rush, Journey, XTC, The Ramones, Heart, The Cars, Patti Smith, Peter Frampton, Steve Miller Band, The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The revamped Fleetwood Mac, Van Halen, Heart, Squeeze, The Talking Heads, Blondie, solo Michael Jackson, The re-inspired Bee Gees, Prince etc… and at 36 years old, Paul started seeming non-vital.
The thing about this album was how Paul had erased nearly every visible trace of Jimmy and Joe on the album.
They are not pictured in any form on the album (other than listed performing credits on the inside jacket) or any promotional work associated with the album, even after they played on nearly every track.
So, on March 31st, still living in my college dorm, sat with about 10 of my friends, as the local Philly rock radio station played the ENTIRE album on its release day. I was so excited and we all got in the right frame of mind as the needle dropped on the first track….
“London Town” The gentle electric piano eases us onto the road to London Town, followed by Paul’s looping bass leading into the gentle melody. Then Paul, Linda and Denny sing…..
Walking down the sidewalk on a purple afternoon I was accosted by a barker, playing a simple tune Upon his flute, toot toot toot toot…
Within seconds the entire room (except for me) bursts into laughter…. Toot toot toot toot……
The rest of the song progresses casually, Even a interesting instrumental break that gives the song a bit of an edge. Classic Wings backing vocals…. It all sounds good…..
Then…. The next verse….
Crawling down the pavement on a Sunday afternoon I was arrested by a rozzer, wearing a pink balloon About his foot, toot toot toot toot….
(laughter, part two) The song comes to an end, and they all look to me, the defender of all things McCartney….. I lower my head…
It’s not that “London Town” is a bad song, it’s not…. It sounds very well recorded and the vocals are near perfect. It just came down to the words on the paper. Paul just seemed, again, to be mailing it in lyrically. But no time to lick my wounds as the song quickly goes into the bouncy… Rating – 7
“Cafe On The Left Bank” The first boat song. A nice little toe tapper with again, lyrics that are trite and seemingly meaningless. This is not “Imagine.” Rating – 6
“I’m Carrying” Another song basically done on the boat. This is a solo Paul song as he dose it all by himself. A song that makes me feel sad, even though I’m sure Paul meant it not to be. It has ALWAYS reminded me of the days when my dad would see the New York Rangers at night and gently open my door and slip onto my desk a copy of The Hockey News he bought for me at MSG after he got home. This is the song Paul was singing around sunset when dolphins were jumping around the boat. That must have been a powerful moment for all involved. Rating – 8
“Backwards Traveller” First song on the album that was down without Joe and Jimmy (Paul plays the drums on all of these three person tracks). It starts out with a flash and a very interesting melody and lyric and then quits after one verse and flows into….. Rating – 6
“Cuff Link” Must have been created around the same time as “Backwards.” A synth heavy instrumental that does nothing of interest and fades out…. Rating – 5
“Children, Children” The first song that sounds very nautical but wan’t recorded on the boat, but Abbey Road studios.
Written by Paul and Denny, and the lead sung by Denny. An ode to raising children and protecting them as they grow. Nice acoustic guitar work. Rating – 6
“Girlfriend” Written with Michael Jackson in mind to record it. Paul told him of this at the SPEED OF SOUND release party.
Jackson eventually recorded in for his 1979’s OFF THE WALL album, but he altered the lyrics and took out the middle eight. Paul breaks out a slightly awkward falsetto and the song features slightly awkward backing vocals. Once again, they are all looking at me, and I hide my head in my hands. Rating – 5.5
“I’ve Had Enough” The end of side one. A boat started recording mild rocker that doesn’t really feel as if Paul “has had enough.” It seems like faux anger….. It features a 50’s style pause where Paul speaks to the audience. One of few songs on the album with a bit of grit to it, but the production feels muddy and distant. It tries to become something it is not….but it tried. Rating – 5.5
The radio DJ came on, and the commercials began with the promise of side two coming up. We all re-loaded For this, and I can actually recall many coming up to me and giving me the cheer up “it will get better on side two” encouragement. Toot-toot-toot-toot jokes abounded……
Side two opens with the huge hit single “With A Little Luck.” The single had been out a week and wet my beak as this is clearly the standout of the album. The long version is on the album, with the long synth break. It is poppy, and occasionally the synths sound circus like…. But the message is nice, the vocals (both Pauls lead and backing) are excellent. The most inane music video of all-time doesn’t make me enjoy this song any less. The albums peak. Rating – 8.5
“Famous Groupies” A song that I think dealt with “the plaster casters,” two girls that would “excite” their male rock stars and then make a quick cast of their “member” in plaster. Interesting song, but it is all over the place musically and lyrically. Some love this song, some hate this song. I lead more to the latter…. Rating – 5
“Deliver Your Children” Another boat song about parenting that sounds very nautical. A Paul/Denny collaboration, but not nearly as strong as “Children, Children.” Lyrically…well…..here they are…. Well, the rain was a-failin’ And the ground turned to mud I was watching all the people Running from the flood So i started to pray Though i ain’t no prayin’ man For the lord to come a helpin’ Knowing he’d understand Deliver your children to the good good life Give’em peace and shelter and a fork and knife Shine a light in the morning and a light at night And if a thing goes wrong you’d better make it right Well, i had me a woman She was good and clean She spent all day with the washing machine But when it come to lovin’ She was never around She was out getting dirty All over town Deliver your children to the good good life Give’em peace and shelter and a fork and knife Shine a light in the morning and a light at night And if a thing goes wrong you’d better make it right Well, i was low on money And my truck broke down I was on my way to the lost and found So i took it to a dealer I said make it run Well, i ain’t got no money But i got me a gun I said you robbed me before So i’m robbing you back And if it don’t put you straight It’ll put you on the right track Well, i ain’t no devil and i ain’t no saint But i can tell a dealer by the colour of his paint Deliver your children to the good good life Give’em peace and shelter and a fork and knife Shine a light in the morning and a light at night And if a thing goes wrong you’d better make it right If you want good eggs You gotta feed that hen And if you wanna hear some more Well, i’ll sing it again.
The same man who wrote “Hey Jude” and “Yesterday” signed off on “If you want good eggs, you gotta feed that hen.” Sigh… Rating – 4
“Name And Address” Paul breaks out the upright stand-up bass used by Bill Black in the 1950’s in this homage to “The King.” It is a start and stop quality to it, and that’s not good, and again, the production feels muddy to me. There are moments where the song seems to be taking off and then..lands. Rating – 5
“Don’t Let It Bring You Down” Another Paul/Denny acoustic song from the boat that sounds nautical. Nice vocals and production, but when the song ends, so did my interest. Most of the songs on this album I have no interest on hearing today, other than to relive the feeling of that night in my Villanova dorm room. Rating- 6
“Morse Moose and The Grey Goose” The final Paul/Denny acoustic nautical boat song which is actually about boats!! Featuring actual morse code and a disco beat, it changes tempo in the middle to a sea shanty and then returns to the dance floor as Paul shrieks out the closing lines and the album finishes by collapsing onto itself. Much like the album??? Some people (Sam Whiles of Paul or Nothing podcast) love this song, but I do not fall into that group. Rating -5
The album ended….. The overall consensus of the room was that this album, in its time frame of music that was on the charts and on the airwaves, was a major let down. At the time I could not disagree…. 42 years later it grades out as a 5.5/10…. Yikes….. It still is a major letdown.
Next… the rest of 1978 and another and final crack at making Wings fly.
Paul had just purchased the Buddy Holly music collection and decided to make an album of some of the lesser known songs in which he produces, plays most of the instruments and sung by and assisted at his own Rude Studio by Denny Laine.
Linda helped a bit on keyboards and backing vocals. It was truly a low-fi experience with eight of the ten songs mastered in mono, to recreate the atmosphere that Holly had originally. Paul use the drum machine on many of the tracks and when I listened for the first time back in the day I found myself let down by the potential of this recording. It would be a year before the next Wings album was released and only “Mull of Kintyre/Girls School” single to get me through 1977.
Side one opens up with “Heartbeat,” a song I had heard from Holly before. Denny’s voice is perfect for Holly material, and Paul does add nice backing flourishes now and then. And this song is one of the best at that…..but it opens with that darn drum machine… Are they real steel drums? Set in a lovely reggae style, it is sparse, but in the end Paul joins Denny to give the song some oomph. Rating – 6.5
“Moondreams” A better drum machine, a lovely guitar fill to open by Denny. Lush vocals, with Paul’s bass driving the song, orchestration helping build the tension as the song moves on. Paul joins Denny halfway thru and they help bring the song home. The second single from the album. A music video was made of this. The best song on the album. Rating- 8
“Rave On” Opens with the three doing the first verses with vocals and handclaps. Then the music kicks in and Paul gives it a Beach Boys feel…. Real drumming, more steel drums. Rating – 7
“I’m gonna love you Too” Starts with a slower than usual tempo, led by Denny and Paul. It isn’t bad, it just goes nowhere. Rating – 6
“Fools Paradise”. Another song slowed down, with drum machine. Denny’s double lead vocals are the standout, with the call and response backing vocal by Paul. The best middle eight on the album as Paul make it sound very Beatle like. The 50’s guitar twangs take us to the fade. Rating – 7.5
“Lonesome Tears” Instrumental with that drum machine augmented by Paul playing live. Again, it doesn’t do much besides Denny decent guitar work. Rating – 5.5
“It’s So Easy/Listen to Me”. A two part song that opens up well with the popular “It’s So Easy.” Again, the tempo is slowed but Denny’s guitar work, Paul’s stand up bass and the vocals are very Wings and the song merges into “Listen to Me.” It takes a weird turn, with a pause and a coda of Linda on Keys and Denny muttering, “Listen, listen, listen to me.” Decent guitar work, but that damn drum machine. The modulated backing vocals fade us out. The first single off of the album. Rating – 6
“Look At Me” A slow builder of a song, which starts bursts into Denny’s best vocals on the album. Did I mention this album uses drum machines too much…. This song has been moving along at a pretty good groove, even getting funky at parts in the instrumental break. Lots of whoops and shouts throughout. Rating – 7.5
“Take Your Time” Another slow starter that is slower than the original. Drum machine…. Maybe that day someone brought some jazz ciggy’s into the studio because they do a verse in Chipmunks vocals…. And then finish the song with odd chants and more chipmunks, Why? Rating – 4.5
“I’m Looking For Someone To Love”. Instrumental ends the very short album, that does jump and jive and remain jazzy throughout. Very interesting interpretation of a song. It even comes back for a short coda…. Rating – 7
The album was a labor of love, but went nowhere on any charts. It is not an official Macca album but it does grade out as as 6.22 out of 10…. Not a must, but only for the this that must have every note.
Remember when Paul and Linda recorded an orchestral version of RAM, about a week after recording the original album.
Paul was secretly unlisted as PERCY “THRILLS” THRILLINGTON, the conductor of the music heard on the vinyl. The album was ready and then like many projects of the time he abandoned it. He started forming Wings and didn’t want to invest time and energy putting the final touches on an album of his last SOLO album. So at some point in he gets the idea to begin a ad campaign to hype the name and the potential product when it is finally released.
They even came up with a model to play the part of the mysterious “where in the world is” Thrillington. The album is excellent in what it attempts to do. It is an easy listening album of its day and yet it does it with a wink and a nod to its being more than just elevator music. “Percy “Thrills” Thrillington” was the pseudonym used by Paul McCartney to release in 1977 the instrumental version of RAM that was recorded 6 years before in 1971.
“I did one of my favorite little tricks, which was to use a pseudonym. Me and Linda sat around and we invented this character called Percy Thrillington. So we invented it all, Linda and I, and we went around southern Ireland and found a guy in a field, a young farmer, and asked if he minded doing some photographic modeling for us.
We wanted to find someone that no one could possibly trace, paid him the going rate, and photographed him in a field, wearing a sweater and then wearing an evening suit. But he never quite looked Percy Thrillington enough.” -Paul McCartney
For the record’s release, Paul and Linda devised a novel promotional scheme whereby the fabricated Percy Thrillington generated curiosity by taking out classified ads in the back section of British newspapers, making cryptic announcements such as “Percy Thrillington wishes to announce that, comforted by his specialist’s verdict regarding his condition, he has departed, all smiles, for Yorkshire.”
In addition, fake business cards were deliberately left in select locations around London, while radio and poster campaigns also tried to build a mystique. Ultimately, however, Thrillington failed to chart. Then we started this whole business in the Evening Standard ad columns, which was the really fun thing, putting in things like ‘Must get in touch with… Thrillington’, as a result of which the newspaper columns picked up on it – ‘Has anyone seen this rubbish going on in the Evening Standard about Percy Thrillington?’ – and it was good publicity. It was one of our madcap publicity schemes, as if we were managing this character called Percy Thrillington. -Paul McCartney
Paul finally acknowledged he was Thrillington during a press conference on November 27, 1989, when journalist Peter Palmiere pressed him on the matter. “What a great question to end the conference. The world needs to know! But seriously it was me and Linda – and we kept it a secret for a long time but now the world knows! – you blew it!- (laughs) I was hoping to remain anonymous. I always like people not to know what I’m doing. That’s why I find the whole social networking a bit weird.
I think it’s something to do with having been Beatles famous. […] For years I denied any responsibility and authorship because then, for me, I just had something on people – it was a good feeling. I’d just say, ‘I’m sorry. I have no idea who this person is or why he has covered my album’. I basically enjoy lying.” – Paul McCartney
THRILLINGTON was released as an exact format of the album RAM is a delightful listen to when not having to think about a thing…. *Rating – 8.0
In 1977 Paul also recorded that album with Denny Laine at his newly improved Rude Studio in Scotland. It would come out early in 1978.
Next 1978….and the boat lets us off in LONDON TOWN….
WINGS OVER AMERICA (December 1976) was a nice representation and Christmas gift for fans. It was retouched by the band in the studio before coming out.
I will review all of Paul’s live material in one shot…..back to back. After the studio releases . Same with his Classical releases.
“Maybe I’m Amazed (live)” b/w “Soily (live)” was released as a single, finally “Maybe” saw the light of day as a hit single, 7 years later than it should have.
In early 1977 Paul had to sign off on his end of involvement of Capitol Records release THE BEATLES AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL album (1977). The album coming out was very exciting at the time. They had repackaged the Beatles material with these odd albums (Love Songs, Reel Songs etc.. and even re-released “Got To Get You Into My Life” as a single) This concert wasn’t presented properly till science enabled it to be reissued in entirety a few years ago with the band fully separated from the audience.
In early 1977 Paul was seemingly the only living Beatle that mattered in the music world and the only ex-Beatle that was still productive.
In early February Wings reunited in chilly England and put on tape the first interpretations of “Name And Address,” “London Town,” “Girl’s School” and “Children Children.”
The band was not enjoying the recording experience so Paul again came up with this great idea…. The warm waters of the sunny Virgin Island, recording on luxury crafts.
It was a wonderful four weeks of concentrated work mixed with hilarity and horseplay, swimming and water skiing.
Word of the month was MELLOW and everybody is confident that this great atmosphere will result in a rich, new sound including nine songs recorded. It’s all going to be well worth waiting for.
The McCartneys and Wings wanted to think of a place to go where they could work on music for their next album and have a swell time while they were at it.
So Paul came up with a plan to charter a yacht and lie at anchor in a secluded bay off the Virgin Islands. That way they could swim and lie about in the sun, and play music late into the night without disturbing anyone.
In the end three boats were needed as there were twenty people and lots of musical equipment involved. One boat, the “Fair Carol”, was used as a recording studio and it had a 24-track machine installed in it.
The second boat was the eating and sleeping boat — that was the “Samala”, a converted British mine-sweeper and the third boat, “El Toro”, was home away from home for the McCartney family.
So the month of May was spent floating on the bright blue water under the warm sun off St. John Island. The food was great, there were cool breezes through the portholes at night, and lots of time and inspiration to record nine wonderful sounding tunes for the next album.
For a little variety the Wings Armada visited several different bays during the month: Watermelon Bay, St. Francis Bay and Hurricane Hole.
Everyone loved swimming in the clear water and the children leaped repeatedly from the boat like little water-babies.
“It’s better than a pool ’cause there’s more room”, says Mary. Small motor launches zipped back and forth taxiing the musicians and towing water-skiers.
At twilight the boats turned on rows of coloured Christmas lights all strung in their rigging and Wings music would float out across the bay.
(Paul) “We hired a charter boat that people use for holidays. The captain went spare when he saw all the instruments. We remodeled his boat for him, which he wasn’t too keen on.
We converted his lounge into a studio and we turned another deck into a sound control room, and it was fantastic!
In the last week of April the technical and backup team of Mike Walley, Trevor Jones, John Hammel, Geoff Emerick and Mark Vigars left London heading for the capital of the islands, St. Thomas, with a week to convert one of the yachts — ‘Fair Carol’ — into a sea-born recording studio.
A wooden control room was built in the stern and the Captain was very worried about the weight of equipment. Mike Walley relaxed him with, “not to worry, it’s just a few bits of wood and we promise to bang only a few nails in the deck!”
We had a recording boat and two others we stayed on. We didn’t have any problems with saltwater in the machines or sharks attacking us.
At night, there was much merriment, leaping from top decks into uncharted waters and stuff.
I had a couple too many one night and nearly broke something jumping from one boat to another.
But then you always break yourself up on holiday. The studio worked out incredibly well and the very first day we got a track down. There was a nice free feeling. We’d swim in the day and record at night.
TAKE THE exotic, sun drenched Virgin Islands in the Caribbean; mix in the mellow music of Wings and blend these sights and sounds on three ocean going motor yachts.
Result, a Maytime to remember.
On 30th April the Fair Carol, with the other two boats Samala and El Toro set off for Francis Bay on the island of St. John to link up the arrival of Wings, Brian Brolly and Alan Crowder. Communication was often simplified between the three boats.
Everyone just swam from one to the other for planning meetings and sessions. On the first day Brian Brolly did not want to wet his clothes so dived into the sea clad in but a towel, revealing all as the towel took off!
Denny learned to sail but most swam around in clear, blue seas studying starfish, sea urchins, brightly hued coral and small, harmless barracuda, with snorkels.
By Monday, 2nd May, serious work began and a pattern emerged of three or four hour sessions in the morning, the same from late afternoon to evening, interspersed with yet more swimming, water skiing and fantastic meals on Samala, prepared by no less than the Captain, Tony Garton, a sound seaman but also a superb chef.
On the morning of the 5th, Paul recorded a track playing acoustic guitar on the stern deck looking out over a sun splashed sea. A dolphin surfaced to enjoy the super sound and splashed around the boat for some time.
Denny became crazy about sailing and spent five hours negotiating the coves of one of the bays. Work went well and a lot of good sound in the can meant a relaxed weekend, particularly for Denny whose long sailing expedition resulted in a severe case of sunburn.
On Monday the 9th there were more troubles and by the end of the day a hospital boat moored around would have not been out of place.
Apart from Denny having to be taken to Caneel Bay for medical attention on his sunburn, Alan slipped down a stairway, broke his heel and had to be taken by water ambulance to a local hospital.
In the late evening session Geoff Emerick electrocuted his foot, Jimmy went deaf in one ear and Jack Crymes (one of the support team from Record Plant, Los Angeles) developed a throat infection.
At two in the morning those still mobile raced in powered dinghies round the bay shouting, “Pursuit… pursuit!” and also “Who’s next for the medicos!”
Happily there were no more disasters and later in the week as the flotilla cruised across to Watermelon Bay with the band jamming and recording, Alan Crowder had the look of Long John Silver as he waved his crutch from Samala to the main party on Fair Carol.
It was a wonderful four weeks of concentrated work mixed with hilarity and horseplay, swimming and water skiing.
Word of the month was MELLOW and everybody is confident that this great atmosphere will result in a rich, new sound including nine songs recorded. It’s all going to be well worth waiting for. On the last night Paul played the captain’s mini-piano and did the story of “The Two Little Fairies” featuring the song, “We remember that you were nice”, while the young McCartney sisters acted out the parts for everyone.
Then Denny led a procession round and round the Captain’s table to Paul’s tune, “Running Round the Room/Standing Very Still”.
As more friends arrived from the other boats the farewell party grew livelier and soon it was time to play “man overboard” in which everybody aboard was tossed overboard by everyone else (except Alan in his cast, Jeff, the recording engineer who can’t swim, and several pregnant ladies).
Next morning the “Samala” cruised to St. Thomas and put everyone ashore right at the airport for their flights back to reality.
Everyone was sad but tanned, and Wings was well on its way to a special new album.Recording ended on May 31st, 1977
On June 20th Linda recorded a few more tracks (which was building her project slowly but would remain unreleased until WIDE PRARIE, released just after her death and with her help at the very end).
Paul again sat down and knocked out a reel of home recordings of a few songs he was working on.
“Waterspout”. The amazing unreleased track that needed to come out…. Another of the tracks intended for the one of the various COLD CUTS/HOT TRACKS editions. Paul was beginning to use the drum machine in many of his demos and even a few recording sessions. This would peak in 1979’s recording of McCARTNEY II, which came out in 1980. Rating – 9
“Backwards Traveller” A song which would come out on 1978’s LONDON TOWN album.
“After You’ve Gone”
“Mull O’ Kintyre”
Paul also did a bit of work on The forgotten Bruce McMouse project, but Wings as a band had changed so much since those 1971-72 filming days (see below), that it was shelved for another forty years.. And as far as band changes….
Upon departing the boat and finish the second sessions the tension with Jimmy came to a head and he left after a final argument with Paul and was reported to soon join the reformed Small Faces. He didn’t really join, and started a few ideas and helped a few others before he overdosed by mistake just a few years after this.
Joe English left claiming he missed his wife and family and his life back in America. He chose to quit the rick scene and only play with fellow Christian performers. It came out many years later that he was battling many demons at this time.
And so it was back to Paul, Linda and Denny to return to the studio and finish up the album.
On November 11th, “Mull Of Kintyre” b/w “Girls School” was released as a single. It would become the biggest selling song in British history at the time and Wings biggest hit there ever. America promoted the B-side odd rocker instead on “Mull.” This was such an odd time for a Scottish cowboy song with full pipe band to be so successful at the height of punk. American radio didn’t even try, and “Girl’s School” was not a hit….
Macca had reached the top of the mountain and now was slowly headed down the other side of sales success (albums and singles wise).
They recorded in August, from October 25-December 1st and then December 3rd-14th.
On May 20th, 1975, Wings returned to the studio and knocked out the very New Orleans inspired, “My Carnival.” It came out as a b-side on one of the V&M singles, and then various mixes of it and lengths exist. In my opinion it’s forced. They are recording themselves trying to recreate the sounds they may have had if Wings had done a surprise gig while down there and rocked Bourbon Street by playing this live. Accurate, but not much soul. Rating – 6
On the other hand, “Going To New Orleans,” the same riff as “My Carnival.” But this song is done with better musicianship and overall captures the New Orleans feel more properly. Rating – 8
“Baby, you know it’s true (demo)” Paul riffing at the piano and going through some basic boogie woogie chords and making up lyrics as he does. He never recorded it. Rating – 4
“Baby Face” This gem should have been somewhere. McCartney plays with Tuxedo Jazz Band on this 1930’s classic and he finds a voice I only have heard once…here. He owns this short version of the song. Wish he had done a proper version for VENUS AND MARS. Rating – 8
“Lunch Box/Odd Sox” Recorded during this time yet not released until being a b-side to 1980’s “Coming Up.” Two instrumental pieces, the first an uptempo jazzy style with irritating synths by Linda. The second half is a synth led motion picture theme sounding track. Odd indeed, Miss Money Penny. Rating – 7/5 = 6
“Proud Mum” Another synth driven instrumental that may have been started earlier and then touched up later in one of the cold cuts proposed albums. It Also sounds like “the end of movie” song. Rating – 6
In August 1975 and then seriously in September and October of 1975 Wings returned to the studio to work on the latest McCartney songs.
They did all the recording for the next album while rehearsing, during, in breaks from and after starting Wings over Europe and The World tours.
Again, January and February of 1976, back to recording. They wanted even more new songs when the “Wings over America” began in May.
The album was mixed and put to bed….until it awoke on March 25th worldwide release.
That night the radio station in Philadelphia played it for us, both sides….the complete new WINGS album.
And it indeed is a WINGS album, as a whopping five songs are not sung by a Mr. McCartney.
Ladies and gents, he promises us AT THE SPEED OF SOUND. Next… did he deliver?
Wings At The Speed Of Sound (1976)
So the tour with all glitches being ironed out and they’ve had a handful of great shows to analyze, and make some exciting song selection changes. Now add the new songs to the lineup. And they did…..
The album artwork itself isn’t very good. The front cover is part of the whole marquee announcing the band you would see in other larger ads.
I preferred the inside album jacket art. On one side it was hand drawn of the club called “speed of sound” and Wings is performing inside…. Oh, Wings AT the speed of sound. Not too obscure. The back of this inside album jacket was a collage of of B&W photos of the band. (see photos)
The back cover of the album sort of borrows from A HARD DAYS NIGHT. Shows each mugging for fast shots that blend. Upon closer inspection, it was pointed out at the time, it shows the first signs of age (crows feet) in McCartney’s face.
Interesting overall concept of the theater marquee and its lettering as again they knew the bands names would be in lights throughout the rest of the year.
“Let ‘Em In”. The last album effectively ended on “Lonely Old People.” “Crossroads theme” was added as short irony to “People’s” emotional content. It was a soap opera in the UK that pandered only to the very old. “Lonely Old People” was a song about the old couple sadly sitting alone at home, filling their day up doing nothing. You see, no one has asked them “to play.”
Now, the new album opens with guests of many sort ringing that front bell, all wanting in now, and Paul happily welcoming them all. Look whose popular now…..
A decent hit single that was highlighted on the tour with Denny playing the military drum part and the horn section also playing the flutes and other woodwind parts.
Like every song on the album, it is amazingly recorded, perfect…..too perfect. This was the apex of late 1970’s of albums sounding so near perfect. From the Eagles to Steely Dan, sonic goodness.
SPEED follows as well as it is a beautiful album to listen to. Not at all complicated in depth, and sadly in scope. This song, like most on the album, sounds good and I bop and tap along to it, but the song itself is lacking any true tension as far as the words and why they are in the songs.
So “Let ‘Em In,” not a bad way to open up.
Like riding an escalator to the second floor of the mall. Rating – 7
“The Note You Never Wrote.” McCartney written, sung by Laine. Stream of thought lyrics that make no sense…. The middle break leading into Jimmy’s guitar break are the best part of this one. The mayor of Baltimore is here….?????
Rating – 6
“She’s My Baby”. Oh yeah, two other things had changed in music beside flawless recordings…. A uptempo type of dance music being referred to as “disco.” And the stirring of a form of rebellion was happening in England that would emerge as punk. On this song we have Paul’s first toe dip in the disco pool. Sounds nice when listening…. Hollow. Rating- 6
“Beware My Love” Paul tries his best to give a screaming throwback rocker, but drops the ball by shifting the into a disco tempo, and way too much Linda in these tempo changes, Paul actually for the first time struggles to fully hit the notes he has written for himself here. But the song sounds good. The bass on this and every song is beyond compare. Rating – 5.5
“Wino Junko” Second McCulloch/Allen song collaboration , Jimmy handles lead vocal here. Sounds nice. Interesting drumming by Joe on the play-out. Rating – 5.5
“Silly Loves Songs” More disco on one of the tempo shifts.
Opens with a mock of the knocking off of love songs as compared to products coming off an assembly line.
Amazing bass line, the best of his life.
Has a variety of changes and shifts, and sounds great while doing it. But the song does not stay with my soul, as I have said on the first six songs. Rating – 6
“Cook Of The House” Trying to sound like a 1950’s dance band…. It is a song sung by Linda describing her love of all things kitchen. This didn’t need to happen here…. It could have been saved for her “solo album” that came out just after her passing. Or maybe as a non album b-side. I cringed when I first heard this back in the day. But it sounds good. Rating – 4
“Time To Hide” Denny written and lead vocal. And guess what, a great little song. Bass line dances and overall the song cooks. It has some nice instrumental breaks (Denny on harmonica) and sounded great in concert as well. Rating – 8.5
“Must Do Something About It” Originally tried by Paul on the demo but then given to Joe, who does much better vocally on this track. A meaningless toe tapper that sounds nice going nowhere.
Rating – 5.5
“San Ferry Anne” Interesting song that reminded me on first hearing it as one of the early 1960’s teen jazz coffee house songs that came with the short lived folk era. A flute solo, and great horn work. Haven’t the foggiest idea what this song means 45 years after its release. Rating – 7.5
“Warm and Beautiful” When I first heard it I thought of Little Rascals shorts in which Alfalfa sings tenderly to Darla and then he hits these squeaky notes. Macca again struggles to hit that squeaky note (…”the story of our LOVE”…….) and all I could think about Alfalfa. The album ends. It sure sounded good….. but was it?
Rating – 6
Overall rating of the 11 song album is 6.14
It truly was a full band effort. Wings would carry this positivity throughout the year 1976 and into 1977 until they recorded again…
Next….. other songs and recordings and tour notes for the rest of the year 1976.
THE REST OF 1976….
After five warm up shows in Denmark (3/20-21/76), Germany, The Netherlands and France (3/26/76) Wings Over America began on May 3rd in Texas and ended June 23rd in California.
I, again, saw the May 21st show on Long Island. They recorded each show and would release a three record set (augmented with post tour repair) for Christmas season of 1976.
Paul threw another post tour party in Beverly Hills on June 24th.
During the party Paul met with Michael Jackson for the second time, and told him he had written a song for him: “We shook hands amid a huge crowd of people, and he said, ‘You know, I’ve written a song for you.’ I was very surprised and thanked him. And he started singing Girlfriend to me at this party. So we exchanged phone numbers and promised to get together soon, but different projects and life just got in the way for both of us and we didn’t talk again for a couple of years. He ended up putting the song on his own album London Town.” – Jackson
During the summer break Paul invited Denny Laine to his home studio and the two of them, with a little vocal help from Linda, recorded the McCartney produced, HOLLY DAYS.
This is a Denny solo album, with Paul behind the dials and helping with each song. Since Paul owned the rights to each of the songs it was a no-lose situation. It came out in May of 1977.
Paul also spent time that summer by himself in his upgraded home studio and laid down a track of songs, song bits and ideas he was working on at the time.
Here is a list of tracks on the July 1976 Home Recordings:
Oobu Joobu – Became a HUGE radio show series for Paul by the same name and he would play classic tracks, unreleased tracks, soundcheck etc and DJ each program. This was the title track that became the opener/closer for each show.
Oobu Joobu singalong theme
Don’t you Wanna Dance? – He worked on this this a bit more later on.
Old Siam, Sir – Came out on 1979’s BACK TO THE EGG album.
How do you like the lyrics?
Dervish Crazy Moog
All It Needs is a damn good song
Fishy Matters Underwater. The most amazing story here… He played bits of this on one of the Oobu Joobu shows and then revisited it and finished it in 2018 and released as part of EGYPT STATION traveler edition as “Frank Sinatra’s Party.”
Hey Man/ Cards Up On The Table
It’s amazing how prolific he was, and to a lesser degree still is so today.
On September 7th thru 14th Paul and Linda celebrated the first Buddy Holly Week.
From September 19th (Austria) to October 21st (London) Wings returned to the stage and finished the hugely successful tour.
The band tweaked a few of the tour tapes and a massive three record set WINGS OVER AMERICA was released on December 10th, 1976!!
After recording was finished at Sea Saint Studios in New Orleans and Wally Heider Studios in Los Angeles (where the album was also mixed thru March 27th) Paul decided to celebrate the completion of the album by throwing a lavish party aboard the original Queen Mary in Long Beach on March 24th.
The ship was (and still is) permanently moored there as a floating hotel, museum, event center and tourist attraction.
Among the 200 guests on board were George Harrison (the first time they had been seen in public together since the breakup of The Beatles), Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Marvin Gaye, The Faces, an Everly Brother (Phil), The Jackson Five (the first time Paul met future collaborator Michael), Dean Martin, Tony Curtis, Cher, and Monkees Mickey Dolenz and Davey Jones.
I was driving my girlfriend and two dear friends on May 16 of 1975 and we met them on a local Long Island beach. When we arrived they told me that they had just heard the new single from the soon to be released Wings new album, which was to be called Venus and Mars.
We laid in the sun and it wasn’t long before the song came on again. Anticipation for this album release was the most that McCartney ever had generated as it had been almost 18 months since the highly successful BOTR (not counting the one-off 1974 single “Juniors Farm”).
The song was “Listen To What The Man Said” and initial reaction by myself was 50-50, as it was played thru a small transistor radio. When we got back into town we stopped at a tiny record/head shop store in downtown Greenlawn and asked the manager about the release of the album. He told me the date (May 27th) and I showed up like an excited child on Christmas morning and saw the album displayed on the rack.
The Linda McCartney photographed cover is sparse but lovely and striking. I guess the two pool balls are supposed to represent the two planets. Someone at the Queen Mary party came up to them and said “Hello Venus, Hello Mars” to them in the reception line. Paul was always…”It never occurred to me…etc…” I think it makes sense he did….. the “Venus and Mars are alright tonight” line makes me think this.
Inside the gatefold was a poster of the band from a photo shoot in front of an abandoned barn.
The entire inner sleeve was also a band shot amid the Mojave desert sand and sun.
The record label itself was in the style of vintage Capitol records from earlier in the century with the tiny red and orange balls linking the cover and lettering throughout.
Paul knew this album would be featured in the massive tour they were preparing and so track placement was factored in.
He placed the title track first on side one, and it was the song which opened each concert of the 13 month tour. The song itself described going to an actual concert and flowed into track two, giving actual hints on the ambitions of the band.
Paul set and met his goals…
“Venus and Mars” Amazingly smart to open an album with a song he wrote specifically to open his shows on his monster 1975-76 tour. The band seemed really united and having a grand time in any press photos and selected for the album artwork and promotional ads and photos.
But Paul claims to this day that this is not one of his favorite albums. But it has aged as well as possible from a standpoint of McCartney forever fans He only plays “Letting Go” and “Listen To What The Man Said” on the occasional tour. I think this album and time reminds him so much of Linda he may put it down to not have to remember so much…..?
But as a 19 year old out of my mind super fan waiting for this very release, whipped up by the fun of 1974’s McGEAR I found it to be too antiseptic and calculated. It sounded great and the production was spot on but beginning to get in that late 1970’s perfect sounding records. I felt at the time that V&M lacked the anger, rawness and ambition that BOTR had.
Well… I am under headphones and re-listening to the gigantic “deluxe” remaster album and bonus tracks from the archive collection. And so link the show I was blessed to see from row 10 in May of 1976 the lights go down…..
What a way to open the album. With Denny Laine on moog and sitar? Paul’s voice is like ice cream. We are in the arena…and it’s almost time. And the band is ready to kick ass. Rating – 9
“Rock Show” Allen Toussaint Electric Guitar and Piano help drive this beauty. Another classic multi-part masterpiece by McCartney. The backing vocals are perfect. He tells us…. Relax, get high, and then they come out and do in fact, kick ass, and they tell you where they are coming to. In fact on the tour to follow the played each of the venues listed in the song.
The green metal suit part is pure fucked up McCartney. The coda is my favorite part…. “Oh, it’s you babe……” Shake that ass. On tour the first two song had me wishing I could have cried. I was all alone and had to hold back. It was so good to see him live. Rating – 9.5
“Love In Song” A song that has always been a sad one. A McCartney love song when you are happy lift you to another levels….but if your heart is broken songs like this can rip you apart. At the time it did…. 40 years later….I can still feel it…. With Geoff Britton on drums and milk Bottles. An interesting shift to an oriental feel during the break that wasn’t there on the first verse. Not his best middle eight but it’s still fine. Rating – 8.0
“You Gave Me The Answer” Written with Fred Astaire in mind, maybe even to have him record it. It’s a classic John Lennon hating “granny music Paul.” “Honey Pie” and others to follow show of Paul’s love of old times music he heard as a very young child. It’s again spot on perfect fo that, but other than pleasant, it doesn’t move me. He recreates the 1930’s effect on tour and I was loving every second of it. I’ll just say, it’s not my favorite and I’m slowed down now….. Rating – 6.5
“Magneto And Titanium Man” A song about comic book characters Paul was reading, probably all fucked up in bed with Linda, kids and dogs and cats flying everywhere. 1975….sigh….. Interesting song. The lead vocal by Paul is something I never heard him do before. Kind of like being outside of a tent and these are the entertainers trying to get us in to see the whole show….
In 1976 tour a big screen came down with three of characters from the comic. Everyone went wild but that was it. The screen rolled up and the show went on as the finished the song. A harmless song built around classic bass lines. Nice vocals but again harmless. Rating – 7
“Letting Go” Geoff Britton is drums on this and he is perfect as the instrumental opening is impossible not to love. The best of Wings here… Paul, Linda and Denny on backing vocals. Really nice real horns… Jimmy placing nice Paul approved fills and he also does a great short solo.
This was the song my old time girlfriend would dance like a gypsy for attention… It is impossible not to remember that exactly as I hear this…. That is the power of music. Love the end fade out with Paul mixed way down asking “Do you feel like letting go?” I do. Rating – 9
“Venus And Mars (reprise) Geoff Britton is on cymbals There is no Denny. I guess song is meant to link the whole album but never thought any concept at all existed other the artwork and promotion. Gets way more interesting at the end. Rating – 7.5
Nice lead into Denny Laine singing…“Spirits Of Ancient Egypt” A goofy song with a classic rock and roll four to the floor 1950’s beat…. The organ is featured and Paul takes over the breaks vocally. The lyrics are wacky. They played this song straight up in concert. Rating 7.0
“Medicine Jar” Geoff Britton is on drums, Joe English on backing vocals. Denny is on congas. Jimmy wrote the music, Chad Allen wrote the words. Paul and the band help as much as they can as Jimmy takes lead vocal. It’s a pleasant song about pill addiction (the 70’s) with Paul again playing standard baselines.
Interesting backing vocals including a short multi tracked Linda riff… In concert after the Linda riff Jimmy did a second solo. He was amazing on both live. Rating – 8
“Call Me Back Again” Macca plays the clarinet on this one as well. Denny is on bongos. It is a 1950’s throwback and Paul’s vocals are amazing. The horns are perfect and the Moog helps in the lushness of the verse.
The last verse… Paul’s “Well when I.. I.. I.. I…….I called your name ..” till the end are amazing. The production is too much at the end and buries him in the mix…. Maybe intentionally. A super long fade into Paul doing Professor Longhair introduction to…. Rating – 8.5
“Listen To What The Man Said.” A nice speeded up reggae song that becomes a cute little shuffle by the lads. Dave Mason help on electric guitar is noticeable but minimal. Tom Scott on saxophone saves the song with his FIRST TAKE warmup attempt that Paul kept here. Wow, that’s amazing. The backing vocals peak at the end. Beautiful production throughout. Rating -8
“Listen then blends into “Treat Her Gently/Lonely Old People,” a sad song about being all alone and having nowhere to go. The say nobody asked them to play??? Is he mocking people who hadn’t asked Paul and Linda to make music with them in the last few years?? It also may say, watch out for what we about what they would soon see on our tour. Rating – 7
This fades into the “Crossroads Theme” (written by Tony Hatch). Written on commission, this song is a theme of a British soap opera aim for the elderly. A self mockery of the previous “elderly” song with a few more bob in the pocket. Rating – 6
The overall rating of VENUS AND MARS comes in at 7.7, making a wonderful memory of a special time that brings me to right back. A short break for the band while Paul plans…
During this time Paul is also buying up enormous amounts of music copyrights as they were becoming available. These included Buddy Holly, the rights to many broadway musicals and even “Happy Birthday.” This is truly what has made McCartney rich.
And so he was ready to tour…. He had a band, an album, a solo back catalogue and for the first time in a decade, a few more select Beatles songs. He did dust off a few in Wings final infamous 1979 tour. —————————————————————————— Before starting their massive tour the band amazingly began recording the proposed “next album” from August 28th thru October 17th. Back then they would have more than enough material for an album every 6-18 months. Today we see the same artists wait five, ten, or more YEARS and a few…. no more albums…. so…..
After much rehearsal and final planning the band started their Wings Over the World tour in Europe, on September 9th, 1975 in Southampton, England and then finishing in Scotland on September 23rd.
In contrast to Wings’ two low-profile, smaller-scale outings of 1972, this was a major, highly promoted concert tour that took place mostly in the 15-20,000 size arenas.
Around one million people attended 66 shows on three continents — Australia, (November 1st -14th) Europe (March 20th, 1976 in Denmark -March 26th in France), and North America (where it was known as the Wings Over America Tour and represented McCartney’s first appearances in concert since the last Beatles tour in 1966).
They started the Wings Over America leg on May 3rd 1976 in Fort Worth and ended it on June 23rd in Los Angeles. I saw them on May 21st at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Paul was on the front cover of Time and Newsweek magazines at the same time and they reviewed the tour clearly as “McCartney is Back!.”
The band finished with a final leg of Europe starting September 19th in Austria and ended the world tour on October 21st in London.
Touring Japan was also planned, but was cancelled by that country’s authorities because of McCartney’s 1972 Swedish marijuana arrest.
McCartney and Wings took the rest of 1975 off and then started work again on January 5th thru February 4th on what on what would become the next album…..WINGS AT THE SPEED OF SOUND. Next
As Wings (or as they were called during this period, Paul McCartney and Wings) enter the recording studio in New Orleans in February of 1975 to begin recording it was I’m sure all in the master plan to get Wings back on the road, in a big big way.
It always seemed to me that there really are three motivating reasons Paul does what he did, does and will do. Maybe early on it was to get women. Maybe early on it was to get fame. Maybe early on it was to acquire wealth. Paul achieved all three of these early, easily and often. But now I feel that THESE three things are the real inspirations that drive Sir Paul.
One, he loves to write songs. Nothing must have made him happier, and one that I’m sure if he could go into a time machine he would choose first. To sit on the bed of his small Liverpool bedroom, John Lennon across from him, both with their acoustic guitars, working out the lyrics and chords for “She Loves You” or any of the magical compositions that they wrote that way.
Even after the Beatles breakup and Lennon’s death I am sure that Paul still loves to sit at a piano or roll the tape at home as he works out lyrics and chords for songs that still haven’t seen the light of day.
The second thing that still drives Paul is recording. Since the Beatles learned at the feet of George Martin, and took much greater control of the studio as they grew as recording artists. Paul has always delivered fantastic production every time he has taken control of the dials and knobs.
Even when the material hasn’t been the highest standard, the sound scape McCartney brings is unique, delicious and always top notch. But just being in the recording studio, even when he is being “supervised” by another is always a pleasure for Paul, especially from his own Hog Mills Studio, where time is never an option.
The third thing that Paul can not do without, and to which he says he will die doing it, is the act of public performance. Whether it is in front of 200 lucky guest at the Cavern Club in 2018 to performing on nearly every continent of the world and bringing over 180,000 fans in Brazil in 1989.
He has performed before royalty, political and religious leaders, charity events of the highest magnitude to showing up late at night in a pub and taking over the dusty old piano until the last call is made.
That is why in 1975 the recording of the follow up album after BOTR was so important, as this would be songs written, recorded and produced by and to be brought to the world stages in the form of the 1975-1976 Wings Over The World and Wings Over America.
The band he had selected would bring the next batch of tunes and have the best of them played live in just a few months at venues around the globe. Jimmy and Joe now brought the talent and ability to make Paul’s post-Beatles dreams come true. The horn section they used in New Orleans and Los Angeles would accompany them as will, filling the sound, and having the ability to play all of the new VENUS AND MARS spot on…….
The band arrived in New Orleans in early January, with a few cuts and starts already in the can. Joe English picked up where Geoff Britton had left off and brought an even greater, stronger, hard hitting drumming.
Paul and Linda did much light hearted promotion, all under the roof of having a great time and joining in the local scenes of where they were working.
Nashville had given them a taste of that, and cajun country was ripe with new and old sounds that would blend with McCartney’s melodic sense to make a delicious serving.
They took boat rides and paraded in lavish but incredible looking formals.
They got made up as clowns and marched in the streets among all the Mardi Gras revelers.
They met and played with long time hero’s and legends Fats Domino, Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Huey “Piano” Smith, the Tuxedo Jazz Band and many others.
They recorded more than enough material for an album after both locations when they done mixing it in very late March of that year. Beside a one off session in May, they wouldn’t be back in the studio until September, where they recorded an album while on the break between Wings Over Europe and when Wings would take over America in that special summer of 1976.
As 1973 came to an end the stress and disappointment of the last four years seemed to come to an end for Paul.
The four solo Beatles peaked as far as sales and popularity in 1973 with John’s MIND GAMES, Ringo’s RINGO (with all three other Beatles lending much creative help), George’s LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD and finally Paul’s BAND ON THE RUN. He now had the critical, financial and emotional success that had fully eluded him since leaving The Beatles. Offers came in from around the world for a one-off Beatles reunion for mega millions, but none of the four endorsed this in print.
The tensions that had caused so much pain had mostly gone away, as the three ex-bandmates had finally seen the light of day that Alan Klein was indeed taking advantage of them financially. The court battle wouldn’t fully clear up for a year or so but the walls had come down, and this was the main cause for the reunion hope. This wouldn’t really end until 1976, when Paul and his band toured the world with great results.
Now as 1974 started Paul had the mega-hit album, but no way to tour as his band had become just the three.
1974 was to become the year of working and helping others. The first thing he did was get back with his brother, Michael (McGear), and with the excitement of “Leave It” (recorded in 1973) he went back in the studio to produce, write songs for and play on a complete album for him. They recorded it in 10cc’s owned Strawberry Studios, where they worked at night after 10cc recorded during the day. This is where Paul met future collaborator Eric Stewart.
Paul rounded out his band by first trying out a new lead guitarist, Jimmy McCullough. Jimmy was still only 21 and had already established himself as one of rocks upcoming guitar superstars. He had played with Thunderclap Newman, had his own band, and played sessions with top artists. He found himself a free agent after his last band, Maggie Bell’s Stone The Crows disbanded in summer of 1973.
After Jimmy easily got the gig, Paul hired long time Cat Stevens drummer Gerry Conway to round out the band. While not actually calling themselves Wings (the 5th installment), Paul, Linda, Denny, Gerry and Jimmy backed Michael on every track. The album they recorded throughout January and February was called McGEAR, and released in September of 1974.
Of the 10 songs on the original release, Paul wrote six of the songs, Paul and Linda wrote three of the songs, and they covered a track written by Bryan Ferry. Michael handled all the lead vocals but all backing vocals were done by the band. And on occasion Paul is clearly heard taking the lead….
As someone who ached for the next Wings release I picked up this on its release day, and have loved it since, and always consider it the lost Wings album. I have always wondered if only Paul had taken all lead vocals and made it his record where would it have landed in his musical history. While it received very good critical reviews, it got practically no airplay and little sales impact.
In March of 1974, Paul met up with John Lennon in Los Angeles (during his “lost weekend” period) and jammed with him, Stevie Wonder, Nilsson and more in the infamous “Toot And A Snore” bootleg.
In July of 1974 Paul again decided to record again. He asked McCullough to formally join Wings, and he accepted, then asked Geoff Britton to join the band as the new drummer. The first thing they did was begin rehearsing. While they did this they documented it all on film for the unreleased (he does this quite often, right?) “One Hand Clapping.”
So, wings now was up to phase five or six, depending on how you looked at it.
In his attempt to catch the inspiration of and spirit of the recording studio, he decided to take everyone to Nashville, Tennessee. They all stayed at an actual ranch and practiced and enjoyed all that the city offered. They went into Sound Shop studios and recorded five songs.
“Send Me The Heart” Never released by Wings, as this Denny Laine written song finally saw the light of day on his 1980 solo album. I think it might have been tweaked to be on one of the various attempts at the COLD CUTS/HOT HITS project. Not a bad song, but not great. Very C&W inspired (as were all five songs put to tape). Rating – 5
“Junior’s Farm” The only song Paul and Wings released in 1974. Inspired by his stay on the farm, this rocker cooks from start to finish. Paul formally welcomes McCullough into the fold by shouting, “take it Jimmy” before his tasty solo. Rating – 8
“Sally G”. Another heavy C&W sounding song, the b-side to “Junior.” Inspired by a night out at Nashville’s musical joints, Sally is a song about warning of the dangerous love that comes with being involved with the naughty Sally. This song got quite a lot of airplay as well and even made the country & western top 40 charts at the same time “Junior’s Farm” made the pop top 10. A harmless toe-tapper that suffers only from being too formulaic. Rating – 6.5
Paul also got together with some of C&W’s top session musicians and recorded two more songs. Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, Bob Wills and many of the cream of Nashville’s crop got together, called themselves The Country Hams, and recorded Paul’s dad old song, “Walking In The Park With Eloise.” He did this as favor to his dad, who didn’t think what he had played Paul was actually a song. It’s a jaunty old fashioned style piano shuffle that leaves one smiling. Rating – 7
He also recorded the b-side, “Bridge On The River Suite,” a slow horn based instrumental that doesn’t really go anywhere. Rating – 5 In 1974 Paul also wrote a song and produced it for Peggy Lee called “Let’s Love.” It’s a smokey piano ballad that fits her style well. It was not a success for her, and a demo of it has finally appeared for Paul (on “Venus and Mars” deluxe archive release).
Paul also played on five songs on Adam Faith’s I SURVIVE album, and on James Taylor’s WALKING MAN album. Paul and Linda also walked into a recording studio in L.A. and invited themselves onto the recording of Thornton, Frankin & Unger’s PASS ON THIS SIDE’s “God Bless California. At one time, I wrote to the record company that released it and had a promo copy of this song…..and gave it way on a radio show in college…. Silly me….
Paul also wrote a slow island ballad for Rod Stewart on his 1974’s SMILER album, called “Mine For Me.” Paul sings and plays with Rod on the track. The single didn’t make much of an impact on its release.
Paul also recorded an amazing demo and gave it to John Christie called, “4th of July.” It is an beautiful heartbreaking song I only wish Paul had kept. His demo brings me to tears, and Christie’s single went nowhere on its release.
After finishing up writing his next batch of songs, Paul and Wings headed to New Orleans to start work on the next album.
They started working in November of 1974 by recording, “Letting Go,” “Love In Song” and the Jimmy McCullough/Colin Allen penned “Medicine Jar.”
Very quickly into their recording, the very straight and karate expert drummer Geoff Britton had a major blow up with McCullough, and realizing he didn’t fit into the lifestyle of Wings, he left.
Paul reached out locally and auditioned drummer Joe English, who soon became part of Wings 6 or seven… I don’t know… I give up.
As 1975 approached, work continued on the new album, and recording moved to Los Angeles to finish things up. What emerged from the two recording locations would become the album that brought Paul finally back onto all the world stages. 1975 would see “Venus and Mars” come to the light of day…. Next.
After hearing that tidbit ending of the song “Band On The Run” that December morning I excitedly ran to record store (Sam Goody’s?) and picked up my copy of the album, on its December 5th release date.
Looking at the the cover as I opened it up I am struck by the fantastic artwork. One of the most iconic album covers of the rock era, it immediately gave me a sense of something new and improved. Long before the days of minute by minute social media information I became aware that Wings had now become a trio. I wondered why James Coburn, John Conteh, Christopher Lee, Michael Parkinson, Kenny Lynch and Clement Freud were on the cover along with Paul, Linda and Denny. They all looked so great and I excitedly tore open the album.
Inside was a beautiful poster which featured polaroids taken by Linda and the band and assembled.
The back cover shows passports, photos of the three and the itinerary of their African jaunt. Also a nice cup of English tea and maybe a partially smoked….ciggy?
I slipped the disc on to the turntable, and loved the special label made for the release. This would be Paul’s last official “Apple” release and he did not let me down. I had not heard anything other than the tidbit of the title track, not even the first single (“Helen Wheels”), so I anxiously read the lyrics as the first guitar strains set in…
“Band On The Run” Another of those classic McCartney multi part songs… starting and finishing in different parts of the universe. The themes of the album are quite simple…. escape, love and staying happy (not stressing the little things). He was so motivated after all that had gone down the last three years, both musically and personally.
The song’s opening segment made you feel the weight of being locked up….sad, frustrated and filled with longing to be anywhere but there. Then suddenly Tony Visconti’s (who did the orchestration for the songs on the album that had it) dramatic fills comes at the moment of the breakout. Once free the “band” eludes all attempts to be caught and returned to its prison.
One can take these metaphors in so many ways, such as creative or personal or any kind of freedom that previously was withheld from Paul. I got chills as the entire song played out. Musically it is magnificent, from Linda’s old school basic synths to Pauls homemade drumming to Denny’s fantastic slide guitar. Paul vocals has never sounded better than on this song, and on this album. Holy cow….this is not “Mary Had A Little Lamb”….. Rating – 9.25
“Jet” Paul doesn’t let up a bit with this rocket fueled homage to one of his dogs, Jet. Visconti’s scoring makes the hair stand up on my neck and drives the song to the finish. Well done Wings. Paul was later convinced to release this song (with an edit) as a single and it brought the album back to the #1 spot on the Billboard charts. In fact, this album was the FIRST album in history (I’m not sure if its happened since) to be a number #1 and then drop and come back an additional two more times to #1 as singles and radio airplay filled the airs. Paul had his hit album….the fans loved it, the critics loved it and at this time (and probably for the next three or four years) he was at the height of his solo career fame. Rating – 9.25
“Bluebird” Paul discovered one of the early versions of the beat box and used this as the rhythm section in this acoustic devotion to love. The backing vocals on this and the album were stripped down slightly from RED ROSE levels and the three of them harmonizing on this and throughout this album remains one of the strongest aspects of BOTR. This song is lovely and draws images of walking hand in hand on an empty beach, isolated from all, his love all consuming and only thing necessary for survival. Rating – 8.5
“Mrs. Vanderbilt” The song that deals with those who let things, and worries (wealth, comfort etc..) consume their thoughts and their lives. This song feels Lagos inspired and moves along with ease, riding Paul’s magnificent bass line like the wind. A gentle backhand to those Paul felt had their priorities in all the wrong places. The Howie Casey sax solo is another standout moment on this track which keeps the flow constant and the band avoiding capture. Rating – 8.5
“Let Me Roll It” Okay…..in the ultimate tribute to the sound and style of his former band member, John Lennon, Paul offered him the gift of the song, and maybe a certain hand “rolled” jazz cigarette to speak and share as friends. The guitar lick is from John’s playbook, as is the the echoed vocals and final growl at the end. Paul plays this song in almost every tour he has had. Another song about making peace, ending feuds and telling those you love that you do. Rating – 8.5
“Mamunia” The song with the most Lagos inspired sound. Ginger Baker helps out with a bucket of “stones.” Another song based on enjoying the day, the moment, and savoring the simple things that some people consider as problems. In this case…the rain. Don’t run, don’t hide from it…take off your clothes and dance around in it. Linda’s simple moog frills sound dated but add to the charm to this acoustic number. Rating – 8.5
Side two opens with my favorite song on the album, “No Words” Started by Denny and with Paul’s contributing the middle break, this song affected me the most of any of the albums tracks. My girlfriend at the time had just started a play in her high school and left me quickly for the “leading man.” This song spoke to me in a healing and cleansing way. Unable to get answers from one that they love…. I cried, listened again, and cried some more. My first heartbreak at age 17 was a tough time and this song eased me through it. Someone else is feeling the same feelings as myself. The harmonies on this may be the best on the album, as the three voices do become one. Paul and Denny share the lead on the verse, with Paul tearing my heart out during the refrain (“Your burning love…sweet burning love…. It’s deep inside…you mustn’t hide your burning love….sweet burning love…) Rating – 9.5
“Helen Wheels” Adding to the initial pressing only on the US version of the album, this is a 1950’s style rocker that was dedicated to Paul & Linda’s land cruiser. They did a charming silly music video for this song. It is an excellent toe-tapper, but doesn’t really have a feel like the rest of the album, and this is why Paul didn’t want it to be on the album, but released as a stand alone single. Now it must follow “No Words” when I listen to the album as a whole and all subsequent released on CD had featured it as track number eight. This must have been included to give the vital US market more bang for their buck, like they do on most Japanese releases. Rating – 8
“Picasso’s Last Words (drink to me)” Inspired by a visit to see Dustin Hoffman on the set of Papillon. Dustin was asking Paul how he came to write songs and showed him a copy of the days newspaper. There was an article on the death of Pablo Picasso, who’s last words before heading to bed for the last time was “drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can’t drink anymore….” Paul whipped out his guitar in hand and just strummed out the basic melody then and there. Dustin started leaping around the room, screaming for his wife to come see what Paul was doing. Paul took this basic track and then he Picasso’d it, adding words spoken by Pablo himself, twists and turns of the melody, counter melodies and a bit of “Jet” reprised. Much like the art of Picasso, the song has bits of this and that to achieve the whole. Odd, but vital song on the album which leads us wonderfully into the albums perfect wrap…. Rating – 8
“1985” Picking a year that had to rhyme with “alive” this is another song about lifelong devotion and continued escape from those seeking capture. Back then the year 1985 seemed so far away, and now I barely see it in the rear view mirror. Piano driven monster of a song that pauses twice to give us lush harmonies and finishes in a flare that ranks with Paul’s best album closers. Visconti’s orchestration again propels the song through the air until it drops into another bit of reprise of “Band On The Run” to bring the album to its perfect conclusion and round the circle of conception of the albums themes. Rating – 9
The album lost a bit of its luster with the critics over the years, not even making the top 500 albums of all-time by Rolling Stone (while it was in nearly every list of 20th century best of…). But after listening today after a break of a few years of not listening to it as a whole, I am so happy to say it sounded fresh and exciting as the day the broken hearted 17 year old tore off the cellophane and dove in emotionally.
Paul has done many albums of many genres since then but BAND ON THE RUN will forever serve as a beacon and a lamppost for all fans to start their musical journey for this genius among man.
\The overall rating of the US album came to 8.7, which again confirmed the feeling that this release was indeed very special.
Next up….other songs recorded around the time, not on the album, and for other artists and what Paul was up to in 1974…..