WINGS ACROSS THE WORLD
The most important musical event for Wings in 1975 was the release of the new album that could truthfully be described as long-awaited. By the time it hit the record stores in May the gap since Band On The Run had stretched to very nearly 18 months. Now, at last. came Venus And Mars.
The Beatles split in '69
It was mostly greeted with approval, although it was almost universally felt to be softer and less incisive than Band On The Run. It was the usual McCartney melange of styles, influences and moods and critics were sometimes at a loss to know why excellent rock numbers like Letting Go and Listen To What The Man Said should be bracketed with a camp Astaire-styled pastiche like You Gave Me The Answer (which was a further expression of McCartney nostalgia in the vein of Honey Pie or Your Mother Should Know). The use of fragments and reprises was incorporated again (notably the title song kicking off both sides and the segue of Treat Her Gently into Lonely Old People).
What really infuriated some British critics was the final track. It was a version of the theme from the immensely popular afternoon TV soap opera, Crossroads. And it seemed to confirm in the minds of all his detractors McCartney's pandering to popular taste (or even bad, semi-moronic taste, as some would castigate); here was proof positive that McCartney was a light-weight pop musician of no value or significance. One British journalist level led a crushing barrage against McCartney and the album. Describing Venus And Mars as "one of the worst albums I've ever heard from a so-called 'Major artist'," he launched into the attack. He asserted that until Band On The Run the "prevailing assessment" of McCartney was that he "was the possessor of a 'basically bourgeois talent' - which meant that he was essentially uncommitted to rock & roll, was irremedially cutesy-pie... wrote songs that begged for Andy Williams to cover them... allowed an overwhelming facility for pleasant melody and easy-going charm to degenerate into vacuous glibness, angled his music at the mums and dads, came off poorly in comparison to the gritty honesty and commitment of John Lennon."
The fulcrum of that attack lies in the phrase "essentially uncommitted to rock & roll." Time and again this has been hurled at him. It is as if he has betrayed a sacred trust; frittered away his potential; settled for easy-listening pap rather than breaking new ground and pushing the frontiers of rock forward. It was said that he had deserted the "qualities which one could quite reasonably demand from the work of an artist of Paul McCartney's eminence" and replaced them with "a vapid, shallow prettiness which is ultimately more saddening than the work of even the dumbest no-hoper."
This is demonstrably untrue; McCartney is a major talent and influence. The cry of anguish of these rock pundits springs mainly from the fad that Paul is, after all, an ex-Beatle; one quarter of the greatest rock group the world has ever seen and one half of the most successful, experimental, creative, barrier-busting songwriting team in the history of rock (and, some would say, all popular music). "He could be so good!" they howl. "If only he was commuted to rock & roll." But as Linda once said, "Paul isn't God. The Beatles were not Gods." One of the advantages of his independence from the collective responsibility of the Beatles was that he could do what he wanted and not what others expected of him. This boy was not "gonna carry that weight a long time."
Although wounded by them, McCartney shrugs at such outbursts. He's heard them so many times before and he's too old a hand to be pressured into doing what others want. He will explain, patiently, that he included the theme from Crossroads because the previous song on the album - Lonely Old People - was about the emptiness and isolation of old age. His elderly couple are forgotten husks, excluded from the bustling activity around them. Life holds little for them, except to wander dispiritedly back into the old people's home and be swept up in the daily dramas of other people's lives - the lives of the characters in a TV serial.
The tune holds no relevance to anyone outside Britain. To those who've never seen Crossroads, its theme is simply a pleasant melody. As McCartney told his critic on New Musical Express: "The fellow who was helping me arrange this stuff [Tony Dorsey]... thought it was just a lovely tune. He thought I'd written it. He thought it was just a beautiful little tune, and it is." McCartney used it because "it fitted." As simple as that. That the TV company adopted his arrangement brought him pleasure because everyone likes to have their work recognized and caused more apoplexy among the guardians of rock's 'purity'.
One weighty British newspaper warned its readers "beware McCartney's love of suburbia," claimed that since his break with Lennon "his music has developed into facile lightness" and found the fact that he had recorded Crossroads "heart-chilling"! McCartney sees it as no more surprising than recording Mary Had A Little Lamb shortly after Give Ireland Back To The Irish. He acknowledges his facility in songwriting and is delighted to have it. He has, only half-mockingly, described himself as "a hack" because he can knock off Live And Let Die to order. He refuses to analyze his role in and contribution to rock music. He just gets on with the job and occasionally, unashamedly, allows the ham in him, the sentimental, even mawkish side, to show through.
Venus And Mars received some harsh and, on the whole, unfair criticism. It was a less considerable album than Band On The Run, a fact recognized by McCartney, but it was still full of good things not least of them Listen To What The Man Said. As a single this hit number 1 in the States (as did the album), the eighth Wings single in succession to make the Top 10.
There had been a long gap between albums and a greater one since Wings had toured. Once again McCartney had to discover whether the new line-up that worked well in the studio could repeat its success on the road. Both Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English were untried in Wings' concerts.
McCartney wanted to take the band round Britain again, to get it right for the home audiences (who had seen the nucleus of the group before and had some point of comparison) before spreading his Wings and migrating towards new territories, especially America. Being a methodical man (and a perfectionist) he called for a series of long and comprehensive rehearsals at which every element of the roadshow would be brought together to practice the roles he would demand of them nightly.
This was to be a far bigger, more complex affair than his previous, rather informal, excursions. As a result of the Venus And Mars sessions he was using a horn section to back-up and add body to the group. He brought in Tony Dorsey as 'head wrangler' to lead, organize and arrange the horns. Dorsey recruited two of New Orleans' top brass players - Steve Howard on trumpet and flugel-horn and Thaddeus Richard, a multi-instrumentalist who specialized in saxophone, clarinet and flute. The fourth member was a throwback to McCartney's past.
Howie Casey is a Liverpudlian musician whose career goes back to the early days of rock & roll. He had trodden the same tough road as the Beatles before their success. He'd played around the city and been among the first to venture across the North Sea to the thriving scene in Hamburg. (Herein lies a nice irony. In his book The Man Who Gave The Beatles Away - Coronet - the Beatles' first manager, Allan Williams, recounts how he wrote to Howie, then with Derry and the Seniors, telling him to expect the arrival of the Beatles. In return he received a letter that, with expletives deleted, said in effect: "Look, man, we've got a great... scene going herein Hamburg. Now you want to... it up by sending over that bum group, the Beatles. They're no... good. We don't want them here and they will be bad for the scene. If you want to send another group, why not Rory Storm and the Hurricanes? A... good group... Don't send the... Beatles."!)
Derry and the Seniors may have been a good band (they were among the first - if not the very first - Liverpool groups to release a disc, in 1961) but they failed to do as well as the despised Beatles. They split and Howie played with a succession of bands with varying success until he decided to turn his prowess as a saxophonist to use as a sessionman. In this capacity he was hired to play on Band On The Run. Any disputes in the past between bands were forgotten, Casey was welcomed to the fold, spoke highly of his Wing commander and fitted snugly into the backup.
To muster all the personnel and thoroughly rehearse all the hardware that modern rock roadshows require, McCartney called a series of long sessions in a massive sound-stage on the lot of the EMI movie studios in London. Here the musicians, road crew, lighting and sound men and assorted technical wizards gathered for exhaustive - and exhausting - run-throughs. The idea was to iron out as many problems - both evident and potential - and foresee as many contingencies and snags as possible. McCartney was a demanding, meticulous taskmaster; he made everyone go over and over the long performance until it was clockwork efficient and note perfect. He held a full dress rehearsal in front of a knowledgeable and scrutinous audience of record industry notables. This showed up a few edges that needed smoothing and, after last minute polishing, the circus - nearly 50 people, with over 12 tons of equipment, a dozen or more guitars, six keyboard instruments and the other accoutrements necessary to entertain fans in the '70s - lumbered on to the roads of Britain.
This was a comparatively short tour, only 12 British cities spread over two weeks but the first show at the Southampton Gaumont on September 9, 1975 was the curtain raiser for a 13-month, 10-nation tour across the world, playing nearly 80 concerts along the way. Only three years previously, on the University jaunt of 1972, Wings had flapped; in Europe the same year they'd flown; on the first full British tour of '73 they were soaring; by the end of this mammoth progress Wings would be strato-cruising.
From the reviews of that first gig and the hundreds that followed all through the next year, it was evident that Wings had established themselves as one of the foremost outfits in '70s rock. The British tour was generally welcomed in the rock press as excellent though nearly every notice had a percentage of criticism. The most extreme example was in the scrupulous Melody Маkеr that ran the opinions of two reviewers in an effort to achieve balance. In one the editor described a London concert as "vapid... a lackluster performance... nothing will shake my conviction that [the audience] were applauding an ex-Beatle's appearance rather than the Wings concert. For there are equally good rock shows on in most cities all the time; but a real live Beatle? That's rarity value."
To his credit, the editor very fairly offered equal space to one of his staff who thought the concert "Excellent from all points of view," was unstinting in his praise of the band (he even had a good word for Linda - one of the most abused performers in rock - saying her "keyboard playing is more than adequate for the fills she is called upon to produce") and concluded that the show fell just short of perfection.
Wings offered their increasingly enthusiastic audiences a non-stop two-hour show (uncluttered with support acts) of about 30 numbers. The four up-front members swapped instruments in a dazzling show of versatility and everyone had a chance to handle either a song (McCulloch on Medicine Jar, Laine on Go Now!) or an instrumental solo. Spliced into the middle of the set was a much-applauded acoustic section, the undoubted high-point of which was Paul's rendition of I've Just Seen A Face, Blackbird and Yesterday. These, together with Lady Madonna and The Long And Winding Road elsewhere in the show, were his first live acknowledgement of his Beatle past. A reconciliation with his previous persona.
The whole evening was a brilliant exercise in crowd pleasing from a man who had been entertaining audiences for half his life. His attitude towards it was simple: "I like music and we are in very depressed times, so if the music cheers people up that must be good." And he was determined to appeal across as broad an age spectrum as possible. Wings pulled in the teen fans who dimly realized that Paul had been in a group before as well as those - some now parents - who felt their first stirrings of adolescent excitement to the strains of She Loves You and Please Please Me. "Age does not make any difference as far as our fans are concerned - even in the Beatle days we had older fans. Our aim is that everyone should like us," Paul declared.
The success of the British concerts must have confirmed McCartney's opinion that - after several tries and many disappointments - he'd got the mix right at last. Within his disciplined set-up Jimmy McCulloch - previously noted as a free-ranging guitarist who occasionally over-indulged his love of jamming - was able to play beautifully-controlled lead and take his place in the front line. At the back, Joe English laid down a firm rhythmic base upon which the others built.
Linda spoke admiringly of the band on this tour, telling Melody Maker: "Paul didn't feel confidence in the band before, whereas this band, he really knows he can get up there and sing. Because he knows that everybody else knows what they're doing . . . With this, we've listened to it and criticized it... Denny has been with us always, and he'd always fit in ... Henry didn't really fit in. Jimmy is great and I think he'll improve a lot, he'll get better and better and really get his own style. And Joe English is a very good drummer, who has never really done anything big before. He's great on rhythms, and he doesn't come on like 'I'm a great drummer.' He just gets behind it... You can't ever say what's going to be in the future, but I'd like to see this band carry on."
Secure in the knowledge that the band and the show were world-beaters, Paul started thinking in earnest about going out and beating the world. He had always kept America as his ultimate goal and now, with visa problems cleared up and a stable group, it became a reality. But there were other fields to conquer first. There was a clamoring from the East, particularly Japan and Australia, to see the group and so, after a short break to catch breath, they set off for a tour of the Antipodes during the first two weeks of November.
Australia had given the Beatles some of the most riotous, hysterical welcomes in the'60s and very nearly repeated them for Wings. The tour of five major cities was a triumphant sell-out, exceeding all expectation. Or, as Paul rather laconically put it: "We had fab fun... The audiences were great and we just dug playing. It was more like a holiday." Some holiday. So great was the demand for tickets that scalpers were asking, and getting, in Paul's phrase, "Sinatra prices" for seats.
The only pall thrown over the success was the attitude of the Japanese government. It banned the group from entry because of McCartney's drug conviction. Paul explained it to Melody Maker: "It was the Minister of Justice's fault. I suppose he'd say it was my fault for having smoked some of the deadly weed. But we had our visas signed by the London Japanese Embassy. Everything had been cleared ... and we were in Australia, just about a week out from going to Japan when a little note arrived saying the Japanese Minister of Justice says 'No'… It was just one of those things but we felt a bit sick about it."
Due to the incredible demand for tickets in Australia, Wings did a TV show there "for all the people who couldn't get in to see us." As soon as he heard about the ban, he had a print of the show struck and sent to Japan. It was shown on TV there - so fans weren't entirely disappointed - together with a long programme added on to it in which the merits and demerits of marijuana were discussed. The latter didn't entirely please McCartney who said "In a way we became martyrs for the cause, which is a drag."
After Australia - the first, and hugely successful, test outside Wings' familiar European stamping grounds - and before the run-up to America, the group retired to the studios to work on an album. McCartney had thought about and planned it in the last months of 1975 (a good opportunity for reflection presented itself when Japan was cancelled and he holidayed in Hawaii instead) and had worked out some very definite ideas. He felt that the group had reached the point at which he could emphasize its unity; bring home to the public that Wings was a group in every sense of the word. He wanted to make this a group album with everyone getting a chance to show what they could do. And to buttress the point, the band was no longer styled 'Paul McCartney and Wings'. He felt when releasing Venus And Mars (the first album since Wildlife not to carry his name prominently) that giving the group a supporting credit was "an embarrassment to me. It was never Paul McCartney and the Beatles, Paul McCartney and the Quarrymen, or Paul McCartney and the Moondogs. [The latter two being names tried and dropped before 'Beatles' was adopted.] Wings is quicker and easier to say and everybody knows I'm in the group anyway."
Wings At The Speed Of Sound was the group's first truly democratic album. It included songs written and performed by Jimmy McCulloch and Denny Laine (Winо Junkо and Time To Hide respectively) as well as three McCartney songs handed out to the others to sing - Cook Of The House for Linda, The Note You Never Wrote for Denny and Must Do Something About It, Joe English's debut as a vocalist. Even the brass section was allowed its head on Silly Love Songs, the musicians working out their parts and, Paul commented, "they can really get behind it because it's their bit."
The record really split the critics into two camps. For example, one felt that English "unleashes a really professional soul sound." (Paul agreed: "He can sing well… but it's nothing to what he could do.") But another maintained "it's crazy to have other people sing your songs when you can sing them so much better yourself. It's just about understandable letting the wife sing a track . . . but to have drummer Joe English and Laine have a go is simply not on when they're so obviously inferior singers to Paul himself."
While many felt that Speed Of Sound was a pleasant album with occasional delights but not a major McCartney work, some were not so kind. One said "McCartney has made another duff el-pee" and another asserted, more in sorrow than in anger, that it was "a major disappointment," a "predictable drone" containing "rocking-chair music." Notwithstanding such comment, the album shot to number 1 in America and quickly went platinum (indicating a sale of 1,000,000 in the US) and the hugely-successful single from it - Silly Love Songs - was the biggest selling single of the year there. A second single - Let 'Em In - gleaned gold for sales of over a million. McCartney may have been stung by some of the criticism but he could console himself that the mighty sales augured extremely well for his biggest challenge yet - the flight across, and hopefully conquest of, America.
Before launching themselves upon their most important campaign yet, Wings flipped over to the Continent to play four countries in a week during March and returned to base to plan the assault on the States. Wings Over America - as the tour was dubbed - was to stretch through May and June 1976, taking in 19 cities plus Toronto, Canada. (It was originally scheduled for April and May but Jimmy McCulloch fell after the last concert in Paris and broke the little finger of his left hand, forcing a postponement.)
To describe the Wings tour of the States as a campaign is not entirely fanciful. Paul McCartney is a strategist. He had planned each phase carefully and logically. Everything was building towards the US because he recognized: "America is the... biggest place on earth that you can go to play, outside of China and Russia... America is the biggie, there's no doubt about that." And there were very good reasons why he had, in short order, played Britain, Australia and then Europe before embarking on America.
He expounded his tactical theories to Sounds: "It would have been silly to do it the other way around, to come into your biggest halls ... I mean, to play 20,000 people you've got to have it together. About 14,000 was the top we played in Australia. In England, you see, you can play certain special halls, but the normal venues are like 3000... So very naturally we started off with 3000 people, and then we went to 5000, 6000, 14,000 in Australia, and then we played some bigger halls in Europe, which were more towards 15,000... I like things like that. I like things step by step."
Such care and thought is typical of all his forward thinking. He recalled the receptions the Beatles received 10 years previously - so hysterical that nothing was audible to those who had actually come to listen and not to scream. Consequently he demanded the very best sound system that modern technology could provide. It wasn't that he was expecting Beatle-type screaming and needed to be able to drown it - although overcoming audience noise was one consideration - so much as a desire to please. "Hopefully, even the people right at the back... can hear exactly what we're doing, the little nuances."
His perfectionism drove him to arrive at each venue early enough to undertake a full sound check prior to every concert and conduct a short post mortem with the technicians at the end of the evening. Such attention to detail paid off and reviewers often congratulated Wings on the clarity and precision of their sound quality.
However hard he worked at the minutiae of the tour, Paul could not guarantee success. The specter of failure always hovers in a corner of the mind and you cannot plan away your nerves. Shortly before setting out, Paul and Linda talked to Hunter Davies (who had written the Beatles' official biography) of the London Sunday Times. They both spoke of their fears. Paul's centered around the attitude of the press. "They now seem to like us, at least in Britain they do. I know in America the press will be sitting in the front three rows, their pencils ready." But he felt confident enough to face his judges with equanimity. "It doesn't really matter what they say. I'm not as precious about Wings as I used to be, If it folds, it folds, hard luck, I'll be very upset. I'll say 'Sod it, but we'll survive. I feel very secure with Wings now."
Linda, who was going home as a star for the first time and didn't have half a lifetime of performing experience behind her, found it hard to be as philosophical as her husband: "What worries me most about America is that well have to start again... I'll obviously be criticized and I'll hate it. I'd love to put the critics up on stage and see them do better. You lose a few years of your life onstage. You live on your adrenalin... I don't want to spend my life touring."
In the event, the worries were unnecessary. From the first concert in Fort Worth, Texas on May 3, 1976, America opened its heart to Wings. McCARTNEY'S TOUR STARTS TRIUMPHANTLY proclaimed The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times agreed: McCARTNEY, WINGS SOAR IN TEXAS. Everywhere Wings went the press redounded with praise. "Paul McCartney can rest easy. His place as one of the greatest rock & rollers of all time is assured," trumpeted The Washington Post and considered the show to be "an almost ideal display of what live rock & roll should be... as exciting visually as it was musically."
Such laudatory notices were repeated across the continent. The press adjectives were enforced - rather more solidly - by the unemotional statistics that appeared after the tour: nearly 600,000 people paid to see the band (snapping up the tickets so fast that records were set for sell-out speeds); 67,100 turned up at the Seattle Kingdome, a world indoor concert attendance record for one performance by a single act; $336,000 grossed in Philadelphia making one of the biggest rock box office receipts of the year. After every performance, McCartney set aside time to see the press. As a result his record company was able to boast: "Wings generated more press coverage in 1976 than any other Capitol artist and probably more than virtually any musical entity in the world."
McCartney was understandably exultant. This was his vindication. He had returned to the scene of the Beatles' greatest triumphs - exactly 10 years after their last concert in San Francisco and with the pinnacle of Shea Stadium ever in his mind-and scored a memorable victory. He was unquestionably the most successful ex-Beatle, indisputably one of the major rock figures in the '70s. The impact should not be underrated. As the Los Angeles Times said in connection with the debut at Fort Worth: "When the house lights dimmed… virtually everyone in the arena stood in anticipation of what was clearly the most notable return to rock concerts since Bob Dylan's 1974 appearance in Chicago."
The star was rather breath-taken by the extent of the success. "In 10 years, I'll be looking back and remembering everything about it. At the moment, I'm just zooming through it all... If I were able to get away from the tour for a while and come back to it through some sort of time machine, I'd definitely be freaking out. I'd be going 'Wow. This is great.' Occasionally, on the plane, we'll get the group together and say 'Oh great, isn't it?' But most of the time, it's hard to see what is really happening until you get away from it…
"That's what I love about life: its inexactness. After the Beatles, you would have thought it would have been pretty much impossible for me to follow that and to get anything else going. At least, I thought that. But life is inexact. It doesn't work according to plan. This tour has convinced us that we're a group and I think it has convinced audiences, too. This wasn't just a one-time trip. This is going to be a working band. We'll be back."
Wings Over America was everything McCartney had hoped for - and much more. Having carried all before them, Wings would have been excused for wanting to rest for a while. But that was not McCartney's intention. No sooner had they returned home from America than he was planning another swift sweep through Europe culminating in three mammoth concerts at London's Empire Pool, Wembley - the conquering heroes being accorded their laurels by an adoring public.
Before launching themselves on this lap of honor, Paul announced that he was designating a Buddy Holly week to be held during early September. To celebrate the event, Denny Laine issued a single of Holly's It s So Easy/Listen To Me (a prelude to an album, Holly Days, produced by Paul and to be re leased at a later date) and the climax was to be a very exclusive lunch hosted by the McCartneys for numerous rock luminaries including EIton John, Eric Clapton and Roger Daltry. Also present was Holly's producer and co-writer Norman Petty who presented Paul with a rather grisly gift - the cufflinks Holly was wearing when his plane crashed and which had been salvaged from the wreckage. While these events sprang from a genuine regard and affection for the memory of one of rock's greats, they perhaps weren't entirely altruistic. The shrewd Mr McCartney had made a canny business move in 1971 when he purchased the Buddy Holly publishing catalogue, giving him the copyright in such enduring hits as That'll Be The Day, Peggy Sue and Not Fade Away.
Paul seemed to be constantly headline-grabbing in that remarkable summer of '76 - Britain's hottest and most arid in living memory. When the details of the group's mini-tour of the Continent were unveiled it was revealed that in addition to playing Vienna (Austria), Zagreb (Jugoslavia; hailed as the first concert "by a really major rock band in a communist country." Wings also breached the Iron Curtain when Band On The Run was the first rock album to gain official release in Russia) and Munich (Germany) the group would be playing a vast charity concert in St Mark's Square, Venice.
This was arranged by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to focus attention on the desperate need to raise funds for the restoration of Venice which - due to years of neglect and inundation - was gradually but steadily sinking back into the waters that it had once dominated. A week of concerts had been arranged and artists contributing included Peter Ustinov, Ravi Shankar and Mort Shuman. The authorities wanted to interest young people in the glorious city's fate and approached Wings who instantly - and at rather short notice - agreed to appear. McCartney generously offered to pay for transport and equipment and to give their services free while the organizing committee would foot the bill for hotels, erecting the stage and seating in the Piazza. To help pay for his considerable investment, McCartney hurriedly arranged the gigs in the other three cities. It was hoped to take approximately £54,000 of which, it was estimated, £25,000 would go to the preservation fund after expenses. The primary object, however, was to put Venice in the center of the world stage.
This was achieved. The media flocked to the city from all over the world (and noted, a trifle gleefully, that the trucks carrying sound equipment to help save the fabric of Venice were so heavy they actually cracked some ancient paving flags!) The historic Piazza San Marco had been zoned to allow a maximum audience of 15,000 people - some paying £10 for their seats - but on the night the hordes overwhelmed the security guards and about twice that number crammed into the square. They were entertained by a tremendous show - not only musically but visually because Wings' lighting crew utilized the beautiful setting to the very best effect. Venice got its publicity and Wings didn't do too badly out of it either.
One of the biggest events in London's '76 rock calendar was Wings' swoop on London at the Empire Pool, Wembley. (The other big one had been the Rolling Stones in May which was generally adjudged a failure - albeit an honorable one.) After so much praise, so many eulogies, such free use of plauditory adjectives, it was inevitable that there would be something of a critical backlash. Perhaps the rock reviewers were becoming jaded, because they tended to be disagreeable and picky. They were, however, out of step with public opinion (isn't that often the case?) The three shows were held by many who saw them to be among the most satisfying and imaginative they had ever witnessed. While the rock media grumbled, the paying customers applauded vigorously and would undoubtedly have packed the cavernous, unsuitable hall every night for another week, given the chance.
Wings' incredible year slowly wound down but it wasn't over yet, at least not for the McCartneys. In November came news of yet another film project, a science fiction musical in which the group would act and perform. It was the result of a meeting between the group and Gene Roddenberry, the producer of TV's cult show Star Trek. In December, Linda - now being fully accepted, even by the most acid of commentators, as an integral part of Wings - displayed her other talent, that of the successful photographer. A glossy, fat book of her work - Linda's Pictures - was issued, containing a wide selection of her work from the earliest Rolling Stones session in New York, through her days at the Fillmore East (where she shot many of the '60s greats) to a large portfolio devoted to Paul and the family.
It's typical of her gutsiness that, having just weathered years of stinging criticism, she offered herself up yet again to be shied at by the carpers. It is to her credit that the reviews were mostly excellent. There is no greater praise than that which comes from a successful professional; Terry O'Neill is probably the foremost photographer of stars and glamor subjects, the man most trusted by beautiful women and top rock and movie people to shoot accurately and well. He reviewed Linda's Pictures in Melody Maker: "I fully expected this book to be an unmitigated disaster. However, I was very pleasantly surprised and can only take my hat off as one professional to another. Well done!... Very few good photographers emerge from the rock world and against that criterion, she has done more than well… Her work of her husband and family is simply excellent; she tells a story with every shot..."
The group rounded off a memorable year with the release of the enormous triple album, Wings Over America. It was, in every sense of the word, a record of the momentous US tour. Nearly every one of the 34 concerts was taped; later McCartney and engineers listened to this huge bulk of material, establishing the five best versions of the 28 songs to be included. Then Paul set himself the laborious task of selecting the finest of these. He is reported to have devoted up to 14 hours a day, seven days a week for six weeks in the selection, mixing and mastering of Wings Over America.
The time was well spent. Most reviewers were generous in their praise, some hailed it is as a masterpiece, a few complained that it should have been reduced to four sides. The public didn't quibble, it slapped down the hefty asking price and agreed with one reviewer who bravely proclaimed it as an invaluable recording of "the best rock band in the world, at their best."
As Paul McCartney entered the last quarter of the twentieth century - a century upon which he had made his mark - he had every reason to be satisfied with his achievements. Professionally, he was one of the best known young men in the world (a newspaper which ran his 'Memoirs' for three days in 1977 called him "the world's greatest pop musician" and "The Grand Young Man of pop"!) He was rich. Although not as rich as some might believe, and certainly not as rich as a man who - singly or in partnership - was probably responsible for more hits than anyone else in the history of popular music might expect to be. Or as an ex-member of the biggest selling group ever, could be. (By 1977, The Guinness Book Of Records maintained that the Beatles had sold the equivalent of 545,000,000 singles, world-wide. This is computed by counting albums as six singles units. It was estimated that the group had sold 85,000,000 albums mall.)
Paul McCartney had also managed a further remarkable feat. He had repeated his success. He had created a second supergroup. Wings would never equal the success of the Beatles (would any group?) but under Paul's careful command, in a few short years it was big enough to rate as one of the most popular and successful bands in the world. The easiest way to measure success is by statistics (although these cannot convey the influence a band exerts, the impact it has on its audience, the loyalty and fanaticism it commands or the excitement it generates). By 1977, figures were appearing to support the claim that Wings were world-beaters. Wings Over America was the first triple album by any band to go to number 1 in the States. (Only two other triples had ever made it - Woodstock and George Harrison's All Things Must Pass.) Over the years, McCartney and Wings had received seven gold singles (denoting million sales), eight gold albums (denoting sales of half-a-million), six platinum albums (denoting million sales) and three double platinum albums.
In 1976 alone the group had received a platinum record as well as a gold for Speed Of Sound (and the Beatles compilation Rock TV' Roll Music went platinum as well) and gold discs for Silly Love Songs and Let 'Em In. Furthermore, Silly Love Songs headed Variety's, and Billboard's list of the 100 Best-Selling Pop Singles of 1976. (Let 'Em In was 25th and 67th respectively.)
By his own admission, in the years 1974-76 McCartney "earned more money than I have ever earned in all the other so-called boom years put together." As he told the Daily Express, rather ruefully, "We were supposed to have sold 300,000,000 records. [The actual figures, are as we have seen, higher.] If you compute that and say the group should have had 10p a go, then where did that money go?"
After he had finally extricated himself from all his unwanted legal entanglements, he was a wiser man. He never made the same mistakes again. If he wrote a song, he made sure he owned it, that every penny generated by it came into the coffers of his own company. This lesson was hard learnt after seeing Yesterday slip out of his grasp. It has been reckoned there are 1200 versions of the song, all earning enough to keep the copyright holder comfortably for the rest of his life. McCartney has acknowledged that Yesterday is "probably the only big song I did on my own." But the song is owned by Lord Grade. Paul doesn't begrudge him that - "he's a good businessman and he heard it was up for sale" - but never again will he let a goldmine drift away.
As he entered his mid-thirties, Paul McCartney was, from all the evidence, a happy man. Professional success is one thing (and certainly to be desired) but he had achieved something more. With Linda - and despite the gloomy prophecy of self-styled friends - he found a contentment and security that few rock stars know. His marriage and his family were central to his life. He cherished the stability and warmth they afforded. And he was in the enviable position of being able to combine his family AND his career. He went nowhere without the children and he suspended all touring during 1977 because Linda was expecting their third baby in September. (If a boy it was to be called James after his father and, indeed, himself.)
He was not embarrassed to declare how important the family was to him. "Linda and I know everyone says marriage is old-fashioned. We know the contract is just a piece of paper," he told a newspaper. "But it's up to you what you make out of that piece of paper. I'm really happy with the blonde lady. These days it's my family that's my world. I've discovered I'm rather old-fashioned. I believe in the contract. And I feel it is very important to my children that they have a proper mother and father. Our children and our life together will always come first. Because no matter how much money one has... well, without happiness it means nothing."
He realized this rather cosy new role was in sharp contrast to the hell-raising young bachelor of earlier years. As he told the Daily Mail: "My lifestyle today and my attitude towards everything is very different from the '60s when the Beatles were the whole bit. I really had a wild time in my early days, especially when we first toured America in 1964. But I have told Linda everything. I have no secrets from her. I had the time of my life then in many ways but, honestly, with my family and everything I am much happier now."
He was the last of the Beatles to marry and this perhaps helped him to get his life into perspective. He had had a long relationship with actress Jane Asher, lasting through many of the Beatles most successful years and there were constant rumors that they would eventually marry. Indeed, in December, 1967, Paul had said quite emphatically: "We shall get married... I think everyone knows this. But when we don't know." In the event they did not wed. In May, '68 Paul had renewed his friendship with Linda in New York and by July Jane Asher said on television that the engagement was off.
His lengthy relationship with Jane Asher might be considered a surrogate marriage and as such it ended with none of the matrimonial complications surrounding the other Beatles. John's marriage to Cynthia ended when he left her for Yoko; Ringo - always considered the steadiest and most 'family' of the Beatles - divorced Maureen; Path Boyd left George Harrison for Eric Clapton. Ironically, the most eligible bachelor settled most readily into wedded life.
The McCartneys' family life has two main bases - the rambling Georgian house in St John's Wood, London and the two-farm estate in Campbeltown, Scotland. The London home Is a large unpretentious but very desirable property of 16 rooms that they've turned into an urban farm. The extensive garden is alive with dogs, ducks, chickens and other pets with a flourishing vegetable patch - important as neither eat much meat. Inside is the clutter of family life and the expensive playthings of the wealthy young man. It has neither the nouveau riche vulgarity nor the precious, heavily guarded treasures of many rock musicians. This is because money is nothing new to Linda, nor are the things it buys and anyway, both of them have a relaxed attitude to life. Paul's philosophy is simple: "I like my home to have the things I want in it. It's a happy place, not a museum."
Scotland is their bolt-hole away from the inevitable pressures of a hectic metropolitan and international life. The estate is farmed and carries approximately 150 sheep, in which the McCartneys take a great interest, particularly during the shearing and lambing seasons. However, they are squeamish farmers and will not have their beasts slaughtered. "Every year, Linda and I try to breed them," he told an interviewer. "We do it scientifically, as far as we can. We try to keep them down to 30 lambs a year, by keeping the ewes behind a fence - but that's unless one of the rams leaps over the fence."
He'll wax long and lyrical about the delights of rustic life. All the family ride and Linda is an enthusiastic and successful gardener. She's firmly pro-organic foods untouched by chemical additives and healthy living and describes herself as a country girl at heart. Although raised in New York, she feels no particular pull towards it. "If I lived in America I'd live probably in the desert," she once told Melody Maker. "I wouldn't go back to New York City. I like the earth too much. I think so much of life can be seen if you sit in a field."
In several interviews she's insisted that the fame and money, the influence and privilege mean little to her. "Money should not govern your life," she asserted in Sounds. "I always said if we lose everything what's the worst that could happen? I like cooking so we'll open a little restaurant."
Linda and Paul are both insistent that the family stays together as much as possible. And that means on the road as well as at home. Right from the first University tour they've taken the children along with them in caravans or coaches. Sometimes the tours are scheduled around school holidays but this is often impossible so a tutor is taken along (in addition to the inestimable Rose, the McCartney's nanny/housekeeper enshrined in Red Rose Speedway) to ensure they don't fall behind in their lessons. They have been criticized for what some see as neglect of their children's education but Paul is quick to spring to their own defence. "The kids learn a lot on tour," he told the Sunday Times. "But most of all, they have us, they're secure in a family atmosphere, I see these kids in our neighborhood coming home from boarding school and they have just no connection with their families. They're strangers."
McCartney's views on education are individualistic. He sets far more by a person's character than the school at which he or she was educated. He set forth his opinion in Record Mirror: "I know a lot of people who are great people and yet not very educated. I also know a lot of people who are very educated and sods. It's learning about life that's important, that's the thing."
If nothing else, the McCartney kids will know a lot about life after their jaunts with the band. The culmination of the McCartney home/business policy came with the Wings Over America tour. They prepared carefully in advance so that they could spend as much time with the children as possible. To this end they rented or borrowed four houses (in Dallas, New York, Chicago and LA), each strategically positioned to be within easy flying distance of a number of venues. These became headquarters for the west, middle and east of the States. During the day the family relaxed together, in the evening Linda cooked a meal and the children went off to bed. Then Linda and Paul flew off to their night's work. After the concert they did a few interviews, fulfilled their duties, hopped back in the plane and slept at the rented house. It was a considerate, loving and sane way of undertaking what could be a fraught, divisive and pressured series of engagements.
If there's such a thing as a truly fulfilled man, then Paul McCartney must come close to being one. He has not only survived, he has prospered, flourished and progressed. He has also had the unusual satisfaction of having been proved publicly right. It is a fitting end to a story that started in acrimony and disharmony to note that seven years after he left the Beatles because he did not want Alien Klein as his manager (years in which he took the brunt of the blame for the rupture) the other three severed their connection with him.
In January, 1977, it was reported that George, John and Ringo had settled with Klein out of court. The three agreed to pay their former manager $5.009,200 (about £3,000,000) and as a result all outstanding international legal actions - for fees, commission and expenses allegedly incurred by his company while acting on their behalf - would be dropped. It may have given Paul satisfaction but it was cold financial comfort because, he claimed to a newspaper, some of that enormous sum was his. Any money he had earned up until Band On The Run was paid into Apple, some of it had inevitably gone into paying the settlement.
However, it was no time for recriminations. The Beatles were all friends again, they talked on the phone and met regularly. The bitter words of yesterday were forgiven, if not entirely forgotten. There was only one thing in connection with them that ruffled McCartney's calm - the persistent questions: Will the Beatles re-form? Will they play together again?
How ever many times he frankly told reporters that he didn't know, that nothing was impossible, that no-one had definitely ruled it out, that there were no plans just at the moment, that they were not accepting £25,000,000 to do just one show, the questions still kept on coming.
In the end, irritated beyond endurance but still retaining that characteristic sense of humor, he resorted to a parody of another of the world's great personalities Muhammad Ali. Let it suffice:
And since then they have been doing fine.
And if that question doesn't cease
Ain't no one gonna get no peace.
And if they ask it just once more
I think I'll have to bash their jaw.
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