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20 YEARS OF CLUB SANDWICH
It's time for a spot of unabashed trumpet-blowing, because Club Sandwich is 20 years old, and - far from curling up at the edges - it's as enjoyable, entertaining, enlightening and diverse as ever.
Mark Lewisohn (although editor for the last six years he's still the veritable new boy) talks to the four principal Sandwich makers who have guided the paper from past to present
"I certainly couldn't have envisaged that it would still be running after 20 years," admits Paul McCartney.
"I cannot believe it's been going 20 years," declares Linda McCartney.
"It spans an era, a whole generation," remarks Sue Cavanaugh.
"Really quite remarkable," comments Roger Huggett.
As proprietor, picture editor, Fun Club chief and art director respectively, these are the Fab Four who prepared the first Club Sandwich in 1977 and are still happily making them today. At a time when no one knew the planet would still be existing 20 years hence, none could have dared predict that their handiwork would still be going strong in 1997. But it is, and, reckons Sue (and a huge number of you too, judging by your letters) "it's never been better than it is now".
Thinking back to the 1970s, Paul remembers how Club Sandwich came into being. "I always felt pleased that, with the Beatles, we built up a strong fan following in the very early days and attempted to cater for them through the Official Beatles Fan Club. Traditionally, these things are done by fans and not by the artists themselves, but we did it - although, when the Club became really big we started to see it in a different light and it became an expense that nobody was prepared to pay for. To some degree this then became replaced by Beatles Monthly, but, to be frank, we lost interest. After the Beatles, when I struck out on my own, I felt that as there were people interested in what was going on, we should cater for them. We didn't want it to be a fan club, as such, so we lessened it by calling it a. fun club."
Most early members of the Wings Fun Club joined as a result of a plug on the rear of the Red Rose Speedway album sleeve (which, as Paul soon noticed, was sent-up by George Harrison on his next LP cover). In those days, subscribers received an occasional newsletter which, though packed with enthusiasm and good intention, was run-off on an office duplicator. Paul and Linda soon had bigger plans. "The whole concept of Club Sandwich was theirs," says Sue. "When they decided they wanted to change the look of the fan magazine they had the whole thing already in their heads; they knew exactly how they wanted it to look."
"The first I heard of Club Sandwich was when Paul called, saying that he wanted to produce a fan magazine that was different from everybody else's," remembers Roger Huggett. "He wanted to make it just like a newspaper and asked me to prepare a couple of broad-sheet formats - he didn't want tabloid size and he didn't want shiny paper. It was printed, originally, by The Westminster Press, in west London, because they had the "old" technology that produced the required saw-tooth edge, and the little holes on the side of the page that newspapers have. They printed Club Sandwich in the daytime, when the presses were idle."
"For the very first issue, Paul, Roger and I sat on the floor of MPL's new offices and mapped it out, bit by bit," says Sue. "Paul had definite ideas about the words and I took down what he wanted to say. He also wanted a letter from somebody who was named, which was me." "He had the front cover idea already drawn up, including the standup bass photo," remembers Roger, "and he'd written the Club Sandwich logo and brought it in with him. We did a very rough paste-up then and there, with sketches of picture areas, copy areas and headlines and then I went away and fleshed it out. Those early issues were very fast in production because they were only four-pages: one sheet of paper folded in half."
"In the early days of Club Sandwich there was nobody else to do things, really," says Paul. "We didn't have an editor, as such, so I was very involved, writing headlines, captions, articles. Everything around that time was more funky, home-made."
Obviously, much has changed over the years, but the process has been a friendly and gradual one. "Club Sandwich has evolved because Paul has changed his own ideas about it, and what he wants of it," observes Sue. "The essence is still there but it's much more informative now, with proper articles. The early issues just put captions to pictures, really, because in those days Paul's activities were covered by the NME, Melody Maker and the other weekly papers and we were just the filling in between. Now Club Sandwich is the main place to read the inside stories about Paul and Linda's very wide range of projects: not just their music but also LIPA, the food and the cookbooks, the Art films, the orchestral works and everything else. The paper changed size many times in the early years - in fact, for me, that's the only maddening thing about Club Sandwich: the filing, with its different sizes and format, is difficult!"
Production, too, has seen some changes. "In the early days everything was sent to a printer for them to proof-up as typesetting and then turn into metal blocks," says Roger. "The transition to computer was gradual rather than sudden but now it's all written, designed and typeset on Apple Macs. What hasn't altered is the fact that it's still produced on non-shiny paper, and that we attach the same importance to both getting the right cover image - some of the covers have been really good, all the way down the years - and the high pictorial content, not just in numbers but in size: we always ensure there are full-page shots."
In this regard, Club Sandwich is blessed by having as its chief photographer and picture editor Linda McCartney, many of her shots appearing in CS and nowhere else. "It's really great seeing my work in every issue," says Linda, "often exclusively too - hundreds of my photos have only been seen in Club Sandwich, not in exhibitions or in my books. I love it."
As the years have passed so Paul has stepped back a little (only a little, mind) from Club Sandwich operations.
"I exercise a kind of quality control, really," he says. "I suggest ideas and oversee what's going on. But, contrary to what some people think, I don't write it any more, and I certainly don't write the glowing stuff about myself. Wearing the two hats - proprietor and main subject matter - can be a bit embarrassing at times. But we've had some very good people involved over the years, not least Linda as the house photographer and picture editor, Sue, Roger, my cousin Bert as the crossword compiler, writers Patrick Humphries and Harry George, and, in recent years, Mark Lewisohn as writer and editor and Geoff Baker as a major contributor."
"To realise that Club Sandwich has been running for 20 years is outrageous," says Linda. "I'm really happy with what it's achieved and I think it gets better and better with every issue."
"The best thing for me," concludes Paul, "is to know that it's appreciated by a lot of people, and that it's international. I remember seeing a reader's letter once, which explained how the postman comes down her jungle path in Malaysia to deliver her copy every three months. That really brought home to me the international aspect of the paper. That's a great pleasure for me."
# 1 (February/March 1977) The first Buddy Holly Week lunch; Paul directs the Wings Over America TV commercial