After over ten years of playing with Paul and Linda it would have been
nice to feel that I'd worked with the McCartneys rather than simply for
— Denny Laine, 1989 —
It was a hassle going on the road with Paul. It was like taking the whole
Shrine Circus on tour.
— Joe English —
Paul McCartney and Wings
Although Linda McCartney occasionally ventured into the studio with the Beatles (she and Mary Hopkin sang harmonies on "Let It Be"), it wasn't until Paul's strictly solo McCartney that her presence became at all musically significant. Released on April 17, 1970, the popular, largely homespun album, showed that even on his own McCartney was still a force to be reckoned with. Despite his role in the extended dissolution of the Beatles, his solo effort (complete with album graphics and backing vocals by Linda) nevertheless reached a wide audience curious to see what kind of magic an individual Beatle could conjure. Obviously, the commercial acceptance of the work was extremely important to McCartney who, now that his old group seemed almost certain to split forever, was naturally anxious about the future. Just to make sure everyone knew exactly where McCartney stood, Peter Brown at Apple sent over a list of forty questions for him to answer regarding his decision to break away from the band. This, along with a blow-by-blow account of the making of McCartney, was then released to the world media in the hope of softening the blow of the Beatles' final goodbye to their fervent fandom. The net effect, however, was to point the finger at McCartney as the originator of the Beatles' demise as a group.
After the initial shock of the break-up and his searing estrangement from John, McCartney picked up the pieces of his life and began to think about getting back to work. With no band, and no great desire to rush out and start one, working with his new wife seemed the simplest and best alternative.
The McCartneys' first real joint effort was the heartfelt single, "Another Day," issued on February 19, 1971. The story of a young girl lost in a maze of one-night stands and broken dreams, the song was a compassionate statement about the displaced and alienated in society. An auspicious start to McCartney's solo career, the record reached all the way to the number one slot on the British charts.
Flying to New York in January for a visit with Linda's family, the couple decided to lay down some tracks for a new album. Auditions were secretly held in a dingy Manhattan rehearsal hall to try to find some local musical talent to play with them in supporting roles. One of those who came along to the invitation-only proceedings was New York session drummer, Dennis ("Denny") Phillip Seiwell. Seiwell remembers some third-rate equipment haphazardly set up in one corner, complemented by the absolutely shoddiest kit he had ever seen.
"A lot of the boys were really put out at being asked to audition," he remembers. "Paul just told me to play, as he didn't have a guitar. McCartney wanted more than a drummer; he was looking for a certain attitude, too. Anyway, I just played .... I always say that if you can't get it on by yourself, you can't get it on with anyone."
Much to the drummer's surprise, he was informed the next day that he had blitzed the other eight percussionists invited to perform and was in. McCartney recalls his reason for settling on the towering 6-foot, 2 1/2-inch native Pennsylvanian: "Well actually it was his tom-toms. That may not sound like much to anyone who is not a musician . . . but if you see a drummer playing tom-toms, you learn a lot about him." With Seiwell in place, the McCartneys needed to locate a couple of top-flight guitarists who soon presented themselves in the persons of David Spinoza and Hugh McCracken.
Only twenty-one at the time of the audition, Spinoza was already a recording-studio legend of sorts, turning pro at the age of just seventeen. In those days, the standard fee was a mere ninety dollars for a three-hour session, but the super-talented Spinoza was generally taking home more than $1500 for the same work. Among the many artists he played with over the years are John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Freda Payne, Carly Simon, and B. B. King.
Spinoza later recounted the humble beginnings of his totally unexpected stint as the former Fab's first guitarist:
All I remember is getting a phone call from Linda McCartney identifying herself as "Mrs. McCartney" and I said, "Who?" She said, "My husband would like to meet you." So I said, "Did I ever work with your husband before?" Finally she said, "This is Linda McCartney, and my husband is Paul McCartney," like I was supposed to know Paul McCartney was calling my house. She didn't make it clear what she wanted me for — I thought it was a meeting or a recording session — but it turned out to be an audition.
Cabbing it down to a crummy 45th Street loft a few days later, Spinoza was surprised to learn that the grueling tryouts had already been going on for a full three days before he arrived:
You had to be called; you couldn't just walk in off the street with your guitar.... Paul played a blues, a solo, some folk, and said he wanted me to do that. So I played everything and then he just says, "Sorry I couldn't spend more time with you but I have a lot of people to see." As soon as I got home the phone rang and Linda wanted me to do the sessions the following week.
Booking time at Phil Ramone's A&R Studios, the totally unrehearsed quintet charged ahead, recording no less than twenty-one of Paul and Linda's new tunes. According to reports, the sessions started out smoothly enough, but soon ran into difficulty when the McCartneys began spacing out on the day-to-day business of organizing and overseeing the dates. Spinoza recalls:
I'd told them I couldn't keep every week open because when McCartney goes back to England there are other people that call me, and they are going to keep me eating, not him, although I'd love to do his sessions.
I said I could make two of the days but not all five, and Linda got very indignant. I got vibrations like, "It's Paul McCartney's session, you're supposed to keep your life open indefinitely. ..." She really speaks for him, and handles all the business. She wouldn't let me talk directly to him to sort out what he wanted.
Musically, Spinoza felt right at home playing with the creative and orderly McCartney, but complained that his well-known penchant for perpetually trying to push the river did tend to make the others feel rather like second-class citizens. It is a charge that has been leveled against the sometimes annoyingly perfectionistic musician since his early days in Liverpool. "I think the whole album was done in the same format as the McCartney album," says Spinoza, "only we played the parts for him, there was no freedom. We were told exactly what to play. . . . Paul sang us the parts he wanted and the tune developed as we went along. We made suggestions, but he rarely took them, and if he did, always modified it into a 'Paul McCartney'-sounding thing...."
For David Spinoza, perhaps the least attractive feature of playing with McCartney was the nearly constant presence of Linda who, apart from being Paul's wife, didn't seem to have a very productive reason for being around at all:
Linda didn't have much to do in the studio, she just took care of the kids.... They brought the whole family every day to the studio.... If he was there until four in the morning, everybody stayed. I thought to a certain degree it was distracting. I don't know what Linda did in the studio apart from sit there and make comments on what she thought was good and bad. ... I mean she can sing fine — like any girl that worked in a high school glee club.
In the end, Spinoza was politely let go by Linda, who rang him up one evening and told him not to bother coming in the next day as they were doing some last-minute vocal overdubs and he wouldn't be needed. He half-expected them to phone in a few days and invite him back, but the call never came, his thinly veiled disapproval of Mrs. McCartney perhaps a little more obvious than he'd imagined. Still, Spinoza was happy to have been part of the sessions and remembers the experience today with mixed emotions:
Working with Paul was fun, inasmuch as it was good to see how he works and where he's coming from. But as a musician there was no challenge. . . . McCartney is definitely a songwriter, not a musician, but he composes beautiful tunes. In the studio he's incredibly prompt and businesslike. No smoking pot, no drinks or carrying on, nothing. Just straight ahead. He came in at nine every morning. We'd listen to what we'd done the day before then it was eight hours of just playing. He's not a very loose cat. He just wants to make good music.
The arduous, extended sessions eventually reached the public as Ram, one of Paul McCartney's most innovative, original, and poetically offbeat works. Two other musicians, Ron Carter and Richard Davis, also participated, playing bass on several of the album's twelve eccentric tracks. The McCartneys also enlisted the aid of the New York Philharmonic whose lush string section enriched the songs "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," "Back Seat of My Car," and the haunting "Long-Haired Lady." In addition to the sessions at A&R, the tapes were further refined at Columbia Studios with final mixing and sweetening carried out at Sound Recording in Los Angeles.
Altogether six tracks were credited to "Paul & Linda McCartney," and six solely to Paul. Unfortunately, bigwigs over at the Beatles' old publishing house, Northern Songs, and Sir Lew Grade of ATV, found it difficult to accept that the musically untrained and unaccomplished Linda should be listed as co-composer alongside the great Paul McCartney, and on that basis slapped the couple with a whopping million-dollar lawsuit in defense of their interests in the former Beatles' publishing. As it stood, on those six tracks Linda was entitled to collect half the writers' royalties which normally would have gone entirely to Paul to be shared with his publisher. Mrs. McCartney, however, was not one of Northern's clients and therefore that little bit of flesh would have been denied them, an intolerable prospect for the already well-fed corporate conglomerate. McCartney explains:
I said, "Well, look! If my wife is actually saying 'change that' or 'I like that better than that' then I'm using her as a collaborator." I mean, John never had any input on "The Long and Winding Road," and Yoko still collects royalties on it. You've gotta flow with these things. The joke at the time was that Linda was the only one getting paid in our household, because we were all held up with Apple being subject to litigation! I wasn't seeing any money....
Every businessman I had ever known was suing me. I felt, "I'm damned if she's not gonna get paid for it; I'll put in a bill for her services!" They weren't major checks, but it was the only money we were seeing because she was the only one free of all contracts in our house.
With no wish to further legally entangle himself, McCartney agreed to film a television special for ATV in exchange for their dropping the suit. Additionally, Linda would get to keep her royalties. Released in Great Britain on May 21, 1971, Ram was not the hit Paul felt he needed in the face of the flak he had been subjected to for initiating the disbanding of the Beatles. He was disappointed but determined to have another go at it. This time, however, he figured it might work out better if he took the plunge and formed his own group, something that had been in the offing for some time.
Originally, he had wanted to call his new band "Turpentine," but was subsequently talked out of the idea by an indignant fan. Then it was the "The Dazzlers," but that too was dropped at the last minute in favor of the more commercially viable "Wings." According to popular legend, the inspiration behind the name came to Paul as he silently prayed for the safe arrival of his second daughter, Stella, asking that the child be delivered "on the wings of an angel." McCartney adds:
Linda and I were having our second baby... It was a difficult pregnancy and I had to be with her a lot. So I got myself a camp bed and kipped in the hospital. Eventually one of the matrons told me I couldn't sleep there, so I said, "We're gonna use another hospital!" So we looked around until we found one that would have us... Our baby was in intensive care... It was dodgy at the time, so rather than just sitting around twiddling my thumbs, I was thinking of hopeful names for a new group, and somehow this uplifting idea of "Wings" came to me.
As for the group's lineup, McCartney immediately settled upon Denny Seiwell as his drummer, ringing the good-natured American with the news from his farm in Scotland. Seiwell, honored to have been remembered thus by the great Beatle, hopped on a plane with his wife, Monique, and within hours was sitting down to dinner with the McCartneys at High Park.
Next came the matter of choosing a suitably inventive rhythm guitarist. The insubordinate David Spinoza was definitely out, despite his virtuoso performances, and McCartney was casting about, attempting to put a face to his vision of the flash, good-looking player he was hoping for. He finally hit upon his old friend Denny Laine. "It's one of those things when you're starting a band," says McCartney, "Several ideas go through your head, different names are suggested to you, and then I remembered 'Go Now.' That was the single Denny made with the Moody Blues, and it has always been one of my favorite records."
Born on October 29, 1944, the youngest of five children of Eva and ex-boxer Herbert (Herbo) Hines, in Birmingham, Brian Frederick Hines, known professionally as Denny Laine, grew up a quiet, creative child attracted to folk music, jazz, skiffle, and later, down-home American rhythm and blues. When he was twelve his mother enrolled him in tap dancing lessons at a local conservatory, but he eventually dropped out after suffering a continuous barrage of insults from his mega-macho dad. Shortly thereafter, Herbo went out and quietly purchased his artistically inclined offspring a cheap acoustic guitar for the princely sum of three pounds and encouraged the boy to learn to play. After only a few months of intense work, Brian was strumming along like an old pro. "My mum used to play a little bit of piano after the war," recalls Laine.
In those days everyone made their own music. It seemed as though there were old pianos in virtually every front room in England back then. My sister was into singers like Frankie Laine, Johnny Ray, people like that. She was a record collector, that was her thing. Through her I was exposed to a lot of really great music. Later, I was put into a tap dance company as a kid. We used to do pantomimes and other little shows. At the time I was also listening to Buddy Holly a lot. He was my first real inspiration I guess. In fact, the guitar lick on "That'll Be the Day" made me want to learn to play. Anyway, my dad bought me a guitar and I eventually worked out a few little skiffle tunes. In between acts with the tap company I sometimes did a solo spot on my guitar, singing.
Laine's first group was called Johnny and the Dominators, already a reasonably well-respected Birmingham area band by the time he signed on with them as lead singer.
You see in those days groups used to just make up names that sounded good, like Ricky and the Rebels. "Johnny," of course, was whoever the singer happened to be. So, of course, I eventually became "Johnny." Looking back, I suppose my school work suffered because I was always so much into the music. I wasn't thick by any means. I was fairly good, but music was definitely my preference.
Later in 1960, Laine formed his own band, Denny and the Diplomats. Performing semi-regularly at various neighborhood functions, the Diplomats gradually became one of Birmingham's most popular homegrown groups, eventually winning a coveted recording test with Petula Clark's producer, Tony Hatch, on behalf of Pye Records. Although they were never signed, back then even being heard by a real record company was big news, so much the bigger if it happened to be a label as respected and popular as Pye. "I could tell he liked what we were doing," recalls Laine, "but we weren't really original enough. That was the main problem. Too much emphasis on other people's material I think."
Despite the setbacks, being in the Diplomats went a long way towards shaping the young musician. He changed his name to Denny Laine, thinking it sounded more confident and professional.
I thought of the name because I had my own den in the back garden, like kids have tree houses. My mates use to come to this den so it became kind of a nickname that I was called "Denny." Not by everyone, just a few close friends in our little club. The name "Laine" came from Cleo Laine, who I always thought was brilliant. Actually, I was influenced quite a bit by the jazz thing. In fact, some of my first major influences were people like Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli. I was into jazz, gypsy music I guess. So "Denny Laine" eventually became the one.
Within three years of their getting together, Denny and the Diplomats were appearing on the same bill as many of the biggest-name groups of the day, including the Beatles. Laine, of course, later went on to become the initiating powerhouse behind the formation of the Moody Blues, scoring a British number-one hit with the now-classic "Go Now."
Although during the mid-to-late-sixties McCartney and Laine had been good mates, by the end of Paul's frantic Jane Asher days the two had all but lost touch. Linda too, apparently, was keen on the inclusion of the laid-back Laine, later admitting to several journalists that he had been a big favorite of hers when he sang lead for the Birmingham-based Moodies.
Typically, Laine was unruffled. Sleeping on an old mattress in a back room of his then-manager Tony Secunda's Mayfair office, he wasn't even sure whom he was speaking to when the telephone call first came through. "Paul who?" he barked into the receiver, not especially thrilled at rising prior to his customary one o'clock wakeup from Secunda.
"McCartney, you daft sod. How are you, mate?"
"I'm okay. Jesus. Listen, sorry about the mixup, I had a bit of a late night. It's great you called though. So what's up?"
"I'm forming a new band to go out on the road," Paul explained. "Are you interested?"
"Too right I am," said Laine. "When do we start?"
Laine caught a late flight to Glasgow and was met at the airport by Denny Seiwell who joined him on the brief twenty-minute run up to Campbeltown, the nearest airfield to the McCartneys' sprawling Kintyre farm.
Seiwell took Laine to his own place first for a couple of quick drinks before cruising over to Paul and Linda's just a few miles up the rocky dirt road. "I was amazed he was living in the back of beyond in a very small farmhouse he'd only just started to work on," remembers Laine. "I liked the fact that we could go and live that sort of lifestyle and still get things done."
Asked to recall his first impressions of Linda, Laine patiently explained that he had always liked the earthy blonde, and therefore wasn't surprised to see her as an unaffected young mother preparing a late dinner in the tiny kitchen for her hungry tribe. "Linda was doing some cooking, I remember, and said she admired my work in the Moodies. She'd heard a Coca-Cola ad we'd done she thought was pretty original. I got on with Linda all the way through Wings."
Although at first the plan for the new band was a typical male macho lineup, McCartney later suggested that the musically inexperienced Linda come in on keyboards. Like Stuart Sutcliffe joining the Beatles to play bass without benefit of any prior musical expertise, Linda similarly became a member of Wings with nothing to fall back on except her immense desire to please her husband and the keen, competitive spirit of the upwardly mobile Eastmans.
"The main reason she was there," says Laine, "was she was Paul's wife and they wanted to be together. ... I always resented it because I thought we could have been a better band a lot quicker if we had a proper keyboard player. Not that I minded Linda being around, but as a musician I wasn't too keen on the idea." Laine recalls that Linda actually agreed with him concerning her new role in the group. "She never wanted to be in Wings. ... I think she would have liked to be part of it, yes, but as a photographer.... She certainly wasn't an idiot by any shake of the stick, though. She reminded me a bit of John Lennon; she had that same kind of attitude. If she believed something, nobody was going to change her."
After a couple of hard-rocking days together on the farm, McCartney's rag-tag Wings flew to London and cloistered themselves at Abbey Road to begin recording their premier album together, Wild Life, originally intended as a concept album with the faster tracks collected together for dancing on Side one, and the slower, supposedly sexier numbers (for "necking" said their first tour program) snuggled up on the other side.
Altogether Paul and Linda co-wrote seven of the eight tracks on the LP, tacking on the Everly Brothers/Buddy Holly hit, "Love Is Strange" as a tip of the hat to their teen years. Produced by Paul, and engineered by the soon-to-be-famous Alan Parsons, the album also contained what McCartney later termed his least favorite tune of all time, the innocuous "Bip Bop." "it just goes nowhere," he later commented. "I still cringe every time I hear it."
Working at lightning speed, the fledgling group laid down the basic tracks within days, interrupted only by the caesarian birth of little Stella Nina McCartney on September 13, 1971, at London's King's College Hospital. In all Wild Life was made in just over two weeks from start to finish, and was previewed to the eagerly waiting media on November 8 at a gala party held at the Mecca Ballroom in Leicester Square.
Among the pop luminaries in attendance at the "buy your own drink" extravaganza were Keith Moon, Sandy Denny, Mary Hopkin, Terence Stamp, The Faces, Jimmy Page, Deep Purple, John Entwistle, Elton John, Mungo Jerry, Gilbert O'Sullivan, and Sandie Shaw. Dancing to the big band sounds of Ray McVay's Orchestra, the one-thousand-plus invited guests thrilled to a spirited display of formation dancing and boogied the night away until 3:00 a.m.
Sadly, like the flamboyant Ram, the barebones album was generally very poorly received, inching its way up to number eleven in Britain and only a notch higher in the U.S. For the first time in his career, McCartney was forced to allow that not everything he touched automatically turned to gold. "Wild Life is another album we could have done better," said Linda in 1976. "Some of the songs are very good but we only did it in about a week. It's funny, the band was so new but we didn't take care. ... It wasn't really a group when we did Wild Life."
The album's back-to-nature front cover, although striking, was completely devoid of any word of just who this faraway band of hippie musicians really was, further contributing to the record's dismal sales. Eventually a small green-and-gold sticker was affixed to the front jacket. It simply said "Wings Wild Life" and did little either to promote the band or salvage the record. In the end, even McCartney himself had to admit failure. "I must say you have to like me to like the record. . • It wasn't that brilliant as a recording. . . . We'd been hearing about how Dylan did everything in one take. I think in fact often we never gave the engineer a chance to set up a balance."
Following the release of Wild Life, Paul and Linda jetted off to Jamaica for a short holiday, eventually linking up with the two Dennys in New York for a bit of promotion, plus a fair amount of rehearsal in the same West Forties rathole where the first faint echoes of the band were born. In addition, they laid down an as-of-yet unreleased instrumental blues track in anticipation of one day using it as a B-side to a possible maxi-single.
After the inevitable mad McCartney Christmas rush, the group finally got down to some serious rock 'n' roll first thing in the new year with daily rehearsals in London aimed at pulling together material for both a new Wings LP and a concert tour planned for sometime in 1972.
Initially, Paul had envisioned Wings as strictly a four-piece unit, but changed his mind and added Denny Laine's old mate, Irish guitarist Henry Campbell Liken McCullough on lead guitar. By the time he joined Wings in January of 1972, McCullough was an almost legendary figure back home in County Derry, having worked in a number of Irish showbands before joining the popular Dublin group Jean and the Gents, fronted by a black South African lead singer. He then played with the innovative Eire Apparent, later discovered and groomed by Jimi Hendrix mentor, Chas Chandler. Thereafter, McCullough drifted through a succession of hard-rocking bands including Sweeny's Men and the Grease Band. He re- members being called up for service in McCartney's Wings:
In fact it was Paul's roadie who rang, saying, "Do you fancy sitting in?" After the Grease Band I didn't know what the hell was going on so I went down and had a play. That was Tuesday and afterwards things were left at that — nothing was said. Then I had another call on Thursday to go down again and afterwards Paul said, "Do you want to join our group?" Although I knew Laine, I'd never met McCartney before. Once I got used to seeing him there in person, he turned out to be a great bloke.
The first track utilizing McCullough's top-flight talents (and, incidentally the first Wings single) was the controversial though musically uninteresting McCartney tune, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish," released in Britain on February 25, 1972. Banned by the conservative BBC as being a bit too far left, the thumping anti-English ballad nevertheless gave McCartney something he had secretly coveted all his life: instant disrespectability. Having written a direct response to the terrible Bloody Sunday massacre in Northern Ireland that January, the song allowed Paul to feel every bit as heavy and potentially radical as his old nemesis John, at least for a while. "Our soldiers, my country's army had gone in and killed some people," says Paul.
And I'd grown up with this thing that the Irish are great, they're our mates, our brothers. We used to joke that Liverpool was the capital of Ireland. Suddenly we were killing our buddies and I thought, wait a minute, this is not clever and I wish to protest on behalf of the people. ... I did that song and was rung up by a lot of people who said, "Please don't release this. We don't need this right now." And I said, "Yes we do. Gotta have it."
Despite McCartney's late-blooming crusading, however, the backwater skiffle tune failed to impress just about everyone other than the uptight Auntie BBC, and fell to earth with a resounding thud like so many other of Paul's immediate post-Beatles releases. Denny Laine remembers:
Paul was quite innocently trying to solve a problem which obviously can't be solved with a song. A lot of Irish people took umbrage at it which was a bit frightening.... As a result we did get a lot of picketing at gigs. At one point, I had to put my toe down and drive through some people, forcing them to jump out of the way, to get us out. And I think Henry's brother was beaten up in Southern Ireland because of it. It's very difficult when you're writing songs not to be controversial sometimes. You're obviously going to upset someone, but that's one instance I'm not particulary happy about, or wasn't at the time, certainly.
The next great chapter in the life of Wings commander McCartney was his impromptu university tour of Great Britain, commencing February 8, 1972. Gathered together for this dangerously ill-planned series of unannounced musical encounters were Henry McCuIlough, Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell and his wife, roadies Ian and Trevor Jones, three dogs, and of course, Paul, Linda, Heather, Mary, and Stella McCartney. Their gear packed into a rented lorry, the wandering minstrels headed north along the Ml, initially following signs for a place called Ashby de la Zouche, solely because they liked the sound of the name. While enroute, they discovered the tiny hamlet of Heather nearby, where they tried without success to buy a small pony tied to a post on the village green.
As impossible as it seems today, McCartney was intent upon touring without benefit of advance publicity, proper venues, or even pre-arranged gigs. Wherever they stopped at the end of the day was where they played, the more unexpected and informal the better, a plan which, incredibly, Paul had envisioned for the Beatles in 1969. Their first show, held in the student union of Nottingham University on February 9, went well, due in large part to the solid back-up provided by the school. From there, McCartney's roadshow rumbled on to York where they played the dining hall of a local college, having dropped by without sufficient notice to secure the use of the university's splendid theater.
Wings' next surprise performance was in Hull where McCartney remembers everyone somehow seemed to be expecting them, having already set up a first-class sound system in the school's formal concert hall. After the gig, the exhausted travelers booked into a third-rate bed-and-breakfast, where, far from treating them like stars, the uptight owner didn't even know who they were. Laine recalls:
I remember we were all having fish and chips. The landlord was a bit of an asshole as well. We were just another group to him. Anyway, we accidentally left some rubbish on the bar and he came down the next morning and was shouting about it to one of the roadies. Paul was very pissed off but bit his tongue and didn't say anything, realizing the old boy didn't recognize him. So Paul nudged him in the nose with his elbow, accidentally on purpose, as he was so fed up with this guy's attitude. He just sort of nicked him really. Of course he threatened to call the police, but we just sort of breezed out like nothing happened.
From there the band pushed on to Scarborough where they all sat in their rooms for the day listening to roadie Ian's makeshift recordings of the previous gigs. Huddling around the twin reel-to-reel tape recorders borrowed from Abbey Road, it became obvious that as a band Wings had a long way to go before becoming the slick professional group McCartney so wanted. Their date in Leeds, for instance, was almost marred by a musical faux pas. Paul recalls: "We were doing the tune 'Wild Life' and Linda was to start with the chords on electric piano. I looked around and said: 'One, two, three . . . ' Nothing. She had a glassy stare in her eyes and she's looking at me, mouthing, 'I forgot the chords.' The audience thought that it was part of a comedy routine we were working into the act. So I walked up to the keyboards, showed Linda the chords and got a great laugh."
In Salford, near Manchester, the band played a local theater, where a play was currently running, and caused the management some concern lest their pounding rhythms topple the scenery — they didn't. Motoring on to Liverpool, McCartney decided to stop in at his father's home where the road-weary crew spent the night before moving on to Birmingham the next day. "We went to Denny's [parents'] place first," says Paul, "then played a university slightly out of town. It wasn't the best gig."
For two weeks the band criss-crossed the country, splitting up their meager earnings in cash at the end of every evening, just like the Beatles had a thousand lifetimes before. "We only had two or three hours a day to ourselves," Denny Seiwell recalled. "It wasn't easy getting six rooms in a place that took dogs, with no notice. And you'd get fish and chip shops up to here ..."
Wings played their final gig of the tour on February 17 at Swansea in Wales. Originally, they had planned another full week, but even this novel approach to performing was beginning to wear a bit thin. "It was tiring being on the road twenty- four hours a day," recalls Henry McCullough. "The excitement and fun drained the old brains out."
The thoroughly knackered group turned back into Cavendish Avenue a couple of days later. "It all seems a wee dream," McCullough quipped. Still, McCartney had realized a twelve-year ambition to get back out on the road minus all the hassles that travel hand in hand with being a big star.
It is tempting to speculate how things would have worked out if it had been the Beatles crammed into the back of that van and not Wings. McCartney too must have at least considered it. Of course, he wasn't talking. "That was then," he would often say to people around him. He must have wondered if things would ever be the same.
Wings' second single, an only slightly rearranged version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb," brought down yet another hail of ruthless criticism on McCartney, who quite reasonably, after ten-years-plus of catering exclusively to the young adult market, only wanted to put out a tune children might enjoy. As far back as 1968, he had wanted the Beatles to do something specifically for children, originally considering a full-length feature based on Alfred Bestall's well-loved character, Rupert the Bear. That particular project, unfortunately, never quite came off, although Paul and Linda did manage one trailer-length cartoon, "Rupert Bear and the Frog Song," later released in conjunction with Give My Regards to Broad Street in 1984. All things considered, the critical reaction to "Mary Had a Little Lamb" was not only grossly unfair, but typical of much of the self-righteous, quasi-intellectual claptrap masquerading as critical journalism both then and now. Happily, the quaint, infectious little tune sold well, eventually working its way up the charts to a very respectable number six.
Now reasonably well-knit as a band, Wings hit the road again in July of 1972, this time heading out in a gaily appointed, open-top, London double-decker bus, bound for the outdoor festivals and opera halls of the continent.
Their first gig, at the Centre Culturel at Chateau Vallon in France on Sunday, July 9, went down brilliantly. Everyone was in exceptionally fine form, breezing through a rapid-fire succession of several rare, heretofore unreleased Wings' tracks including "I Would Only Smile," "Henry's Blue," "1882," "Momma's Little Girl," "Suicide," and "Best Friend," as well as the Denny Laine classic "Say You Don't Mind."
By the following Wednesday, the band had moved on to Juan les Pins, playing to a capacity crowd appreciative of their funky, wide-eyed pop. Attending that night's performance, with friends, was Joanne Patrie, a highly paid American fashion model then gracing the runways of the better couturiers of Europe. As flirtatious as she was beautiful, Jo Jo (as she preferred to be called) remembers watching the band parade off stage and wondering which of the three stunning guys with McCartney might be single.
Fortunately, her traveling companions were friends of one of the roadies whom she remembers only as "Mick," who invited her to join him in the crew car for the upcoming German and Swiss legs of the tour. Always a super Beatles fan, Patrie was knocked out at the prospect of spending the next ten days in such close proximity to Paul and Linda, not to mention the rest of the band. She recalls rumbling down the Autobahn, smoking up with the road crew, and periodically pulling alongside Wings' bus where she caught sight of Denny Laine staring at her from the transport's windy open deck.
A couple of nights later, Jo Jo, who had been bedding down with roadie Mick, was taking a bath when Laine walked in.
"It's extremely naughty for a gentleman to interrupt a lady's bath uninvited," the precocious Jo Jo teased.
"Well, we wouldn't want to be naughty now would we, luv?" Laine replied sarcastically, as he turned and left.
Seconds later, Jo Jo leapt to the door and pointedly locked it with a loud "click." She sank back into the tub, intrigued by the guitarist's cheek.
Meanwhile, in the roadie's adjoining suite, the usual after-show party was in progress amidst a fog of sweet-smelling black hash and no shortage of high-priced booze. Arriving a short while later, Jo Jo spied Laine, sucking on a particularly gigantic joint. She sat down beside him, and after a few minutes of polite chit-chat, he motioned with his eyes towards the door, rising almost in unison with the widely smiling Jo Jo.
"Like to go back to my room for a smoke," Denny asked demurely as they cuddled together in the hall.
"There's plenty of great shit in there," said Jo Jo, playing just a little hard to get.
"Not like I've got," said Laine, kissing her deeply for the first time.
Five minutes later, they were back in Laine's room, passionately making love. They would not let go until very early the next morning, Jo Jo's face made raw by the unshaven Laine's impassioned kisses.
From that night forward Denny and Jo Jo were inseparable. Backstage, on the bus, in the hotel, everywhere, the attractive couple were about as close as two people can become, a proximity that caused Linda to feel suspicious of Jo Jo and uncomfortable about the liaison between her and Laine. "The McCartneys were very nice to me at first," says Jo Jo. "I really thought they liked me. A few days later, though, Denny came into our room after a gig and told me to sit down as he had something he wanted to talk to me about."
"Look," said Laine softly, hanging his head slightly, like a little boy caught out at something naughty. "I've just been in Paul and Linda's room, and to be honest, they're very uptight about you being around."
"But why?" asked Jo Jo, crushed that her childhood idol had so callously rejected her. "What did I do?"
"It's Linda. She reckons you're a groupie and that you're after Paul. She says you're only using me to be near them."
"Denny ..." she said, now sobbing. "Of course I think Paul and the Beatles are wonderful. But I'm here because of you. If you want me to leave though, I will, and I don't care what this woman is saying."
"She says you're trying to flirt with Paul," Denny continued, obviously torn in two over the unpleasant dilemma.
"That's a lie," Jo Jo insisted. "I hate them for what they're trying to do."
"Well I fuckin' don't know what to think ..." Laine trailed off. After a few dreadful minutes of silence Jo Jo told her boyfriend that under the circumstances it would probably be better if she flew out to London in the morning. As upset and confused as he was, Denny reluctantly agreed.
"I was so hurt because I always looked up to Paul," recalls Jo Jo. "They were both so nice to me that night before, driving back to the hotel in the limo. It would have been better if they hadn't been so friendly, building up my hopes and making me feel wanted. Deep inside, I'm sure Denny knew I couldn't possibly be faking my feelings for him, but you've got to remember what a manipulator Linda is."
The next evening, after the Zurich gig on Friday, July 21, Jo Jo was backstage with Denny and the McCartneys when Rolling Stone love interest Anita Pallenberg unexpectedly showed up in the dressing room, ready to party. "She was on the pull for Denny," says Jo Jo. "I thought I might as well start packing. I mean this girl was so beautiful, so extremely sexy, I even remember wondering how Paul was able to keep his eyes off her."
Feeling well and truly defeated, Jo Jo went back to the hotel with Mick to get her things out of Laine's suite. Minutes later, Denny was standing in the doorway.
"Where do you think you're going?" he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
"Well I just thought you'd want to be with Anita tonight, that's all," the distraught model said through her tears.
"Nonsense," said Laine, tenderly taking her in his arms. "Anita's just a friend from my old Brian Jones days. I mean, if you weren't here I might have considered it, but not now. You're not going anywhere."
Two kids and six years later, Denny and Jo Jo were married on a party boat docked just outside of Marblehead near Boston. The McCartneys chose not to attend the formal ceremony, sending along neither their well wishes nor even a gift. Some time later, says Jo Jo, one of the roadies dropped by their home and delivered the McCartneys' wedding gift to the young couple, an unwrapped pair of silk sheets and pillow cases with no card, still in the original shopping bag.
The first major unpleasantness of the twenty-six city, ten-country tour happened on August 10 in Goteborg, Sweden, when police intercepted a parcel of seven ounces of dope addressed to Denny Seiwell at the hotel and swooped down upon the McCartneys, Seiwell, and Wings' traveling secretary, Rebecca Hinds, immediately following the last note of their gig at the Scandinavian Hall. Boldly switching off the band's sound system, the Swedish cops sternly requested the presence of the alleged ringleaders down at the local jail where they were relentlessly badgered and harangued until they finally confessed to the deed. "We told them we had found the cannabis in a letter," commented a police official.
At first they said they knew nothing about it. But after we questioned them for about three hours they told the truth. McCartney, his wife and Seiwell told us they smoked hash every day. They said they were almost addicted to it. They said they had made arrangements to have the drugs posted to them each day they played in different countries so they wouldn't have to take anything through customs themselves.
Fortunately, local prosecutor, Lennart Angelin, not wishing to bring down the wrath of the world's youth upon his peaceful little country, chose not to press for further charges, in exchange for the McCartneys' paying a reasonably hefty SI000 fine. Despite Paul and Linda's indignation at being brought to task over their passion for smoking cannabis, the fun-loving couple would go on to face similar charges five times over the next eighteen years, all in the name of having a quiet toke with friends to help shake off the pressures of life at the top.
"You can tell everyone that we're not changing our lives for anyone," McCartney mouthed off to reporters in Lund, Sweden, the night after the bust.
We smoke grass and we like it, and that's why someone sent it to us in an envelope... At the end of the day most people go home and have a whiskey. . . . Well, we play a gig and we're exhausted, and Linda and I prefer to put our kids to bed, sit down together and smoke a joint... That doesn't mean we're heavily into drugs or anything. Neither Linda nor I have gone further than grass. You simply couldn't if you want to get out there and entertain people. But you can't expect us to pretend we don't smoke for the sake of our fans... But now that I've been caught I'll say, "Yeah, it's true..." People will be looking at us and wondering what we've got with us. And we're not the kind of people who can't go on without it. We wouldn't go on tour if we were. We're just easy people who like to smoke if we can, but now that's out of the question and I'm sorry.
After the humiliation of this first arrest the Wings gang were committed to never getting popped for anything again. It's not that anyone quit smoking dope; from that point on everyone was just more careful, that's all. Jo Jo explains: "Paul would say, 'Look, lads, we're coming to the border, so we've got to get rid of the shit.' So we all sat there on top of the bus, cleaning and smoking it up as fast as we could. As we got closer we would grab big handfuls of the stuff and start flinging it over the side, watching it scatter to the wind. It was so sad, rather like a funeral, spreading someone's ashes away. I remember being tempted to keep a few joints myself but Denny said, 'Don't you dare!'"
Other measures, apparently, included the McCartneys tucking away a good-sized bag of reefer inside the hood of little Stella's coat (something witnessed by both Denny and Jo Jo), and, a few years later, secreting it away in son James' diaper, a rather distasteful practice to say the very least.
There were other difficult times too on this, Wings' first fullblown outing as a functioning touring band. One particularly disturbing incident happened in Sweden when a young man walked up to Paul and Linda in a basement nightclub and calmly threatened to blow the superstar away with a revolver he claimed to have tucked away in his coat. McCartney sat frozen with fear as the youth slowly walked to the other side of the club and leaned up against the bar, all the while grinning menacingly. Five minutes later, in walked Laine and McCullough who sidled up to the couple in high spirits, ready for a good night out.
"So what's happening, kids?" asked Denny as he signaled one of the waiters for a drink.
"Some guy's just said he's got a gun and he's gonna shoot me," Paul whispered.
Without a moment's hesitation, McCullough silently pulled a long thin knife from inside his boot, hiding it carefully in his lap. "Where?" asked the veteran Dublin brawler.
"The guy at the bar in the green suit coat," McCartney answered. "But don't look..."
"Leave it to us, mate," said Henry, soundlessly slipping out of his seat while Denny went around the other way, joining up on either side of the leering, would-be assassin.
"Got a problem, lad?" McCullough asked, sitting down next to him on an adjacent stool.
"No, why?" said the kid, suddenly quite meek and mild.
Seconds later, the two guitarists had him securely on the floor, searching his pockets for any sign of a weapon.
"Okay, leave off," the obviously off-balance "fan" bellowed. "You're hurting me. I didn't mean anything by it, I swear. It was a joke, that's all."
"Some fuckin' joke, you wanker!" Laine growled angrily, violently grabbing him by the hair for one last scathing tirade. "Clear off now, before my friend here loses his patience and puts the boot in. Understand?"
Not even stopping to brush away the slime on his clothes from the bottom of the bar, the pimply faced punk ran for the door. Ten minutes or so later, the four musicians quietly left the nightspot and returned to the security of their hotel, McCartney badly shaken by the experience.
But there were also moments of comic relief on the tour. Denny Laine recounts the time that Wings' bus driver helped himself to a luxury meal of caviar, lobster, steak, several bottles of obscenely expensive champagne, and a dozen or so hand-rolled Cuban cigars, all at his famous employer's expense. Walking into the diningroom of their five-star hotel, Paul and Linda were horrified to see the hulking Londoner living it up on their tab. A word or two to tour operator John Morris, however, and the gluttonous chauffeur was summarily dismissed. Well fed, but out of work.
Even more memorable for Laine was the time the McCartneys' famous sheepdog, Martha, soiled a priceless antique oriental carpet in the foyer of a hotel in Italy where Wings was quartered. Without missing a beat, a waiter making his way through the lobby scooped up the foul-smelling lump and stashed it away under the sterling cover of a dinner platter he then lifted aloft as if it contained an exotic culinary delicacy prepared by one of the hotel's cordon bleu chefs. Walking a neat ten paces behind the extended McCartney clan with their three kids, two dogs, and half-dozen bellboys, he followed the procession up to their suites where he dutifully deposited the prize in the commode and then held out his hand for a tip. "That was Paul and Linda," Denny recalled, laughing, as he sat with me on my boat in 1989, reciting the silly little tale, "just a couple of salt-of-the-earth millionaires from the dark side of the moon. However much they pissed me off they always made me laugh as well."
When the caretaker at High Park Farm, Duncan Cairns, got wind of the McCartneys' recent brush with the law in Sweden, he immediately drafted a letter of resignation. Working for the famous rock 'n' roller was one thing; associating with suspected "drug addicts" something else entirely. Another local piqued by the news was Campbeltown police constable Norman McPhee, who, having recently graduated from a drug identification course in Glasgow, decided to drive out and nose around the McCartney farm on the off-chance he might ferret out yet more of the menacing killer weed.
McPhee would not go away disappointed. Making a routine sweep of Paul's run-down greenhouse, there, mixed in amongst the tomatoes and marigolds, he spotted several pointy-leaved plants which seemed to match his instructor's description of marijuana. Quickly grabbing a few specimens, he hotfooted it back down to headquarters to positively identify the suspect substance. Several hours later, the keen-eyed constable returned to the unoccupied farmhouse with seven of his nosiest crimefighters, thoroughly turning the place over in an effort to uncover further incriminating evidence. Fortunately, no more was found. Charged on September 20, 1972, with three counts, which included both growing and possessing marijuana, McCartney was given a court date for the following March. Pleading a definite not-guilty on the two possession charges, he explained through his high-priced solicitors that a thoughtful fan had sent him an unmarked packet of seeds through the post which he merely planted out of curiosity to see what would spring up. This argument, however, wasn't quite good enough, and the wayward ex-Beatle ended up submitting a guilty plea on the cultivation issue for which he received a fine of SI00. The other two charges were subsequently dropped. "I was planning on writing a few songs in jail," said McCartney at the time. "You have to be careful. I look on it like Prohibition but you have to recognize the law. I think the law should be changed, make it like homosexuality with consenting adults in private. I don't think cannabis is as dangerous as drink. I'm dead against hard drugs."
Finished with touring for awhile, Wings retreated into the studio where they churned out the paralyzing rocker,"Hi, Hi, Hi," released during the latter half of 1972. Once again, the uptight BBC took offense and promptly banned the record, this time citing what they termed the "inappropriate lyrical content" of the rousing celebration of youthful sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. McCartney explains:
There was controversy over a supposed phrase in the song — "body gun." But in actual fact I used a really mad word from a surrealist play by a man called Alfred Jarry... He was a real nutter who used to cycle around Paris on his bike and had this thing called the Pataphysical Society. It was nothing but a drinking club but a Professor of Pataphysics sounds great. I used the term in "Maxwell's Silver Hammer."... Jarry wrote this theatre sketch which has the character Ubu, who's always going around worried about his "polyhedron."... So I put a line in where I said, "Lie on the bed and get ready for my —." I wondered what I should put here, so I said "polygon."... The people taking down the lyrics for us thought I said "body gun," which I thought was better. And that's the basis the song got banned on.
Fortunately, the prurient British Broadcasting Company did little to affect either the popularity or the sales of the high-energy forty-five which clocked in at number ten on the American Billboard chart.
Holed up at Abbey Road, Morgan, and Olympic Studios with his band, McCartney laid down some of his most enduring post-Beatles work during this period, including the explosive theme to the James Bond sleeper, Live and Let Die, as well as the romantic "My Love." Much of the material culled from these sessions eventually appeared on Red Rose Speedway, perhaps McCartney's most accessible LP to that date. Although he originally intended it to be a double album, Paul eventually abandoned the idea in favor of coming out as strong as possible after the relative commercial failure of both Ram and Wild Life. Although the album was rumored to have been named after the McCartneys' housekeeper, Rose Martin, McCartney refuted the idea in an 1988 interview.
Denny Laine remembers there being considerable tension in the air during the sessions because McCartney and secondary producer Glyn Johns often failed to see eye to eye on the project's often complicated musical issues. "He and Paul didn't hit it off at all," says Laine.
Paul always likes to be his own producer anyway, but at least if he's going to bring one in they've got to be able to see Paul's point of view. I could understand him, but when he's trying to come up with new sounds you might get a producer set in his ways who will not accept that this crazy new idea is ever going to work. That's what happened with Glyn. As a result though, we did experiment a lot more. We would try for different sounds, going into funny little rooms to get weird guitar noises and stuff.... In some ways the fact that they were in competition actually helped the album.
Issued in Great Britain on May 3, 1973, the brilliantly packaged LP climbed only as high as number four in the U.K., yet did manage a short stint at the top of the charts in the U.S.
Having decided that a British tour was in order to bolster the release of Red Rose Speedway, McCartney and Wings set out on a bus to Bristol on May 11. Opening up for the band was Brinsley Schwartz, a cult group with a small but loyal following, often seen on the London pub circuit. Nick Lowe, then playing bass with the group, remembers his first impressions of the magnificent McCartney. "There was always this veil in front of him: you got the impression that he was thinking about something else to what he was telling you. And whatever happens, he's having a nice day all the time: if any nasti-ness crops up it's like he never sees it. I don't think this veil was anything to do with smoking pot, although he did seem to smoke it pretty much all the time."
Lowe, who was great friends with Henry McCullough, remembers that McCullough was often very rude to Linda in front of everyone, which certainly didn't bode well for his longevity in the group. In addition, the high-living Irishman actually vomited on stage once during the taping of a promotional clip for "My Love" on "Top of the Pops." Strike two.
Altogether Wings blitzed twelve cities during the brief two-week tour, playing an additional four dates early in July.
Quite apart from McCartney's various musical endeavors, 1973 saw him involved in work on several film projects. The first, a partially animated documentary tentatively entitled "The Bruce McMouse Show," was to chronicle Wings' first European tour from the point of view of a tiny mouse who lived underneath the stage with his wife, Yvonne, and their kids, Soily, Swooney, and Swat. Beyond the Wings tune "Soily" (first performed on the 1976 Wings Over America tour), nothing further has ever surfaced from the project other than some very early animation roughs of the main characters which were offered for sale by a prominent New York memorabilia dealer several years later.
The film that many people did see of course, was his exuberant, "James Paul McCartney" special, first airing on American television on April 16, 1973. Despite generally poor reviews, the hour-long program neatly showcased McCartney's varied musical talents. It was capped by a rollicking Wings mini-concert finale. Called "overblown and silly" by Britain's Melody Maker, the eclectic special was defended by McCartney in a series of interviews in which he discussed his decision to act out his often clearly middle-of-the-road fantasies. "You could say it's fulfilling an old ambition," he told reporters. "Right at the start I fancied myself involved in musical comedy. But that was before the Beatles. Don't get me wrong. I'm no Astaire or Gene Kelly and this doesn't mean the start of something big. I don't want to be an all-rounder. I'm sticking to what I am." Shown periodically on television over the years, "James Paul McCartney" seems to have mellowed considerably with age, and stands today as an interesting, though by no means balanced, overview of its subject. Incidentally, this was the production done in settlement of Sir Lew Grade's 1971 publishing royalties suit brought against the McCartneys by ATV and Northern Songs.
Wings was definitely Paul McCartney's band. Whatever Paul wanted, he got. The feelings and opinions of those around him were largely incidental, especially when it came to allowing his band mates to express themselves creatively. Always image-conscious, McCartney at least tried to appear interested in his colleagues' thoughts and feelings. But it was all a sham; he would simply wait for the others to stop talking and then do exactly as he pleased.
Sometimes, however, people with a bit of spunk would beat him to the punch and tell him to get lost. It didn't happen often, but when it did, it inevitably left the egocentric composer dumbfounded. A case in point was Henry McCullough's departure from the band while rehearsing at the McCartneys' farm in July of 1973. Always skeptical about Linda's inclusion in the group, Henry apparently drew the line when the heavy-handed McCartney tried to tell him how to play the guitar. Jo Jo Laine recalls that Paul insisted McCullough play a certain riff in a way the veteran musician felt, was, in her words, "bubble gum." After tossing the ball back and forth for a few minutes, Henry calmly laid down his guitar, switched off his amp, and called to his wife. "Sheila! That's it. Get the car and start packing. We're getting outta here!"
Storming out of the barn, never to return, McCullough had asserted his artistic integrity before the McCartneys in a way few others had dared — a fairly heroic stance for a basically unknown, financially strapped musician who might have gone far had he simply shut up and toed the line. Of the many musicians McCartney has courted over the years, it is interesting to note that the vast majority have ended up taking a walk after bottoming out on his oppressive attitude, not to mention the ever-critical eye of wife Linda.
"I'm sure Paul wanted to say to poor Henry, 'Okay, man, do it your way,'" says Jo Jo. "But it was too late. They were both locked into their trips and neither one was about to give in."
Her husband, however, views Henry's departure a little more philosophically. As far as Laine is concerned, McCullough was most likely looking for an excuse to bail out after having gone as far as he felt he could with McCartney's mainstream music. "Henry quit because he'd made enough money to buy a house and a nice car, and he wanted to relax awhile," said Denny. "He didn't really like the big time. He couldn't handle it. ... Henry was a bit of a problem. He wouldn't want to do certain things, as he was basically into one style and we liked to kind of play the field, so to speak.... He was a bit of a rebel, that's all. It was hard work to get him to do things sometimes." Ringing up a few days later, Henry confirmed that he was indeed leaving for good, which reportedly quite upset McCartney.
Eager to go off and record their next album in some exotic locale, Paul eventually settled on Lagos, Nigeria, where EMI had their own studio. Now that McCullough was gone, however, he and Denny would have to try to take up the slack on guitar, a prospect McCartney secretly found exciting. As the days slipped by he grew increasingly keen about the African trip. "Think about all the wild rhythms and things they've got going over there," he would say to his mate, Denny. "We're gonna have the time of our lives — you wait."
For Laine, life as Paul's sidekick was fraught with exhilarating highs and devastating lows. He stuck it out with the often difficult McCartneys for ten long years, far longer than anyone else. Apart from John Lennon, no one has ever been as close, worked so intimately, or been included almost as family. But after it was all over, Laine too walked away, just like so many others, everything he ever put into the band washed away, almost as if it had never happened. According to Jo Jo, McCartney returned Denny's unquestioning trust with false promises and subterfuge, his faith with lies, his friendship with pretense. She remembers:
Denny and Paul were up on the hill near his farm having a joint one evening at sunset and Paul started talking about the album [Band on the Run]. It was the first time Paul had ever offered Denny any royalties. He said something like "Just think, man, you'll get like a quarter of a million ..." I don't remember the exact percentage, but later, when the money came in, it wasn't what Denny thought. Paul had definitely told him it was to be a certain amount because I remember Denny came home and was hugging me as he was so excited. He said, "Just think of the money we'll have from that alone, if it goes gold or platinum or anything like that." We were both very happy. But then when the album came out, although Denny got a lot of money, he said to me, "Jesus, that isn't what Paul said to me on the farm that night."
Jo Jo insists that right up until Band on the Run, Paul, never exactly lauded for his generosity when it came to paying the hired hands, kept Denny on a salary so measly the young couple were forced to kip in their van when and where they could. "When I first met Denny in 72 he made £35 a week," she recalls.
I think later he did get one raise to £75 per week. Everybody got paid the same. I remember there was an article once when Linda was busted for something, and she said she couldn't pay the fine straight away because she only got £75 a week. Knowing Paul, that's probably all he was paying his wife as well.
Money wasn't the only complaint the unpopular Mrs. Laine leveled against the McCartneys either. Asked whether she ever got the feeling that either of the couple had a wandering eye, she replied, "Yes, Linda!" Questioned further if she felt (as rumor sometimes had it) that Linda had a crush on Denny, the answer again was a definite "Yes." "Denny was the only other male allowed to spend so much time around Linda," she recalls.
Even Denny wouldn't tell me the personal things they discussed. Sometimes she'd get very upset about how she didn't really want to be in the band and would cry on his shoulder. ... I remember one time I rang up the hotel when they were on tour in Europe and she was in his room. Anyway, she tried to make it look like he was preoccupied, not necessarily with her, but she was in Denny's room and answered the phone. So she said, "Well, he's really kind of busy right now, Jo." So I said, "Oh well, he's a good fuck, isn't he, Linda?" Then she immediately said, "Hang on a second, I'll just get him." She was playing games with me so that I would get paranoid. . . . Now I don't think for one minute they ever had an affair, but there was definitely a flirtation there.
On August 9, 1973, as Wings was about to leave for Lagos, Denny Seiwell called to say he didn't really feel like going to Africa, and was quitting the band. (Privately, Seiwell too had grave doubts about Linda's role in the group.) All things considered, Paul paid a heavy price for his almost neurotic need to have his consort constantly by his side. Like his old Liverpool girlfriend Dot, ensconced amidst the Beatles as they thumped about in the Cavern, Linda wasn't to venture out of McCartney's sight, at least while he was performing. No matter what the critics, the public, the band, or even Linda herself had to say, on this point McCartney's word was law.
Now that Wings was unexpectedly reduced to a trio, the challenge of making a successful album was significantly greater. Still, if Paul and Denny were forced to get by without a proper lead guitarist then they would also somehow muddle through sans a drummer. Always a passable percussionist, McCartney decided to pick up the sticks himself, and to the surprise of many did just fine. "It looked like it was going to all be a disaster," he recalled in 1977. "One hour before we were due to fly out from Gatwick our drummer telephoned and said, 'Sorry, man, I won't be able to make it.' But, thank God, Denny Laine turned up. They were even building the studio when we got to Lagos. I was faced with doing the drumming and we would have to share the guitars and harmonies. It was a weird feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and believing that nothing can go right."
From the moment the aeronautical trio touched down in Africa things went wrong. For one thing it was still the tail end of the monsoon and the place was awash in a rolling river of mud. It was also crawling with bugs, which petrified their insectophobic engineer, old Beatles ally, Geoff Emerick.
Apart from the many mundane inconveniences, however, there were some very real threats. One day, while the band was busy laying down some bed tracks in the studio, McCartney suddenly crashed up against the mixing console, unable to breathe. Grabbing at his throat, he fought to suck down even the tiniest bit of air. Rushing to his side, Linda and Denny were convinced the thirty-two-year-old singer was having a serious heart attack. When he passed out moments later, Linda ran screaming for a doctor. After regaining consciousness Paul was sure death was imminent. Linda, Laine, and a local physician tried their best to calm him. He was later diagnosed as having had an acute bronchial spasm, probably brought on by his heavy smoking. He spent the next few days recovering at Ikeja, near the airport, in one of the houses rented for the band.
Scarier still was the night Paul and Linda were accosted by a gang of knife-wielding hoods on a dark Lagos street. The McCartneys had been walking on the sidewalk when a decrepit car containing five youths pulled up alongside and started to follow them. At first they were not particularly alarmed; starstruck locals often spotted them.
Pulling up to the curb, the five thugs jumped out of the car and swarmed around them. "Don't kill us, please!" Linda screamed through a torrent of tears. "We're musicians, you know? He's Beatle Paul!" McCartney glanced over at Linda who was tight against the wall with a very nasty blade pressed hard against her throat.
"Give it up, bastards!" one of the more menacing shouted.
"Okay, fine. Fine. Take the lot," shouted McCartney. "Just don't hurt us, that's all. We don't care about the money."
Grabbing everything of value the rich white couple were carrying, the thieves made off with not only their jewelry and cash, but also two of Linda's favorite cameras and, most upsetting of all, the cassette demos of the songs for the new album.
Attempting to compose themselves, Paul and Linda cautiously made their way to the nearby studio where the staff summoned the police. "It's a lucky thing you are both white," one of the constables confided as the couple nursed drinks aptly provided by Denny. "Otherwise they would have surely cut your throats. You see, they know that to you all blacks look alike, and so they did not fear being identified. Here, the penalty for such a crime is execution, so they had nothing to lose by killing you. You are very lucky people." Laine elaborates on the incident: "He was warned about going out after dark. . . . You see, it's a military set-up over there, so when they finally catch the guys they just take them down to the beach, tie them to a pole and shoot them publicly. . . . Anyway, Paul just thought, 'Well, we don't listen to things like that,' and they set out on foot over to my place. ... It could have been extremely nasty."
In the studio too, there were problems. "Half the stuff was just hanging out of the walls," says Laine.
Nobody knew where to plug it in. We'd give a guy twenty dollars to go out and get a pack of cigarettes and he'd come back with no change.... Ginger Baker was always trying to get us to use his studio, but then Paul felt we might be somehow unduly influenced by the whole African thing happening there....
Paul would sit around with an idea for a song and I'd learn it. Then I would play guitar and he'd look after the drums. Of course, Linda was taught her little bits as well.... The beauty of that album, everybody says, is the feel. It proved Paul and I had a very sharp needle edge, a keen eye for what we wanted. . .. The fact that it was just the two of us showed we didn't really need anybody else, although I felt we should think about getting a band together to go back out on the road.
Troubling too, was the interjection of popular native musician, Fela Ransome-Kuti into McCartney's African mix. A close friend of Ginger Baker's, Kuti met the former Fab following his high-energy set at a Lagos nightclub. The musically militant Nigerian immediately laid into the astonished McCartney over his very presence in the country. Fearing the megastar might somehow spirit away the cultural essence of his people's music, he warned him not to attempt any undue exploitation of the exotic rhythms he found there. "Maybe you should just go back to England where you came from, man," Kuti remonstrated to the pop icon. "The people don't need you here."
"Listen, mate," McCartney retorted. "We've done okay without Africa so far. We're not here to rip anybody off." Thereafter, Paul and the self-appointed custodian of African musical culture formed a tenuous, if uneasy friendship. In fact, McCartney has always secretly admired those who have dared stand up to him.
"He was apparently a kind of prince," says Denny.
Son of a chief of some tribe who had his own little set called Africa Seventy. He accused us of stealing his music, which is absolute bullshit. Talk about somebody who owns the rights to the world! If you like a piece of music and you go and sing it, that doesn't mean you're stealing it. Obviously we were influenced; we were influenced everywhere we went in the world, but he tried to cause trouble.
About the only comic relief in the extended African nightmare was the appearance on the front lawn of an entire traveling market, complete with camels and other exotic livestock. Laine recalls: "One morning we got up, drew the blinds and they were all out on the grass like the Saturday market on Portobello Road. This one guy who hitched onto me wanted to come back to England as my man Friday. Everything was for sale in Lagos."
Out of the adversity of Wings' African safari was born what stands today as the group's finest album, Band on the Run. It encompasses the very best of McCartney's work, both as a musician and a composer, heralding a deeply genuine partnership between himself and the vastly underrated Denny Laine. The album's ten tracks represent a Paul McCartney unencumbered by the dictates of a career concentrated on generating "hits" as opposed to simply making fine music. Even today, McCartney admits that the skyrocketing "Jet" is one of his favorite Wings tunes. It was one of the few Wings songs he performed on his 1989/90 world tour. Laine, on the other hand, is a little less sentimental about the triple platinum bestseller. "All it meant to me was I made a little bit more money and everybody was giving us gold albums," he reflected ruefully in 1989, "although of course, I was happy we'd made a good record."
The outlaw edge of Band on the Run, even if more in title and packaging than between the grooves, gave McCartney a refurbished image, light years away from the mushy lightweight lolly-pop he had been proliferating in his recent past, and paved the way for the majesty of more substantial works such as Tug of War and the critically panned, but progressive, Flowers in the Dirt.
The fall of 1973 saw the final reunion of the Beatles when John, Paul, and George joined forces to help their old pal Ringo boost his then-dismal solo career by contributing to what would later become his popular Ringo album. Paul's offering, the syrupy love-gone-wrong tune "Six O'Clock," worked well within the narrow perimeters of Starr's vocal range, as did Lennon's "I'm the Greatest" and Harrison's three — "Sunshine Life for Me," "You and Me (Babe)," and the hit single, "Photograph."
Denny and Jo Jo, meanwhile, were busy putting down roots. Their first child, Laine, a boy, was born in August of 1973 in Campbeltown Hospital, Scotland. The Laines had been visiting the McCartneys' farm where Denny was rehearsing with Wings. The night before little Laine's arrival everyone sat around a makeshift campfire listening to the McCartneys' romantic and sentimental tales of the births of their children. Jo Jo felt a warmth towards Paul and Linda she had previously thought impossible. Hours later, her water broke, prompting Denny to dash outside and unpack their overflowing van in the middle of the night so that his girlfriend might have somewhere to lie down during the five-minute ride to the hospital. The labor was short and the delivery without complications. Proud almost to the point of tears, Denny decided to immediately drive down to Birmingham to bring back his parents so that they too might meet their newest grandson.
"Are you sure you'll be alright, luv?" he asked, softly stroking his lady's beautiful auburn hair.
"Of course I will," whispered Jo Jo, exhausted by the birth of her first child. "Paul and Linda are only a couple of miles up the road. I'm sure they'll be looking in soon."
"Sure they will," Denny replied, bending over for one final look at his tiny son. "Hang in there. I'll be back before you know it."
As Jo Jo lay there in the quaint country hospital, the only visitor she entertained was an old Guernsey cow who stuck her mammoth head through the lace curtains one afternoon as the all-but-abandoned new mum nursed her infant son.
They knew Denny was gone. I had no visitors, no money . . . and still they didn't come. The only thing I got was a card from Heather with pictures of horses drawn on it, which I still have. It said something like, "Congratulations on the birth of your baby boy. Love, Heather and the Macs." I would have thought they could have sent a nice telegram at the very least. By that time though, I wasn't really all that shocked by their selfishness. It was pretty much par for the course.
Denny, however, feels that many of the problems between his missus and the McCartneys stemmed, at least initially, from Jo Jo's own insecurity and paranoia.
I don't believe the shit that you have to go around sending flowers to everybody all the time. Our way of life wasn't like that. I mean, Paul didn't even go to his old man's funeral. I can understand it in a way, and yet a lot of people can't. I don't think the McCartneys went out of their way to be nasty to her — a lot of that was just Jo. If she hadn't been quite so paranoid of them it wouldn't have been so bad. After all, she was invited to things. We went to Paul and Linda's house for barbecues many times ... even though they were unfair in some ways.... I was protective of her, but I also saw their point of view.
In June of 1974 McCartney decided to replace the departed Henry McCullough on guitar. Of several possibilities contemplated, he finally settled on young Jimmy McCulloch, a feisty, hard-drinking Scot from Glasgow, born June 4, 1953.
McCulloch had been something of a rock 'n' roll prodigy, joining his first hometown band, One in a Million, at the age of thirteen. "My folks helped us get a truck and backed us all the way," he later recalled. Three years on, after moving south to London, he shared in the spoils of Thunderclap Newman's smash, "Something in the Air," after being discovered by Pete Townshend in 1969. He was then hired as lead guitarist for John Mayall, taking over a position formerly held by rock legends Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Mick Taylor, and Peter Green. Although he quit the group after only a short time, Jimmy left his mark on the famous blues band, garnering some of the grandest reviews ever lavished on one so young. In 1973, he briefly joined the generic band Blue (managed by Robert Stigwood) before taking over for the late Les Harvey in Maggie Bell's Stone the Crows, after Harvey was tragically electrocuted while performing onstage. "It wasn't all glamor being a child rocker," he recalled. "I had to rely on cabs and public transport. I went for a Jethro Tull audition on the tube once. It was the Piccadilly line from Wood Green to Leicester Square, and I had to stand with my guitar upright in a packed tube. Then it turned out I was too young for the audition."
McCulloch first crossed paths with the McCartneys in Paris in 1972 when he joined in on sessions for Linda's pleasant South Seas ditty, "Seaside Woman," playing with obscure Wings sideman, Davy Lutton on drums. Two years later, the five-foot-three-inch powerhouse was retained by MPL to appear on Mike McCartney's landmark McGear LP, produced and co-written by Paul. For all McCulloch's press as an egotistical, immature little brat, Mike remembers Jimmy fondly as someone who often had difficulty coping with the stress of life at the top. "With his first wages from Wings he bought himself a new Rolls-Royce," recalls Mike.
And for some reason Paul rang me up and asked if Jimmy could crash at my place as he had been drinking heavily and was out of his head. I warned him not to think about driving himself over, but he insisted and within a little while showed up at the door. Leading him to his room I told him, "Listen. Just get your head down, son. Don't do anything else but sleep. Okay?"
Gently closing the bedroom door, McCartney saw to it that his entire family tiptoed around the house well into the next afternoon for fear of disturbing the well-oiled guitarist. "About noon I walked down to the shops for the paper," says Mike, "and noticed the Rolls was no longer out front, so I shot back into the house only to find the bed well and truly empty." He learned later that the outrageously intoxicated McCulloch had soundlessly slipped out of the house and driven all the way back to London, still thoroughly smashed out of his tree. "Jimmy always liked his ale," McCartney summed up.
McCulloch's first real assignment as a member of Wings was playing on Paul's famous Nashville sessions in June and July of 1974. While in the States McCartney also produced an album for American songstress Peggy Lee (which included the McCartney track, "Let's Love," released in October 1976). Ms Lee recalls the collaboration:
Paul and Linda McCartney are two people I sincerely like. I remember once when I was playing London I invited them up to the Dorchester[hotel] for dinner when Paul said to me, "Instead of bringing you a gift or a bottle of champagne I'm bringing you a song." It was called "Let's Love," and I was very thrilled about it. Anyway, when I got back to the United States, he and Linda came over to help record it with me, which was lovely. Later in the studio he played on the song for me and even conducted it; that whole side was all his. Unfortunately, due to an unexpected merger between my label, Atlantic, and Electra Asylum, the tune never quite made it out as a single, but one thing's for sure, that man has loads of class and we had a wonderful time working together.
While in the U.S., however, the creative juices began to flow, with the band laying down not only the classic "Junior's Farm," but also the obscure Jim McCartney instrumental, "Walking in the Park with Eloise." Later released under the Wings alias, the Country Hams, it is now perhaps the rarest of all McCartney-related cuts. In addition, "Country Dreamer," the little-known B-side of "Helen Wheels," was also recorded, along with the twangy "Sally G" and several other unreleased country standards involving the likes of Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer. "I've been in the business a long time," McCulloch later recalled, "but it never occurred to me I'd ever play with McCartney. I met a guy who worked in a studio and he told me Paul was looking for a guitarist to work on some sessions. I went along to chat about it but it was like some kind of dream. Paul was there chatting happily and I just kept staring at him, thinking to myself, 'Christ! He used to be a Beatle. And here he is talking to me like I matter.'"
Also on board for the Nashville trip was Wings' newest probationary member, cockney drummer and black belt karate champ, Geoff Britton. Invited to audition for the post along with no less than forty-nine other top-flight percussionists at the Albery Theatre, St. Martin's Lane, London, on April 26, 1974, the fair-haired Britton buried the competition, including former Jimi Hendrix drummer, Mitch Mitchell. "Mitch was on a head trip that day," says Denny. "Maybe he resented the fact that we'd asked him to audition and he wasn't getting the star treatment, which in some ways I feel a bit guilty for. Anyway, the one guy that shone at the end of the day was Geoff, and that's the truth of it."
Despite Britton's stellar performance that afternoon, the general consensus later was that allowing him in the band had been a mistake. "He was a lovely guy," Jo Jo remembers. "But he should have stuck to the karate. He was way too straight for this crowd, believe me. I mean, he didn't even smoke dope. And with potheads like Paul and Linda that in itself was grounds for immediate dismissal!" Often turning up for work clad only in his karate suit, Britton soon became the butt of innumerable jokes from the sometimes painfully cynical McCartney crowd. "What are you gonna do," Denny used to chide the ultra-confident young musician, "play the drums or chop them in two?" Musically too, Britton's take-no-prisoners drumming style didn't really mesh with Wings' concentric swirling rhythms. "It was a disaster basically," Laine recalls. "He was always talking about, 'When I get my big house And when people start talking like that, they're out the door, pal... . The guy was an opportunist, what can I say?"
While in Nashville, Wings set up camp at the luxury home of good ol' boy Junior Putnam, hence the origin of McCartney's popular single "Junior's Farm." At the sprawling ranch the group fell into a breezy routine centered around recording, partying, and otherwise enjoying the great American outdoors. "We were in a place called Lebanon," Britton recalls, "a dry county. There was no liquor allowed so there was moon-shining in the hills around us. Guys came into town in old pick-up trucks and hung out all day whittling on bits of wood. It was straight out of a movie."
Almost from the very beginning it was apparent that the hard-driving Britton's days were numbered. Not surprisingly, Geoff has a slightly different version of his rise and fall through the politically supercharged pecking order that was Wings. "There was a controversy once over the day's rehearsal. Everyone was a bit stoned and so it got heavy. Jimmy insulted Linda and there were tears. Then I told Jimmy what I thought of him." Walking out, slamming the door behind him, Britton tried to hit up one of Wings' management team for enough money to allow him to see a bit of the U.S.A. before returning home to England. Although various members of the road crew tried to calm him down enough to go back in and pick up the sticks, Britton says he was adamant about his de-cision to leave the band.
The next afternoon, however, Paul and Linda personally expressed their desire that he continue in the group, an act which, for the moment anyway, allowed Wings to resume working in the converted garage they called home. "It's alright if a band has come up together and they are all millionaires," reflected Britton some years later. "They can talk to each other as equals. But with Wings there were these incredible imbalances which manifested themselves in so many ways. For example, we were offered a gig to play a festival with Stevie Wonder for half an hour. The money being offered was a fortune. I instinctively said, 'Let's do it!' My cut of that alone would have bought me a house! I said, 'Fucking great!' But Paul didn't want to do it. So as a result I didn't do any live gigs with the band."
Interestingly, a rare film account of Britton's Wings days exists in the form of One Hand Clapping, a long-unreleased documentary of Paul and the band in rehearsal. Directed by David Litchfield and backed by MPL, the hour-long peek into the private world of Wings has only recently made its way into the hands of collectors, selling briskly on the underground bootleg market for up to a hundred dollars.
Following their month-long stint in Tennessee, the band flew home, where apart from a November 20 appearance on Britain's "Top of the Pops" to promote "Junior's Farm," nothing of much significance occurred until their January 15, 1975 departure for New Orleans to record tracks for the Venus and Mars album. In spite of the gaiety of Mardi Gras and the excitement of working in such a creatively stimulating atmosphere, all was not well amongst McCartney's musical cohorts. Britton remembers: "It was very fragile. Words would be said and Linda inevitably got upset. Jimmy would say something about the chords being wrong, and the worst thing you can do to a musician who is struggling is to put them under pressure. . . . Jimmy would be short with Denny too about his tuning. If he came in wrecked and hung over everything about him would be negative."
While it's true that tensions amongst Wings' inner circle were at an all-time high during this period, the public had no idea of just how deep the wounds were. Once again, Geoff Britton:
I was so depressed. I dreaded going to New Orleans with them. It should have been the happiest time of my life. But I was miserable and hated it. There was no sincerity in the band and every day it was a fight for survival, a fight to re-establish yourself. Denny could be very cruel. He and Jimmy were supposed to be close muckers who would go out boozing together and yet, when the chips were down, he tried to get Jimmy shafted out with a knife in the back. He's a bastard. I should have chinned him. I regret it now.
Although no one had yet actually resorted to physical violence, the dramatic dislike Wings' new drummer held towards Jimmy and Denny was certainly more than mutual. "They definitely thought I was a fly boy, a bit of a Herbert," says Geoff. He recalls:
They were pretty ignorant guys really, just good players and that was it. They were into heavy drinking and over-the-top drugs. And of course I didn't participate in anything. . . . We would go to parties and the tables would be laid out with coke, and anything you wanted was there. So everybody got absolutely legless, on the knowledge that I would drive them all home. . . . Unfortunately, I let it slip a few times, with the Londoner's attitude, about the "thick Northerners." And I definitely thought they were thick Northerners, that's for sure.
Geoff Britton was formally "terminated" from Wings by the McCartneys, who came into his room one morning during the sessions for Venus and Mars and casually broke the news. There weren't any gut-wrenching scenes, however, as Britton also realized that things had indeed reached the point of no return: "When I first joined I was promised royalties and we talked in telephone numbers. Then it became just session fees and bonuses. . . . Maybe I should have given McCulloch and Laine the pasting they both deserved. Maybe then Jimmy wouldn't be dead now and we'd all still be with Wings."
Once again, smack dab in the middle of an important project without a proper drummer, McCartney was forced to look about for a replacement. It was Tony Dorsey, leader of Wings' occasional horn section, who first suggested burly-bearded American, Joe English for the job. Born in Rochester, New York, on February 7, 1949, Joe was eighteen when he joined a local band, Jam Factory. Touring the country for the next six years, English and his fellow Factory workers became well known as a first-class support group, regularly opening for such pop luminaries as Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, and Janis Joplin. When the group split up in 1973, English's life was on the rocks. With Joe securely out of work for what seemed like millennia his wife left him, taking their two young children with her.
Settling in the unlikely musical mecca of Macon, Georgia Joe met and fell in love with a pretty young girl named Dayle. It was strictly love in a garret though, as the easy-going drummer was still not exactly in high demand. "I was on the bottom," says English. "But Dayle stuck with me, kept my spirits up, and helped me get through the year." Joe was rehearsing with singer Bonnie Bramlett for an upcoming tour when the call came through, inviting him to meet with Paul in New Orleans in anticipation of joining Wings. He readily accepted, but first made sure he found a steady replacement for his old boss, Bramlett.
After working with Wings for the first two months of 1975, Joe followed them to Los Angeles where they went to work overdubbing and mixing down the new album at Wally Heider Studios. Driving with him to a session one day, Paul turned to the drummer and asked if he'd like to join up permanently, to which English replied simply, "Yes." "In the studio," says Joe, "Paul made it so if you wanted to come in every day and be part of the recording, mixing, ideas and putting it all together, you could. He really gave everyone a lot of freedom. Of course, if he thought something should be played a certain way, he'd tell you to do it, and ninety-nine percent of the time I'd go along because it was usually the right thing. But if I came up with something better, I'd tell him and he'd go for it."
Wings' stay in Los Angeles was punctuated by an appearance of Paul and Linda at the Grammy telecast where they scooped up an award for Band on the Run as album of the year. Ensconced in several luxury suites at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel the band partied lavishly. For once, says Jo Jo, the sky was the limit, with absolutely no restrictions placed by the normally frugal McCartneys on either room tabs or the band's extravagant hire cars. As a matter of fact, Joe English's brand new Porsche was stolen from the hotel's parking lot. Jo Jo can't quite recall if it was ever recovered. "It was a fantastic time." She remembers: "Venus and Mars turned out to be such a great album, and after the phenomenal success of Band on the Run, Wings were virtually the most sought-after group of people in Hollywood. My sister and I were pursued by Warren Beatty; I was wined and dined by Rod Stewart and made more than comfortable with a steady stream of the best Pharmaceuticals the city had to offer."
Paul and Linda also partook of California's good life. On March 3, 1975, the couple once again ran afoul of the law when their late-model silver Lincoln Continental ran a red light and was pulled over by a highway patrolman. Leaning through the window, the officer noticed the strong, pungent odor of what he correctly assumed to be marijuana, subsequently uncovering all of seventeen grams of the weed from Mrs. McCartney's purse.
Initially, both Paul and Linda were placed under arrest, prompting Linda to protest violently, swearing to all that was sacred that the contraband was hers and hers alone, McCartney's two preceding pot busts having already made it a legal nightmare for him to obtain the necessary visas to enter the U.S. Charged at the West Los Angeles police station with possession of marijuana, the indignant strawberry blonde was held for two hours before being released on $500 bail. Ironically, the multi-millionaire McCartney had only $200 on him at the time, and was forced to track down old Apple man Peter Brown at the Beverly Hills Hotel for a loan. To make matters worse, there was some concern that another charge, of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, might be leveled against her, as the three McCartney girls were also in the car at the time of the incident.
Although the charge was eventually dropped, the judge ordered Linda to attend six drug counseling sessions with a London psychiatrist. "The only real unfortunate thing," Paul later commented about being busted, "is that it starts to get you the reputation as a kind of druggie."
In the McCartneys' case, of course, the reputation was well deserved, as Laine recalls:
He and Linda did smoke a fantastic amount of the stuff by anybody's standards. They smoked joints the way ordinary people smoke cigarettes. Really, I don't think smoking that quantity of cannabis did Paul and Linda any good. Sometimes smoking a little pot helps to give you good ideas, but so much of it makes you very indecisive and takes away your self-confidence. That's why Paul's albums take him ages and ages to make. He just cannot be decisive about anything. It's very frustrating for people working with him because he changes his mind so often.
Dope or no dope, Venus and Mars was a certified smash. Soaring almost immediately to number one in Britain and America, the clever, well-crafted, impressively packaged album contained such memorable, listenable tunes as "Listen to What the Man Said," "Letting Go," and "Rock Show" as well as Denny's stirring "Spirits of Ancient Egypt" and, ironically, the Jimmy McCulloch anti-drug opus "Medicine Jar."
Altogether, three singles were culled from the album throughout the year, racking up further incredible royalties for the "just plain folks" McCartneys. Some of the Wings natives, however, were growing restless. According to an undated MPL memo titled "Fees for Artists' Services" obtained in the research stage of this work, Paul's right-hand man, Denny Laine, while reasonably well paid for his creative input, took home nothing close to the millions of pounds his celebrated employer was steadily making off the band. In 1973, it says, Laine was paid a "retainer fee" of 55,730. The following year this dropped to a surprisingly paltry £3,408. A further entry states: "Services up to August 1974 to include albums to Band on the Run and singles to "Junior's Farm"... £40,000."
By 1975, Laine was apparently doing a bit better, taking in a cool $100,000 for his work on Venus and Mars and the singles "Listen to What the Man Said," "Letting Go," and "Rock Show." Still, by rock star standards, and considering the incredible number of units these records were selling, Laine and his family were just about ready for the bread line.
In February of that year Denny purchased Yew Corner, a marvelous gothic estate in the tiny village of Laleham, Suffolk, for the bargain-basement sum of just £37,500. According to Jo Jo, MPL and the Eastmans bought the property first on the musician's behalf so that the family could move in right away. Later, after the appropriate financing had been arranged, Laine was to buy it back for a sum based on a monthly mortgage. Jo Jo recalls:
They wanted to set it up that way for tax reasons. And although we were in the fortunate position of being able to pay cash for the place, old man Eastman insisted that it would be better in the long run to have a mortgage. Maybe he was right. But, when the money began slowing down after a few years, making the payments became almost impossible. I realize now that if we had simply kept it free and clear like we wanted, we would probably still have the house today.
Although of the Wings "family" Jo Jo Laine has been the most publicly critical of the McCartneys, the usually magnanimous Denny has occasionally vented his spleen as well:
McCartney was always making excuses for not paying us properly by saying his money was all tied up in the Beatles' company, Apple. Finally, I got so sick of it I blew up and said I was going to leave — so he gave me £30,000 ... I was kept in the dark all the time about money, just given a check now and again. You can't pin Paul down. He treated me like a youngster, the way he treats his own younger brother, like a kid. His attitude was, "Stick by me and you'll be alright!" But I don't believe I was getting a fair crack. When I pushed him into a corner he'd say: "Talk to so-and-so." It was never his fault. I began to hate the whole thing. At the end of the day I feel he used his business machinery to confuse me.
It was around this time too that Denny and Jo Jo started having their share of personal difficulties as well. Both of them always rather sexually precocious, Jo Jo was sure Denny was having an affair with a young woman by the name of Consuela he had met in Nashville. According to Jo, after Wings' return from Nashville she found a collection of Polaroid photos of Laine and this new lady secreted away in Jimmy McCulloch's bags. "It was one of the worst moments of my life," she remembers. "I felt like my heart was being ripped out of my nose. The pictures were real cozy too. There was Denny with his arm around this gorgeous-looking Spanish girl. So I started screaming and freaking out so much the doctor had to be called who fortunately gave me a sedative. I almost gave birth to Heidi Jo [the couple's second child together] right then and there."
Six months later, Jo Jo happened to spy the Mediterranean beauty in New Orleans while Wings were in town working on Venus and Mars. Without missing a beat, the insanely jealous Jo Jo leaped onto her leggy rival in a restaurant, tearing out her long black hair by the handful and digging her tapered ruby-red nails into the poor girl's flesh with murderous intent. Fortunately, one of her girlfriends was also there and somehow managed to pull the outraged Jo Jo away from the terrified young woman. Needless to say, this was hardly the kind of profile the conservative McCartneys had in mind for their band. Throughout the long, checkered history of rock 'n' roll, Jo Jo Laine stands firmly as one of the art form's most colorful and determined bit players.
After Venus and Mars finally hit the stores and duly spun its way to the top, the high-flying McCartneys made their inevitable migration home to England, this time to their new family home in Sussex. First spotted by Paul in an upmarket real-estate catalog, the tiny, perfectly round three-bedroom cottage was the ideal country retreat for the unostentatious McCartneys. Peter Brown comments:
The house is circular, like a large gazebo, with the rooms cut up like pieces of pie. This odd architecture leaves little privacy, as you can hear every sound from room to room. There are few trappings of a rock star or even a rich man. The gold records and expensive stereo equipment are in his offices in London. The furniture in the house is simple and well worn, the floors littered with newspapers, magazines, and children's toys. There are so many books, plants, and knick-knacks everywhere that it's easy to miss the black baby grand piano in the corner.
That summer (1975) Wings rehearsed like demons in a derelict movie house in the nearby town of Rye for what Paul envisioned as a worldwide "tour to end all tours." Originally, the plan was to kick off the overseas shows in Australia, moving on to Japan, always a Beatles stronghold. Unfortunately, because of McCartney's previous marijuana convictions the straight-laced Japanese government would not grant him a visa, citing his "criminal record" in England.
The band decided to test the waters by going out first at home, playing eleven dates between September 9 and September 23. The meticulously orchestrated concerts were well received, bolstering everyone's enthusiasm for the tour ahead.
On October 28, 1975, Wings jetted via Qantas Airlines to Australia. Altogether they did nine shows, commencing at the Entertainment Centre in Perth on November 1. From there they rumbled on to play two shows in Adelaide, two in Sydney, two in Brisbane, and a final two in Melbourne. McCartney remembers this, Wings' first major international outing: "We had fab fun.... The audiences were great and we just dug playing. It was more like a holiday."
So wildly successful were the concerts that tickets were being scalped on the underground for upwards of $500, or, what McCartney playfully called, "Sinatra prices." It soon became clear that Wings' incredible popularity had gone through the roof, forcing the band to film one of the shows and air it on TV for "all the people who couldn't get to see us." McCartney also made sure a copy was sent to Japan, just to show all the folks there what they'd missed. The two-hour broadcast was followed by a long, drawn-out panel discussion on the pros and cons of smoking marijuana. Yawn.
Jo Jo subsequently described an incident in Australia as "The Crudest Thing Linda Ever Did." Out with the band for an afternoon of sightseeing on one of Wings' few days off, Paul invited almost the entire entourage for a coach trip to take in some of the local sights, including a visit to a nearby zoo to see the koala bears. Mixed in amongst the roadies, management personnel, and band members was Rose, by far the McCartneys' most trusted and loyal employee. Conservative, middle aged, cheery, and cockney to the core, she showed up ready for the big day decked out in her sportiest summer wear complete with an ancient Kodak and a surprising new coiffure she'd had done especially for the grand occasion. According to Jo Jo, as everyone was climbing onto the bus, Linda made a point of calling out to the excited housekeeper, "Oh no, Rose. Not you! You're not going. I've put aside some mending for you upstairs. Some of the children's things. They've needed doing for ages now."
Hurt and embarrassed beyond words, the submissive Rose stepped down off the coach and scooted off without a word. "Everyone was stunned at Linda's complete meanness," says Jo Jo. "Even Paul felt a bit funny, I think. Rose always used to tell me what a lady Jane Asher was. I wouldn't like to repeat what she used to say about Linda."
Making their way back to England, Paul and the band booked themselves into Abbey Road in January of 1976 to begin work on their next album, later called Wings at the Speed of Sound. "The idea of that LP," says Denny, "was to try and showcase each member of the band."
Of course, I'd already had some promotion, having done the Buddy Holly project with Paul. As an individual, I suppose, I was a little bit more well known than the other guys. The idea was to try and take some of the pressure off Paul as far as it being just "Paul McCartney and Wings" all the time. He wanted to promote it as a proper band as well. Perhaps if we had done another album with that sort of line up we might have ended up a tighter all round band. Who knows?
Speed of Sound remains a tribute to Paul McCartney's wish to accord his musical cohorts at least a smattering of recognition as individual artists with their own creative agendas. It came off rather well too, despite the tedious, unfocused cover art by Linda McCartney and Clive Arrowsmith. "This is much more of a group album," said Paul at the time. "I always felt that the tunes Denny was producing weren't really big enough for him, so I wanted to write something that was a bit more epic. So we recorded 'The Note You Never Wrote,' and then took it from there with the rest of the group." Linda McCartney sings "Cook of the House" while Joe English performs "Must Do Something About It." Jimmy McCulloch's contribution is "Wino Junko" which, like "Medicine Jar," he co-wrote with Colin Allen. "With Denny it was very natural for him to sing leads," McCartney continued, "because he's really a lead vocalist anyway. I don't like the idea of me doing all the vocals and Denny just harmonizing, because it seems a waste. With the others it was just a thing that happened, and if it didn't come off we'd just skip it; I could always fill in with something else. But they all seemed to work."
Issued in May 1976, the album did well, eventually spawning two popular singles, "Silly Love Songs" backed by "Cook of the House" that April, and "Let 'em In" sporting the sassy Motown-inspired, "Beware My Love" on the B side, released in July.
After his wife passed away in 1956 Jim McCartney stayed close to home, caring for his two sons. When the Beatles hit it big, however, and Mike began to have some success with the Scaffold, Jim began to think about his own future. Quitting work at Paul's behest in the wake of the first great wave of Beatlemania, Jim settled into his new life, moving with Mike to Rembrandt in 1964. For the first time in his life the senior McCartney had time on his hands. Although Paul insisted he employ two part-time gardeners to help with the reasonably extensive grounds, Jim himself maintained a first-class greenhouse on the property and tenderly cared for a mind-boggling assortment of flowering shrubs and fancy grapevines. Another of his favorite pastimes, now that he was officially a member of the landed gentry, was bird watching. Trekking into town regularly for afternoons of gentle socializing in the pubs, he would often nip into the local library and pick up a book or two on ornithology.
On November 24, 1964, Jim married a thirty-four-year-old widow named Angela Williams to whom he proposed after just three nights out together. At first, Angie, as she liked to be called, was somewhat dubious about the May-September romance, but was lonely after her husband's tragic death in a road accident several years before. "We were two lonely people," commented the elder McCartney some years later. "It was nice to be really close to someone again, after all those years on my own."
He was especially pleased that Angie brought with her to the marriage her charming little five-year-old daughter, Ruth, whom Paul reportedly nicknamed "Scabby." Jim doted on her. Once, after she broke her leg in an accident, Paul presented her with a puppy they named Hamish. Recalling that first meeting with her famous stepbrother, Ruth reflects: "One night I remember a man coming into the bedroom with mother and lifting me onto his lap. When I became fully conscious I saw it was Paul McCartney. I fainted clean away."
Although Paul and Mike would later reject both their new stepmum and kid sister, in the beginning the family was quite close. Ruth remembers being taught to ride her bicycle by Jane Asher and racing around the front yard with both sheepdog Martha and Paul in hot pursuit. To McCartney's credit, during those early Beatle years his father wanted for nothing. As was the case with all the Beatles' parents, an account was established from which the elder McCartney could draw funds at any time. "The change was a bit sudden, coming as it did when I was sixty-two," Jim remembered in 1967. "It took a while to get used to it. Now I've taken to it like a duck to water. I haven't started saying 'glaas' or 'baath,' but I'm enjoying everything. It's as if I've always been used to it."
According to Angie McCartney, however, after Linda Eastman appeared on the scene things began to deteriorate. Speaking in the London papers following Jim's death, she, like so many others once close to the former Beatle, complained bitterly about not only her stepson's penny-pinching, but also what she suggested had been an apparent change in his affections towards his own father. Claiming that after Jim died she and her daughter were forced to move out of Rembrandt due to dwindling finances, Angie also noted that during Paul and Linda's frequent visits north she had to make do on a scant twenty pounds per week housekeeping money, while Linda had her family's groceries shuttled in by train from Fortnum and Mason's in London.
She also claimed that on the few occasions Jim and Angie went to stay at the McCartneys' farm they were forced to sleep on dirty mattresses thrown haphazardly across the cold, concrete floor. In addition, said Angie, the whole place was so dirty and unkempt that flies and other insects continually fell from the ceiling into people's dinners.
Angie confided to Mike McCartney that shortly before Jim's death at his home in Heswall on March 13, 1976, from complications of his crippling arthritis, he raised himself up a little in bed and said softly, "I'll be with Mary soon." A few days later, James McCartney was cremated and his ashes interred at Landican Cemetery in Liverpool during a brief family ceremony. Mike was late; Paul didn't show. Whatever Paul might have felt, he opted for his business-as-usual demeanor in the face of grief. There's no doubt, however, that McCartney definitely loved and respected his father, perhaps more than anyone else in his life. But somewhere deep inside him was still the Liverpool boy who lost his mum at too early an age. It was a wound that had covered over but never really healed. From his mother's death forward, it was safer just to try to look the other way. In his mind no one he loved would ever die again. The emotionally vulnerable pop star just couldn't make it through any other way.
A regrettable postscript to the Angela Williams McCartney story is her sale of Paul's birth certificate to a U.S. investor for an unknown amount. In November of 1990 the document was sold for $18,000 at an auction in Houston, Texas. After his successful bid, Brian Taylor, 26, of Washington, D.C., observed that his passion for Beatles memorabilia had perhaps "gone a little too far."
Two days after McCartney's father died, Wings began a brief European tour as part of their on-going global assault on the youth of the world. Playing their first show at Copenhagen's Falkoner Theatre, the band then moved on to West Germany where they gave a particularly stunning show at the Deutschlandhalle in West Berlin. Finally, Wings touched down in Rotterdam for an appearance at the Ahoy Sportpaleis before jetting home to England.
The famous Wings Over America tour was scheduled to have begun at the end of March 1976, but had to be postponed due to Jimmy McCulloch's fracture of his index finger during a barroom brawl in Paris. About a month later the tour kicked off with a show at the Tarrant County Convention Center in Fort Worth. Denny Laine recalls some of the rigors of the demanding series of gigs: "We would base ourselves in an area and then take a private plane or 'starship' as they used to call them, to the gig. Afterwards, we'd come off stage, still in our stage gear, get in the limo, go to the plane and fly back home. We did that twice a day for weeks on end, using our plane like you would a car. Most of the fun, unfortunately, inevitably goes with the roadies."
To help relieve the tedium of the road, individual band members would often sneak off into the cockpit for a quick turn at the wheel, on one occasion sending the deluxe, specially equipped aircraft into a tailspin. McCartney, who had been playing cards with Linda and a couple of the road crew at the back of the aircraft, ended up in a very unhappy heap in the center aisle, screaming bloody blue murder at the highflying, spaced-out pranksters. Laine, who himself had a go, was piloting the plane on the basis of a book he was then reading called Anyone Can Fly, later the title of one of his most interesting solo albums. He comments: "When you take anything off automatic pilot it goes all over the place for a moment or two. At one point, Steve [the brass player] took the plane into a terrible dive, sending everybody at the back flying inside the plane. . . . Paul was very pissed off about that, yeah. Then he found out we'd all been flying for weeks. His bottle went, as they say."
Not all of the high flying was confined to the air. Around the time of Wings' two sold-out concerts at San Francisco's Cow Palace on June 13 and 14, Jo Jo ran across an old coke connection. While Denny didn't mind a neighborly toot every now and then, he drew the line when it came to either foolishly shelling out big bucks or running the risk of putting either himself or his famous boss in jeopardy. Jo Jo, on the other hand, simply liked to party. Next to that, any other considerations ran a consistent and pitiful second. "I couldn't ask Denny for the two thousand dollars I needed for the ounce," the often outrageous goodtime girl recalls. "At first I thought of telling him it was for a new dress, but he never would have believed it. I'd already brought along more clothes than Paul and Linda combined." Sneaking into an empty dressing room, Jo Jo happened upon a briefcase belonging to one of the road managers, filled with dozens of primo front-row seats reserved for the McCartneys' invited guests and family. Unwilling to overlook such a karmacally golden opportunity, Jo Jo scooped up her booty and left.
Having made up her mind to go outside and scalp the prized seats, she now faced a serious dilemma. What if, God forbid, she were recognized? Imagine, Denny Laine's old lady busted for hustling stolen tickets to her boyfriend's own concert. The headlines could be brutal. Not to mention what it might do to her already terribly rocky relationship with the ever-scandal-conscious McCartneys. "I just couldn't go out there looking like my normal glamorous self," recalls Jo Jo, self-mockingly. "So I grabbed an old raincoat and a head scarf from one of the cleaning ladies, messed up my hair, and disguised myself as a kind of rock 'n' roll bag lady." Not surprisingly, the premium tickets were all gone in one chaotic rush, leaving Jo Jo with more wadded-up bills than a crack dealer on a Saturday night. "Anyway, I had more than enough for the coke which I used to put in smaller packages so that no one actually sussed how much I had. Old Jimmy [McCulloch] and I, especially, used to like having some blow around, as did Denny. . . . Fortunately, we then had enough coke to keep us all going for a bit more of the tour. I wouldn't say that the band was strung out, but everyone certainly enjoyed a good buzz." Finally, Jo Jo reveals that she didn't actually offer any of the stimulant to McCartney, fearing he might wonder how she got it. Besides, she figured, what if he suddenly put two and two together regarding the tickets? Linda, on the other hand, was apparently a different matter altogether:
Once on the airplane we did it in the ladies' room. Linda asked, "Do you have some coke?" So I said, "Do you want to do some?" And she replied, "Sure." So we went into the ladies' room and had a good snort. That was one of the few pleasant memories I have of Linda because she was like a buddy, and genuinely so. That's why it's so confusing being with those people, because when you actually got a good feeling from them it went right through your soul. But then, the next day, there they were, looking down at you all over again. That was the only time I ever did it with Linda on the tour. In Liverpool though, I had some and we all enjoyed a snort. Even Paul.
By June 24, 1976, Wings Over America was history. The night before, at the Forum in L.A., Ringo Starr had walked on stage during the group's final encore and presented his old band-mate with a bouquet of flowers. It was a touching scene that seemed to suggest, at least as far as Ringo and Paul were concerned, that the bitter feud over the Beatles' legacy was finally over. At least on a personal level.
Altogether Wings played twenty cities during the six-week tour, reaching over three million rabid fans who often queued for hours to win the chance of seeing the one-time Beatle go through the paces with his new band. While extravagant multimillion-dollar tours are now the order of the day, Wings Over America was the first big show to utilize not only lasers and truck loads of other space-age equipment, but also computers and the expertise to pull it all off. All told there were over a hundred people out on the road with Wings at any given time, an astounding number to both coordinate and maintain. The seas of humanity washing around the venues also created problems for the often harried Wings entourage as well. Road manager Trevor Jones explains: "The first thing I had to do every day was to look into security chop-off points of access, and make sure that the hall staff understood the general plan. There were a lot of people with backstage passes and they had to be looked after diplomatically. The crew had to have room to work, but people mustn't be hassled. Only once did an accident occur, when someone kicked one of the power cables and cut out half the sound system." Culled from the concerts was a live three-record set (released in December of 1976 as Wings Over America) and a thoughtfully produced, entertaining television special, Wings Over the World, first aired on CBS in America on March 16, 1977.
Despite Paul's king-size concern for always looking good in the eyes of his fans, there are those difficult moments when being congenial is clearly not enough. If, in the course of one of these little five- or ten-minute "dreams come true" for a fortunate McCartney loyalist, Paul feels suddenly uneasy or trapped, he will casually reach down and scratch his elbow, a sign to one of his ever-present minders to immediately excuse the singer on the basis of some (imaginary) pressing engagement. Such a plan is of course perfect for the Teflon-coated star: it allows him to evade any personal responsibility for abruptly ending the interview, and to skate away on a pretense of embarrassed apologies, looking daggers at the naughty blighter who dared interfere with this all-important encounter between McCartney and his public.
During his off-hours Denny Laine had always been particularly enamored of boating and the sometimes unpredictable but generally laid-back lifestyle that accompanies it. One of the first things he bought with his newfound relative riches from the band was a forty-foot cabin cruiser he called the Louis Phillipe after Jo Jo's father. For a time, he kept the vessel in Rye harbor in Sussex, learning the ropes, every once in a while taking out his mate Paul for a spin along the tiny seaport's jagged coast. On Laine's birthday one year, Paul and Linda presented him with a plaque which boldly declared: "A Boat Is a Hole in the Ocean Surrounded by Wood in Which a Man Continually Pours Money." It was a good laugh alright, but turned out to be the source of inspiration for one of Wings' most memorable and unusual professional interludes, the recording of their London Town LP while camping out on the chartered yachts Fair Carol, Samala, Wanderlust, and El Torn in the American Virgin Islands.
Although much of the initial work took place at Abbey Road between February 7, 1977, and the end of March, it was the sessions on the Fair Carol (for one month starting on May 1) that truly shaped the tone of the ambitious project. McCartney recalls: "After a few phone calls to the Record Plant in L.A. to organize the equipment which would be taken on board the Fair Carol, we were off to St. Thomas. From there we sailed to St. John's, a neighboring island, and just after sunset coasted into Watermelon Bay which had been selected as the least choppy spot around."
Another more practical reason McCartney may have had for recording in such an unorthodox location was the ever-present problem of tax. Although he suffered mightily under the exacting tax laws of Great Britain (paying at times as much as 98 percent of his gross income), at least it is his home and there is the off-chance that the money might eventually be used for some public good. When it comes to paying tax elsewhere in the world though, McCartney tightens his grasp significantly. Recording, as he was, anchored in international waters there was the possibility that, taxwise, he might fare a little better.
Although Linda joined her husband on the working vacation, according to Jo Jo, none of the other Wings wives or girlfriends were invited to tag along. "At the time Linda was very pregnant and I think she was intimidated by the girls perhaps wearing a bikini around Paul," she reflects. "Jimmy's girlfriend was the Playmate for February 1976 so we would have both gone down there looking pretty terrific. I remember Linda saying, 'Well, some women look lovely pregnant.' Still, if a woman is pregnant she doesn't generally wear a bikini, but Linda sure did! She never shaved or anything, either. I can recall Denny going on about her 'dog' hair hanging out everywhere. It must have been dreadfully embarrassing."
Once again the McCartneys were pestered by the police. This time three of the boats in their control were apparently visited by suspicious U.S. customs officials, prompting charter boat liaison Peter Baker to write MPL executive Alan Crowder a terse letter threatening to cancel their contract if the band were caught with any illegal drugs. McCartney's 1982 song "Wanderlust" from the Tug of War album alludes to the unhappy incident.
Musically, too, there were problems. The sometimes painful particulars of multi-track recording aside, trying to get decent sounds aboard a bobbing boat was almost impossible. At one point, pothead Paul wondered what it would be like to try to play with the boat actually underway. He found out. Ten minutes later, the roadies were still trying to extricate Joe English from his drum kit. Even when things went well there were still plenty of hassles. One evening, as the band was wailing away, nailing down some new material, they were visited by rangers from the St. John's National Park Commission for breaking the park's rule banning any amplified music after 10:00 p.m. What a bummer.
On the same expedition Alan Crowder broke his heel after slipping down a narrow stairway and had to be rushed to a local hospital by water ambulance. The same day, Denny was taken to Caneel Bay for treatment of a severe case of sunstroke while Geoff Emerick electrocuted his foot in a control room mishap. Jimmy McCulloch suddenly went deaf in one ear, while Record Plant advisor Jack Crymes developed a painful throat infection. To top things off one of the crew even lost his false teeth overboard. So much for a weekend in paradise.
Despite the traumas and distractions, Wings did manage to get down to work. Mark Vigars, at the time an assistant engineer with EMI, recalls the band's daily routine:
By Monday, May 2, 1977, serious recording 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.
London Town turned out to be quite a fine album. Even Denny was pleased, given as he was the chance to include two solo compositions. "I thought that was a really good record," Laine recalls. "At the time I was going through this thing of not being able to see my children as much as I would have liked, so artistically I was preoccupied by those kind of themes." His "Children Children" was, according to Jo Jo, originally titled "Laine and Heidi" but at the last moment the title was nixed by Paul as "too sentimental." The other, thematically related, Laine track, was "Deliver Your Children."
Like Band on the Run, London Town was more a joint effort by Paul and Denny than the collective effort of Wings. Linda's creative input was minimal, while Joe English and Jimmy McCulloch acted essentially as session men. Among the tunes worked on in earnest by McCartney and Laine were the title track itself, "Morse Moose and the Grey Goose," "Famous Groupies," and the ethereal "Don't Let It Bring You Down."
Following Wings' extended day in the sun, the band moved on to AIR Studios in London where they continued working through the first half of December. In January of 1978 they returned to Abbey Road, polishing off the last few bits of the album by January 23.
Now that London Town was safely in the can, the group lay back for a bit to plot their next move. Everyone, that is, except Jimmy McCulloch who had left the band on September 8 of the preceding year after a row with his Beatle boss on the farm in Scotland.
For all his music business millions, Paul McCartney seemed somehow compelled to feign poverty by living in the most modest digs possible. Of course, having the luxury of his money to fall back on made the humble life that much easier. If he wanted to go and stay on his muddy, rat-infested farm for a while, no sweat; he could always beat a hasty retreat back to the sanitary sanctity of St. John's Wood if things became just a bit too spartan. Not so, however, for the rest of Wings. Although each had at least his own apartment down south, only Denny really had a proper home. And financially, despite McCartney's pretense at running the band democratically, the Grand Canyon gulf between his paycheck and theirs was almost embarrassing. Although as old hippies, the boys in the band could in a way appreciate their leader's need to isolate himself from the prying eyes of the world, being cloistered at the ass end of the earth wasn't always easy. "The place they expected us to stay in was more like a barn than anything resembling a house," recalls Jo Jo. "The walls, floors, everything, was all cement. I remember Jimmy used to call it 'the bunker.' There was no carpeting, only a couple of old chairs and some ragged pee-stained mattresses." Apparently, the "Cottage," where the roadies lived, was no better, with walls so bare that, one night, after a dozen or so strong hash-filled spliffs the downtrodden road crew rebelled by drawing a television set on the wall and then gathering around, pretending to watch it.
Meanwhile the band's shanty was devoid of hot water; any washing-up or serious cooking had to be done either at the roadies' or in an adjacent outhouse. Jo Jo Laine:
I thought to myself, "I bet Paul and Linda are living in luxury over the hill." But their place was actually smaller than the one we were living in. All they had to their advantage was a television set. They didn't live much better except that they had hot water. I guess when some people have so much money it's like a sickness — they have to try and prove they didn't do it all strictly for the cash. I mean, their children would have odd socks on, for Christ's sake. And I know for a fact that many of the dresses Stella had worn were the same little frocks I saw Mary in. I remember there was that one famous red-and-white-checkered dress. I'm sure there's been loads of pictures taken of both the girls in that. I must say, however, the kids were always reasonably happy, or at least appeared to be.
While the rest of the band were older and took a lot of the day-to-day inequities in stride, Jimmy McCulloch was never quite so charitable. The first major falling-out between McCartney and the five-foot-nothing guitar player occurred during Wings Over America, backstage at the Boston Garden on May 22, 1976. According to the Laines and other credible sources, the two got into an argument over McCulloch not wanting to go back out on stage for a second encore. Jo Jo explains: "Something pissed him off. I think maybe the sound went wrong. It certainly wasn't because the crowd wasn't responsive. Anyway, he just said, 'No. I'm not going out.' He and Paul were both swearing like crazy and then before you know it, Paul had him on the ground and just whacked him one in the face. I'm fairly sure he ended up going out there after that."
Назад к оглавлению
The final straw, however, came as a result of Jimmy protesting the decidedly un-showbiz way McCartney elected to treat his superstar cohorts. "We were staying in a pretty rundown cottage," says Denny, "but again, it wasn't that bloody bad. It's just that Jimmy and the roadies got drunk one night and wrecked the place even more than it was." Being a true country mama, Linda prized her homegrown chicken eggs, which she and Paul took great care to collect each morning at the crack of dawn. On the day in question, Jimmy, in a drunken huff, decided to redecorate the cottage's shabby kitchen by slamming a couple of dozen of Linda's finest against the dank, dirty walls. "Linda started to cry and was apparently really upset," Jo Jo remembers. "So Paul went to try and calm him down but then freaked out himself when he saw the terrible mess."
"You apologize to Linda!" McCartney shouted at the pissed-up little Scot, "or get off the farm."
"Fuck you, you bastard. I'm getting off your fuckin' shit-hole farm. I've had enough of both you lot." At that point, says Jo Jo, Paul had the pathetically plastered muso securely by the throat, loosening his grip only after McCulloch made a definite move towards the door.
McCartney certainly didn't enjoy these horrific little scenes, and was basically only reacting to Jimmy's tantrums. McCulloch, it seemed, often brought out the worst in people. "We were always putting Jimmy in his place," Denny recalls. "I would shout at him to grow up, literally. Once he'd sobered up though he was quiet as a mouse. I guided Jimmy through lots of things, you know. I even got him out of jail for drinking and driving. We were with Frank Zappa once and he fell over the table, face down on the floor. I mean we've all done it, don't get me wrong. We've all had our moments, but Jimmy seemed to have more moments than anyone else."
Determined not to allow the often overbearing McCartney to have the final word, after Paul and the others had cleared off to the other side of the farm, Jimmy walked calmly to his guitar case and pulled out a small nickel-plated, pearl-handled revolver he kept secretly hidden in one of the soft side-pockets. "Just let the cunt fuck with me again," proclaimed McCulloch to the same four walls that had oppressed him so during his unhappy term on the farm. "Let's see them laugh this one off."
Sitting alone in the deserted, cold stone hovel, Jimmy propped himself up against one of the picnic tables in the so-called dining area and meticulously began cleaning and then recleaning his illegally purchased .22 caliber handgun, all the while downing great gulps of scotch. He had his mind on only one thing: revenge. "I'll get my own back on the bastard," he ranted, getting up only occasionally to pace back and forth across the cement floor. A little past eleven, McCulloch took one last long swig from the bottle, smashed it against the wall, and rose, shoving the gun into his coat pocket. Switching off the light, he made his way out into the dark starry night, stumbling in the direction of the McCartneys' one-story bungalow.
About halfway there the hopelessly stoned guitarist tripped over his own feet, making just enough noise to alert the McCartneys' several dogs of the presence of an intruder. Rushing close by, the animals whimpered for a second at the sight of the diminutive McCulloch, but silently turned away as he quietly called them all by name. Taking a moment to gather himself, he rose soundlessly and continued his deadly stroll right up to the McCartneys' partially opened bedroom window. Peering into the darkened room, he saw the former teenage heart throb and his Shetlandish wife sleeping soundly, cuddled together in a comfortable tangle. His heart pounding so loudly he was afraid it might wake them, he carefully reached into his pocket, slowly drawing out the fully loaded weapon. Pausing not for a moment, McCulloch pointed the gun at McCartney's face, later telling Jo Jo he had planned to shoot the sleeping Beatle through the eye, and then do the same to Linda. His arm outstretched through the window, within a few seconds his hand began to shake, at first almost imperceptibly, and then fully, violently, until even holding onto the tiny revolver seemed impossible. Summoning up the courage to make good on his mental threat, Jimmy began slowly pulling back the trigger, measuring its progress by the tiniest fractions. Watching the shiny hammer tediously pulling itself back, gathering up the momentum to launch the explosive charge that would free him once and for all from the oppressive McCartneys, McCulloch suddenly changed his mind at the last micro-second and caught it with his thumb.
Panicking, he turned and ran furiously towards the narrow winding creek that cut through McCartney's farm on its way to a swollen pond at the bottom of a nearby gully. There, without really thinking about it, he put the gun into his mouth, intent that the terrible night should not end without bloodshed. Just then he was distracted by the harpooning lights of Denny and Jo Jo's van, stretching across the night sky. Dropping the gun, he felt suddenly drained beyond words. There was no point in carrying on, he thought to himself. Why bother? He was already dead.