Looning on boats, mulling over Kintyre
We thought of recording our next album, London Town, in the Virgin Islands - on the basis, I think, that it was warmer there. There wasn't a studio but we took mobile equipment and installed it on a boat - it was as good as being in a proper studio, but if you wanted to have a break you could dive off the side for a swim! It was the craziest decision, really, for an album called London Town, but this was a time when people were working like that. In the 1960s bands hadn't had the luxury of working that way, and now we had. We wanted to combine work and play.
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We kept reasonable hours of recording. The Beatles worked late hours towards the end, but in our early days we recorded from like 130 in the morning until 5.30 in the afternoon. We tried to follow that, o in a typical day we'd swim, have breakfast, sunbathe a while, just like you do on holiday, and then putter across in the dinghy to the other boat and make some music for a few hours. Maybe if we really wanted to finish something we might go back to work after dinner, but normally we didn't.
Linda was pregnant with James at the time but she didn't like to make much fuss. She always took pregnancy in her stride. And recording is not like playing live, trying to squeeze into a stage dress – she only had to sing and play.
We tried some mad things, like standing on deck and playing a jam while the engine was running. It was silly and fun and I don't think it was very good music. But the philosophy was sound - if we have a good time; it'll show in the music. London Town ended up pretty good. I remember it as an enjoyable period.
We had a little flotilla, so we could hang out with everyone, have parties and so on, and then Linda and I could go back to our own boat where the children were. They were not into being tutored in a holiday place like that, though. We wouldn't have bothered with the tutoring if we'd thought it would be all right for them, but you have ‘parental responsibility'
Jimmy stayed [with Wings] for a while but then I was rung up one morning by Steve Marriott, who used to be in the Small Faces and Humble Pie. A good singer, and he'd been a friend of mine. And he just said, ‘oh, hi, mate. Er, me and Jimmy have been up all night and he's decided he wants to leave your group and join mine.' I was a little bit put out but, well - what can you say to that? So I just said ‘Hey, good luck to you guys, I hope it works out, 'knowing in my mind that it wouldn't, that they'd been up all night and had a great time but that this was not going to be a lasting thing.
Jim came on the phone and I said, look, thanks a lot. See you around.' It didn't last ...and, actually, Jimmy didn't last much longer himself. He died soon afterwards, of an overdose I think. He was always a little dangerous. As an older guy I did try and warn him a few times, like 'What's going to happen when you're thirty? You've got your whole life ahead of you’. But he liked partying too much and was getting into too many things. In the end, he was just too dangerous for his own good.
In the 1960s, some accountant, one of our money advisers, said that I ought to find a good investment. There had never been much money in my family so I hadn't learned about it as a child - I thought the best thing was to stick it in the bank. So I said, ‘AII right, give me ideas then’. One day he rang and told me about a farm in Scotland. I said, ‘No way do I want a farm in Scotland.' I had just gone from Liverpool to London, where the clubs are, where the scene is, where the music is, I didn't want to go to rural Scotland. But he kept going on about it, so in the end I agreed to have a look. I really didn't like it that much - there weren't any trees, just rolling hills - and I said 'Well, what's the good of this?' But he insisted so much that I finally relented and bought it.
To be honest, even after I went up there a couple of times I wasn't that keen on the place. It was an old hill farm, quite run down. My attitude about it only changed years later when Linda expressed an interest in seeing it.
Linda loved the farm in Scotland. Her American view of the place was more romantic, more objective, than mine, and I could begin to see it through her eyes. She suggested we fix it up. How stupid was I not to have seen that? We turned it into a great place and suddenly I began to love being there. The children loved it, too - we could walk, seemingly forever, and they could run free.
It occurred to me that no great Scottish songs had been written for quite awhile. I looked into it: all the bagpipe stuff was from the previous century and some of the popular folk songs were really old - and, I noticed, written by Englishmen. I wondered if I could write one, too - I certainly loved Scotland enough. So I came up with a song about where we were living, an area called Mull of Kintyre. It was a love song, really, about how I enjoy being there, and imagining I was traveling away and wanting to get back to it.
I did a demo in Rude Studio and worked out how the final version could include bagpipes. The bagpipe is an ethnic instrument from way back and I was aware that they can't play every note, so I invited the leader of the local pipe band to come to the farm. His name was Tony Wilson and he arrived with his bagpipes. We were sitting in the kitchen and I asked him to play me something while I tried to work out some guitar chords, and he said ‘We'd better go in the garden - the bagpipes are very loud.'
He started playing, and I could see that a lot of what he was playing was in the key of D. This meant that I could use A; and I worked out a scale that seemed to be all right. Actually, I didn't work it out quite well enough. When we made the record I got the pipe band to play the chorus; had I asked them to play the verse there was one note they couldn't have made.
Tony got the whole Campbeltown Pipe Band to rehearse the song and then they all came up to the farm, where we'd had a mobile studio installed in a barn. They came up in full dress, with kilts and sporrans. Some people hate bagpipes but I love them - I think they make a great sound, very soul-stirring. It was such a buzz for us because we hadn't worked with a pipe band before, and it was a buzz for them too, because it was something very different.
After we had recorded the best take it was time to 'break out the ale'. We were all becoming a bit rosy-cheeked and some of the lads were saying ‘Aye, that record'll be a number one’ I wasn't sure; because at that time the British music scene was dominated by punk. I liked punk - it was a breath of fresh air on the scene - but releasing a Scottish waltz in the middle of all that stuff was going to be unusual, to say the least. As it happened, Heather was into the punk thing, and I know that some of her friends would go to the jukebox and put on Mull of Kintyre.
Mull of Kintyre was a screaming hit right across the board. It just went crazy. Alan [Crowder] at the office phoned to say it was selling 30,000 copies a day, which is a really good sale in Britain. As a joke I said ’Don't ring me back until it's selling 100,000 a day’. Sure enough, a week later, it was selling 100,000 a day. Eventually it sold over two million, the biggest-selling single in Britain ever, bigger even than anything the Beatles had released. It stayed the biggest seller until the release of the Band Aid charity single a few years later. I was very surprised, but then I remembered the session and all the wee Scots lads saying, 'Aye, that's a number one, that is’. They were right.
The success of Mull of Kintyre was strange, really. The song touched me - I liked it - but I wasn't sure it was everyone's cup of tea, and then it turned into the biggest seller of my career. In America, though, hardly anyone knows it. The US record company flipped the single and promoted the other side, Girls' School.
I've never released a record that I've not wanted to put out. In my case, the artist and the record company have to agree when releasing anything. I've been lucky in that respect - even in the very earliest days of the Beatles, when George Martin wanted us to issue a song he thought was a surefire hit, How Do You Do It, we didn't. We recorded it, but asked him not to release it, and he agreed.
Linda was heavily pregnant when we were recording Mull of Kintyre. When she was doing the harmonies someone at the session interpreted her having indigestion as a sign that she was going to produce a boy. This was great, because we'd had three girls and secretly wanted a boy. Later, she always loved the fact that when she was singing Mull of Kintyre James was 'there' with us.
The strangest thing happened about James's birth. I used to wear an old tweed coat which I picked up in an Oxfam charity-thrift shop. It was a really comfortable old coat and I wore it all the time Linda was pregnant. And toward the end of the pregnancy I found a blue baby-booty in the pocket. It was like a Twilight Zone moment.
Linda was going to have the baby naturally and I was going to be present, but then at the last moment the doctor said she had to have another Caesarian. I waited outside, and a lovely black nurse came out and said, It's a boy!' I picked her up and hugged her, and then dashed to the phone to tell Heather, Mary and Stella.
Around the time of London Town Linda decided to renew her career as a photographer. I often used to say to her ‘l ruined your career, didn't I? You were Linda Eastman, respected photographer, got married to me and became "Mrs. McCartney".' She'd been taking pictures throughout the previous few years but hadn't done anything with them, so she published a book [Linda's Pictures] and had an exhibition. It was the start of a reawakening of her career - eventually, she re-established herself as a great photographer.
The danger of spending all that time as a band member, wife and mother is that an important part of Linda's life was being forgotten. But I think her re-emergence as a photographer really only occurred because we'd established Wings and had a good degree of success, particularly with the '76 tour and Mull of Kintyre. It seemed like the right time for her to get back to her first love.
Wings was starting to become a bit more tense. Sometimes you sense when you've done what you set out to do. It happened with the Beatles - by the end we definitely felt That's it. Full circle. 'After Wings'76 tour I felt we'd really proved that we could make a band after the Beatles and be successful. As I say, Mull of Kintyre had sold more than any Beatles record in Britain. I got a sense of 'So what are we going to do, just keep on proving that we can do it? Or is it time for a change?' And, as it turned out, it was time for a change.
We had one band change in the Beatles, when we swapped Pete for Ringo. But, unlike in the Beatles, the guys in Wings were not my best mates or people I'd grown up with. They came and went for various reasons. Journalists used to have a bit of fun of it - 'Another band change for Wings', kind of thing - but for us it was a case of ‘if it has to be then it has to be'. If someone didn't seem to fit, or we thought we could do better, then we had to go with it.
Joe got homesick for America. He loved all the American home comforts and, as we know, there's plenty of them - when you live in America you get used to a certain way of life. He just came up to me one day and said ‘l really want to go back.' We could relate to that. I know that Linda was warned when she came over to live with me – her dad said to her, ‘It rains all the time and all the guys are chinless’, but she’d been an Anglophile since she was young and was happier in England than the average American might be.
No disrespect to them, but by the time we got Steve Holly and Laurence Jubber in Wings I was getting a little bit fed up with ‘yet another new line-up’, It was getting a bit boring, to tell the truth - another dollar, another day, kind of thing. Even though they were good players, the whole Wings thing was becoming boring for me.
My enthusiasm had peaked and Wings started to wind down. It's like someone with a career in sport - how many years can they keep winning gold medals? After a couple of years they're unlikely to have the same enthusiasm they had when they were hungry with Wings right up until we proved our point, and then it subsided. Also, we'd settled a bit more into our home lifestyle and put down a few roots. All these factors came together and made me feel like... well, maybe I've had enough. I’d been in a band since I was fifteen or something.