We were worried about that Jap business, though, the family. We were
very concerned here in Liverpool. When one of your own is incarcer-
ated in a Japanese prison cell, you worry, you know? We've only seen
the war films... They may be little, but they've got bloody big swords.
— Mike McCartney, 1984 —
Nine Days in a Japanese Prison
In September 12, 1977, Paul McCartney was finally granted his secret wish for a son when James Louis McCartney was delivered by caesarian section at a London nursing home, weighing in at six pounds, one ounce. Eight days later, the proud parents released an "official" photograph of this, the first male issue from rock's royal family. "I'm over the moon!" Paul told the evening papers. "When I knew the baby was a boy I really flipped. I was waiting outside the door while he was being born. He has fair hair and looks like Linda. She's still a bit tired, but otherwise smashing. I don't know how she does it."
Bearing in mind Jimmy McCulloch's maniacal bid to wipe out the peacefully snoozing McCartneys only some four days prior to the auspicious birth, little James was lucky to be around at all. After McCulloch's split with the band he soon sank into a debilitating routine of late nights and over-the-top drinking and drugs in London's fast lane. With the money he earned from the Wings tunes "Medicine Jar" and "Wino Junko," he set himself up in a swank Maida Vale flat done up by the same design team that provided the interior for MPL's offices in Soho.
At the time of McCulloch's departure from Wings, the media, never having had a clue as to the real reason behind the split, ran a few lukewarm stories indicating that Jimmy merely wanted to branch out musically, having outgrown Wings' featherweight sound. Even McCulloch's own carefully worded rhetoric belied the lunatic intensity of what had happened back on the farm:
With Wings I was virtually an employed musician, working mainly in the studio. With the birth of the McCartneys' son I realized it would be some time before we ever toured again. And that's the side of a musician's life I like best. I left amicably. I don't think anyone was too upset about the parting. We had some very good times together. Though Linda doesn't know much about music, she's really a nice chick. And I certainly learned a lot over the past two years.
Initially, Jimmy attempted to make a home for himself as one-fifth of the newly re-formed Small Faces. Business, however, was disappointing and he left after only a short time. Thereafter, he sought to form his own band called the Dukes. Latter-day Wings drummer Steve Holly remembers that the guitarist called him late in 1979 to ask if Holly might come up to Wales and do a bit of recording. "Sure," said Steve, and he waited for McCulloch to ring back with the particulars. The call never came. Two days later he read in the papers that Jimmy had been found dead.
A day or two after Jimmy failed to show for a rehearsal at London's Dingwall Club, his elder brother and road manager, Jack, decided to investigate. Arriving at the flat, he knocked loudly. After a few minutes, he decided his brother was out and turned to leave when he noticed a peculiar odor coming from under the securely locked door. Concerned that there might be a smoldering fire inside, he threw himself against the large mahogany door, never for a moment suspecting the horror awaiting him inside. "Jimmy's gonna be bloody pissed I broke the lock," he thought, as the door jamb splintered slightly under the weight of his shoulder. A moment later, McCulloch discovered his brother's body, leaning back in an easy chair with a burned-out joint still resting between his fingers. Jimmy McCulloch, one of rock 'n' roll's brightest shooting stars, was dead. "I don't know how my brother died," Jack was later quoted as saying. "I am deeply upset."
An inquest held in November recorded an open verdict, which left room for definite suspicions of foul play. "There are certainly some odd circumstances and because of this I think an open verdict is the proper one," Deputy Coroner Dr. Paul Knapman told reporters. While the autopsy uncovered traces of morphine, cannabis, and alcohol in the musician's blood, none of the offending substances (other than the single spliff) was anywhere to be found in the flat. In addition, a security chain across the door had been broken by someone other than Jack McCulloch. "I'm sure somebody was in that apartment when my brother died," he later commented, "and I'd like to find out who it was." To date nothing further has ever been revealed about the tragic incident, but speculation within the industry has always hinted that the pint-sized head banger was eliminated by someone with a colossal grudge. "It just doesn't tally up," Jo Jo Laine mused during interview sessions for this book. "Jimmy was an experienced drug user, not at all the sort to accidentally O.D. As far as I'm concerned, it was definitely either murder or suicide. Still, you have to ask yourself, how many people kill themselves with other people in the room?"
Despite McCulloch's fame as a former member of Wings, the British papers all but ignored his passing. The October 3, 1979, edition of the Daily Express did, however, carry the following:
STARS' TRIBUTE TO GUITAR MAN JIMMY
Stars from around the world sent wreaths for yesterday's cremation of Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch. Jimmy, 24, was found dead a week ago at his flat in London. An inquest has been adjourned. His brother Jackie said yesterday: "He had nearly 100 messages. It has made it a bit easier for us." Among those who sent tributes were Paul McCartney, Kenney Jones of The Who, and a top U.S. group, The Beach Boys.
In the Wings camp, meanwhile, McCulloch's passing was pretty much taken in stride. No one from the exclusive clan even bothered to turn up for the funeral with the exception of Rose Martin and Jo Jo, who blustered and cried all the way through the grim proceedings. "Maggie Bell was there," says Jo Jo, "as well as all the band [Stone the Crows]. About fifty Wings fans were there too, though they never talked to anyone. Nobody really screamed; everyone was very solemn. I brought along some lovely flowers. Denny wouldn't go with me. He was very cold about it, saying, 'Well, he's dead now, so that's it. We're all going to die sometime.' For some reason Denny always thought I had an affair with Jimmy."
Late in 1989 Denny himself recalled the day of McCulloch's cremation:
I was going. I was all dressed up and ready, but I was doing something for Wings Over America — overdubs, I think it was .. . Anyway, to be honest, I was of two minds about it. I was pissed off with Jimmy over lots of things and I'd kind of fallen out with him ... I know it sounds funny to say, but when somebody dies you can still be angry with them. In the end, I didn't attend because I was told to go to the studio and carry on with what I was doing. Besides, I didn't want to upset Paul.
McCartney's only official recognition of McCulloch's death was a slim notice in Wings' official fan club publication, Club Sandwich:
His Music Lives On
Wings and MPL were shocked and very sad at the news that ex-Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was found dead last month. I'm sure you will agree that Jimmy's unique style and flair contributed greatly to many favourite Wings tracks both in concert and on record. Any of you who saw Wings touring in 1975/6 will probably never forget the sensitive but powerful guitar riffs from Jimmy — a real talent who will be sadly missed. Our very sincere condolences to his family, especially Jack and Bella.
On the very next page, however, a huge banner headline boldly proclaimed: "IT'S PARTY TIME AGAIN," the accompanying copy going on to chronicle some half-baked MPL function reserved for London's well-connected elite. In McCartney-land any expression of grief lasting longer than your average joint was still strictly a no-no.
Eleven years later Paul had this to say about his fallen comrade:
Jimmy McCulloch was an erratic personality to put it nicely. He was a terrific guy, great little player, lovely bloke. Been brought up in Glasgow, so he was a boozer par excellence. Jimmy wanted it all and he wanted it now... You'd want to get your kip and he'd be in the next hotel room blasting music. He'd come in off the piss at four in the morning and put his stereo on as he was so out of it. If anything, from the perspective now, it's lucky we ever held a band together.
Joe English elected to leave the band around the same time as McCulloch. Reportedly also a bit strung out on a number of forbidden fruits, he was desperate to get back to the comparatively sane and pastoral American South. According to inside sources, Joe's wife, Dayle, was also fed up with the scene in England and had returned to the U.S. some months earlier, leaving English to rack up huge transatlantic phone and airlines bills through his repeated efforts to visit with his family.
Filling the gap left by McCulloch and English were two of the most talented alumni to pass through Wings' revolving door: lead guitarist Laurence Juber and drummer Steve Holly. Coming in as they did at the tail end of things, they were free of any pent-up hostility or prejudice and so had no difficulty in getting down to the business at hand.
Juber, born November 12, 1952, in London, had always aspired to be a musician. Picking up the guitar at eleven, he took a few primary lessons but then taught himself by listening to the recordings of his early heroes — Hank Marvin, Chuck Berry, Andres Segovia, and Eric Clapton. His first real gig was playing with an eight-piece jazz/rock band called Gramophone.
Moving on to serious study at Goldsmith's College and later the University of London, Juber eventually joined the National Youth Jazz Orchestra where he became fluent in many musical styles. Graduating with a Bachelor of Music in 1975, he went on to play with, among others, Cleo Laine, Shirley Bassey, John Williams, and Jimmy Rafferty. "My ambition," says Laurence, "was to be a studio guitar player because that was the top of the line. But I had this dream: 'Wouldn't it be wonderful to work with Paul or play with the Beatles.' It was a typical kid's dream, except I got it realized, which was quite amazing." His eventual association with Wings came about as a result of playing back-up for Denny Laine on the BBC's "David Essex Show" during a solo rendition of "Go Now." Impressed with what he heard, Laine told McCartney about the bright young player. A few days later Juber got a call from MPL, inquiring whether he'd be interested in meeting up with the band for a little jam: "I went along without really knowing what to expect, and as it turned out, we played nothing more than rock 'n' roll tunes like 'Johnny B. Goode' and things like that. I thought to myself, 'Is this an audition?' and then I was offered the gig the same day. So obviously I was what they were looking for. We started working a couple of weeks later."
Steve Holly first banged a drum at the age of five. His father, the leader of a popular swing band, actively encouraged his musical interest as did his mum, a one-time singer. Born in Isleworth, Middlesex, on August 24, 1953, Steve always knew he wanted to be a drummer, salting away his school savings certificates for a trap set from the time he was eight. The first record he ever played on was called "Look at Me Now" for Mungo Jerry star, Paul King, in 1970. One of Holly's first bands was the innovative G.T. Moore and the Reggae Guitars who toured the college canteen circuit for a brief while in the early seventies. Later on he played with Elton John and Kiki Dee. Then in March 1978 he started sitting in with Wings, invited by his longtime friend and drinking buddy Denny. He soon developed a casual, "just mates" relationship with the band, never seriously considering the prospect of joining up full time. Traveling down to London with Laine for his formal audition the same afternoon as Juber, Holly had to cool his heels for nearly three hours, waiting for Paul and Linda to breeze in from the country. "We played a good long time," he recalls, "and then Paul just said, 'Fine. That's a good group. Sounds great. Let's go.' He made his decision right there and then, which is the fastest I've ever personally been through any audition. Denny and I went out afterwards and had a few drinks to celebrate. A few days later, we all flew to America where Laurence and I met with Lee Eastman to discuss the terms of our contract and salary."
On June 29,1978, work began on Back to the Egg, Wings' last all-new studio LP. Laying down the basic tracks at Paul's Spirit of Ranachan Studios on the farm in Scotland, Juber and Holly proved a valuable addition to the band, mixing well with the gilt-edge poppiness of Denny, Linda, and Paul. One evening, after work, as Steve and Linda were relaxing with a cup of coffee by a nearby stream, she gazed contentedly over the rugged Scottish countryside and said, "You know, I could stay here forever. This is all I really need. The band, the biz, all the rest of it, doesn't really mean that much to me. All I truly want is to be here with my family."
Working like devils on the new album, Wings pulled out all the stops in the hope that Egg might just be the vehicle to toughen up their cream-puff image with a legion of rock watchers weaned on so-called heavyweight acts such as Pink Floyd and the Who. It was not to be. Fragmented, over-ambitious, and sporadic, Back to the Egg shipped out to record stores like gangbusters and limped back a couple of months later, a fifty-cent record in a two-dollar sleeve, its failure heralding the end for the band.
That's not to say that the album didn't contain some interesting material. The sultry R&B-inspired "Arrow Through Me" rings with convincing emotion, an immaculate piece of soulful pop. The bumpy "Old Siam Sir," on the other hand, showcases McCartney the storyteller, summoning up yet another appealing collection of surreal characters and mindscapes. (Steve and Denny almost came to blows over this one. Holly still insists that one of the main riffs in the tune was "borrowed" by Denny from him for the arrangement prior to Paul's coming in for the session that day, although at the time the argument was settled in Laine's favor.)
Perhaps the album's two most celebrated tracks arise from the superstar collective known as "Rockestra" which laid down a heavy-handed anthem of the same name, as well as the flashy "So Glad to See You Here." Among the elite participants were John Bonham, Kenney Jones, and Steve Holly (drums); Paul McCartney, Ronnie Lane, John Paul Jones, and Bruce Thomas (bass guitar); Linda McCartney, Tony Ashton, Gary Brooker, Paul McCartney, and John Paul Jones (piano and keyboard); Howie Casey, Tony Dorsey, Thaddeus Richard, and Steve Howard (horns); Morris Pert, Speedy Acquaye, Tony Carr, and Ray Cooper (percussion); Pete Townshend, Dave Gilmour, Hank Marvin, Laurence Juber, and Denny Laine (guitars).
Gathering at Abbey Road on October 3, 1978, at 11:30 a.m. for the session, things started cooking as Paul led the band through a final rehearsal and then five full takes of the "Rockestra Theme." After a brief time-out for refreshments and a quick playback, work then began on the second tune. Technically, of course, the big-time event was a nightmare. All together sixty microphones were utilized along with two mixing consoles as well as both a twenty-four and a sixteen-track recorder synched together by a new system known as Tape Lock. In addition, the event was filmed by director Barry Chattington who brought along his own full sound crew as well as the manpower necessary to operate the five Pana-vision 35-mm cameras enlisted for the cause. Jo Jo Laine remembers it as one of the wildest afternoons ever in Wings' nine-year history, with several pop stars literally queuing up to get into the studio's tiny restroom for a line of coke.
In the end, even such heroic measures could not rescue Back to the Egg. Although it briefly made the top ten in both Britain and America the album was almost universally panned and sold poorly. "We went to great lengths to try and make that record a hit," says Steve. "After working in Scotland we recorded at Lympne Castle in Kent, later moving on to Replica Studios (in the basement of MPL). It was only during the final mixing stage at Abbey Road that it began to dawn on any of us that there might be some problems. The maddening thing is that, taken apart track by track, it seems to work. It's just when you hear it all together you begin to lose focus."
One of the saddest occasions of 1978 for almost everyone around the McCartney camp was the unexpected death of Who drummer Keith Moon, an old flame of Jo Jo's, a drinking buddy of Denny's, and an all-around good mate of Paul and Linda's. The tragedy was brought even closer to the McCartneys by the fact that only hours before Moon's passing he had been partying with them at London's Peppermint Park restaurant in celebration of the film premiere of The Buddy Holly Story.
British television personality David Frost remembers that Keith (who was seated throughout the evening at the same table as the McCartneys) was "really delightful company," even announcing his engagement to longtime girlfriend, Annette Walter-Lax. Gently sipping red wine, the thirty-one-year-old Moon seemed to be on a definite upward swing. Having drastically cut down on the drugs and booze that had inspired much of the out-of-control behavior of his youth, Keith seemed to be settling in nicely with his approaching middle age.
About forty-five minutes into the star-studded private screening Moon excused himself to the McCartneys, saying he was feeling a little ill and that he'd ring them in a few days. Returning home with his fiancee to his flat in Curzon Place, Moon popped in a video of The Abominable Dr. Phibes and had a bite to eat. He then washed down a couple of strong sedatives and fell asleep.
Early the next morning Keith nudged Annette, saying that he was hungry and fancied a steak. Still a bit shattered herself, the stunning Swede somehow pulled herself together and prepared what was to be Moon's final meal. After eating he took several more tablets, telling his girlfriend he wanted to get a bit more sleep before attending a band meeting later in the day. Lax also went back to bed. When she awoke that afternoon, around two o'clock, she discovered Moon's body. Altogether the flamboyant drummer had taken a staggering thirty-two tablets over the previous twenty-four hours. Like all grief within McCartney's sphere Paul ignored it. "He's a moral coward of the highest order," charges Jo Jo. "I wouldn't be surprised if he's working on a plan to hire someone else to die for him."
According to Denny, a lot of Paul's troubles might have been avoided if he had been able to relax a bit more with his great success and not feel such a need for total control.
His worst trait is getting involved with people and then not giving them enough scope to flourish creatively... He was too much of the boss in the office as well, but it was his money, and he certainly deserved to have a say. A lot of people who worked for us could have made life a little easier if they had been allowed more input. He wasn't the greatest person in the world moneywise either, as everyone seems to think. If it hadn't been for his father-in-law he obviously wouldn't have done so well. Paul is frightened of going out into the world and mingling with ordinary people. If he did, I think he might be a happier person. As a result of his fame and fortune he's become a bit of a recluse as well. If he wasn't, I think he'd be a more approachable, less sensitive person.
One of the happier events of 1979 for Wings was the successful release of McCartney's first decidedly disco single, "Goodnight Tonight." Issued in Britain on March 23, 1979, the catchy tune did well, reaching as high as number six at home and five in the U.S. What made the project special, however, had less to do with the music than the spectacular, spare-no-expense video filmed to promote the release on Tuesday, April 3, at the meticulously preserved Hammersmith Palais Ballroom in London. Produced by MPL and directed by Keef McMillan of Keef & Co., the concept was deceptively simple. The band dressed up in elegant, 1920s-style evening clothes as Paul did his best Rudy Vallee, crooning into an imposing antique radio mike. Judiciously intercut were segments with the group as they were in the present, getting down hard in all the right places. Seldom shown in its entirety anywhere, it is a clever clip that represents McCartney at his eclectic best and expresses the dialectic at the heart of his music — Cole Porter cloaked in the guise of a good time rock 'n' roller.
The record's acoustic B side, incidentally, "Daytime Nightime Suffering" remains Paul and Linda's all-time favorite solo track. Ironically, it is one of the artist's most obscure, virtually never-played, tunes. Steve Holly remembers that a few days prior to recording the song Wings was hard at work trying to come up with the new single at Replica Studios, when Paul generously announced that if any of them could invent a strong enough tune over the weekend, the band would put it out, thus almost assuring its composer a small fortune in writer's royalties for years to come. Holly spent the entire weekend banging away at his old piano, trying to come up with something, as did Denny, Laurence, and reportedly even Linda. By Monday morning though, Paul had recovered from his momentary lapse of reason and offhandedly told them the deal was off as he himself had whipped up "the one." "Daytime Nightime Suffering" was recorded then and there. Steve remembers bashing away on his drums from the sanctity of the kitchen while the Leslie cabinet for the organ was placed in the elevator shaft of the sub-basement in order to take advantage of the apparently naturally superlative acoustics therein.
By late autumn Wings was ready to once again hit the road. On November 16, their cutesy holiday single, "Wonderful Christmastime," backed by the virtually unlistenable stinker, "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reggae," was released, complete with a jingle bells video on which the band members appeared as four rocking Father Christmases (along with one blonde Mrs. Father Christmas). A week later at Liverpool's Royal Court Theatre, the band began a nineteen-date tour with a free concert for the entire student body and staff of McCartney's alma mater, the Liverpool Institute, and a group of severely handicapped young children. They played the next three nights at the popular Liverpool venue, which McCartney, to his credit, had specifically chosen in the hope of helping to save from the wrecker's ball.
Included among the familiar Wings hits performed on the tour were such reasonably oddball numbers as Linda's "Cook of the House" and "Again & Again & Again" from Denny, as well as the rock classic "Twenty Flight Rock," and the McCartney album throw-away, "Hot as Sun," from McCartney himself.
Steve Holly recalls stopping by Paul and Linda's dressing room one evening during the tour to remark how great he thought the show had gone over that night. "It sucked," replied McCartney, suddenly as depressed as the drummer had ever seen him.
"Paul hated the whole tour," Steve commented to this author during a 1990 interview. "He felt all the performances were bad. About a quarter of the way along I got the distinct feeling that he was just going through the motions. Musically, there were definite problems with some of the band as well. I think Paul felt he was rather 'dragging the dresser,' to quote an old northern phrase." Holly also speculated that after the triple platinum success of Wings Over America, McCartney might have been expecting a bit too much. "Maybe we just went out too soon. I know Paul was under pressure not to lose any of his new fans." Holly also stresses that originally the tour was rehearsed and staged for smaller venues, while they ended up playing four nights at places such as Wembley Arena. "We were like tiny little ants up there on that great stage," he remarked laughingly. "A lot of it was very tough going, but it wasn't all terrible, looking back. There were actually quite a few fine magic moments as well."
According to both Holly and Juber one such evening was Wings' on-target final performance of the tour at the Apollo Theatre in Glasgow. Tramping back on stage for an encore at the end of their set, Paul banged out the first familiar chords of "Mull of Kintyre," by this time almost a second Scottish national anthem. At precisely the right moment, recalls Holly, the entire Campbeltown Pipe Band came marching out from under the stage, instantly bringing the already blissful audience to its feet. "It was just one of those incredible emotional highpoints you can never really adequately describe," Steve recalls. "I, for one, remember becoming a little teary-eyed myself, and I'm not even a Scot. I think that, more than anything, begins to explain the absolute magic of the man."
Denny Laine's recollections of the song are less magical. Originally issued as what's known as a "double A side" to Wings' "Girls' School" single, "Mull of Kintyre" was the type of laid-back, sentimental fare one would hardly have expected to become any sort of super hit. When it did, however, its phenomenal success only served to damage the relationship between Paul and Denny. Laine remembers:
We sat outside with a bottle of whiskey one afternoon in the hills of Kintyre and wrote the song. Paul had written the chorus. But we wrote the rest of it together, and most of the lyrics were mine. He made tens of thousands from the song. It was number one for sixteen weeks and sold millions of copies. But I personally got very little out of it. I was on wage when we wrote it, not a percentage of the sales. Of course I was promised more, but it never came. When I asked Paul for a special deal on the tune his answer was virtually: "Look, I'm Paul McCartney, and anyone who writes with me is privileged." I told him that it was time he trusted me and that I wasn't going to take him to the cleaners. All I wanted was to see in writing what was selling and how much my part would be. If the records didn't sell, I didn't want the money. I was being treated as little more than a highly paid session man and felt the insult keenly.
Supporting Denny's contention that he was denied the better part of his rightful proceeds for the song is yet another MPL memo to the singer retained by this author, stating clearly that Laine was paid a mere $20,000 for both his work on the solo Holly Days album and his contributions to "Mull of Kintyre." Even the Campbeltown Pipe Band felt shafted, complaining bitterly until old Macca (a longtime McCartney nickname) be-grudgingly dispatched each of the lads the somewhat meager sum of £200 as a belated peace gesture.
And what did Paul McCartney take home for his afternoon's work, drinking with Laine in the shadow of the Kintyre peninsula? Released in Great Britain on November 11,1977, "Mull of Kintyre" sold over a million copies within a month. Oddly enough, comedic actor Dan Ackroyd happened to be the lucky purchaser of the millionth pressing, finding a slip inside the sleeve notifying him he was to be presented a special Christmas hamper by Denny Laine as well as a gold disc from EMI. Not until Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" in 1984 was the song's staggering sales record overtaken.
Responding to Laine's oft-repeated charges concerning McCartney's widely rumored frugality, Paul had this to say in a 1989 issue of Rolling Stone: "Okay, let's take Denny. I've got receipts in the office for a million pounds paid to him. Now, you tell me a guy in any group who got that for the period we were together. Now, okay, if you think I sound mean after that, I've got to disagree with you. I mean, these people like Denny say, 'He didn't pay us enough.' Well, what I think is, 'Yeah, well, I did.' I know exactly what I paid him. It's a million. And that was worth more than a million is worth now."
Laine, however (these days living comfortably in upper-crust Windsor with his new lady, Helen Grant, pretty daughter of Led Zeppelin mentor Peter Grant), takes some consolation from the fact that while he has been successfully "sprung" from his crusty internment in Scotland, his old mate McCartney still walks the windswept moors quite alone with all his big bucks. "The Mull," says Laine, "was where this old lighthouse was, and for my money was actually the worst shithole in the world one could ever visit. You wouldn't go there with your worst mother-in-law. All it had was this lighthouse, a cemetery, and this shitty hotel where the band sometimes stayed. I wouldn't wish the place on my worst enemy." Apparently, he doesn't need to.
By the late seventies there was generally a lot of loose talk floating about concerning a potential Beatles reunion. Responding to a non-stop barrage of questions from the prying media, the ex-Beatles often made matters worse by cryptically saying "no" in such a way as to imply the opposite. Of course, the Beatles themselves had not made any final decisions concerning the idea. Paul, especially, would have loved to see his old band back together, if only for one rousing night of music tucked away in the privacy of an obscure rehearsal hall or studio somewhere. John, too, was basically game, often confiding to friends that he found the possibility intriguing. Only Dragon Lady Ono, it seems, felt compelled to keep the famous feud going. "She was threatened," says a close family member of Lennon's.
It was obvious she had no place within the private men's smoking club that was the Beatles, and deeply resented it. To my mind, she only ever convinced two people into believing she had any sort of artistic talent: John and herself. The other three Beatles weren't so easily duped, and would never have tolerated her interference. As a result, she kept up a near-constant tirade against the idea right up until poor John's death.
The odious Ms Ono's meddling aside, a lot of people gradually became convinced that if the cause were important enough, or the money right, a reunion just might happen. One such person was Kurt Waldheim (long before his nagging Nazi troubles), at the time Secretary General of the United Nations, who drafted a conciliatory letter to each of the four, asking them to consider getting back together for a concert in aid of the starving masses in war-torn Kampuchea.
McCartney's response was equally diplomatic: he nixed the Beatle idea, offering instead a benefit concert by Wings. So it was that on the evenings of December 26, 27, 28, and 29, 1979 London's Hammersmith Odeon became the site of the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea, McCartney's most overtly humanitarian venture to date. Expanded to include other acts such as the Pretenders, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Queen, Robert Plant, Rockpile, the Who, the Clash, the Specials, Matumbi, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, and, of course, Wings, the series of manic shows ended with the ever-evolving Rockestra performing three numbers, "Lucille," "Let It Be," and the spectacular "Rockestra Theme."
Viewed by many in the international music media as a kind of bargain-basement Bangladesh, the cause, admirable though it was, didn't ignite with the public in the way future shows such as Live Aid and the 1986 Amnesty International Conspiracy of Hope tour did. Even as it was happening, says Steve Holly, the mood backstage was more cynical than serious with the performers literally unable to move for the hordes of pointless VIP guests and inevitable hip hangers-on. "It was one hell of a long day let me tell you," remembers the drummer. "Once you were there in the morning there was no getting out all night." With the artists trapped in their dressing rooms for twelve hours, Holly says, Wings co-commander Denny was "almost comatose" from the non-stop drinking that had been going on all day. "I remember I was trying to wake myself up with hot coffee before we went on," he adds. "Our performance too, unfortunately, left quite a lot to be desired because of all the partying. Not Paul though. He may have had a scotch and Coke or something, but never to the point of being drunk. He was always the consummate professional."
There was, amid the chaos, an amusing incident involving Pete Townshend, which took place on the final evening. Holly spins the yarn: "It was during Pete's over-the-top cognac-drinking days. Just before we all went on, the poor wardrobe girl popped into Townshend's dressing room to make sure everything was okay, when, to her horror, she discovered he wasn't wearing the gold lame top hat and tux jacket Paul had made up for everybody, and what's more, had no intention of doing so." "I'm not wearing that fucking shit," the often surly guitarist roared. Townshend was certain Paul was having him on, and never actually expected that anyone else intended to appear on stage in the admittedly tacky-looking outfit. Of course, everyone else was wearing the get-up, which left Pete paranoid about being out of step with his colleagues.
By January 12, 1980, Paul McCartney felt on top of the world. Springing back mentally after the relative failure of both Back to the Egg and Wings' recent British tour, he was literally ready to take on the world, flying to New York aboard the Concorde on his way to a long-awaited engagement in Japan. After a brief, four-day visit with Linda's dad, and an aborted attempt to see John Lennon, the McCartneys checked out of their luxury suite at the Stanhope Hotel and boarded a TWA jumbo jet bound for Tokyo's Narita International Airport.
On the flight over, all McCartney could think about was how the maneuvering, vindictive Yoko had snubbed his efforts to make contact with his former partner. All he wanted to do, after all, was hang out for a couple of hours and blow a few joints for old times sake. But Yoko was adamant.
"This isn't really a very good time," she cooed condescendingly into the telephone, seemingly thrilled to be the bearer of such inhospitable tidings. "We're very busy these days, you know. Maybe next time, okay?"
McCartney, no slouch himself when it came to repartee, instantly retaliated by boasting that while in Ono's homeland they planned to set up shop in the posh presidential suite of the astronomically expensive Okura Hotel, John and Yoko's permanent home away from home while in Japan. This he knew would pique the always insanely jealous Yoko no end. "Right. Ta ra, then, luv," he said, hanging up the receiver. "Cow," he muttered, just loud enough for Linda to register a sly smile.
Landing in Tokyo fourteen exhausting hours later, Paul and Linda emerged from the aircraft all smiles, thrilled to finally be playing Japan. Inside the customs hall they were greeted by a hail of flashing cameras all zeroed in on the great man lugging little James in one arm as he mugged predictably for the delighted media. As they stepped up to the long, low inspection counter, a customs officer indicated to the couple to open their carry-on luggage. "Sure," replied McCartney, revealing no perceivable emotion. Linda, on the other hand, suddenly seemed panicky, her eyes darting back and forth between the small rumpled bag and her unsuspecting husband.
Sitting inside what has been widely reported as Linda's overnight case was a small, fist-sized plastic bag obviously containing several ounces of primo pot.
"When the fellow pulled it out of the suitcase," said Paul, "he looked more embarrassed than me. I think he just wanted to put it back in and forget the whole thing, you know, but there it was." A senior officer pushed his way out from behind and immediately ordered the pop star detained. He then radioed for the Narcotics Control Bureau to come and get their man.
"It's all a mistake," Paul said feebly as the Tokyo vice boys slapped on the cuffs and began leading him away. "A serious mistake." To the morally conservative Japanese, McCartney's transgression was indeed a serious matter.
Within minutes, news of the bust rocketed through the entire city, prompting well-known music commentator Ichiro Fukuda to lash out angrily at the dope-loving Beatle. "For a man like McCartney to violate the law means he has no respect for Japan." Eleven hours later the tour was publicly canceled as McCartney was formally interrogated at the Drug Supervisory Center and then transferred to the Metropolitan Jail. Steve Holly recalls the confusion:
We were already checked through customs, sitting on the bus waiting for Paul and Linda. Then someone told us there was a "minor" complication and that we were to go on to the hotel. It was, like, an eighteen-hour flight, so I checked into my room and went to sleep. At about seven-thirty that evening Linda rang. I remember her laughing nervously and saying, "Hey, Paul's been busted." Now, because she was laughing, I assumed she was just kidding around, so I said, "Yeah, yeah, great, Linda, I'll see you for dinner," and hung up. Anyway, I went down to the bar, and there was a great many MPL staff sitting around with forlorn expressions, a lot of plainclothes police everywhere, and fans going crazy, so I suddenly realized that she must have been telling the truth. We hung out for a couple of days, hoping they would find some way around it, but after three or four shows had been missed, I realized there was no way they were ever going to save the tour.
Paul, meanwhile, was sitting in a four-by-eight cell, suddenly not quite so happy about being in Japan after all. Around midnight he was allowed his first visitor, British vice-consul Doland Warren-Knott, who, Paul assumed, had come to arrange for his release. "I'm afraid it's not going to be quite that easy, Mr. McCartney," the obviously uneasy bureaucrat began. "There's a fellow in here who had a lot less than you, and they've had him locked up for three months already. It could be eight years, you know."
"My first night was the worst," Paul recalls. "I couldn't sleep. I was frightened about the possibility of not seeing my family for years. They fed me seaweed and onion soup for breakfast, and twice a day I was handcuffed and taken to some official who kept asking questions."
McCartney quickly fell into the jailhouse routine with the seasoned aplomb of an old con. Woken at dawn, he was made to silently roll up his rush sleeping mat and sit cross-legged on the floor awaiting inspection. His jailer, Yasuji Ariga, later commented that the superstar inmate was "very polite and has made a good impression on the guards." Allowed initially neither writing implements nor a guitar, Paul passed his days singing with the other prisoners, exercising, or just plain marking time.
On the sixth day Linda was finally allowed in to visit her husband who had to bite his tongue after she nervously told him that he might be in as long as three months. "I didn't tell her it could be eight years," he later commented. One of the most unpleasant aspects of his incarceration was being whisked off every morning for an intensive interrogation. "I've already told you I'm guilty," McCartney would protest, over and over again to the stone-faced guards. "What else do you want me to say?"
At first I thought it was barbaric that they put handcuffs on me twice a day when I went to see the investigators. There seemed to be a different lot each time. I made a confession on the night I was arrested and apologized for breaking Japanese law but they still wanted to know everything. I had to go through my whole life story, school, father's name, income, even my medal from the Queen.
World reaction to all this was generally one of bemused indifference, with most people betting that for all Paul's massive money and clout no one would really dare keep him too long simply for possession of pot. A glaring exception, however, was twenty-nine-year-old Kenneth Lambert who, a few days into the affair, turned up at a Miami International Airport reservation counter and demanded a ticket to fly to Japan to "free Paul." He had no money and refused to leave after several polite requests to do so. A row ensued with Lambert suddenly pulling a realistic-looking toy gun from his jacket and waving it around wildly over his head. Police officers called to the scene instinctively took aim and fired. The poor, sick young man was dead before he even hit the floor.
Meanwhile, back in his cell, Paul was itching for a proper bath. Washing with the water from his latrine was understandably getting him down. After a week of this he humbly asked if he might be allowed a bath, a proposition passed along through the incredible Japanese bureaucracy as if they had been faced with a constitutional amendment. Eventually one of the guards came rushing into his cell, asking, "Would you take alone or with other inmates?" McCartney thought for a moment. "With the others." After yet more high-level discussions the request was finally granted and Paul was led into the communal bath house, much to the amazement of the other prisoners. "Alright, lads," said McCartney, instantly "on" as he always is whenever confronted by a crowd. "How are ya?"
Stripped naked virtually in front of everyone (by now even the off-duty guards had gathered to observe the spectacle), McCartney made the most of the situation. Eyes twinkling, head cocked, and arms outstretched, the incurable showman belted out the first few lines of "Mull of Kintyre" and, instantaneously, everyone joined in. As the Japanese voices rose in pitch even the assembled fans keeping vigil outside the jail began to sing. From the little boy who started singing and playing guitar in the bathtub so many years ago back in Liverpool, McCartney had now come full circle, prompting Jo Jo Laine to quip, "Paul has played some of the classiest rest-rooms on the planet."
On his eighth day of captivity Linda was permitted in for a second visit, this time bringing along her brother, John Eastman. By now the whole situation had eased just a bit, enabling McCartney to receive a few "treats" from his family, including a highly prized cheese sandwich, some fresh fruit, a change of clothes, some blankets, and, wonder of wonders, several science-fiction paperbacks.
Made to turn in for the evening at 8:00 p.m., Paul whiled away the excruciatingly long evenings by tapping on the wall of his cell in an effort to communicate with his fellow colleagues in crime. "Life in jail isn't so bad," he commented, once safely back home in England. "The prison wasn't the rat-infested hole I thought it was going to be. For the first few days I was worrying all the time. For eight days I didn't see any daylight at all ... I shared a bath with a man who was in for murder, and all because I didn't think."
Hanging about in their plush prison at the Okura Hotel, the other band members were more than a little annoyed at Paul for allowing the McCartneys' irrational love of marijuana to jeopardize the hard-won Japanese tour, not to mention their share of the profits. Although everyone was still paid their agreed-upon weekly salaries, Steve Holly says his accountants later advised him that canceling the sold-out performances personally cost him tens of thousands in lost revenues. It was Denny Laine, however, who was the most angry and hurt, still going on about it all to this day: "I felt I was entitled to an explanation," complained Laine some five years later, "but I never got one."
I would have probably made £50,000 on the tour, not to mention the number of times we could have gone back. We were breaking new ground. Wings needed those Japanese shows to continue. I had the sense to know that without new markets the band wouldn't survive ... [Paul] felt very sorry for himself when he came out of prison, but he didn't seem to understand he'd upset a lot of people. He and Linda knew the importance of not going to Japan carrying dope. The penalties there are heavier than anywhere else in the world, and we had already been refused entry because of drug offenses five years earlier. I think he and Linda thought that if they managed to smuggle some grass through it would be one up for them. The McCartneys are the couple who have everything, and that can get boring. What they crave now is excitement. I personally think they did it for the thrill. Of course, Paul bought himself out of jail the way he buys himself out of everything. And as long as he's got the money in his pocket he always will.
Jetting out of Japan after it seemed obvious the tour was off, Laine went directly to Paris where he joined Jo Jo on a glitzy promotional tour for her first record, the disco-inspired "Dancin' Man" at the annual MIDEM festival. While there, Laine penned a tune called "Japanese Tears" about a brokenhearted Japanese Wings fan who had patiently waited years to see her idols, only to have her hopes dashed at the very last moment by Paul's sudden and very inauspicious arrest. Recorded at Shepperton's Rock City Studios in 1980, the tune was eventually released as part of an album of the same title recorded with old friend Steve Holly and wife Jo Jo.
As for the rest of the band, Laurence Juber left for Los Angeles — he remembers that various members of the MPL hierarchy suggested that it actually might be better for Paul's situation if he and Steve Holly left Japan. He says that only recently did he ever give a second thought to the money he lost, concerned at the time only that Wings should continue as a fully working band:
The way I understood it, Paul was made to personally sign an affidavit, stating that he no longer smoked dope, as a condition of receiving his visa. When they caught him red-handed, however, the Japanese government felt betrayed and went out of their way to try and make an example out of him. I mean, I know of several well-known artists who were also subsequently busted for drugs in Japan who walked with only a small fine. With Paul, though, they figured they'd "lost face" and so were compelled to strike back. Besides, he was, after all, a Beatle, and therefore potentially wielded such incredible influence that they were concerned he might be setting a bad example for the youth of Japan.
Holly, too, jumped ship after a few days, taking full advantage of the open-ended, unlimited-stops, one-year, first-class ticket given to all the band back in London. Flying first to Australia, meeting up with then-wife Sharon, he subsequently visited New Zealand (where he sought out and found his long-estranged dad), Hawaii, and then Canada, before returning home to England.
As for Paul, on the ninth day of his incarceration, the powers that be decided he "had been punished enough" and so cut a deal with McCartney's legal staff to release the rock star. Ever the politician, Paul insisted on touring the facility and personally greeting each of the prisoners, which he did, passing his hand through the small iron doors of their cells just to say "Sayonara."
Carted off to the airport, handcuffed, directly from jail, McCartney, surrounded by twelve burly guards, was reunited with Linda and the kids amidst dozens of frenzied photographers and reporters clawing at the waylaid Beatle and his family. "Japanese fans are so great," Paul exclaimed to those present in the special VIP departures lounge. "I want to come back again if I'm allowed." As a sweet gesture to his many disappointed fans and as a wry parting shot at his captors, McCartney then called for an acoustic guitar and did a quick tune for the TV cameras before being hustled off aboard a Japanese Airlines jet bound for London via Anchorage, Alaska, and Amsterdam. Once safely in the air, a repentant McCartney confessed to the assembled media that had joined him on the trek: "I have been a fool. What I did was incredibly dumb. I had just come from the States and still had the American attitude that marijuana isn't really too bad. I didn't appreciate how strict the Japanese are about it. I was really scared, thinking I might be in prison for so long. I've made up my mind. I've been smoking marijuana for more than eleven years now, but I'm never going to touch the stuff again." Sure, Paul.
All things considered, the whole stupid mess cost McCartney big. Japanese promoter Seijiro Udo reportedly incurred a loss in excess of £200,000 due to the canceled tour and subsequently threatened to file suit. "Paul has betrayed me," he told a Tokyo reporter. In the end, McCartney was obliged to repay Udo. In addition, the former Beatle's gaggle of high-priced London lawyers cost him another £100,000 in fees, not to mention their daily living expenses while in Japan, which have been pegged at as high as £10,000 per day.
Still, what's money to a man like Paul McCartney? He may moan about having to lay it out just like the next person, but when the chips are really down he would never hesitate to ante up to buy himself out of a jam. As he proclaimed in a mock rap recently while being interviewed on America's MTV, "Well, my name is Paul, and I got more money than y'all." Forget the tongue-in-cheek posturing for a moment, the guy wasn't kidding.
Looking at Wings' checkered past, one tends to forget just how close Paul and Denny Laine once were. As if he were some dead or ousted Communist party bureaucrat, these days Laine is never mentioned, nor does his image appear in the various Club Sandwich retrospectives on the band. It is as though he never existed. For Denny, Japan was definitely the last straw. Ever after, when the two men met, there was a new and poisonous edge, that, while unacknowledged in words, was nevertheless palpable. "It was very, very hard for me to forgive him for that," Laine quietly confided to me once during a late-night heart-to-heart. "I realize now it was definitely the beginning of the end."
Soon after his safe return to Britain, McCartney began preliminary work on an autobiographical treatise of his ordeal in Tokyo, titled Japanese Jailbird. Completed in late 1984, the manuscript for the twenty-thousand word book was rumored to have been deposited in a London bank vault in an effort to keep the highly personal contents "top secret." "The mercifully short time I spent in jail cured a block I've experienced as a writer ever since schooldays," he has commented. "It's always been my ambition to write a book... I wanted to write it down, just for the record, 'cause I know how I am: I forget things very easily, haven't got the world's greatest memory. Anyway, I wrote it all down. I sort of thought, 'God, this is like writing an essay for school. I can't do it, I'm frightened of the piece of paper.' But because I knew I had to write it down to remember the incident, I forced myself to write it."
In the end, Paul broke down and had one copy of the work specially printed and bound for himself. To this day not even those closest to McCartney have any idea what insights the book contains, only deepening the already dark mystery surrounding the whole uneasy affair. "We've all heard a lot of very wicked tales about who and what were actually behind the bust," says a close friend. "The only thing anyone knows for sure, however, is that so far the real story has yet to be told."
By far the most insidious suggestion bandied about back then hinted that Yoko Ono herself was the culprit. Furious that Paul and Linda were about to "invade" her homeland the always jealous and competitive Mrs. Lennon, it was alleged, saw to it that the couple's arrival in Japan was made less than pleasant. A year after the incident, Yoko's former psychic, John Green, told a mutual friend: "She claimed to have made the arrangements by telephone, telling undisclosed Japanese authorities that McCartney had a low opinion of the Japanese." Another Lennon/Ono insider, Sam Green, backed up the naughty charge later, commenting, "She had a cousin over there who runs customs. One call from Yoko and Paul was finished." Whether the spiteful Ono tipped off the authorities that the McCartneys were indeed "holding," or worse, conspired to have the stuff planted on them after their arrival, is purely speculative. Ironically, never aware of his good wife's alleged impropriety, even John Lennon was quoted as saying that the bust had to be "somebody's cheap trick," a reality the naturally protective and compassionate Lennon found intolerable. "No way do I believe Paul was carrying," he told John Green at the time. "He was set up and that's the long and unfortunate short of it... Just how hard do you think it is for a customs official to lay his hands on some grass? Not that hard," he continued. "He probably had it all along under the counter or something and the minute the Beatle steps up, it's presto. Headlines." As with many things in Paul McCartney's extraordinary life, the true facts of his trial by fire in Japan may well stay hidden forever between the folds of his illusive public persona.
The first musical release following Paul's Japanese sojourn was the somewhat aimless and uneven McCartney II. As a strictly solo effort (well, okay, Linda as usual "oohed" and "aahed" a bit), it was competent enough, but somehow never really managed to leave the ground. Issued in Britain on May 16, 1980, it aroused sufficient public curiosity as the great one's first post-prison release to propel it all the way to number one. In the U.S., apparently, folks weren't quite as inquisitive, sending the admittedly beautifully packaged gate-fold album to a very respectable number three. Despite the trio of minor-league hits — "Coming Up," "Waterfalls," and "Temporary Secretary," the rest of the LP sank like a stone, offering up such unpolished musical doodles as the abysmal "Front Parlour," "Nobody Knows," "Summer's Day Song," "Darkroom," and "On the Way." Two additional compositions worthy of mention are "One of These Days" and the potentially offensive "Frozen Jap." The first, a straightforward plea for spiritual understanding, takes its inspiration from McCartney's longtime relationship with Hare Krishna devotee Maha-sya Dasa whom he first met in London during the mid-seventies: "[The song] happened when a Krishna bloke came round to see me. He was a nice fellow, very gentle. After he left, I went to the studio and the vibe carried through a bit. I started writing something a bit more gentle. The tune seemed right as a very simple thing, and it basically just says: 'One of these days I'll do what I've been meaning to do the rest of my life.' I think it's something a lot of people can identify with." "Frozen Jap," meanwhile, is a spunky little instrumental best remembered for its ironic title more than any great worth as a piece of music. "What happened, originally," recalls McCartney, "was I was playing around on the synths, experimenting, and I suddenly got something which sounded very oriental."
When the track was finished I tried to think of a suitable title and things came to mind like the ice-capped Mount Fuji, or a snow scene from the Orient. But all the names sounded clumsy. Then I thought of "Frozen Jap," frozen being the ice bit from the snow scene idea, and Jap meaning oriental. Anyway, the title just stuck. It was done in the summer of 1979, but I'm sure people will think it was recorded after the incident in Japan. We decided to change the title to "Frozen Japanese" for the album over there since we didn't particularly want to offend anyone.
After the roller coaster breakup of the Beatles in 1970 the relationship between John Lennon and Paul McCartney was never really the same. They talked, they met, they still occasionally hung out together, but something had definitely changed. For years people have tried to pin at least part of the blame on their wives, but to do so ignores the complicated, tightly wound interactions between the two. When they fought, they fought like brothers, still maintaining a delicate web of care and concern amid the bitter recriminations of two screaming egos caught in a tug of war for pre-eminence. "With John coming out against me like that, it was no good for me at all," says McCartney.
He really slagged me off, a lot of which he really didn't mean! Yoko tells me lots of it was just John, he just wanted to put me down. It's all jokes, taking the piss out of me. That was John. But I think it has probably made my image worse than it is. As I say, the truth is he didn't really think that was all my character. He knew there were all sorts of other bits.... I sometimes do catch myself and think, "God, do I look like that?" or, "Is that how I come over to people." And the funny thing is, I'm just struggling, trying to get through okay, trying to do well. Basically, I've never had a different philosophy than that. You get up in the morning and do your gig.
Despite Paul's "just kiddin'" philosophy, however, for a while there things did get pretty rough. After all the childish name calling back and forth on record and in the media, one of the most personally hurtful episodes to Paul was the time he and Linda turned up unannounced to see John in New York, only to be royally snubbed by his old pal. "Do you mind calling before you come round from now on," Lennon chided. "This isn't Liverpool, ya' know. In New York, you don't just drop in on people like this without warning."
"Sorry, man," McCartney intoned meekly. "We only wanted to stop by for a bit and say hello."
"Yeah, I know, man, but see, I've had a fuckin' long day today with Sean. It's bloody hard work lookin' after a kid this age, you know."
"Well, so ... we'll shove off then. See ya."
The two lifelong friends would never see each other again.
The great abiding problem, of course, still had to do with money. With much of the Beatle millions still largely up for grabs the stakes were high. So high in fact that Lennon went berserk at the mere mention of anything remotely concerned with the group's longstanding financial maelstrom. "At the very end we suddenly realized that all we had to do was not mention Apple if we phoned each other," says Paul. "We could talk about the kids, talk about his cats, talk about writing songs; the one paramount thing was not to mention Apple . . . I remember once he said to me, 'Do they play me against you like they play you against me?' Because there were always people in the background pitting us against each other. And I said 'Yeah, they do. They sure do!'"
For all the apparently unrepented rancor that passed between them over the years, when John was killed Paul was reportedly devastated: "He was always a very warm guy, John. His bluff was all on the surface. He used to take his glasses down — those granny glasses — take 'em down and say, 'It's only me.' They were like a wall, you know? A shield. Those are the moments I treasure."
As for McCartney's 1980s relationships with the other Beatles, Paul remained really close only to Ringo, contributing the tunes "Private Property" and "Attention" to Starr's disastrous 1981 album, Stop and Smell the Roses. Thereafter Ringo worked on several MPL-produced projects including The Cooler, an eleven-minute video fantasy starring Paul, Linda, Ringo, and his glamorous wife, Barbara Bach. Intended as a vehicle to help promote Ringo's Roses LP, the clever, well-conceived short was seldom run on television, or anywhere else for that matter. In a surprise move, however, The Cooler was subsequently picked as the official British entry in the short film category at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.
Of course the most well-known (and panned) collaboration between the two old Beatles was McCartney's unwatchable 1984 flick, Give My Regards to Broad Street. Stuck in an uneventful, embarrassing non-script, Starr did his best to help realize Paul's pointless vision of a kind of one-man Hard Day's Night, but drew the line when it came to joining his pal in re-recording some well-loved Beatles classics. "I've done them once already, remember?" he wryly observed.
George Harrison's feelings towards Paul McCartney, of course, are a vastly different matter. For all his Hare Krishna/ Peace & Love veneer, Harrison is often quite a cynical, cold, unforgiving character. McCartney had, after all, consistently given old George quite a hard time during the Beatle years, something the dour lead guitarist was not about to forgive or forget. "I think the only barrier between us is our astrological signs," observed Harrison in February of 1988. "Some of the time we get on pretty well, but I find I really don't have anything in common with him ... I think if you have a relationship with somebody else, you have to be able to trust each other, and to do that you have to be able to talk to each other straight. The thing with Paul is one minute he says one thing and he's really charming and the next minute, you know, he's all uptight."
Denny Laine has commented publicly that, as least as far as he's concerned, McCartney has always felt somewhat superior to Harrison, even going so far as barging in on the baby Beatle's recording sessions and throwing his musical weight around. "The last time I was at George's [in 1981, to work with the surviving Beatles on "All Those Years Ago"] Paul and Linda were also there. Paul has a way of coming in and taking over and making everything a bit edgy. Everyone was uptight. When he and Linda left, the atmosphere suddenly changed and became more relaxed. Everybody seemed to physically go 'phew' and start enjoying themselves. Paul thinks he's easygoing but there is a mistrust about him. He doesn't trust people and it shows."
When at last the curtain finally came down on Wings, Paul McCartney felt both vindicated and relieved: vindicated because he had indeed proved to the world that there was life after the Beatles, and relieved that he could now truly strike out on his own without a prop band.
Denny and Jo Jo, however, see it all differently. From their perspective, Paul and Linda had their wicked way with the group and then callously moved on. In our conversations Jo Jo stated on several occasions that she felt Paul was directly responsible for "ninety percent" of Denny's disillusionment with being part of a band. According to her, Laine left Wings after what he felt was a treacherous breach of trust on the part of the McCartneys.
Few people know it, but Tug of War was originally intended as a Wings project rather than a McCartney solo album. Heading out for recording sessions at AIR Studios in Montserrat with Paul and Linda, Denny discovered through a loudmouthed bartender that Jo Jo had only just been there with her young lover, EMI singer John Townley, a few days previously:
Alan Crowder called me up and told me off, saying, "You naughty girl, your husband's devastated. He didn't even know you were with this guy let alone in Montserrat with him." So I said, "I don't care what any of you think: I wasn't allowed to go to Montserrat with you guys, and I got invited by John who right now I'm very much in love with. It's got nothing to do with you, Paul, Linda or anybody." Because I had that attitude, Denny realized our marriage was finished. I'd always denied any affairs I'd had, but this one I was open about. He blamed it on Paul and Linda. If they had only let me go with them I guess I might not have turned to somebody else.
All in all, Denny seems to confirm his former wife's theory that the McCartneys were intent on breaking up not only the band, but while they were at it, his marriage as well:
I left Wings for two reasons: one was for money and the other was my missus. . . . They made her feel like an outsider. . . . Paul used to have his little digs at her. "I can't work with people around," he was always saying when she was there. . . . Linda is a lot older than Jo Jo and that was one of the main problems. Jo is also the extrovert Linda wishes she could be. That's where the jealousy lies.... Paul certainly tried to get rid of her and probably thought he was doing me a favor. Paul and Linda's refusal to allow Jo Jo on Montserrat went a long way towards destroying my marriage ... I thought by leaving Wings Jo and I could spend more time together and work out our problems, but unfortunately it didn't happen that way.
On that fateful day, when Denny at last decided he'd had enough of what he saw as the McCartneys' perpetual psychological bullying he mentally closed up shop, stubbornly throwing away not only his future with Wings but also any last thread of friendship he had left with Paul. "He was supposed to be in the studio that afternoon," recalls Jo.
First Trevor called and then John Hammel, but Denny said, "I'm not speaking to anybody." Eventually, of course, Paul called, asking, "Is Denny there?" So I said, "Well, he doesn't want to speak to anyone right now, Paul." I was real nice when I said it, but I secretly loved being able to tell Paul McCartney to sod off. "He's asked me to give you and everyone else the message because he finally realizes now that he's lost his family and all the damage that's been done. As far as I'm concerned he can go to the studio with my blessings, but he doesn't care to."
"You fucking cow, Jo Jo!" he screamed into the receiver. "No. Sorry, luv," I said calmly, just before gently hanging up the phone. "This time it's your fault." That was the last time Denny and Paul ever had any real contact right up until 1990, ten years later.
The information the media received from the two men's PR people, however, didn't accurately reflect the true sequence of events. Brian Adams, Denny's manager at the time, told the press, "There is no row. But Denny likes to tour and Paul has decided Wings will not make any tour plans for the future." Paul's office, meanwhile, tersely denied an accusation leveled in London's New Standard that McCartney had halted any public appearances after receiving several death threats following John's murder. "There is no truth whatsoever to that report," said an unnamed spokesperson. "There were no plans to tour long before John Lennon died. Paul is doing other things, that's all." He also went on to say that Laine's departure didn't necessarily mean Wings would cease to exist. "Wings are Paul and Linda and whoever they wish to record with."
Asked in 1982 about the Laine/McCartney rift and the unhappy end of the band, Paul had this to say: "I hate the pressure of a group... Anyway, I got bored with the whole idea and I thought, 'Christ! I'm coming up to forty now. I don't really have to stay in a group. There's no rule anywhere that says I have to do it that way.' At the time Denny and I were writing together. He was going to stay on, but we had a bit of a falling out. It was nothing madly serious, but he did decide to go his own way, saying that he wanted to tour. He hasn't been on tour since."
Steve and Laurence, meanwhile, each got a phone call from Paul, saying that George Martin felt it might work out better if Tug of War wasn't completed as a group project. While Juber admits to having been bitterly disappointed, Holly was quite simply angry. Using Martin as an excuse, after all, was a pretty shoddy trick, even worse that McCartney actually lowered the boom himself. Around MPL the news that Paul had once and for all clipped his Wings met with only vague disinterest. (It's not as if the staff had a lot to do. Once, when they were all fed up at simply hanging out week after week and threatened to quit, McCartney quelled the unrest, not by ensuring they were a little more actively involved, but by doubling their salaries!) Other than a three-picture tribute to Denny in Club Sandwich, number 24, there wasn't really much word on the whys and wherefores of the group's final dissolution, save for one microscopic note in fan club executive Sue Cavanau's regular monthly column. "As I'm sure most of you know," she began, with all the warmth and sincerity of a flight attendant reciting her airline's safety procedures, "Denny, Steve and Laurence have left Wings to concentrate on their solo careers, and I know you'll join me in wishing them well."
Upon its release Tug of War did extremely well. Rolling Stone, long impatient with Paul's often uneven post-Beatles work, titled it "McCartney's Gem" and went on to give it their coveted five-star rating. Thought by many to be McCartney's Imagine, Tug of War neatly strung together the talents of not only George Martin and Denny Laine, but also drummers Steve Gadd and Ringo Starr, guitarist Eric Stewart, bassman Stanley Clarke, as well as guest artists Stevie Wonder and country gentleman Carl Perkins.
Among the twelve tunes on the album several stand out as being miles ahead of anything McCartney ever did with Wings, giving added credence to Paul's decision to go it alone. Among them, perhaps the majestic "Wanderlust" most clearly defines the composer's lifelong lyrical quest for freedom and release from the loneliness and isolation so often a biting theme of his work. Ostensibly concerning a falling-out between McCartney and the captain of his and Linda's private yacht during sessions for London Town, the song is one of unguarded surrender to the powers of heaven and earth.
"The Pound Is Sinking" mocks the stuffy indifference of the unreasonably rich to the needs of a world turned upside down by the uncertain finances of an economy based on the extravagant exploitation of the planet's dwindling resources. McCartney explains what was behind its creation:
For me, it's just the funny thing about the pundits day-to-day giving us an update so that the people who've got money can gauge it all, like the weather. There is something which amuses me about this constant update of something that is always going to be different. You are never going to be able to put your finger on it, but it just might help knowing if there is snow on the M6. But generally they make more mistakes than correct predictions, it seems to me. You know, the pound is sinking, panic, and then the pound's all right now, and everyone gets back into it. It's a funny idea; I like the idea of all the ants doing what the lead ant tells them, you know, the oracle.
"Dress Me Up as a Robber" suggests the futility of our endless role-playing and the irrelevance of extraneous labels and outward designations. Recording with Steve Gadd who laid down a Latinesque beat, McCartney wails away in a convincing falsetto. "You can do whatever you like to me," says Paul, explaining the song's origin. "You can tell me what you like, but I'll still be what I am; you can dress me up as a sailor, a robber, a soldier, but it really won't matter, I will still be me. If you dress me up as a soldier I will be the little fellow who goes off to Northern Ireland and writes a book about the horrors of it all; I won't be a soldier really ..."
Perhaps the most poignant song on the album is "Here Today," Paul McCartney's tender, if somewhat sentimental, ballad to his lost friend, John Lennon. "Songwriting is like psychiatry," McCartney reflects. "You sit down and dredge up something that's deep inside and bring it out front. And I just had to be real and say, 'John, I love you.' I think being able to say things like that in songs can keep you sane."
Despite its seriousness of purpose, Tug of War thankfully lets down its guard at least some of the time, allowing the humor of its creator to shine through. On "Get It," Paul's funky down-home duet with childhood hero Carl Perkins, the listener gets the distinct impression that here at least is a Paul at ease with himself and his role as the bubbly boyish Beatle who made good. "We had a really great time," Perkins recalls. "We ate together. It was a very, very close thing. I had to tell him and Linda, 'I'm so proud to see you people in touch with reality, to see your little boy lay his head on your knee when we're singing, to know that you can do and be whatever you want and act any way, but you haven't thrown love away.' And they haven't. I mean they've got it. Paul made the statement to me 'We tried the jet set, Carl, and it's plastic. We love people.' And they do. He acts exactly like you would want the fella next door to act."
Among the rockers on the album only "Take It Away" and the loosely autobiographical "Ballroom Dancing" deserve high marks. As for longtime McCartney favorite Stevie Wonder (Paul and Linda had "WE LOVE YOU STEVIE" emblazoned in braille across the bottom back cover of Red Rose Speedway), his soulful duet with Paul on "Ebony and Ivory" though a tad smaltzy, turned out an effective, tuneful plea for racial harmony at a time when musical expressions of such brotherly sentiments were few and far between.
Eloquent, sincere, and humble, Tug of War (including the LP's spiritually oriented title track) mirrors an inner depth and clarity of vision decidedly lacking in many of Paul's other solo recordings. Over the years quite a lot has been made of Paul's seemingly bottomless wealth. Based on his ever-blossoming Beatle millions, McCartney's fortunes have been enhanced and solidified through a lifetime of well-thought-out, carefully executed investments. Heralded in the November 1983 issue of People as "The Richest Man in Show Business," McCartney purposely keeps a low profile, preferring to think of himself as only reasonably well off as opposed to being the landed Beatle billionaire that he is today.
In a good year taking in more than, say, British Airways, McCartney can play country boy all he likes; the fact is that of all four Beatles he is by far the most wealthy and powerful. MPL is today the largest independent music publisher in the world holding the copyrights to a mind-boggling array of compositions, including such standards as "On Wisconsin," "Stormy Weather," "Autumn Leaves," "Sentimental Journey," "Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech," "Chopsticks," "Bugle Call Rag," "Happy Birthday," "One for My Baby," "Ghostriders in the Sky," "The Theme from the Dinah Shore TV Show," "It's Tight Like That," "Sweetheart of Sigma Chi," and "Basin Street Blues," to name only a very few.
In addition, Paul and company control such mainstream musicals as Mame, La Cage aux Folles, Peter Pan, A Chorus Line, Bye Bye Birdie, Annie, High Society, Grease, Hello Dolly, and Guys and Dolls, not to mention his interests in the song-writing catalogs of composers Scott Joplin and Ira Gershwin. Thrown in for good measure McCartney also owns a good bit of former partner Denny Laine's publishing as well as the bulk of material written by Buddy Holly.
Paul and Linda also have a great eye and love for art, as reflected in their now multi-million-dollar collection of classic works by Magritte, Rauschenberg, Picasso, Eduardo Paolozzi, and longtime buddy, Willem de Kooning. According to George Harrison, the surreal Magrittes were an especially good deal; he claims that his former partner picked them up in the mid-sixties at bargain basement prices before they were "fashionable."
The McCartneys are also particularly fond of both Art Deco and Art Nouveau as evidenced by this author who once, while visiting old friend Su Gold at MPL, actually carried a large, standing antique stained glass screen into Paul's roomy third-floor office from the street below.
Swank offices notwithstanding, McCartney's home is a suprisingly humble abode. "We may have to build a third bedroom now because our youngest is a boy," Paul poor-mouthed to the press in 1981.
But we have deliberately kept them in one room because I want a close family, just as I had when growing up in Liverpool. I don't want a mansion where I have to telephone from the east wing to make an appointment to see my kids in the west wing. Of course they are going to get a lot of money one day, but Linda and I are trying to make their growing up an ordinary one. We don't have a chauffeur; I drive the youngest kids to the local primary school. When people come and visit us in the country, they tend to drive past our cottage the first time because they are looking for a bigger house.
Although a great deal of the McCartneys' worldly success certainly stems from Paul's formidable talent as a composer and performer, many thanks are also due Linda's father, Lee, a fact that sometimes concerns the sensible, down-to-earth Mrs. McCartney. "It worries me 190 percent," she says. "I'd rather not do it that way, but that's the way we have always done it. I think [mixing] business and pleasure is poison. But what can you do?"
Назад к оглавлению
Following the release of Wings' Greatest in 1978, a none-too-clever compilation that didn't exactly set the record-buying world on its ear, McCartney's contract with Capitol Records expired, leaving him a free and very desirable agent. Hotly pursued by several top labels throughout the U.S., the former Beatle eventually signed on the dotted line with CBS for a purported $15 million plus a windfall of lucrative incentives.
To industry insiders it was clear CBS president Walter Yentnikoff wasn't so much buying a new artist as he was leasing a little prestige. Like Linda Eastman so many years earlier, Walt too had now bagged himself a Beatle, and it felt great! At Black Rock, the company's opulent American headquarters, Paul's visit to press a little executive flesh was more akin to the Second Coming. "People were coming out of their offices just shaking," says a former top official. "To most of us there the opportunity to personally schmooze with a real live Beatle was why we got into the business in the first place. The ultimate rock and roll perk."
While personally gratifying to a precious few in the record company boardrooms of L.A. and New York, the signing of the new, Wingless Paul McCartney to CBS ultimately turned out to be an unqualified financial disaster. Receiving a record-high royalty of $1.80 per album (irrespective of any discounts), Paul must have surely been laughing all the way to the bank. According to one source, the eight-figure deal almost literally ruined the company, which only landed on its feet at the last minute thanks to the phenomenal success of Australia's answer to the Fab Four, Men at Work.
"I'm like Mr. Rich in the press these days," McCartney moaned to the media in 1984. "I'm supposed to be worth $500 million, but I'm not. It's a pity because young kids will tend to look at me as that, 'Mr. Rich.' It's a pity because your reputation walks ahead of you."
No matter what anyone says, however, if merely making money were Paul McCartney's prime motivation, he could have comfortably called it quits years ago. Though the numbers are by now out of sight, the principle for Paul is basically the same as it ever was. Looking at him now, one tends to see the former superstar Beatle in softer terms. Now undeniably middle aged, he likes a drink, loves his wife and children, watches the telly, and gets on with his job. Seeing him sit back, as I did, a few years ago in Linda's Covent Garden photo studio, with a glass of port in his hand and a couple of swirling kids tumbling around his feet, one couldn't help thinking that with a little less hair and a few more craggy lines on the brow it just might be old Jim McCartney himself, all those years ago, back in Allerton.