BAND ON THE RUN
Band On The Run - the album that resulted from the Lagos sessions - was a triumph from adversity. It took a great deal of guts and self-confidence for Paul, Linda and Denny to continue with the trip as planned. They were to play in strange studios, in an alien land, without resort to tried and trusted sessionmen.
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As if the skeletal group didn't have trouble enough, the circumstances of their stay in Nigeria heaped more difficulties upon them. As Paul later revealed, "It was one of the most frightening periods of my life." Uppermost in his mind was that this album just had to do well. Wings were not yet secure enough to withstand fundamental line-up changes and continue gaining popularity. McCartney's name alone could not guarantee sales and success. It was imperative he prove that the nucleus of the band - the creative powerhouse - was able to function unaided.
They were to record at two Lagos studios - one belonging to Ginger Baker, the other to EMI - and hoped, rather piously, to put Nigeria and its rich musical output (which Paul much admired) on the world map. Unfortunately, his efforts were reviewed with deep suspicion by some of the locals who thought he was intending to steal their rhythms, Westernize them and make a commercial success. In the light of the ruthless white exploitation of West Indian reggae their fears could be understood. But it was never McCartney's intention to make an 'African' album. Although he had wanted to, he didn't even try to enlist the help of a Lagos drummer to fill in for Seiwell because of their antagonism and "it would have taken hours to tell him exactly what I wanted, I knew basically that I could do most of it." Indeed, his opinion was that the album had "no particular African influences because I can smell it rather than hear it in the music." By a curious twist of fate, there was one direct African connection. As Paul explained: "The only guy from Africa we used was someone we met in London [drummer Remi Kabaka, sometime of Airforce with Laine], then we discovered he came from Lagos. But that was purely coincidental!"
The antagonism from fellow musicians did not help their already difficult task. No more did the climate. During one studio session, Paul found the atmosphere oppressive, went out for some air but discovered that "if anything, the air was more foul outside than in." Suddenly, he felt an agonizing pain across the right side of his chest and collapsed. He was rather disconcerted to find, upon regaining consciousness, the doctor treating his condition offhandedly. He was ordered to bed where he stayed for some days, "thinking I was nearly dying."
To cap all these troubles, he and Linda were robbed. They had set out - "like a couple of tourists, loaded with tapes and cameras" - on a 20-minute walk to Denny Laine's rented house. On the way a car that had been kerb-crawling stopped in front of them and they found themselves involved in a nightmare. Paul described it to the Daily Express in 1977: "The doors flew open and they all came out (there were six) and one had a knife. Their eyes were wild and Linda was screaming: 'He's a musician. Don't kill him,' You know, all the unreasonable stuff you shout in situations like that."
Paul wisely handed over his cash and, mercifully, they were allowed to continue on their way unmolested. On reaching safety they were relieved but unreassured to learn how lucky they were not to have been killed; apparently not an uncommon occurrence in that part of the world.
It says a great deal for Paul, Linda and Denny that in spite of such opposition Band On The Run was an artistic, critical and commercial tour de force. On its release in December 1973, it met with the first really enthusiastic reviews accorded any McCartney venture since the demise of the Beatles. One critic went so far as to describe it as "the best thing any of the Beatles have done since Abbey Road." It became the first Wings record to hit number 1 in both Britain and America. Its worldwide sales were reckoned at 5,000,000, gaining a clutch of gold discs from various countries and it went platinum in the States.
Band thoroughly deserved its success. It's a harvest of delights. Some measure of its worth may be judged from the fact that three singles were taken off it and all became considerable hits. The first was Helen Wheels (about the McCartney's trusty Land Rover that bears the same name; it was on the American album but not the British version) which was released as a trail to the LP. Next came Jet (named, like Martha My Dear, after one of the McCartney dogs); this went into the Top 10 in both the UK and US. Last was Band On The Run (backed with Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five in the States and Zoo Gang - Paul's theme for a TV series - in Britain) which went to number 1 in America and 3 in the United Kingdom.
The name and cover of the album were both intriguing. The latter showed the three Wings members plus six others dressed as escaping convicts, frozen in the glare of a prison searchlight. The personalities used were all familiar to British audiences but only two - actors James Coburn and Christopher Lee - were instantly recognizable in America. The others were TV chat show host Michael Parkinson, boxing champion John Conteh (like Paul a Liverpudlian), singer Kenny Lynch and gourmet, wit and Member of Parliament, Clement Freud. Later Paul was to deny that the choice of people invited to appear had any significance. They were included, he said, "just for a lark."
In the light of their recent difficulties, was the band on the run Wings? Paul wasn't sure himself. He maintained that it was just a good title, a flowing run of words in a song. But perhaps, subconsciously, he did feel that he, Linda and Denny were escaping from a group in which they'd felt imprisoned. Linda has said that the departure of Seiwell and McCullough was "a relief" and it is noticeable that Wings Mark II has been a happier, tighter and far more satisfying band than the first one.
The enormous success of Band On The Run completely overshadowed another Wings-related album released about a fortnight before it. This was Ahh Laine, Denny's first solo venture since his involvement with the McCartneys. Many artists would have been frustrated by this but Denny was unconcerned. "To be honest," he told a reporter, "it was rushed off because I was in such a hurry to get back to work with Paul and Linda."
While some others might find working with them difficult, Denny was thoroughly enjoying himself. "This really is the best band I have ever been with. I just know we are going to go right on getting bigger and bigger all over the world… I've still got a contract to produce two solo albums a year. But they don't mean nearly as much as Wings to me."
His relationship with Paul was evidently a close and happy one. "We have our arguments but we honestly are good mates... The thing is that we both know we need each other - or people like each other - to bounce off… With a group you fight about things and it stops you roaring off on the wrong track."
McCartney obviously appreciated and valued Denny's support through the difficult days following the split and agreed with Laine when he maintained in print that "the only basis for anything is a kind of mutual honesty and trust." Denny didn't lose by the lack of time and promotion he was able to give to his own album because as a token of his gratitude for his loyalty Paul gave him a percentage of the royalties from Band On The Run. A valuable gift and a generous gesture.
The success of Band vindicated Paul's belief in the creative and commercial abilities of his trio. But while they had proved they could make brilliant records, they could not go out on the road in that form. Now, as 1974 was beginning, he had to start the search again for people who could fit both personally and musically into the gypsy family.
He was approaching the selection of his recruits with a once-bitten-twice-shy caution. He wasn't going to rush into anything, remembering the outcome of his last efforts. As he told a reporter, "With the original Wings lineup we took almost the first people we heard who were good…" Now they must not only be able to play together but, for quite long stretches in the studios and on the road, live together in harmony.
In December, 1973 he, Linda and Denny had visited Paris to do some recording (notably of Linda's own reggae-inspired song Seaside Woman that they intended to release under the soubriquet Suzie and the Red Stripes) and with them, amid much speculation, had travelled Davy Lutton (then playing drums in ex-Love Affair's Steve Ellis' group) and guitarist Jimmy McCulloch. When questioned, Paul wouldn't be drawn into saying whether the pair would be joining the band. His only comment was they'd played together "just to see how it'd feel playing with musicians on a loose, no-strings-attached basis."
The year's turn saw two heartening news items for Beatles fans. The first, in December '73, was the release of Ringo, an album on which all members of the former group had worked in one capacity or another. Paul contributed a song and this prompted many fresh enquiries about the possibility of the Beatles reforming. Paul fended these off. About Ringo he said: "The others did some stuff for it in Los Angeles and then the material was brought over here for me. I worked on a track called Six O'clock... so in a way there's been some collaboration already and I think that kind of thing might happen more often. I'm happy to play with the other three and I'm sure they are too if it was physically possible but more important for me is the new thing because I really get turned on by new ideas."
The reference to the physical impossibility of playing together was the problem that both Paul and John were experiencing as a result of drug convictions. John was fighting to be allowed to stay in America and so dared not leave for fear of being denied re-admission and Paul was not yet able to get an entry visa. This led to a rather whimsical plan by which the two would meet at some Canadian border town - each keeping to his own side of the frontier, of course - where they would discuss the still-unresolved Beatles partnership dispute!
Unsurprisingly, nothing came of that but in February, 1974 some newspapers carried an item which stated that a High Court judge in London had approved a scheme to facilitate the continued running of the Beatles' affairs. (This would eventually lead to complete agreement about the dissolution of the partnership.) Paul told reporters that this latest legal step would bring the Beatles closer to working together again. "We've talked about it, but haven't been able to do anything because this has been going on and on." Clearly the acrimony of the past few years was now over.
Paul was also cementing old relationships in other areas. This time family ones as he worked intermittently through January to May producing an album - McGear - for his brother Mike. It eventually appeared in the fall of the year and, in addition to production, Paul had written two songs and co-written а further five with his brother and one with poet Roger McGough. Also, McGear's group Scaffold released a single - Liverpool Lou - which Paul produced and for which Mr and Mrs McCartney wrote the flip side - Ten Years After On Strawberry Jam.
If 1973 was a year of expansion and progress, '74 was to be one of retrenchment. McCartney kept Wings' profile low while he looked for the right people. He was due to record in America during the summer and he obviously wanted to be able to take some compatible musicians with him.
McCartney's visit to Nashville was to be a reasonably relaxed affair. He was to produce an album for Peggy Lee which would include one of his own songs, Let's Love. (Both the LP and the title track single were released in October, '74.) He was also looking for a Wings single from the sessions and, of course, tracks for the next album. But he was taking it easy, allowing his guitarist and drummer - both of whom must have felt themselves probationers - to get to know him, his methods and the rest of the band.
It came as no surprise to the music press when guitarist Jimmy McCulloch joined the party. In addition to the Paris sessions for the unrealized Suzie and the Red Stripes release, Jimmy had also worked with McCartney on Mike McGear's solo album. It was at this time that Paul mooted the possibility of McCulloch playing with Wings. Jimmy, with a wake of disbanded groups behind him, needed no second bidding.
Despite his youth (he was born June 4, 1953 and just 21 although he looked about four years younger) Jimmy McCulloch was already a rock veteran. A native of Glasgow, Scotland he had shown a precocious musical talent and set his heart on a career in rock very early. His parents were unusual in that they encouraged him from the start and, knowing that the British rock industry revolves around London, uprooted and moved south to give their son every chance. By the age of 13 Jimmy was playing professionally as the main attraction in a band called One In A Million. At 16 he contributed to a massive hit as part of Pete Townshend's protege group Thunderclap Newman. The success of Something In The Air brought him to the attention of a wider public and he was hailed as an adolescent guitar virtuoso.
As if to prove the point, he was recruited by John Mayall - doyen of British bluesmen and one of the most influential figures in British rock - to step into a line-up that had previously included such luminaries as Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor. To be in such company gave Jimmy a rather premature reputation as guitar hero - a difficult role to play for one of such tender years.
After Mayall, Jimmy was asked to join Stone The Crows as lead behind vocalist Maggie Bell and alongside drummer Colin Alien (later of Focus and Jimmy's songwriting partner for such Wings numbers as Medicine Jar on Venus And Mars and Wino Junko on Speed Of Sound). The group was a critical rather than commercial success, a source of frustration to McCulloch who believed it deserved to do well. Nobody can live on praise alone and so, regretfully, Stone The Crows folded and the still-stripling Jimmy looked for yet another musical niche.
The next venture was a contract with Robert Stigwood - one of rock's mandarins - and a group called Blue. This brought him little satisfaction because, in his own words, "the band lacked balls... They were very competent… but really not my bag. They'd be walking on in Levi's and standing like statues, and I'd be in my white suit leaping around." He drifted out of Blue (but not the Stigwood contract) and rather vaguely into making a solo album of his and Colin Alien's songs.
He was happy to work on a loose basis with the McCartneys and delighted when they asked him to become more involved with Wings because, as he said at the time: "I'm sick and tired of being in and out of bands. I want to get something down on record that's going to be appreciated instead of always being in new bands that so few people hear."
With McCulloch co-opted into Wings, McCartney now set about looking for a drummer. As before, he held auditions but this time in London. One of those applying for a hearing was a tall, lean Cockney called Geoff Britton. He'd played in East of Eden, a band, like Stone The Crows, that enjoyed more reputation than success and followed up as part of the Wild Angels. He'd always, in his own words, "earned enough bread to keep from starvation's door" but had missed the big time. This naturally depressed him, particularly when East of Eden didn't hit. "A great band who never made it and should have," he said ruefully. "It must have been mismanagement . . . because so many of the bands like Yes and Free who were on that circuit at the same time as us did make it."
The audition for Wings was something of an ordeal. Button's name was on a list with about 50 others. He went along to the audition hall and was taken aback by the competition: "You should have seen the people there. It was like a Who's Who of the music industry." Fighting the urge to give it up as a no-hoper there and then, he decided to have a go. "I was a bit disappointed actually because I thought it would be a chance to play with McCartney, but they'd hired session men instead," he told Disc, subsequently. "Wings just sat out in front in the audience bit of this theater and watched.
"I wasn't really nervous. I'm never nervous, although I might be a bit apprehensive. We had to play about four numbers - some of it quite advanced stuff for an ordinary rock & roll drummer. Anyway, I got up there and did my stuff... A few days later I got this phone call and they said l was on the short-list of five, and this time it would be Paul and the group playing. That time l had a 20 percent chance, yet I felt It was more hopeless than ever.
"I met Paul and the group and they were really nice. Anyway, after that I got a phone call saying they'd narrowed it down to two geezers. Each of us spent a whole day with the group and had dinner with them. Then one day... the phone rang. It was Paul. He said 'Well, we've decided,' and he was mucking about, geeing me up... In the end I said: 'Well, who's it gonna be?' and he said: 'You got the job.' "
McCulloch and Britton were in but there had been no official announcement of the fact, no confirmation to the press that they were fully-fledged Wings members. The five went off to Nashville to record and learn about each other for seven weeks during June, July and August. The result of the visit - apart from the Peggy Lee album - was a Wings single, Junior's Farm/Sally G, and a curiosity called Walking In The Park With Eloise by a band called the Country Hams.
Linda told Sounds the intriguing story behind this when they'd returned from the trip. It was an instrumental of a tune written years before by James McCartney. "When Paul was a little boy, about 10... he remembers sitting at the foot of the piano while his dad was playing this song. We were having dinner with Chet Atkins, the guitar player, one night in Nashville, and Paul had been playing a lot of his music for Chet and he said: 'Here's one that my dad wrote a long time ago' - and he started playing it.
"Chet got talking to Paul, saying that the song should be recorded and that it would be nice for his dad... So we got Chet playing on it and Floyd Cramer the piano player and Chet got together a nice little band called Country Hams with lots of other Nashville people."
It was a charming and affectionate gesture and, as Paul told Disc, his father was touched by it. "He loved having a record out - but he's very shy... and he didn't like all the publicity, I remember him being very emotional about it when I first played it to him - he said I really shouldn't have bothered, but I know he enjoyed it. And do you know what? My Uncle Joe has now written some words to go with it..."
Although the Nashville excursion was designed to be an unpressured, get-to-know-each-other period (only about five tracks resulted from it), on the group's return to Britain there were virulent rumors in circulation about the band's internal relationships. New Musical Express carried a news story in August, 1974 under the headline WINGS UPHEAVAL. The opening paragraph read: "The existing line-up of Paul McCartney's Wings appeared this week to have broken up, following what is understood to have been a major internal policy disagreement. Sources close to the band suggest that Denny Laine and the two 'unofficial' members, guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Jeff Britten (sic), are no longer working with Wings. A spokesman for Laine confirmed that there had been 'personal difficulties', while another contact stated emphatically: 'Wings have split - the old band doesn't exist any more.' "
Coming hardly a year after the departure of Seiwell and McCullough and months after the drafting of McCulloch and Britton, this was a bombshell. The surprise was further compounded by the allegations that Denny Laine - Wings' most loyal and consistent member - had fallen out with the McCartneys. The details behind the story were confused and not helped by "a Wings spokesman" who issued a non-committal statement. It said: "Wings members are free to pursue their own musical careers. This will enable them to develop working relationships free of contractual ties. In future Wings will have a fluid concept, which will be adapted to suit current and future projects."
A New Musical Express reporter pressed the spokesman to confirm or deny that Wings had split and elicited this response: "It is wrong to say that Wings are no more, because Wings are Paul and Linda McCartney." In answer to a further question about whether the three would be working with Wings in the future, came: "It depends on their availability. Maybe they will if they are free when Paul wants them - if not, he would presumably engage someone else. As I have already stated. Wings in future will have a fluid concept."
The tone of the story - and the spokesman's hazy reaction - implied that there had been some furious arguments in Nashville. Following-up the New Musical Express's dramatic 'revelation', a journalist from Sounds put it to Denny Laine that there had been "a showdown" in America. "No, that's a bit dramatic because it's not that these things hadn't been said before," was the reply. "Various things were said, like they're said in any group - you can't deny that. You know how it is… you say something and if someone else doesn't respond to what you're saying then you're walking out, but the next minute you can be walking back. People have been thinking that finally I've said my piece, but that's not true - I just said my piece about what was happening at this time."
Denny didn't go into the specifics of any disagreements there may have been between the McCartneys and the other three although he acknowledged that he and Paul had different ways of approaching their work but, he said realistically, "it was Paul's group, and there was no getting away from that." A further complication sprang from Paul being who he is - one of the most famous men in rock. "There'll always be a difference between my status and Paul's status, because Paul is a household name, which I ain't, and which 99 and 3/4 percent of the musicians in the world ain't either."
Denny Laine was evidently less troubled by any wrangles than had been represented in some sections of the rock press. His main concern had centered around contracts. He's a free spirit who dislikes being tied by legal documents. He's suffered too much from too many in the past to enter lightly into any agreement that might limit his movement. "We went to Nashville with the idea that we'd get this group together and we'd all sign contracts and be Wings, as a business thing… but then it seemed as if it was being a bit rushed. I thought, 'hang on - let's make sure that this is the right group.' Then I started thinking about contracts, and I decided that I could be in any group without signing a contract... It just didn't seem necessary to me, and the minute I said this to Paul he said 'great, that's the way I want it too,' and then I realized that we were only going through this thing with contracts because we'd all been advised to do it. It wasn't what we wanted."
The dust settled and Wings progressed through the rest of the year apparently unruffled. It was, externally, a quiet year for the group. Junior's Farm/SallyG was issued (October in UK and November in US) and did respectably, reaching 16 and 3 in the charts of each respective country. (Early the next year, McCartney took the unusual step of flipping the disc, making Sally G the A-side. He did it, he said, to give the song a chance of exposure. The record re-entered the US Top 100, reaching 39.)
McCartney had contributed a song - Mine For Me - to the Rod Stewart album Smiler that was released in the fall of the year. He and Linda went to catch a Faces gig shortly after and found themselves pulled on stage by Rod to join in the song. Paul admitted that the ham in him rose to the occasion and revealed that what one journalist noted as terpsichorean ungainliness was in fact the result of imbibing alcohol. This relaxation seemed to reflect the confidence he now felt with the group and its progress.
This was underlined late in November, 1974 by the long-awaited announcement that Jimmy McCulloch and Geoff Button were now officially members of Wings. The delay in confirming what everyone already knew was due to contractual problems being ironed-out. These mostly surrounded McCulloch who was signed to Stigwood but may also have sprung from Denny Laine's declared misgivings. A confident Вritton told the press: "There was talk of contracts in the beginning, but we decided it was better if nothing was contracted, if you're a real pro and you've got a tour booked, you don't phone up and say, 'I'm not coming. 'That's just not on."
Much was made of Britton's accomplishments as a karate expert. He had recently been a member of the British Amateur Karate Association team that had beaten some exponents from Japan - the home of the sport. The victory was recorded on film by director David Litchfield on behalf of McCartney Productions. The resultant 32 minute documentary - Empty Hand - was finally released in 1977 with Paul shown on the credits as producer and contributing abstract percussion music - rather ironic as Britton is a drummer!
This was the first movie to emerge from McCartney Productions although several others were mentioned and promised over the years. One - One Hand Clapping also directed by Litchfield - was completed and showed the band rehearsing and recording in Nashville. Another was a project involving film of Wings Mark 1 on tour in Europe intercut with animation of three mice who live beneath the stage. That was to be called The Bruce McMouse Show and was mentioned intermittently in interviews. Another animated movie was a cherished ambition from Paul's early days as a solo star. One of his first acts after leaving the Beatles was to buy the rights to a newspaper strip featuring Rupert the Bear with the intention of making a cartoon musical. In 1977 he was still asserting he wanted "to make a better film than Walt Disney" but at that time none of the projects had seen the light of day.
With the Wings line-up now publicly stabilized, the group entered 1975 with the prospect of harmonious creativity before them. The first obligation was a new album. Over a year had passed since the release of the last - Band On The Run - and it was obvious that they could not afford to delay recording much longer. Paul knew exactly where he wanted to lay this one down - the Sea-Saint Studios in New Orleans. The co-owner is Alien Toussaint a commanding figure in the New Orleans R &B scene as performer, writer, musician and producer. Among his writing credits are hits like Ride Your Pony, Working In The Coalmine, Get Out Of My Life Woman and Holy Cow (all for Lee Dorsey) and Ernie K-Doe's Mother-In-Law. He's produced a diverse range of talent including Irma Thomas, Clarence "Frogman' Henry, Dr John and the Meters. What particularly struck Paul's ear was a certain drum sound Toussaint had caught on Labelle's Lady Marmalade and he determined to work in Sea-Saint and with Toussaint.
Wings were booked into the studio from the second week in January and set out with high hopes. However, things did not go according to plan. At some point in the stay, a rift appeared in the newly-confirmed line-up as a result of which Geoff Britton was replaced. It's difficult to be certain what exactly precipitated this. Linda later said: "It just didn't jell. It was horrible because we really wanted it to work ... It was another depressing period. We had started Venus And Mars but it just wasn't working."
Two years later, a writer looking back on five years of Wings in Melody Maker claimed that there were personality difficulties between Britton and McCulloch because the drummer "hates his guts." Britton told the reporter he'd find out the reasons for his antipathy five minutes after meeting McCulloch. Interestingly, Jimmy had described himself as "a bit weird to get on with at times" during one of the interviews he gave shortly after the official announcement of his and Button's acceptance into Wings.
He candidly told Sounds: "I am a bit weird. Immaturity, I suppose. I've had a lot of experience in music, but experience of life - knowing how to treat people, when to say something and when not to and when you've put your foot in it - I'm still a bit green that way . .. Sometimes there's a Jekyll and Hyde within me. Sometimes I really blow it and get on people's nerves." It is possible that Britton didn't know how to take McCulloch's confused precocity.
Britton's own version of the events, as related to Melody Maker nearly two years later, was this: "I was in the States and we were starting work on Venus And Mars, and my wife started talking about separation and divorce. I came home to sort it out. Joe English was brought in and I was out. In retrospect, it would have been better to try and keep both things going, but I had to consider that Wings would one day be over and my marriage was a life-long thing."
Geoff said it had "taken me a year to get over leaving Wings" but was obviously putting the best possible face on the whole affair when he remarked: "It's a funny band... From a musician's point of view, it's a privilege to do it. From a career point of view, it's madness. No matter how good you are, you're always in the shadow of Paul."
Whether, as many maintain, Britton was pushed or whether, as he says, he jumped out of Wings is immaterial. What mattered at the time was that Paul had a complete album in his head, every detail preordained down to the particular drum sound. (After all, he'd had a year to think about it.) He'd cut three tracks with Britton - Love In Song, Letting Go and McCulloch's Medicine Jar - and suddenly he had to find a new drummer; the group's third in its short history.
The solution to the crisis came from Tony Dorsey who had been brought in to handle the brass parts on several tracks. (He was later leader of and arranger for the horn section of the Wings roadshow.) He knew of a young drummer of wide experience whom he thought might fit the bill and see the sessions through successfully. The only problem being that he was, at that moment, rehearsing with Bonnie Bramlett, preparatory to going out on tour.
The drummer was Joe English, a native of Rochester, New York (born February 7, 1949) but resident in Georgia (Dorset's home state). He answered the call with alacrity (pausing only to arrange a replacement for Bonnie Bramlett's band) and was thrust, unceremoniously, into Wings' frenzied activity. He coped magnificently. He so impressed McCartney that after the completion of the album he was invited to join the band.
Joining Wings was English's turningpoint. He had labored long and hard at his profession, paying his dues and serving a gruelling apprenticeship. At the age of 18 he'd joined a band called Jam Factory and through six years had trailed across America on tours, down-bill of rock giants like the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. He'd had plenty of second-hand experience of superstardom, slogged through the grind but reaped none of the rewards. He had plenty of solid, if unspectacular, achievement to look back on - an album for Epic and appearances at America's twin rock meccas, the Fillmores East and West - but an uncertain future.
By about 1973/74 things were looking bleak. Jam Factory broke up and his personal life was shot to hell. As he said, looking back from new-found security in '75, "Two years ago everything was working against me. My old lady and two kids left me, I had no gigs, no money. I was on the bottom." His only consolation was the unflagging support of his girlfriend, Dayle, who "stuck with me, kept my spirits up, and helped me get through the year." He started doing sessions in the burgeoning Macon music scene that had received such a boost from the success of the Allman Brothers and was expanding fast with the assistance of Phil Walden's Capricorn records. (And, of course, Georgia was about to be put on the map by a thrusting, peanut-growing Governor who had his eyes on bigger things - like the White House!)
Joe English recorded with Wings in New Orleans for the first couple of months of 1975, getting down the tracks that would eventually emerge as Venus And Mars. The entourage then headed west to Los Angeles to do the final mixing. (Although, as usual with the McCartneys, it wasn't all work. Their visit to New Orleans coincided with Mardi Gras and, hidden beneath clowns' make-up and costumes, they were able to mingle unobserved in the carnival crowds.)
It was in LA, on the way to Wally Heider's studio for mixing sessions, that Paul turned to Joe in the car and put the proposition to him. After all the difficulties he'd previously encountered finding a suitable drummer, Paul made his mind up fast about English. He was certainly impressed by his musical abilities and, perhaps, swayed by a shared love of the rural life. Just as McCartney - the boy from the terraced streets of Liverpool - relished the role of gentleman farmer and part-time Scottish laird, so city boy Joe English - "I come from the New York ghetto" - had found contentment way down south in Georgia following rustic pursuits. He once described his home environment and it bore strong resemblances to that of Paul and Linda. "We have three dogs, 25 chickens, a goat, six horses, and a cat, Amos, who we brought back from near death after he'd been thrown out of a car. I like to run a Massey Ferguson 150 tractor, fish and plough on the farm. It gets me away from the business."
During their stay in LA the annual Grammy Award ceremony was held, (Grammies are given by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences - NARAS - for "artistic achievement within the recording field, based on artistry in writing, performance, musicianship and engineering." In effect, they are the recording industry's equivalent of Oscars.) Paul and Linda had attended to receive one for the LP Band On The Run.
On the Monday following the ceremony - March 3, 1975 - Paul, Linda and the three children were driving out of Los Angeles, north along Santa Monica Boulevard, heading back to their temporary base in Malibu. It was just after midnight and Paul had failed to stop at a red light. A highway patrol man flagged down the silver Lincoln Continental and, when he leant through the driving window - presumably to admonish McCartney for his carelessness - his suspicion was aroused by the "strong odor of marijuana." He found, if was later claimed, a smouldering joint on the floor of the car and a quantity of marijuana - reports varied between 16 and 18.5 grammes - in Linda's purse.
Initially, both McCartneys were placed under arrest but Linda insisted that the marijuana was hers alone and she was charged with possession at West Los Angeles police station while Paul was freed and allowed to drive the children home. Linda was detained for two hours before bail was agreed and she was allowed to leave. A spokesman for the police told pressmen: "The whole matter has been put in the hands of the district attorney. It is his decision what charges should be brought in court." There was some speculation at the time that in addition to a charge of possession there might be one for influencing minors as their daughters were present at the time of the incident.
This was the third occasion on which the McCartneys had been involved in drug charges - each time the narcotic was marijuana - and it boded ill for Paul if he was to be charged. He had only recently obtained a visa to work in the States; it had been withheld for some time as a result of the incidents in Sweden and Scotland. John was still fighting the emigration authorities as a result of his conviction seven years previously. There were serious consequences if Paul was involved. While Linda was still a US citizen, Paul was an alien.
The law took its course. In April it was reported that she was being charged with possession (no more was heard of the other charge) and that she was not - as she had at first intended - going to plead not guilty. Instead, she was applying to be put on a police drugs rehabilitation course. An LA police officer explained: "After six months instruction by approved counsellors, first offence drug charges - like that facing Mrs McCartney - are usually dropped."
In May came the news that Judge Brian Cuhan had offered Linda the alternative of having psychiatric treatment or standing trial. She had opted for the former and the judge had ordered that she attend six sessions with a psychiatrist. He allowed her to follow this course in London, where she and Paul had returned with the children. In November, some newspapers carried short agency reports stating: "Linda McCartney... has had a charge of possessing marijuana dismissed by a Los Angeles court because she completed a six-month course in England on the danger of drugs."
Yet again, the McCartneys had been dealt with leniently. But the fact remained that they had been busted three times in as many years. They seemed to be subject to more than usual police activity. Paul was asked later that year by New Musical Express whether he thought they were "being got at." "No. I don't at all... It's just one of those things. Just the luck of the draw. I don't think it mounts up to any kind of conspiracy... The only really unfortunate thing about it is that it starts to get you a reputation as a kind of druggie. It is really only a minor offence. It isn't something we take too seriously, and of course the press image is really far worse.
"We're not serious drug addicts or anything. We just try to keep it quiet and not get into it a lot, because even talking about it... is like adding to it... The fact is it's illegal, and if a thing's illegal you're liable to get caught doing it."