Share on Tumblr
Imagine this: It's 1972. You're a struggling musician. You pack your wife, your kids, and a couple of musician friends in a little van, and roam the country looking for gigs! Sound familiar? You might think so except for one small fact; the struggling musician just described happens to be Paul McCartney, formerly a member of a then well-known group called The Beatles!

There's no doubt that McCartney could have lived off his fame with the Beatles or he could have put together a group of rock luminaries, traveled in limos and toured, singing Beatles' songs for the rest of his life. Instead, he chose to begin at square one with his best friend - his wife Linda - and some musicians that they could enjoy playing with, in a band that did not include his name in the moniker. These were not easy decisions to make. As he says, "The easy option would have been: supergroup, Beatles' numbers, boarding school, but we went against all that."

The band name Wings came to Paul when his daughter Stella (now head designer at The fashion house Chloe in Paris, and designer of Madonna's wedding gown) was born, "Whenever you have a baby you're always very thankful and in tune with the mysteries of life, realizing that nature is pretty hot stuff. I was just musing on in that hospital, thinking of angels and things like that, and I thought of Wings. It seemed to be a good name for a band," he recalls.

"When the Beatles finished, it was such a shock to me and my system," McCartney says. "Besides being out of work, to my mind, I'd lost one of the greatest jobs in the world. I thought that I just must continue in music because I just love it too much. The most difficult thing was to follow the Beatles. In the Beatles, we'd always laughed when people had said, 'This band is the next Beatles.' I'd been on the other side of that and it had always been a laugh for us to see people try and follow us. But here I was now, about to try and do just that."

In 1972, during Britain's "Three Day Week," a period of nationwide blackouts caused by a power strike, it all began. Paul and Linda got into the van with their kids, dogs and their band and headed north up the motorway. There were no promoters, no booking agents, no publicity. They just showed up at various universities and asked if they could play in the student union buildings, charging 50p (33 US cents) at the door. They stayed in whatever lodging they could find on the spot, pushing on to the next college and then the next college. Ultimately it paid off.

While one of Wing's earliest singles "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" was banned by the BBC, it nonetheless reached number one in Ireland and Spain and the controversy only helped to bring awareness to McCartney's statement and Wings' music. "I've always felt very patriotic, British, World War Two, we beat Hitler and that's good enough for me and all that - but this is the first time that I felt that the British Army did something in my name that was actually wrong," Reminiscent of pal John Lennon, McCartney then told the head of EMI. "It was time for me, who doesn't normally protest, to protest."

"Having a hit for Linda and I was a good thing because we had set out to prove that we could do it. There was so much bitterness in the wake of the Beatles break-up that there was an element of 'we'll show you," he says.

They did, and they showed the world, too.

By 1976, Wings had so grown in popularity that during the "Wings Over America" tour, they set a new world record, playing to 67,000 people at the Seattle Kingdome thereby breaking the Beatles' 1965 record of 55,600 at Shea Stadium. Paul's hit theme song for the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die" exposed him to still another audience, as well as Wings' Grammy winning "Rockestra" Theme, which came to him while laying in bed one night.

Not quite done yet, "Mull of Kintrye," was a song McCartney wrote on a whim to see if he could write a modern Scottish song for bagpipes. Released at the height of the British punk rock period, the traditional song became Wings' first Number One single in Britain and a record breaker for sales. For McCartney, it felt like a personal triumph.

Years later, Paul McCartney remembers asking his wife Linda when were they ever going to get around to looking at all the home movies and snapshots they had taken of their kids growing up, in the early days of Wings. The query inspired Linda to have their daughter Mary and her filmmaker husband Alistair Donald, put together an anniversary tape with lots of that personal footage set to music. "After much crying - because it was so emotional - we said, 'You know, that would have made a great TV show,'" recalls McCartney. "It was a little bit too personal for TV, but it gave us the idea - we decided that Alistair should put together all the Wings footage along with a lot of the home movie footage." Fortunately for us, the McCartney's were avid video buffs. And of course, Linda was a well-known and accomplished photographer.

Now in a 2-hour special presentation on ABC on Friday, May 11 at 9 PM, the story of Wings entitled "Wingspan", with footage and interviews conducted by their daughter Mary, will be presented. The family shares their most personal and intimate moments during this post-Beatles time of turbulence. In addition", "Wingspan", a companion double CD, chronicles the hits of Paul McCartney's Wings, featuring 40 songs and including 17 hits that sold more than a million copies each. Including such hits as "Band On The Run", "The Lovely Linda", and "Maybe I'm Amazed", "Wingspan" will sell for the price of a single album.

Among many revelations, Wingspan captures the difficulties prior to recording "Band on the Run" in 1973, when two of the band members quit the night before they were to leave for Nigeria to record. Upon the McCartney's arrival, they discovered that the studios they were planning to use were not properly equipped for recording. To make matters worse, as Paul and Linda were walking back to their hotel, they were mugged at knifepoint. The muggers not only made off with the couple's cash, jewelry, and cameras,but also the demos of the songs Paul had written for the album. Paul had to rewrite all of them on the spot. Ultimately though, after all the turmoil, "Band On The Run" was a smash.

Among many memorable vignettes, we watch as McCartney delights in relating the story of meeting Linda and falling in love with her to their firstborn. He talks about the final days of the Beatles and about how Wings was founded in love - love of music and the love of a couple who didn't want to be apart from each other or their children, even though they were often accused of "dragging their children around the world," says McCartney.

"Our concern was always that if we hadn't taken the kids with us, we'd be in somewhere like Adelaide and some nanny would ring up and say one of the children had a serious fever - and we wouldn't be able to stand that. In actual fact, what a great asset for their geography, if nothing else. Instead of just reading about Brazil or wherever, they'd actually been there and experienced it. So it was a good education in that respect. And all the kids turned out very smart. They all passed their exams in the end, so it obviously wasn't that bad a thing to do. And we all turned out to be a very close, loving family. We could have stuck them in a boarding school and just gone off, like a lot of people do, but it was important to us to try it this other way," says McCartney, adding that they chose anything but simple solutions.

The musical story of Wings, and also of "Wingspan" concludes with McCartney's marijuana bust in Japan in 1980, which landed him in prison for nine days. He says, "I don't know what ever possessed me to just stick it in my suitcase! The worst thing was that I didn't even attempt to hide it- it was just there on the top of my clothes." Obviously, the telefilm gives a glimpse so far beyond the music. It's a love story between a couple who managed to keep the family unit intact and together despite criticism, fame, fortune and mega-success.

"I always thought that you couldn't follow the Beatles," McCartney says now. "Wingspan is the story and the soundtrack of how we set out to do it. I was actually competing with myself and it was certainly very hard. Looking back on it, I think that's the drama of Wings. It's a very human story."

Don't miss "Wingspan" on ABC on Friday, May 11 at 9 PM.

The companion CD, also entitled "Wingspan" will be available beginning May 8 on Capitol Records.

Also look for "Blackbird Singing: Lyrics and Poems, 1965-1999" by Paul McCartney and recently published by W.W. Norton. Here, in his first collection of poems and lyrics, McCartney emerges with a dreamlike yet thoroughly mature voice, and reveals himself once again as an irrepressible believer in the power of words and music. / Issue 192 - March 2018
Turnpage Blk

Home | Links | Advertise With Us | Who We Are | Message From The Editor | Privacy & Policy

Connect with Dish Magazine:
Find us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter


Copyright (c) 2013, Smash Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Smash Media Group, Inc. is prohibited.
Use of Dishmag and Dish Magazine are subject to certain Terms and Conditions.
Please read the Dishmag and Dish Magazine Privacy Statement. We care about you!