They’re the best band in the land
Auditioning for that vital first job. Razor creases in suit trousers, hair greased and pressed, and starched hanky inserted in top pocket by a mum who keeps telling you she’s every confidence in you.
It was a bit like that, I mean, although you’ve got to be natural and pretend it’s just like exchanging the normal pleasantries with your metropolitan rock n rollers.
“Go on,” they said. “He’s okay. Just treat him like anyone else you’d interview.”
But Paul McCartney? As essential and instrumental as Farex and Marmite, that first pull on a Cadet and those quaking teenage bra-strap manipulations. I mean, an incredibly important and nostalgic chuck in everyone’s background. Warm and wonderful indeed. How can you express it?
You shouldn’t, but you can’t help letting it colour your vision a little, so that when they man said, “Yes, you two can go in now” (having stood fidgeting listlessly backstage in the scholarly green-washed Newcastle City Hall corridor)…the first reaction is one of almost energy draining relief, followed by a combination scrabbling and ferreting through one’s metaphorical life-bouy; a series of typed questions, to wit. Gosh, it is going great.
The atmosphere’s calm, relaxed and positive—Paul and Linda seem to exude those qualities these days – so that caught in the hazily pleasant air, one hardly realizes Paul’s adeptness at appearing loquacious and informative, yet retaining that seasoned ease of remaining entirely non-committal. Even evasive. Ten years of dealing with the Press has fostered that ability.
Even so, could you imagine Mick Jagger taking a little band out on the road, rumbling between the cities in a converted coach? It’s certainly odd to see Paul so accessible.
But the old aura still pulls. Fans still shin up drain-pipes and hang cat-like from window sills, poking little notes in through ventilation ducts, and they still congregate, autograph books a flap, hours before the band are due to file in through the stage-door.
But now it’s for Wings, and they deserve it, because they’re good. Possibly, the best live band we have, and that’s no hype – how could it be after the verbal pelting they’ve endured?
“I mean, “ says Linda, pressing against her old man back in the dressing room. “I was pretty apprehensive at first. I wasn’t good when we started and there were times when I really did sing flat. I know it…”
“That Press thing hit her pretty hard you know,” interrupts Paul. “Sometimes I had to stop her from crying before we went on and that why we started abroad – the first tour that is—and why we’ve concentrated on college and universities since…”
“How did you write Live and Let Die?” someone asks.
“Well, I sat down on the piano the next day and worked something out, then got in touch with George Martin, who produced it with us. We rehearsed it as a band, recorded it and then left it up to him.”
Was it just like writing another song for Wings, though?
“No, it was just a little bit different because it was a James Bond film and it had to be big. I didn’t have to keep to a schedule that was too tight, though. I think, originally, they asked for two minutes, 50, and I think it turned out two minutes, 52.
“I mean, I think I’d do it again. It was a good film, but I’m getting a bit choosy now, you know,” he says grinning, “Ah well, success has gone to my head, hasn’t it? Flushed with success, I am. I’ll only do big films now…or very little ones.”
There’s a disparity between the album, though “Red Rose Speedway” and the live act. I mean, the album’s okay. It has its moments, but nothing approaching the impact of the band in person.
Of course, I hadn’t the guts to say so, preferring instead the lighter more clichéd phrasing of that hardly annual” “What is your policy with regards to live and recorded work?”
“Well it should all be part of the same thing as far as we’re concerned,” returned a slightly side-stepping Mccartney.
I tried; is it just that you’ve been concentrating on pulling the band together first then?
“Well, no, it’s just that we’ve got an LP out. It’s selling and we’ve just had two singles kind of hot on each others’ tails. As soon as we’ve finished this (tonight being the last night of the tour) we’ll be starting on a new album. I don’t think one’s going to suffer because of the other – in fact it’ll be the other way round. I think the live playing’s helping for when we start writing again.”
Will Denny Laine’s songs be on the next album, then?
“Yeah, I think so. We haven’t got the songs together yet, but if he comes up with something good, he’ll get in…”
“You see ‘Red Rose Speedway’ was originally going to be a double album,” explained Linda. “And Denny wrote a song for that, and I wrote a song, but then we narrowed it down…”
And the interview veers off at a tangent again as someone asks how Paul feels about the recently televised TV special, which leads into a long and involved discussion relating to the need for a more musically-aware media, which we all know exists, but which helps keep things light and superficial and diverts attention from more probing issues, which, in any case, are blunted by a room full of people and three reporters going it at the same time.
Who knows whether it’s due to the lack of time, McCartney’s desire to avoid a more intense one-to-one situation, or a politeness on the part of the inquisitors?
“I think it worked for what it was, though,” continues McCartney, regarding the TV special. “It was a kind of Chevrolet show, and you couldn’t go too far or they wouldn’t show it. As far as we were concerted, it was a start. We all got on telly and we all got some experience working with cameras and stuff. But I think we could do better, to tell you the truth.”
And Paul says that he thinks there should be a separate BBC wavelength given over to music, 24 hours, piloted by such people as he refers to as “the music buffs”—Peel, Bob Harris, etc. and everyone, including Denny Laine, stopped by on his way back from the gents and a fresh bottle of brown, agrees that TV is on the decline universally.
“But, err, excuse me Paul, would you say that your attitude to lyrics has changed somewhat?” A bit like breaking wind rather loudly in one of the quiet bits of the opera, that one. A bit below the belt, what?
“No, my attitude hasn’t changed. Some of my songs have turned out as if my attitude’s changed, but it hasn’t. I’m just trying to write songs. I never thought of anything other than that.”
Even so, as an outsider, one detects a moving away, lyrically, from the kind of intensity of say “Eleanor Rigby,” to lighter, more easy-going things like “Big Barn Bed.”
Of course, comparisons are unfair and apart from being odious, unnecessary, but this seems to reflect, the whole philosophy of Wings. Play power. Fun. Or as the soap opera Jap says, “Be happy in your Work.”
Having a good time, but doing it well. I mean the whole Wings thing of spontaneity and a kind of unpredictability typified by their first real debut gig – a surprise appearance at London’s Hard Rock Café for a Release benefit.
“There’s no telling what we’ll do,” says McCartney breezily. “We’re very free now, you know. We don’t have an awful lot of pressures. If we feel like it we’ll do a 56,000seater gig, but then we may just decide to nip off and do a country little church hall, if that’s a good idea on the night…”
“That’s great, because the whole things become much too set. People get set ideas in their heads about who does what and where. With us it’s much more crazy. We’ll play any kind of gig. We’re just a band.
“I just think that there’s an awful lot of people getting taken over by huge machines…so I like not to be on the side of the machines. I like to keep more like the gypsies.” And, as you know, gypsies must be continually on the move, as their PR man indicated, nudging and furtively pointing to his watch. A roadie burst through the door and sound of the Brinsley’s second-to-last number welled in.
“I think they’d like to get ready,” he said, moving towards the door politely, ushering us out along the corridor, nearly colliding with a crusty old photographer cutting his way up from the front row like a Ronald Searle caricature, fingers-in-ears, making for the exit.
As Wings gets themselves together backstage and a man and wife performing poodle team take the stage, a familiar photographer sidles up and asks whether I know that these (gesturing with a sweep of an arm) are just about the finest, most restrained bouncers in the country.
“They’ve a great reputation,” he says proudly, going on to recount their admirable handling of the Bowie heavies at a recent concert. And a surprisingly mild-looking bunch they are too.
By this time, large balloons are being tossed across the rows and the man and wife poodle team are running through their final encore—a complicated combined handstand and canine hurdle.
The lights – a combination of gas and electricity – dim, a mighty roar rises from the rows, the ice cream ladies make their way to the back. And as the din escalates to a hollow thunder, as a washed-and-brushed Denny Seiwell makes his way to the kit, followed by Linda, crossing over stage right to the moog and electric piano, Denny Laine on guitar, Henry McCullough on lead, a pause, then insanity tears loose as McCartney fresh out of the “Keep on Truckin’” T-shirt and dancing shoes and into something silvery, walks over to Linda, plugs in and tunes up then leads the band, as sharp and clear as you like into “Sunny.”
Apart from the impact of the lights – casting an imaginative purple/green glow—the clarity of the sound is amazing. The balance is perfect, the delivery dynamic, and there’s not even a hint of distortion. Paul takes the vocals and Denny Laine plays electric/acoustic.
The number is greeted by the staccato level of applause usually reserved for a final encore. The first of many are on their feet, or balancing on the back of their seats.
“Big Barn Bed”—the opener on “Red Rose Speedway” follows and is equally tight and clean. The vocal harmonies are even better than those on the album, and it’s at this point that you realize how good Denny Seiwell really is.
As a drummer, he is surly underrated. Really. His playing is so damn forceful and incisive. He manages to combine an intrinsically-sensitive black style – that arrogant laid-back ease, say, of someone like Bernard Purdie, with all the edge and attack of the best white drummers – Aynsley Dunbar, for instance.
Linda played nice keyboards on “When the Night” also from the new album and Henry and Denny Laine duetted beautifully towards the end.
“Mercy bowcoup, muchas gracias common market,” McCartney replied to the typhoon-like applause, as the band went into Linda’s “Seaside woman” with fine vocal duetting from the McCartneys along with an especially-slicing bass figure form Paul.
“Wild Life” was magnificent. For me, the highlight. McCartney sang like a bitch and the five-part harmonies on the chorus were incredibly powerful. Stunning, in fact.
“C Moon” a stirring version of “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “My Love” followed, introduced by McCartney as “the most snoggable number of the evening,” and countered my McCullough who bellowed “Rip ‘em off!” then proceeded to play one of the finest solos of the night. “Live and Die” greeted with redoubled enthusiasm was followed by the old Moody Blues’ “Go Now” with Denny Laine on organ and vocals.
A roadie presented Denny Seiwell with a birthday cake and the band slashed through “the Mess” and “Hi Hi Hi” with Henry playing bottleneck, encoring with a magnificently ball busting out of “Long Tall Sally” with the Brinsley, the only concession to anything touching on the past, for, as Paul had said earlier, when asked if he deliberately avoided doing old numbers:
“Yes,” he had said, “because we don’t want to turn into a second-rate Beatles and be compared to all the groups up and down the Costa Brava. I mean we’ve come away from all that,” he had added “Although the others are more keen on the Beatles thing than anyone. Old Denny Laine there, is a total Beatles freak.”
“In fact, one night onstage he suddenly comes out with “When I was young and so much younger than today…” and I thought “God, there’s me trying to get away from it…”
This is the continued story from the McCartney Observer from January 1980 about the group of American fans that followed Wings around the U.K. in the winter of 1979. This is all about the Southhampton show.
The show in Southampton was fabulous! They were just a bit of a slower type than in Manchester but once they started, it was full speed ahead! Perhaps they were guarded at first due to the ushers who literally threw them back into their seats! I don’t think their shinning flashlights in everyone’s face endeared them to anyone’s heart either. But alas, they would have needed more ushers than fans to keep everyone in their seats for too long! They were a friendly bunch. They seemed to be roused to fighting for “Every Night.” “Thank you very much, how ya doing?” Paul shouted. Thunders of response. “Alright, alright, great! Good to be back in town anyway. The next song we’d like to do is off the album ‘McCartney’” His pronunciation of his surname effects people like one of his suggestive looks. “It’s called ‘Every night.” With the applause, you’d have thought money was falling from the ceiling. ‘Every night’ is a romantic song anyway, but with Paul signing it live, he adds elegance to it as he croons the words.
Denny was in an extremely feisty mood tonight which was a lot of laughs. He begins to introduce the next tune and stops; “This one is from….excuse me while I pick my nose and then I’ll get going.” Everyone burst out laughing. “This is from Back to the Egg, it’s called ‘Again and Again’” He provoked a generous bout of applause for that. I suspect a few were still clapping over the nose joke! “Thanks very much, you’re a nice quiet bunch tonight just sitting there.” Paul observed. They clapped and shouted trying to prove him wrong. “Anyway, this is off London Town and it’s called Oive and Enuff.” He stands back from the mic and hands held high in the air he claps vigorously as the audience joins in, whistling and shouting. The applause at the finish continued longer than usual, Paul thanking them over all the noise.
After “Now words” Linda introduced her number with a little ad libbing form Paul. “This next ones a bit of a rock and roll number.” Paul steps in here “That’s my missus there in case you didn’t know.” Applause. “That’s right, yeah.” Linda continued. Out of nowhere Paul calls out “Fish n Chips for me please” and Linda, ever the vegetarian “Just chips for me. Now Cook of the House.” She was warmly accepted. Paul wiggled and really performed during this, watching Linda time and again and making faces at her, sticking his cute behind out and wiggling it like a duck out of water. To this concluding applause Linda answered, “That’s to all you cooks out here.”
You know what is next…”Old Siam Sir!” Paul, ever the raconteur, “Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen of Siam!” Everyone giggles. How cute he is! “I went somewhere, was it …” Denny helped him out pronouncing Southampton in a new way. “Was it?” Paul asked. “I met some people and some butler goes by. I said ‘Where are you from?’ and he says (fast) Siam. I still haven’t working it out. Anyway, enough of that.” He makes his guitar scream and got a quick round of applause. “Thank you! Anyway this ones called Ol Thiam Thir.” However can I let you know just how tantalizing Siam is. If you ever see Siam offered in film, you know from one of those modest companies who charge eighty dollars and any two members of your family for eight inches of overexposed film? Get it. It’s still worth it. You’ll miss your family but this bit is great. You can make a copy of the film and then ask for a refund! Voila! You have Siam on film and your family back.
“Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Fool on the Hill” and “Let it Be” were once again hypnotic, the audience finding it hard to believe just what they were hearing! It was indeed grand. Things were kept bouncing and everyone were having a great “Knee’s up” as they say up there in the north. The encore brought the band out to toss Frisbees to the audience. Denny’s song Laine hopped from the audience to help out too! He threw a few out and then ran to Denny to hang on his leg! It was cute.
Denny started it again as he introduced “Hot as sun.” “Paul’s gonna play the guitar for you now, and he does a lot on record. Nothing tricky from him this time. He does a lot on record.” He smiled at Paul, “We thought we’d give him a chance to have a go. Anyway, this ones called “Hot as Sun’. For the Caribbean sunshine! “ No unbiased opinions in this club allowed – Pau was fantastic! It’s one of the most popular songs in the shows. At the finish Paul shrugs, “Well, I don’t think Eric Clapton has too much to worry about.”
‘Spin it on’ went well as did “Twenty flight rock” bringing us up to an introduction from Laurence. “Thank you. Hi. I’m Laurence. It’s nice to see you.” A friendly welcoming applause for Laurence. He looked around “Denny…now he’s gonna demonstrate one of his latest flying leap.” Denny walked offstage then. “He’s NOT going to demonstrate one of his flying leaps! But he is!” and suddenly Denny charges across stage, over the piano and right side up! Claps and whistles for Denny! “It would have been better if we’d had guitar.” He shrugged. Laurence “alright---he is goingn to sing” There is a pause as Denny fidgets. Paul “Alright he’s really gonna sing now.” And Denny, “Will you shut up!” and finally we hear “Go Now.” An original intro if ever!
They were all in joking form and it was a good time for all. Once during the show, maybe it was after “Yesterday”, a man jumped up onstage with a program for Paul to sign but was roughly tossed back into the audience by guards. Paul reached out for the program and what else he’d wanted signed and said he would sign them afterwards. He signed them after Mull and handed them back to him. That’s some special man, I say! After Wonderful Christmastime, Linda and Denny started dancing. That was a sight to see! Funny little bits spiced the show here and there and it was great! Band on Run brought us to the rallying close. Flowers were tossed onstage and Paul was followed by chants and applause!
After the concert we sardined ourselves into George’s car. All of us! That’s Barb, Mary Ann, Doylene with Marie on her lap, Sheila with myself on her lap, Mar up front and George driving, as it were. In a two door sports midge that’s no mean feat. Half of the time all of us were babbling at the same time about the concert, a tape of the show blaring on the recorder and making our driver a nervous wreck. The other half we were screaming as George kept turning corners and driving up the wrong side of the road toward on-coming traffic and swerving just in time “I’m a lot of fun, huh?” George—it was a hair raising experience. You can imagine bystanders reactions as we pull to a stop, a door flies open and one unfolds herself and squeezes out of the car, then another and another and another…
We sat in the lounge of the hotel as Sheila treated us all to a round of drinks, which was very nice indeed. As we talked George stepped out of the lounge and returned a moment later and sat down. He sipped his drink. “Now when he gets here, just walk out by the entrance, ok? Everybody stay calm.” We will. We know. “Because they’re here.” Who??? “the band and Paul.” What???? We jumped up leaving everything but our cameras, touched down and bolted for the lobby, calling over our shoulders “George!!!” He just sits there and says Paul’s here. C’mon George!
A false alarm. The band had arrived, but not Paul. The lobby was filled with camera owners and autograph seekers of all ages, such as the sweet group of children we’d talked with a little earlier on our arrival. Steve waltzed in first and was just as anxious to pose for pictures as everyone was to take them. He said hi to Barb and she asked him if he knew when and if Paul would be coming. “No. I’m sorry. I’ve got about as much idea as you. About that much.” He held up two fingers spaced to demonstrate small and we watched closely. It wasn’t much. Barb deadpanned, “Zippo, huh?” and Steve cracked up. He still seems to be in awe of his new found fame and it’s very charming. Marie asked if we could take a picture and he said alright. He cautiously set his guitar in case down, and following his gaze he looked to each of us to see just who was there. Marie took my camera from me and suggested I get in the photo too. I asked Laurence and he said sure and stood next to me with an arm around my shoulders. He also posed with Barb after that. He’s an amiable person, very obliging. Not to mention quite handsome.
Something was mentioned about it being Doylene’s birthday and Steve turned around “How do you say that?” Marie repeated it for him. “Doughlene?” Doylene clarified it for him by spelling it and he smiled and went back to the friend he’d been conversing with.
Roll the red carpet! Denny came in next, his children trailing after, jumping ahead of him and then lagging behind again. Denny’s got a gentle look, until you look him in the eyes and you know he’s not thinking very genteel things! Laine stuck with Denny and Heidi wandered a bit. She’s a little waif, and looked precious as she had on a pretty red frock. She looks like Jojo. I took a photograph of Denny and I was about to take just one more and a roadie said, “Here Denny, pose for her.” Denny stood straight and smiled and I got a nice photo. I said thank you and smiled as the roadie said something to Denny I didn’t quite catch and they both smiled at me and Denny winked. (Right after that George called me over to the side and told me what he said. It was “Hey, do I get a commission on this?”)
I suggested to the children to pose with Steve and Laurence and I’d take their picture and send them prints when I got back home. They were all excited and rushed over by Laurence to pose. Both Steve and Laurence posed but I missed Steve looking as my flash was giving me trouble recharging Marie and Doylene also snapped at the same time.
Paul still had not shown up and we were beginning to worry. Alan was passing out Wings badges and he gave Marie one. After she thanked him she said, ‘Listen it’s that girl’s birthday over there with the blonde hair so why don’t ou give her one too.” She pointed out Doylene and he gave one to her, and turned to me. I must have looked pitiful because he gave one to me. I think the others got one as well.
We returned to the lounge to continue waiting, hopefully for Paul. Our purses and coats were half on the floor from our mad dash out of there. The band came into the lounge a moment later. Steve and his wife sat at one table with Thadeus behind them. Laurence stood at the bar with friends. His reflection was in the mirrored walls and as I took a picture he caught me and waved. Denny wandered in and up to the bar with the roadie he’d been talking to earlier. Alan and a few others stood in the middle of the room talking, probably about us and pointing in our direction. (That’s ok, you should hear what we say about him!) We talked for a while, realizing defeat. Earl Oakie came over to our table and talked for a few minutes Beings there wasn’t much reason to stick around a few of us decided we’d like to leave. Laurence left the room for a moment and returned holding his jacket. George said we would leave after he finished his drink so I left to freshen up in the ladies’ room. On the way back I ran into Laurence on his way back to that special room again! I said hello and started to walk back to the lounge when he called me back and commented “Oh I like that” pointing to a pin on my shirt. I was wearing two and assumed he meant the one from Alan. “Oh yeah, Alan gave that to me.” He said, “No, that one there.” (a read heart with wings). “I got one something like it in New York. It’s a little different though.” I just smiled and said yes it was nice, it’s different. I suppose I didn’t really think at the time I was only concerned with being disappointed Paul hadn’t shown, but I guess he would have liked to have talked. I smiled and said goodbye and returned to the lounge. Denny was the only one left in the lounge with his friend. I didn’t notice him right off and believe me, I said some pretty dumb things. I saw he was there as we got up to leave. We sardined once more into George’s car, screaming down the motorway as George drove down the wrong side of the road. We had a nice evening and it was great being with friends.