- United Kingdom
- Nottingham University
More from year 1972
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On this day, Wings performed their debut gig at The University of Nottingham. This was Paul McCartney’s first public concert since The Beatles’ last concert in August 1966 (as the rooftop concert in January 1969 cannot really be considered as a public performance).
Wings had travelled from London to Nottingham the day before and had asked the Students’ Union if they could perform. Paul wanted the concert to be a low-key event, with no publicity, just a blackboard up with the details.
Word went round like wildfire, just from the blackboard notice in the bar. The fire limit on the ballroom was 800 and it was definitely packed. It was amazing.Elaine Woodhams, Students’ Union social secretary at Nottingham University
700 to 800 students (the number changes depending on the source) were there at lunchtime, to hear Wings play for 90 minutes – including a 10-minute break between the two sets. An audience recording of 49 minutes is available – the first set is incomplete, but the second one is complete.
The price of the tickets was 40 pence. £50 was given to the Students’ Union, and the rest was equally split between all the band members (around £30 per person).
Why did you end up at Nottingham?
Paul McCartney: We decided we’d just go on the road with no plans; no hotels booked, no gigs booked a complete blank canvas. So we set off with the band, the family, the dogs, the babies – up the motorway. We headed north and saw a sign that said Ashby de la Zouch so we got off the motorway there and asked where the nearest uni was. This became the idea that the only place we could maybe find a captive audience would be somewhere like a uni, so we were directed to Nottingham Uni and that’s how we found it.
It was the first time we had tried that idea. I’m really glad we did. It’s a completely off-the-wall idea for someone who had been in The Beatles, to go and completely start from scratch again and, you know, looking back at it I was like, why did we do it? And it’s still like that, but it was great and it was a great memory. We had some laughs – you can imagine some of the hotels we managed to scrape into! We would literally get there about 7pm at night, and there wasn’t the greatest selection left by that time of night! But it was really fun and great bonding experience for the band.
What do you remember about the gig?
I remember having 11 numbers to play and having to repeat a few, pretending they were special requests from the students.
What would you say to all those fans that packed in to watch the gig and still treasure the memories of that very special lunchtime?
It was really great they were there to share it with us – we were extremely thankful that anyone showed up for us. It’s a great memory so it’s nice they can share that very nice off-the-wall experience with us. It must have been good fun. I can imagine it would have been great if I’d been at uni and a band like us showed up. It must have also been nice to see Wings in their infancy! I think it was the first time we’d publicly played.
Have you still got the van?
The van is long since gone.
When do you plan on returning to perform in Nottingham?
A good question and I’ll give it considerable thought.Paul McCartney – From University of Nottingham website, May 7, 2015
We went into Nottingham University Students’ Union at about five o’clock and fixed it up for lunchtime the next day. Nottingham was the best because they were so enthusiastic. No hassles. No one quite expected it or believed it. We went down there at half-past eight the next morning with the gear. We threw up a few posters and put the word out on the tannoy.Trevor Jones – Roadie – From “The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After The Break-Up 1970-2001” by Keith Badman
It was 50p at the door and a guy sat at the table taking the money. The kids danced and we all had a good time. The Students’ Union took their split and gave us the rest. I’d never seen money for at least ten years. The Beatles never handled money… We walked around Nottingham with £30 in coppers in our pockets.Paul McCartney – From “Paul McCartney and Wings” by Jeremy Pascall, 1977
When I first went on stage, I was crying with fright. They said that I couldn’t play my keyboard with Wings, but what they didn’t know was that I really didn’t want to play… All I wanted was to be with Paul and have a family.Linda McCartney – From “The Beatles: Off The Record 2 – The Dream is Over: Dream Is Over Vol 2” by Keith Badman
I wasn’t nervous at Nottingham because we’d already gone through that one mentally, talking about it. By the time we actually came on it was easy.Denny Laine – From the “Wings Over Europe” tour book
I was nervous at first because of the way it was being done and because it was Wings … I was just hoping everything would go all right. Luckily it did.Henry McCullough – From the “Wings Over Europe” tour book
I’ve dined out on the story ever since. The concert was fantastic, a real rockin’ event. Afterwards, as I was leaving the building, I noticed a van parked in front of the main steps. A familiar figure was sat in the driving seat so I took the opportunity to ask Paul for his autograph — he obligingly signed ‘Paul and Linda McCartney’ on a scrap of paper I managed to find in my pocket. I still have that autograph, locked away amongst my most prized possessions, a souvenir of a fantastic day that I will never forget.Alumni Trevor Morkham (BA Law, 1972) – From The magical mystery tour… – Campus News (nottingham.ac.uk)
The audience was very attentive and far too sophisticated to be screaming and shouting. Because of this, Linda McCartney was less than generous. At one point, she asked us why we hadn’t brought our knitting.Graham Pearson (Chemical Engineering, 1972) – From The magical mystery tour… – Campus News (nottingham.ac.uk)
The Wings gig was different and special. Even in those days, long before mobile phones and the internet, word had got around the Halls that McCartney had been seen drinking in the Buttery on the evening of the 8th. By the time we got to lectures on the 9th, the rumour had turned into the reality that (the then unknown) Wings would be playing in the Ballroom. What do I recall of the gig? Well, most vividly, Linda playing keyboards and singing surrounded by an entourage of babies and young children…..Stella would have been there, I’m sure, but only just! I recall Denny Laine and Henry McCullough, who I’m sure had both played with Joe Cocker at one stage. I don’t recall the drummer, but I do remember his playing being sufficiently hard to turn a crash cymbal inside out!Alumni Dr Brian Pearson (Metallurgy, 1974) – From The magical mystery tour… – Campus News (nottingham.ac.uk)
In 2011, Elaine Woodhams, the Students’ Union social secretary in 1972, and Henry McCullough returned to The University of Nottingham, to remember this concert:
Soon after the show, Wings packed up and drove to Leeds. Here, they went to Leeds University to organize a concert for the following day, but the plan failed:
After Nottingham, we decided to go pro and ring Leeds ahead, but it never came off because the fellow wanted a contract, proof of who we were, assurances. So sod it.Paul McCartney – From the “Wings Over Europe” tour book
They however stayed in Leeds for the night and would leave for York on the following day.
Paul brings shock Wings’ debut to P.B.
Paul McCartney’s momentous re-emergence from his five-year exile from live audiences may well have occurred at a different venue from Nottingham — if his daughter’s name had been any other than Heather.
Driving up from London, Paul and his band, “Wings”, only left the motorway by chance at a place called Hatherton, 12 miles from Nottingham. And the only reason they left there, according to inside information gathered by “Gongster”, was that Paul liked the name, due to its resemblance to his step-daughter’s.
This was the sort of crazy logic that brought the band to Nottingham University, where they gave their incredible premiere performance a week ago on Wednesday.
The only idea in the band’s mind when they had left London that day was to give a performance somewhere – where exactly they had no idea. In this way the concert, when it happened, could be regarded as just a rehearsal, a test of the band’s qualities before a live audience. That is why McCartney gave no publicity out to the Press.
There was another factor in Nottingham’s favour: Henry McCullough, “Wings” bass guitarist, played here a year ago with the Greaseband — and liked the place.
Thus it was that, unable to find a hotel near Hatherton, they drove on the extra 12 miles to Nottingham in their hired red van.
Then McCullough remembered about the University – and Paul walked into P.B. on the Tuesday to ask the first two students he saw “How’s about us giving you a concert here tomorrow?”
The rest is now just history and, of course, the performance went ahead at midday on Wednesday to about 600 enormously fortunate students. Afterwards, Paul and his entourage drove off into the sunshine, to disappear to places unknown as quickly as they had emerged from them.
They left, leaving the University with nothing but an afternoon to remember and savour for years to come.From Gongster – Nottingham University Journal – 21 Feb 1972 – The News Room (nottingham.ac.uk)
McCartney’s Magical Mystery Show
For those of us who grew up in the shadow of the Beatles, it is hard to put into words the feeling of sheer excitement generated by seeing the man who represented the very heart of what they stood for standing on the stage singing “Lucille.”
The excitement had mounted all Wednesday morning. It was hard to grasp the fact that he was actually here, at our university, a legend in his own time. It seemed like some trivial joke until the strains of the band warming up began to drift down the stairs and we all knew, with an indescribable thrill, that this was no joke, that Paul McCartney, ex-Beatle, writer of some of the finest, lasting music of the last decade, was back with his new face on.
McCartney has not performed on stage for five years, and it was plain to see that it felt good to be back from the very first number. Things have certainly changed down Penny Lane these days, and his new band seems to capsulize his new attitude to music. The heart on his pullover might have brought back fleeting memories of softer, more romantic days, but the complexities of “Sergeant Pepper” and “Let it Be” are replaced now by simple, happy music ; music just to feel did, the floor jam-packed with good to, to get up and move to.
As the hall filled with, for the most part, still slightly incredulous people, the band pulled out the stops and we were out on Shakin’ Street, developing the mood set by “Lucille” with “Mess I’m In”, a real bitch of a number, its popularity proved by McCartney’s decision to repeat it during the second set. This must not be made too much of, however, as the entire concert was more or less a public rehearsal, albeit by some of the most respected figures on the rock scene.
The band was warming up now, gaining more confidence with every number (partly due to the rapturous applause which greeted them from a bedraggled audience) and the music began to gel nicely.
New member, Henry McCullough, traded down-home guitar licks gracefully and easily with Denny Laine (who has moved on down the road apiece from the days of “Go Now” and proven himself a fine guitarist in his own right) and played a nice, laid-back solo on the country-influenced “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”.
In introducing “Say Darlin'”, a slow fifties-style number to smooch like an old one but it’s a new one, Paul probably went nearer to describing his new approach than this article can hope to. During this, he showed his command of the audience—he only had to ask and we were all clapping along. Later. during the rock’n’roll encore which ended the concert (a repeat of “Lucille” coupled with “Long Tall Sally”) he exhorted us to dance, just like he used to on those atrocious “Beatles’ Specials,” and we a crowd far exceeding the fire limit. (Ever tried keeping a believer from seeing his Messiah?)
The first set ended with “Wild Life”, Paul’s nod in the direction of political involvement (developed later by the band’s new single). This is the title track from his last album. which was panned by almost every reviewer in the country. Lack of critical acclaim did not seem to be of too much importance to the audience however, and why should it? McCartney has severed all links with his former friends, so why judge him by standards which he himself disowns?
Here was a damn fine little band who by any other standards would be very highly rated. They left the stage for a break and we settled in, still barely believing, for the second set. The second set was, if anything, an improvement on the first, with the exception of the opening number, “Bip-Bop”, from “Wild Life”, which was just a little too trite, a little too middle-of-the-road.
“Give Ireland Back to the Irish”, Wings’ new single, also grated a little with its harsh, sing-along chorus, which immediately conjured up visions street, bellowing it at the top of his voice. But the rest of the set more than compensated.
McCullough and Laine both played superb, authoritative solos on a shuffle blues, and “Mess I’m In” kept things cooking nicely, showing that Paul is as at home on hard rockers as on slower things like “My Love”, which followed. At once this number aroused reminiscences of his better-known material (“Let It Be” springs to mind).
Seated at the piano. Paul was back in the days of “Hey Jude”, his love simply and without frills. If there were any faults in the performance, they were quickly forgotten when Paul put on his blue suede shoes to lead the band into a house-shakin’ rock’n’roll finale.
He was back in the Cavern now, playing the blues, rock’n’roll, and repeating numbers; every person in the place dancing, stomping and clapping. And then with a brief “see you next time”, they were gone, and everyone was left dazed by the piece of history they had just witnessed.
In places the band was less than musically brilliant. Paul’s bass-playing was sometimes mundane, and his good lady wife, looking very Carole-Kingish at the piano, but lacking the artiste’s vocal flair, consistently some pretty dull notes.
But who could complain about seeing one of the most important influences ever on rock music, backed as he was by, for the most part, a tremendously tight, exciting band, and really enjoying every minute of it.
As the audience left, people were already dissecting the performance, analysing it unnecessarily. Jude may be dead, as the guy who shouted for “Get Back” found out, but Paul McCartney is most certainly not.
Disregard the critics. On Wednesday afternoon he showed his paces to an audience packed like sardines for almost two hours in a cramped ballroom — I for one will never forget it.From Gongster – Nottingham University Journal – 21 Feb 1972 – The News Room (nottingham.ac.uk)
Wings made their surprise live debut last Wednesday at Nottingham University – in the style in which Paul McCartney wanted the Beatles to make a late return to live performances.
The group played the show completely unannounced – but the MM was there to record the event with this exclusive picture of McCartney’s first live appearance since the Beatles’ last live performance in Candlestick Park, San Francisco on August 29, 1966.
Before a delighted crowd Wings played many new songs, blues jams, which featured Henry McCulloch (picture here with Paul), some tracks from “Wild Life” and the new single “Give Ireland Back To The Irish”. They finished with a rock medley, featuring McCartney singing “Long Tall Sally” – the song with which the Beatles frequently closed their stage act.
On Thursday, Wings played a similar concert at York University. McCartney’s assistant, Shelley Turner, told the MM, “They are on the road at the moment and have taken a lot of sandwiches with them. They could turn up anywhere and play this week. I don’t know exactly where they are”.From Melody Maker, February 19, 1972
The students, jealously guarding the secret arrangements, kept what few press cameras there were well away. If there was going to be a flop, better here where hardly a ripple would leak out. But flop it certainly was not. A nervous McCartney and his band started up before most of the mildly incredulous students realized what was happening. As the first people in the hall crowded round the stage clutching their 40p tickets, the band opened up with Lucille. Four bars of this rocker and success was assured. There was a short discussion as Wings tried to think of another song they could play. ‘We haven’t got too many numbers yet We’re just checking things out,’ explained McCartney ‘That’s OK’ stulted the students. To say the band was short on material was an understatement. They had no more than four rehearsed numbers and filled in with blues and rockers. Album tracks like “Wild Life” and “Does It Good” [My Love], came over well but in a much simpler form than the recorded versions. Denny Laine is playing one of the sharpest, dearest lead guitars to be heard in a long time and his work on “The Mess I’m In” really showed his ability. Linda was helping out on organ and vocals while the McCartney kids made it a family affair jumping about at the stage-side. Musically the new Wings single “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” didn’t impress, although McCartney revealed that his lungs have lost none of the old screaming power they had. Paul was reluctant to say much about the group’s performance but he was obviously relieved by the tremendous response. ‘It was very good for us. We will go on touring the country for a while, playing more of these concerts when we feel like it, ‘ he said. […]From Melody Maker, February 19, 1972
The entire concert was more or less a public rehearsal, albeit by some of the most respected figures on the rock scene. As the band warmed up, gaining more confidence with every number, the music began to move nicely. In places the band was, however, less than musically brilliant. Paul’s bass-playing was sometimes mundane and his good lady wife consistently hit some pretty duff notes. But who could complain about seeing one of the most important influences ever on rock music, backed — as he was for the most part— by a tremendously tight, exciting band and really enjoying every minute?From New Musical Express, February 19, 1972
Last updated on June 15, 2023
This was the 1st and only concert played at Nottingham University.
Setlist for the concert
The setlist for this concert is incomplete, or we have not be able to confirm in an accurate way that this was the setlist. If you have any clue, pls let us know and leave a comment.
This is the first detailed study of Paul McCartney's Wings on tour in the 1970s. It covers every single concert from the University Tour of 1972, ending with the abandoned tour of Japan in January 1980. A wide variety of primary sources have been consulted, including all available audio and video recordings; press reviews; fan recollections; newspaper reports and tour programmes.
"Maccazine is a hard copy magazine (a bound paperback) about Paul McCartney. It is published twice a year. Due to the fact that the Internet has taken over the world and the fact that the latest Paul McCartney news is to be found on hundreds of websites, we have decided to focus on creating an informative paper magazine about Paul McCartney."
"In this issue we take you back to the early days of Paul McCartney’s solo career when he decided to form a new group. With Wings he proved there was life after The Beatles. This Maccazine features a detailed timeline of ‘the birth’ of the band with interesting entries including many new facts and unpublished photos. Follow-up timelines will be published in the upcoming years."