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University students and staff were stunned when Paul McCartney and Wings rolled up on the doorstep. The impromptu debut gig – in the Portland Ballroom at midday on Wednesday 9 February 1972 – is etched on the minds of many, including the great man himself.
Why did you end up at Nottingham?
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.
In this video former Wings guitarist Henry McCullough returns to The University of Nottingham with the BBC’s One Show, nearly 40 years after one of rock’s most surprising debut gigs.
The Wings gig on 9th February 1972 has gone down in alumni folklore at the University but little is reliably known about the gig itself and we’d like to hear from anyone who remembers the performance or who has any photographs of the event.
The idea of the Wings tour of 1972, the year before the release of Band on the Run, was that the band would literally turn up at universities unannounced and ask to play.
In an interview last month [October 2010] with Will Hodgkinson of The Times McCartney said: “To give you a taste of what it was like, we would look at a map and say, ‘Ashby-de-la-Zouch . . we like the sound of that. So we drove there, and no offence to the people of Ashby-de-la-Zouch, but it didn’t seem like much more than a signpost.
“Then we discovered that Nottingham University was near by so we showed up there. Our roadie went up to the bar and said, ‘I’ve got Paul McCartney in the car park, wondering if he can do a gig’. The guy said ‘pull the other one’ before being convinced to come out to the car park. I’d be there waving out of an old van.”
Last updated on October 20, 2018
This was the 1st and only concert played at Nottingham University.
Setlist for the concert