Drugs bust that destroyed Wings • Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Interview of Paul McCartney

Album This interview has been made to promote the Wingspan Hits And History Official album.

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HE can claim to be a superstar not once but twice over. When The Beatles split up in April 1970, Paul McCartney realised he had to start all over again. A new TV documentary called Wingspan details the soaraway success of Paul, Linda and the many line-ups that made up one of the supergroups of the ’70s. Now, in Part Two of an exclusive three-part interview, Paul tells Peter Grant about life after The Beatles and how Stella inspired the name Wings. He recalls how the band took off and flew sky high in the charts across the world before coming down to earth after a drugs bust in Japan. Now he is solo but ready to lead a band on the run again … SITTING in the London office of Sir Paul McCartney is a daunting experience. There are Ivor Novello Awards lined up on the shelf, wall-to-wall gold discs and Moptop memorabilia including a car licence plate from America that simply says ‘AY JUDE’. Framed pictures featuring The Fab Four smile down from the walls as does a photo of Paul walking across Abbey Road with his beloved dog Martha. Before our chat he sings an impromptu verse of “Fly Me To The Moon” – but I miss out on this world exclusive chance of taping it for a rare bootleg. Dressed in t-shirt, slacks and trainers, he sips mineral water and laughs frequently. Here is the Macca of all trades: singer, songwriter, poet, painter Beatle and Wing Commander. It’s Wings, in all its flights of fancy that he is talking about now as well about his past, present and future. Paul is currently overseeing a documentary film for Channel 4 called Wingspan. It is to tie in with the release of a double-album of the same name released next month. He has a poetry book Blackbird Singing in the best-seller list. He is half way through recording a new album in L.A. and he has an art exhibition this autumn in his home town. He’s in love with girlfriend Heather Mills, too, and the former model accompanies him here, there and everywhere.Paul looks fit and happy. He is clearly a chilled-out man. He has also revealed that playing The Cavern in 1999 whetted his performing appetite and that he would love to tour again. He says that Wingspan, like The Beatles Anthology, was another chance to put the record straight. After all HE should know what happened – he WAS there. In his soft Scouse accent, the self-styled ‘Scruff from Speke’ explains how it all came about: “Linda and I were looking at snapshots to tie in with an anniversary. I said to her ‘when do we intend to look at all this stuff?’ “We had all these Polaroids, home movies – the type of things people gather and gather but never get round to looking at. “I didn’t know this but Linda had got Alistair, our daughter Mary’s husband, to put together an ‘Anniversary Tape’ – a video of home movies of the kids growing up. ” He put music on it. Alistair did a really tasty job, too, and then after we watched it and after we cried a bit, we thought it would make a great piece for telly. ” Wingspan, the film, began three years ago. It tells how Paul ‘dared’ to follow The Beatles; how he was banned by the BBC.and, in a warts and all style report, how the pot bust in Japan saw the group finally go up in smoke. Throughout it all he has kept his family firmly together. Family means everything to James Paul McCartney. In the rock-umentary, Paul’s daughter Mary is the on-screen interviewer. We see Paul at home relaxing in the kitchen, enjoying a horseback ride and in conversation all of the sequences interspaced with rare footage of Wings on stage. There’s never been-seen-before-film from Wings at the height of their performances with live versions of Jet, Maybe l’m Amazed and My Love. Paul, in one poignant flashback, is also seen sporting a Merseybeat t-shirt. He says the experience of putting the Wings story on film was as cathartic an experience as compiling The Beatles Anthology albums, videos and book. He says that when The Beatles split he knew he had to make music that was his job – end of story. Now he is content that Linda’s rightful place in the band’s legacy will be recognised and how Michael Jackson, Elton John and Neil Sedaka have gone on record praising Linda’s harmonies. Paul also reveals how one of the world’s leading fashion designers was the inspiration for the name of the group.It was dreamed up, he recalls, while Linda was having baby Stella. Says Paul: “I was staying in hospital with her, as is my wont. I got a little camp-bed in the same room as her to keep her company and to be there to help. That left me with a lot of free time to sit around thinking. “One afternoon I was just musing on the whole having-a-baby experience feeling very thankful and in tune with the mysteries of it all and I was thinking of angels and the ‘wings’ came into my head. I thought, now that’s a pretty good name for a group.” The birth of the band also had humble beginnings – just like The Beatles in the ’60s, from playing in the Star Club in Hamburg to The Cavern and the Tower Ballroom. Says Paul: “I decided we weren’t going to do that ‘supergroup’ thing again or be a pale imitation of The Beatles. “When The Beatles split John had already said he didn’t want to carry on despite my suggestion that we should get back on the road again like any little band, just like we did in the early days. “I had a choice: do I give up or carry on in music? I decided to carry on in music and do it like we used to do it. “I was actually competing with myself. I was thinking The Beatles was just four kids making a huge phenomenal success. And this – Wings – well, now one of those four kids has got married and has his own kids and is now going to try doing it again, but with the shadow of the Beatles hanging over him. “I was also trying to raise a family. I wanted the band to grow organically and evolve. “It was back to square one. We turned up at universities unannounced. I would send in a roadie and tell him to go in and say ‘Paul McCartney’s in the van and wants to play. “He would say ‘yeah, pull the other one, mate’. Then he’d come out and there was a me in this van – saying ‘well, can we play?’. “I remember we could never find a decent hotel. There would always be a conference on. Well, that’s what they told us. Mind you, we had dogs with us as well. We didn’t have expensive equipment either just small amps or we’d use their PAs. Our attitude was ‘we’ll manage and have a laugh’, even with the scabby hotels. “I liked the whole Wings thing because I’d never formed a group before. I joined the Quarrymen they were an already made band. So I wasn’t used to all that. I had no experience. ” Everyone was looking for the next Beatles. Some bands have this weight around them like Echo and The Bunnymen had people saying they were the next Beatles instead of letting them just get out there to be themselves. ” Despite their sell-out concerts from Liverpool to every corner of the world, Wings’ multi-million selling albums and singles, their career ended when Paul was thrown into a Japanese jail for nine days in 1980. He says he regrets the whole episode which left bitter feelings in the rest of the band. “I certainly didn’t intend that to happen. To this day I really cannot believe I did that. Wings were flying from New York to Tokyo and we’d been told not to take anything to Japan. We’d been told endlessly, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know. “The terrible truth of it was we were into smoking pot at that time and we had this stuff that we didn’t flush down the bloody toilet. I do no not know what possessed me to stick it in my suitcase “Wings really finished then. It had sort of lost its charm; it wasn’t fun anymore and the ‘pot bust’ had definitely cemented that. It was like ‘Oh God, who needs all this?’. “I really cannot understand certain things about my life and that is definitely one of them. “Wings didn’t fold . . . they dissolved like sugar in a cup of tea.” Looking back, Paul has his own theory on the success of Wings. Paul looks out of the window onto London town and smiles a wide smile: “They didn’t stick to any particular rules. . . there was matey-ness and companionship like in The Beatles you had John and Paul. In Wings, it was Paul and Linda. “I thought that you couldn’t follow The Beatles. Well, Wingspan is the story and the sound track of how we set out to do it. “There was so much bitterness in the wake of The Beatles break-up that with Wings with Linda and me there was an element of “we’ll show you . . .”


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