More from year 1973
Other interviews of Henry McCullough
August 2011 • From SongFacts
September 1997 • From MOJO
Apr 14, 1973 • From Sounds
Jan 29, 1972 • From Disc And Music Echo
Jan 29, 1972 • From Melody Maker
Interviews from the same media
Nov 20, 1971 • From New Musical Express
Apr 08, 1972 • From New Musical Express
Jul 15, 1972 • From New Musical Express
Aug 26, 1972 • From New Musical Express
Dec 16, 1972 • From New Musical Express
May 19, 1973 • From New Musical Express
Jun 09, 1973 • From New Musical Express
Oct 27, 1973 • From New Musical Express
Aug 17, 1974 • From New Musical Express
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THE SECRETARY of the Wings Fan Club scuttled in like a breathless chicken and perched herself nervously on the edge of a chair. On the other side of the table, peering over a row of empty Long Life beer cans, Henry McCullough reclined in the almost motionless position he’d adopted for the last hour and regarded her with somewhat surprised bemusement.
The young lady immediately rushed into some questions giving McCullough little time to answer – considering he takes a long, long time to think over what he’s saying anyway.
“Oh yes, and Henry, do you have a message for the fans?”
Poor old Henry. He just turned his head slightly to one side and looked hopelessly amazed and unable to cope. He’d been saying earlier in the afternoon how difficult he finds it to handle the teeny side of the rock scene which just recently has begun to pick up on Wings.
“I know all this is going on around me but I just can’t relate to it at all,” he explained stolidly. “I’m just a musician, y’know.”
Too right. If anybody appears utterly disinterested in the glamour attached to the rock world then it’s Henry McCullough. His whole career has been based on simply playing solid, workman-like guitar and sounding excellent all through. especially in the days of the sadly under-rated Greaseband when he first made his name behind Joe Cocker.
Despite his current position in Wings, one feels he looks back with fondness on his days with the Greaseband, which eventually folded through lack of interest.
The nucleus of the band, other than McCullough, is at present doing very little and it’s something he feels a certain sadness about.
“They’re just sitting around, wondering and waiting. Even though I’m in a band I can feel for them, y’know. There are people around like Graham Bell, Frankie Miller, Alan Spenner, Neil Hubbard and Joe, and when they all settle down and suss each other out they’ll produce some extraordinarily good bands. It’ll be like a new wave…”
Originally, McCullough came over from Ireland and played in bands like Eire Apparent and Sweeny’s Men before joining the Greaseband and Cocker. It’s all rather a long step, away from the fairly light-weight rock of Paul McCartney and Wings.
Even these days he finds it difficult to explain exactly why the combination of Cocker and the Greaseband split up.
“It just happened. Joe came in one day and said, ‘I’m going to America’, and we just sort of sat there. There were no arguments. It was just something he felt he had to do and the friendship in the band allowed it to happen. He was his own man, after all. Joe went over for ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen. and that, I suppose, was really the rise and fall of Joe Cocker.
“I don’t think he was ever into that large kind of band. He’s into having a great sound and making the individuals count… y’know friendship was everything. That’s always worth as much as actual musical ability. And I think that’s what was lacking in the last bands he toured with.”
In many ways, McCullough is a similar personality to Joe Cocker and the rest of the Greaseband. None of them have been exactly known for devastating conversation and sparkling repartee. McCullough is hardly an extrovert and it’s difficult to draw him out to say anything much at all, even though he’s obviously a well-meaning and honest individual.
Still, if one were to look at Wings cynically, McCartney might be accused of taking on an excellent guitarist in McCullough, whose personality could be easily tamed.
Recent reviews of the band, however glowing, have often suggested his talents are wasted – that he could contribute a good deal more. McCullough himself doesn’t feel too sure one way or the other, although undoubtedly he seems happy with Wings nonetheless.
“I mean, I’ve never been the kind of guitarist to play twenty-minute solos anyway,” he reasons. “I don’t feel restricted or anything like that.
“I think it’s also down to the numbers we’re playing. They’re quite highly-structured, not very free, and on stage I’m just playing what I play on the record.
“Perhaps I would like the band to be a little freer. It’s just been kept that way so far. But I could never be just Paul McCartney’s backing guitarist. I’d leave if it was like that. I want to contribute as well.
“I think it’s coming though. Over the last eighteen months we’ve had to sort out the slight differences we had musically. At the start, I wasn’t really aware of what I was doing. It only came after I got to know the lads in the band.
“Now I think Wings have reached the point where music is really starting to come out of the band. Everybody’s contributing and the results are a five-piece product. That’s what it’s getting to and it’s great.
“Obviously it’ll always be Paul McCartney’s group, but we’ve worked out of this system where it was just ‘Paul McCartney and his group Wings’.”
McCullough feels this is one reason why the band has had more critical acclaim, along with the fact that they’ve been tightened up by live shows.
“I think we’re going to keep playing on the road as often as possible. It’s the only way to keep a band going in my opinion. I feel playing live is really where’s it’s at, and I think everybody else feels the same way. That’s why we’re a force to be reckoned with.
“Y’know, my heart really is in Wings. The fact that it’s starting to go so well makes me pleased for all concerned.”
So that means there’s no truth in the recent rumours that he’s planning to leave and form a band supposedly called Rats?
“No, when I heard that story I was amazed. Where could that have come from. I mean Rats? What a name…”
Would he ever, sometime in the future, like to get the old Greaseband together again?
“I think it’s still there spiritually, but in reality it’s finished and gone. I don’t think we’ll come together again but it’s nice to have it on the level it is now. We still know each other as people there’s a spiritual
McCullough explains that he doesn’t have any particular ambitions as a musican at all. He says he never thinks about what he plans to do next. Opportunities just happen, he says.
“I’ve never set myself any goals. I’ve never sat down and said I’m going to work for this or that. I just live from day to day. I’m that sort of person.
“All I know is that I’ll always be there. I’m not the sort of musician who’s going to be left behind. I’m certain about that.”
Last updated on August 14, 2023