- Published by:
- Algemeen Dagblad
- Timeline More from year 2010
- Album This interview has been made to promote the Band On The Run - Archive Collection Official album.
Songs mentioned in this interview
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(translation from Dutch to English, by Maccazine)
Q: The album was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria and the making was a little chaotic. Moreover you and your wife were brutally robbed. How do you look back on the recording process?
A: I wanted something totally different and knew EMI owned studios all over the world. I asked them for a list of locations in hot areas. We chose Lagos, although I also considered China and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But African music and rhythms sounded most attractive to me. We had a bad start: one day before we left two band-members refused to come along. Only Denny (Laine), my wife Linda and I were still there. After some time in Lagos, Linda and I thought it would be nice to stroll through the city, although they had warned us not to, because it is dangerous. Lagos was a very young and chaotic city at that time. Suddenly a couple of guys jumped out of a car and put a knife upon my throat. They didn’t recognize us, but took money, our photo-camera and demo-tapes. Fortunately I was not traumatized too much by the event. It was a pity the tapes were gone, but the songs were in my head. The tapes must still be somewhere in Lagos and must be worth quite a lot of money.
Q: The song Drink To Me (Picasso’s Last Words) you supposedly wrote at the request of Oscar-winner Dustin Hofmann.
A: Linda and I were on holiday in Jamaica and came along the set where Dustin Hofmann and Steve McQueen were shooting Papillon. Dustin invited us for dinner and wanted to know if I could write a song about anything. “I guess so,” I said. He then brought the latest edition of Time magazine which featured an article about the recently died Pablo Picasso and his last words ‘Drink to me, drink to my health.’ So I started singing ‘Drink to me’ (Drink-to-me-he, he hums the refrain) and before I knew what was happening Dustin jumps out of his chair and screams: he’s doing it, he starts to sing, it’s coming.’ I was flabbergasted.
Q: What always surprised me: you didn’t release a single from BOTR.
A: That’s not entirely true. I did in fact release Helen Wheels, which wasn’t on the original album. So I chose that, I didn’t think of Jet or Band on the Run as singles. But then I got a call from Al Corey of US-label Capitol. And he begged me to give him a single. Finally I was persuaded and he chose Jet. It went to number One in the Billboard hot 100. After that Al released Band on the Run, which also became number one. Thanks to the singles the album BOTR also got back to the top of the charts. So it really was his enthusiasm that turned it around.
Q: You made your wife a member of Wings, something most critics didn’t appreciate.
A: I wanted Linda in the band, but she wasn’t a musician. That was dangerous of course: when we started reactions weren’t very good at all. Luckily that attitude changed slowly: later, when I started working with Michael Jackson, he told me he liked the harmonies of Wings so much. I also got praise from Elton John, and at the same time more and more critics liked our distinctive sound. So finally Linda became an appreciated member of Wings, of whom I am still very proud.
Q: Band on the Run is your first solo-record John Lennon was positive about
A: That’s true. Although we weren’t on speaking terms since the Beatles had split up, we always looked at each other’s work. That’s what you do when you have been friends for so many years: you follow your old partners. So the fact that John complimented me, made me feel good.
Q: A lot of fans already have BOTR in their record-collection. Why should music lovers buy this reissue?
A: That was exactly the first question I asked the people of the record company. I requested the technicians at Abbey Road to let me listen to the old and the new version simultaneously under exactly the same circumstances. They gave me an A and a B button which I could switch to and from with one click. And I must admit: the new version sounds a lot clearer. According to the studio-people some parts of BOTR were a little bit overdone. By working from the original masters with today’s technology the sound improved impressively. Also there’s less hissing. At the same time music lovers get a lot of extras, for example a DVD with a documentary and different versions of the songs. I like to give people value for money.
Q: You still play a lot of songs of BOTR when touring
A: I do: Jet, Band on the Run, Let me roll It and this year also Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five. That’s more than I had actually thought, I have only just realized that.
Q: Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five is such a great song, I wanted you to play that one for years. Why doing it only now?
A: Well, I don’t know honestly, but Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five does seem to strike a chord with audiences. They really like it, although it is not a very well known song of mine. A lot of people won’t recognize it, apparently they value a good song when hearing it.
Q: Do you consider BOTR your best solo effort?
A: I definitely think of it as one of my best. After a lot of struggles with the line up and the sound, it was the first major success of Wings. It was so hard following the Beatles, sometimes I felt we bit more than we could chew. Now, looking back, I can say we didn’t fail.
Q: John would have been 70 last month, December 8th it will be 30 years since he died. Does that mean a lot to you?
A: I do miss John every day and it’s terrible he can’t be with us anymore. At the same time I’m not a big date guy. People sometimes tell me: it’s 45 years that the Beatles played Candlestick Park in San Francisco. Or they mention that John will turn 70. To me it’s just a birthday however. I prefer living in the present, not in the past. I have always been like that. Take this interview: I’m talking to you, so I don’t have time for other things now. I’m also writing some new music, yesterday I listened to some tapes at Abbey Road. That keeps me busy.
Q: Coincidentally this fall John’s solo-records are also reissued.
A: That really is a coincidence, I never think about timing releases. We just thought this year was a good time. However with so many people downloading music the record company definitely felt now is one of the last chances to do such a major reissue.
Q: Recently a new biography of you came out (Fab: an intimate life of Paul McCartney by Dylan-biographer Howard Sounes), which is not always very friendly about you. Have you read it?
A: I never read books about myself: so much is wrong. Sometimes I try and after reading a dozen pages of common knowledge, I suddenly notice a terrible error. It’s history going in the books however. But maybe I should feel flattered that they’re still interested, and write about me.
Q: Last month you wrote George Michael a letter, who spent a month in jail for driving under influence of marihuana.
A: I did write him a letter: I once went through the same and I feel for him. How I kept myself sane? By trying to stay positive and by remembering it wasn’t for ever, that I had a lot of friends. In that perspective I wrote him that letter.
Q: I like to thank you for this interview and hope you will play Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five on your next show in Holland.
A: I promise. I will play it for you!