- Album This interview has been made to promote the Wings At The Speed Of Sound Official album.
More from year 1976
Other interviews of Linda McCartney
October 1992 • From Vanity Fair
Nov 29, 1989 • From San Diego Union
1989 • From Diamond Hard Music Entertainment
Feb 22, 1987 • From The Telegraph
Sep 21, 1982 • From The Guardian
Jan 12, 1980 • From New Musical Express
Mar 25, 1978 • From Record Mirror
May 15, 1976 • From Record Mirror
Sep 27, 1975 • From Melody Maker
Interviews from the same media
Nov 20, 1971 • From Sounds
Jul 15, 1972 • From Sounds
Dec 02, 1972 • From Sounds
Dec 16, 1972 • From Sounds
Apr 14, 1973 • From Sounds
Dec 01, 1973 • From Sounds
Aug 31, 1974 • From Sounds
Oct 05, 1974 • From Sounds
Jun 26, 1976 • From Sounds
Aug 20, 1977 • From Sounds
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ON A grey and overcast winter afternoon, two men stand in the foyer of EMI Abbey Road Studios discussing plans for renovation. They are surrounded by imposing, lifesize black and white photos of the famous: Elton John, Cliff Richard, Andre Previn, Queen, Paul and Linda McCartney.
As the men converse, an eerie silence spreads through the building. Faint strains of melody are heard in a distant studio. While the men formulate plans to build an additional room off the foyer for artists to socialize, Paul McCartney is busy working on his own kind of construction inside studio: number two.
Gathered round a small cassette recorder, Paul and Linda McCartney intently listen to their at-home voices build each other. Occasionally tapping a foot to the lazy beat, Linda sways while lending additional harmonic support. Paul mentally rewrites the song, changing bits as the cassette gathers speed, visions of the final vinyl product dancing in his head.
Drummer Joe English restlessly hits a snare drum, anxious for another chance to do the song justice. Wearing a blue jean jump suit and loose fitting Hawaiian print shirt, Paul McCartney turns the small cassette recorder off, ready for another take.
As the basic rhythmic track is still being perfected, Linda joins the rest of Wings upstairs in the control room, peering down from the glass partition victoriously every time a particularly good take is reached. Guitarists Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch scan newspapers on control room couches, apprehensively awaiting recording time.
Downstairs in the studio, McCartney sits at the piano, leans into the microphone and begins to sing a song that differs greatly from the scratchy tune that had come out of those small cassette speakers minutes before. Coaching English on several takes, McCartney joyously shouts encouraging instructions to his drummer over a practice vocal.
“Latin beat in four bars,” McCartney energetically instructs. “Now bring it down, keep that up.” Pounding the piano in time to a heavy rock percussive foundation, McCartney leans into the microphone and sings “the world doesn’t need another silly love song but here I go again…”
As the familiar voice is thrown around the control room, Laine and McCulloch look up from their newspapers. As the song begins to blossom, Denny and Linda add imaginary harmonies to the tune. In just over an hour, the song has changed considerably.
“Keep on rocking.” McCartney screams over the practice vocal as English gains momentum, beginning to hit steamroller punctuation. They bring the song down to a melodic interlude before hammering home the point once more. “One more time,” McCartney joyously yells out.
Working on what eventually became ‘Silly Love Songs’ from the just released ‘Wings At The Speed Of Sound’ album, Linda McCartney took time out from recording on that grey and overcast winter afternoon to shed some light on several Wings misconceptions.
Sitting in a room adjacent to studio number two, a kindly employee evacuates his cramped quarters, happy to be of assistance to Linda. Wearing rose coloured glasses, a denim jump suit and blue mohair sweater, Linda radiates strong confidence. Ten years before she would have found it impossible to believe she’d be sitting in this room adjacent to studio number two. Ten years before Linda McCartney would not have believed she’d ever marry Paul McCartney or join Wings. Times change.
“I suppose at first most people wanted to put me down,” Linda says in reasonably measured tones that combine a curiously American/ British accent. “But I have got better. The whole thing started because Paul had nobody to play with. We were up on the farm in Scotland and he started romanticising about what it’s like on stage. He made it sound. so easy I just said “yeah’. I must have been out of my mind,” Linda good-naturedly recalls. “I never thought could I learn piano, could I sing.“
Through a backdrop of apprehension and self-doubt, feeling encouraged by public reaction to the Beatles demise, Paul and Linda recorded a low-key, fragmented effort.
‘McCartney’ was released in 1970. They patiently spliced together bits and pieces of melody, eventually emerging with one truly great song ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’.
“McCartney’ was very much an at home effort,” Linda recalls. “We didn’t even have a mixer. It was sorta plug into a four-track machine and hope it works. When the Beatles finally broke up and Paul was saying ‘when the curtain opens and you’re up there it’s great’. He wasn’t saying let’s make a record. He just wanted a friend. with him. It wasn’t like ‘hey you’ve got great talent, I’ll put you onstage.”
During the final Beatle years, McCartney yearned to return to the stage, missing the excitement of live performances and audience contact. From the beginning, Wings were destined to be a permanent recording band.
“The whole point of Wings was to play onstage. We wouldn’t have got a group together just to record. Paul’s whole thing is the road. Even with the Beatles, even before ‘Abbey Road’ Paul was saying to me I’ve just got to have a sing, just get a few people together and go on the road. So he went in one day when all this fighting was going on and said to John, ‘let’s go on the road and do some unannounced gigs.’ John thought he was daft. But,” Linda is quick to shift tones, eager to portray a clear picture, “I’m not saying that Paul is an angel either. If they had talked the thing out they would have seen what they thought about Paul wasn’t true and what he thought about them wasn’t true. It simply wasn’t the three of them against Paul. It was four people who had to live. There were just too many personality problems.”
Public opinion blamed McCartney for breaking up the Beatles which no doubt hurt his pride and damaged his confidence. Stranded without a band the only other alternative was to make records.
“Paul’s biggest problem will be living down all that ‘Paul’s not heavy enough, Lennon’s the heavy one’. Listen folks,” Linda says in an understandably passionate defence. “Paul is a very heavy rock ‘n’ roller. I remember when I first met him I’d say ‘you haven’t got enough character in your face’. But I’ll tell you, there’s so much behind him that people don’t see.”
Much of the problem, however, was McCartney’s own fault. His heavier, rockier profile was obscured on the first three Wings albums. Not until McCartney rallied with his strongest solo effort ‘Band On The Run’ did cynics hear the kind of rhythmic, harmonic and cleverly arranged album they had always been expected from an ex-Beatle.
‘Ram’ was an excellent stepping stone towards strengthening McCartney’s artistic reputation which seemed to be fading into a muddy sea of one line melodies and snatches of musical inspiration. What the general populus expected of Paul McCartney became more prominent. ‘Ram’ was a deserving shot of confidence.
“But ‘Ram’ was made during that period when everyone was very negative towards Paul,” Linda says slightly defensive. She begins mumbling something about John Lennon but quickly stops herself in mid-sentence. Both Paul and Linda seem hesitant to stimulate any renewed fighting now that peace had been established.
“At first people don’t want you to change,” Linda reflected. “People are slow to change. Look at all that garbage John and Yoko had thrown at them and now people are happy that they’re back together. People take so long to accept something. I can accept criticism of Wings but their vision of Wings is so limited. The thing has to grow.”
Wings was allowed the opportunity to grow and mature with the addition of Denny Laine, a veteran Moody Blue capable of adding vocal and musical support to McCartney’s melodic foundations. With American drummer Denny Siewell, Wings were a quarter. Together they recorded ‘Wildlife’ which lacked the variety, excitement, song quality, and production of ‘Ram’.
“Wildlife’ is another album we could have done better,” Linda now admits. “Some of the songs are very good but we only did it in about a week. It’s funny, the band was so new but we didn’t take care, Laine has been with us a long time now so we can relax and look at the thing instead of rushing into the studio. It wasn’t really a group when we did ‘Wildlife”.”
With the important addition of Laine, McCartney suddenly had his artistic foil, someone to bounce ideas off. Suddenly McCartney was no longer alone. Laine provided that necessary stimulus to creativity. Despite the fact that McCartney could play all the instruments, he desperately seemed to want a band again. And he desperately seemed eager to return to the stage.
So it was in early 1972 that Wings began a successful, low-key, unannounced hit and run university tour. Wings were becoming a band.
“Paul was just feeling himself out then,” Linda says. “He’d never been that alone, he’d always worked with other people. You know Paul isn’t God,” she says seriously. “The Beatles were not gods.”
Throughout periods spent alone and confused, Linda provided much more than a harmonic vocal addition to the albums. She provided encouragement which eventually made Wings a reality.
“If you encourage a person they’ll blossom. If you don’t they’ll doubt themselves. Sure I encouraged Paul, especially in the beginning. Wives do that,” Linda says logically. “Paul was going through a pretty hard time, getting a lot of press by default. ‘Oh Paul did it, it’s Paul’s fault’. That whole period affected us. It just wasn’t like that.”
Sitting in this room adjacent of studio number two with that infectious ‘Silly Love Songs’ pounding through the walls with uncontrollable energy, Linda is pulled into a delightful burst of fond memories of the past. She eagerly recalls early days spent listening to the Moody Blues in New York, longing to meet Laine and never imagining she’d actually be in a group with him.
“I think I was the only person in New York to have that first Moody Blues album,” she laughs. “I remember they did this incredible Coca-Cola commercial. I always thought it would make a great single. I really wanted to photograph the Moody Blues but I never got up the nerve.”
Instead she stuck exclusively to the confines of the fifth row, eagerly taking in Murray the K rock ‘n’ roll spectaculars. She was a genuine pocket radio high school kid who lived for rock ‘n’ roll. At night she’d sneak out of the house and take the subway downtown where the excitement of live music captivated her soul.
“I always went to shows at the Brooklyn Paramount where they’d have 20 acts on 24 hours a day. Alan Freed was the MC but sometimes they’d get Fabian or Bobby Darin to MC. I remember seeing Chuck Berry sing Schooldays for the first time,” she laughs and begins singing the song.
Raised on a steady diet of fifties rockers, she mysteriously succombed one day and bought the Beatles first album. The Eddie Cochran roots were similar.
“I never thought I’d be involved with rock ‘n’ roll,” Linda says seriously. “I didn’t even think I’d be a photographer. I just loved the music. I never saw myself with any connection.”
Eventually she gave up Alan Freed’s musical marathons and headed west to Arizona where she began to develop an eager interest in photography. Yearning for the Sunday New York Times, she quickly gave up the sunshine and the desert, returning to the urban energy of New York city.
Eventually she secured a job at Town and Country a good housekeeping, domestic magazine, as the office flunkie. While the rest of the staff cavorted round town at lunchtime, Linda stayed in the office answering the phones. One day, however, an invitation arrived in the post to come meet the Rolling Stones. Armed with a Pentax, she went down to a yacht parked at 75th Street.
Much to her father’s dismay, she quit the flunkie job at Town And Country shortly afterwards, and decided to become a professional rock ‘n’ roll photographer. Meeting Mick Jagger no doubt was more entertaining than staying prisoner in an empty office at lunchtime. Two years later she would be a successful photographer and wife to Paul McCartney.
Linda easily admits she’s no virtuoso and talks animatedly of severe cases of stage fright during the first few Wings performances. She has, however, suffered her fair share of exaggerated criticism and cruel jokes. Their lifetime ambition does not include producing an equivalent to the ‘Sonny & Cher’ show.
From the beginning Linda McCartney has sung harmony on Wings albums, greatly contributing to the overall successful results of ‘Ram’ and ‘Band On The Run’. She plays little piano on record, much more onstage and is always eager to improve. She takes Wings seriously and presents an interesting overview of the group that McCartney himself seems hesitant to probe.
“Red Rose Speedway’ was such a non-confident record. There were some beautiful songs that would sound much better now. There was ‘My Love’ but something was missing. We needed a heavier sound,” Linda says rhythmically. “We needed more of what we are now. Originally the album was going to be a double as we had about 30 finished songs. But we had this manager at the time who kept yelling ‘Now you want a single out’ and all that rubbish. It was a terribly unsure period.”
Reasons for lack of group stability and confidence stemmed from internal difficulties. By this time Wings were five with the addition of former Grease Band guitarist Henry McCullough. Desperately in need of musical stimulation, Wings were proving themselves more of a hinderance than a help to McCartney’s path of artistic survival.
As Linda is quick to admit ‘Paul is not the kind of guy that likes to get rid of people. He always wants to give them another chance‘. Yet Paul’s obvious nice guy posture was hurting his critical reputation with one disappointing album after another. ‘Big Barn Bed’ was cute, up tempo stuff and ‘My Love’ was pretty yet the music in between sounded too commonplace and mediocre.
“Paul got very nervous having to give everyone in the band a part to play,” Linda admits. “Sometimes he wouldn’t want guitar on a track but Henry didn’t like sitting around the studio. Because of that Paul started putting things on tracks on the ‘Red Rose Speedway’ album just to keep everyone happy things he normally wouldn’t put on the track.”
Extraneous and unnecessary musical decoration disguised possible clever musical indulgences. Despite the group conflict, Wings toured Europe and Britain in 1973 sticking to small halls and low profiles. Still groping for inspiration, McCartney found obvious joy returning to the stage, purposefully bending some of his songs into funkier shape.
McCartney, however, still seemed to wear his ex-Beatle tag awkwardly. His curious omission of the past in concert drew more attention by its absence. An encore of ‘Long Tall Sally’ was the only concession to the past then.
Shortly after that summer tour, McCullough and Siewell quit Wings on the eve of their planned departure for Nigeria to record what became ‘Band On The Run’. With Wings suddenly reduced to a trio, the future looked bleak. Ironically McCartney rallied with his most impressive recording performance yet.
“That period was almost a relief for Paul,” Linda continues the narrative, glad that darker hours have passed. “He finally had people with him who cared, those who showed up at the airport. We didn’t even know if Denny was coming! Most of that album was written at home in Scotland. I remember Denny, Paul, and I sitting round the kitchen table singing ‘ho hey ho’,” she hums a bit of Mrs. Vanderbilt. “Band On The Run” was just the three of us. We’d start with basics and Paul would build on it.
“I don’t know why ‘Band On The Run’ is better than ‘Venus And Mars’. I guess maybe it’s Paul’s drumming. I remember Keith Moon asking me who played drums on that album. I just can’t say why that album was a hit. I remember hearing a bit of ‘Jet’ and not liking it that much. But then Paul started to build on it. He wanted that one to be totally mad.
“Don’t forget,” Linda winks, “Paul’s had a lot of practice in the studio. He’s done some very trippy things. Every now and then he remembers how much he loves it.”
With ‘Band On The Run’ his ability to recall previous studio brilliance was cleverly exposed. ‘Band On The Run’ painted a vibrant, healthy self-portrait that helped McCartney retain his fading hero stance. Still frustration hampered Wings solid gold success.
Finally, recording an album that begged for stage adaptation, Wings had no band to promote their well received effort. Eager to return victoriously to the road McCartney searched for musicians to compliment Wings good health.
Diminutive guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was the first addition, making Wings a quartet once more. McCartney had originally wanted Jimmy but curbed his desires for fear of breaking up Stone The Crows. When that band disintegrated, McCulloch did some sessions with Linda in Paris under the name Susie and The Red Stripes. He later played on an album Paul produced for brother Mike McGear and subsequently joined Wings.
The most important position still needed to be filled. Percussive choices came down to Roger Pope, who later joined Elton John’s Band and Geoff Britten who joined Wings briefly. Nashville rehearsals in the summer of ’74 were not working successfully.
“It just didn’t gell,” Linda recalls another stepping stone. “It was horrible because we really wanted it to work because we really wanted so much to go back onstage. It was another depressing period. We had started ‘Venus And Mars’ but it just wasn’t working.
Yet the end of their problems arrived with the addition of horn player Tony Dorsey who helped Paul add brass to several tracks. The locale shifted to New Orleans, Britten was fired in the nicest possible way, and Dorsey recommended a young American drummer who was currently rehearsing with Bonnie Bramlett. 24 hours later Joe English was thrown straight into the making of ‘Venus And Mars’.
“There’s a lot of room for us to move,” Linda says pleased with the addition of English. “Onstage Joe added the thing that was lacking with all the other drummers. That’s why Wings never stayed together. It’s not Beatle Paul, it’s a band.”
Proof of Linda’s words quickly reverberated round the room adjacent to the studio. Those ‘Silly Love Songs’ had now reached full maturity, coming through the walls with gutsy clarity. “This one’s gonna be great,” Linda enthused about a song she’d been living with for over a week.
Several months later when ‘Wings At The Speed Of Sound’ was unveiled on a curious public, those ‘Silly Love Songs’ contained the album’s best moments.
“Family man?” Linda questions all those who complain about Pauls’ domestic status. “Most people are family people. That’s not soft. Every man must have a home especially if you come from a big family like Paul’s. There’s nothing wrong with a family life.”
Yet much of Wings’ criticism stems from these family roots. On tour, they travelled round Britain on a mobile coach taking their three children with them. Just because the McCartney’s do not indulge in public displays of rock ‘n’ roll excess, does not make them less worthy than Led Zeppelin.
“It’s like James Dean died and suddenly they romanticise him. So OK maybe they want Paul dead before they can say ‘hey man he lived a rock ‘n’ roll life’ but he doesn’t have to get out of his head in public every night for rock ‘n’ roll. There’s nothing wrong with having a bit of life with music,” Linda says reasonably.
Their attitude towards the tax situation typifies the McCartney’s determination to do as their feelings dictate.
“Money should not govern your life,” Linda says flatly. “Besides I love our farm. I always said if we lose everything what’s the worse that could happen? I like cooking so we’ll open a little restaurant.
“We were going to open a club in London called Death of Variety cause the music scene is so bad. I’d run a little restaurant,” Linda says quite pleased with the thought. “There’s so much to do but you can’t do everything. Right now Wings is the main thing.”
Right now the main thing is finishing up ‘Silly Love Songs’. The song has gotten even better. McCartney has come into the control room to have a listen, standing eagerly behind the engineer, watching him twist and twirl knobs into perfection. English practically kicks the console board while listening to the playback.
“Shit hot rocking,” McCartney mumbles, his obvious enthusiasm contagiously infecting the room. Wings agree wholeheartedly.
Last updated on August 5, 2023