Interview for Melody Maker • Saturday, March 27, 1976

McCartney: pressure cooking

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney
Published by:
Melody Maker
Interview by:
Chris Welch
Timeline More from year 1976

Album This interview has been made to promote the Wings At The Speed Of Sound Official album.

Songs mentioned in this interview

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Paul McCartney reveals a new national achievement the first British cooking on record! and discusses the proposed Beatles reunion with CHRIS WELCH

I’m not going to be blackmailed into going.” No. Paul wasn’t talking about the much-publicised and debated reunion of the Beatles. Nor even the Wings tour of America. He was in the throes of attempting to opt out of a dinner invitation, pressed home with persistence by one of the throng milling at a West End hotel last week.

Paul, Linda, and Wings were on the loose in a suite where sandwiches piled up around bottles of beer. Deejays tripped over journalists in the merry-go-round of interviews at a press conference convened only hours before the band were due to depart on their first dates of 1976. “Look, I’m off to Copenhagen tomorrow and I’ve got to get some sleep.” “But we’d be thrilled if you came…

Well it was a private conversation, but it underlined the kind of pressures still exerted on the famous ones of rock. Paul extracted himself from the situation with a mixture of firmness and diplomacy born of long practice.

For just a few seconds the warning signals flashed and you could sense the old Liverpudlian cutting edge being honed and made ready, and remembered the days when all four Beatles were ready to cut through cant if threatened or surrounded.

But Paul relaxed and seemed eager and happy to talk about the new Wings album “Wings At The Speed Of Sound,” reviewed on page 28 with an enthusiasm and courtesy that is rare among lesser talents than McCartney’s. He was even prepared to comment on the 25 million dollar offer currently being made by US promoter Bill Sargent to re-form the Beatles, despite his having made clear in the past that his interest is now in Wings and not the past.

But first he discussed Wings’ recent adventures.

We had fab fun in Australia,” said Paul slipping into Mersey Mania dialogue. “It was the first real tour we’d done for a while. The audiences were great and we just dug playing. It was more like a holiday.”

What happened about the trip to Japan that was cancelled when the Japanese authorities let them in due to an old wouldn’t dope smoking offence?

“It was the Minister of Justice’s fault. I suppose he’d say it was my fault for having smoked some of the deadly weed. But we had our visas signed by the London Japanese Embassy. Everything had been cleared, David Bailey was coming over to do a film and we were in Australia, just about a week out from going to Japan when a little note arrived saying sorry, the Japanese Minister of Justice says No.

“They’re still old-fashioned out there. There’s a generation gap and the wrong end of the gap is in the Ministry of Justice, as it is here.

“The older folks see a great danger in allowing in an alien who has admitted smoking marijuana, and supposedly they’re trying to stamp it out, using all the wrong methods as usual.”

Did Paul feel angry about being barred? 

“Oh Yeah, bit over the top. It was just one of those things, but we felt a bit sick about it. It’s so short-sighted.”

After the Australian tour, they sent a televised version of their show to Japan.

“We did the TV show for all the people who couldn’t get in to see us in Australia because some of the tickets were going for Sinatra prices. And we immediately got a print of it up to Japan, to that the weekend we were supposed to have arrived, they had a big TV show and they turned it round into a big current affairs programme, too, with an hour and a half of people discussing the merits of marijuana. In a way we become martyrs for cause, which is a drag.”

With all this travelling. when did Paul get time to start working on the album?

“We fit it in y’know… we did Australia, and then because Japan didn’t come off, we had a great holiday and as Hawaii was on the way back we stopped there and I got the album together in my head.

“We’d done a little bit of recording in September and then had Christmas off. We started on the album in January or February sometime I’m a bit hazy. The album didn’t take too long, it could have been done a lot quicker. We didn’t rush it, but let the ideas blossom.

“There were a few things I especially wanted to do. I had a song for Denny written and a few other tunes I definitely wanted to do and got those down. And then there were a few I didn’t really know what to do with. I put a backing track down, then got the idea of getting Joe English to do it because he’s got a very good voice.

“Linda’s got this track, “Cook Of The House, so thought it would be good to give one to Joe as well. He said: Oh, er, well okay. And when he’d done it, we were all surprised. He can sing well, can’t he? But it’s nothing to what he could do, but that’s down to the future.

“And Denny I obviously wanted to get going and cooking a bit because I like the idea of giving him a push.

“The band came together a couple of weeks ago for rehearsals down at Elstree and the nice thing is there is a song called Silly Love Songs, which has a brass bit which the brass players in the band worked out in the studio. They can really get behind it because it’s their bit. We also used two euphoniums on ‘Warm And Beautiful, but those are session guys.”

Was it Paul’s intention with this album to bring the members of Wings forward as much as possible?

“That’s always the object with anything I do, and to try and get out of a rut and do something different. When I was in Jamaica, I heard a reggae record which featured a trombone all on its own. It sounded daft and fruity and I filed it away at the back of my mind that I’d love to use a trombone. And, of course, we have Tony Dorsey, who plays trombone for could use us, So we it as a solo instrument on the album.”

What was the origin of the doorbell used to introduce “Let ‘Em In,” the album’s first track? Were they the McCartney household chimes?

“Well, as it happens, it is our actual doorbell which our drummer bought us, so It has a group significance. And it seemed a good introduction to the album.”

Did Paul want to involve himself in a theme, like “Venus & Mars”?

“Well, it wasn’t really a theme on Venus & Mars actually. No, I didn’t think at all of themes. I thought of a bunch of tunes… there is a theme to it once you’ve heard it a few times, a sort of family, love-ish, warm-ish feel. Well, I can never analyse my own stuff.”

Was he steeling himself for criticism?

“Waal – you know, this time… you take it differently each time. I sit there and think: ‘It’s gonna be great reviews this time,’ and you are disappointed if there is one bad one. But this time I’m just thinking, I’m getting on with it, I’ve just made a record, let them get on with it. I hope they like it, but if the reviewers don’t, well I hope the people like it.”

Will Paul incorporate many of the new songs in the show?

“Because it’s a very new album and we’re off to Europe, it’s a bit soon for anybody to have heard much of the stuff. So we’ve only got three of the songs in ‘Beware My Love,’ ‘Silly Love Songs,’ and ‘Let ‘Em In, all up-tempo.

“We’ve got plenty of rehearsal time before we actually play America, and by that time the album will be better known. We’re not going to pre-judge, we’ll see. what numbers people like.”

It seemed to me that “Silly Love Songs” was an obvious single.

“Yeah, that seems to be the one people are talking about. But we’ve released the album before any singles, mainly because the radio stations haven’t been told what is our preference and they can decide for themselves.

“And they’ll play various cuts and see which rises to the surface. ‘Silly Love Songs’ is the one we’re thinking of at the moment.

“Another surprise for me was ‘Warm And Beautiful.’ It’s no way a single, but ‘Yesterday’ wasn’t single material. It’s in that vein though. A nice song.”

What was the origin of “Cook Of The House,” Linda’s speciality in raunchy rock and roll?

“Well, we were in Adelaide and rented a house to stay at rather than a hotel. And after the gig each night, Linda and I would get dropped off and sit up in the kitchen and have a late night bite. They had these pots of sage and onion all the condiments of the season that’s a joke that, condiments of the season.”

Oh, er, delayed MM laughter as slow-witted journalist entirely fails to spot jest.

“Well all this stuff was lined up, and it was a kind of freak song, and I took everything I saw and tried to work it into the song. Every line in the song was actually in that kitchen.”

What were the sizzling noises heard in the introduction?

“We went round to our house with the mobile unit and Linda decided to cook a meal and get cooking sounds recorded, and then fed the meal to us and the engineers. We all had a laugh and a drink. The mobile was outside the house and we just ran wires into the kitchen. Take one. Bacon frying. The first British cooking on record.  There are chips at the end which is great because it sounds like applause. If you get any letters to Any Questions you can tell readers it was an E flat bacon pan and Selmer chips.  The song is very high school orientated because that was Linda’s scene as a kid in America. Of course, we didn’t have any of that dating and taking chicks out in cars at the age of 17. 

“The most we had was a hop on the back of a tandem, and we’d have records in the classroom at the end of term. I remember one day when the guy in the Remo Four brought a guitar, George brought in his guitar and we went into the history room, Cliff Edge’s room. The teacher’s name was Mr Edge see. I remember doing Long Tall Sally and all the old stuff, and that was the nearest we ever got a high school hop.”

Why not get Wings to do an album of old pop hits?

“Listen now don’t get me on projects. There are so many of those to do. I’ve got a head full of that. A Buddy Holly album, an album of old pop tunes there are millions of ideas like that. But how about the hits of the Seventies? I know what you mean, but it hasn’t happened yet.”

Were there any major projects for Paul in the coming year other than the Wings tours?

“Well, no. We go to Europe and America, and then we haven’t got anything planned, just some breather time. But Wings is growing and it surprises me in a way because I half expected it not to happen. It was a question of follow that, after the Beatles. But it’s established and the main thing is we are enjoying playing, and can get off on it, which is a great advantage over a lot of older groups. As Denny says: “It’s a great group.” The old feeling.”

Does Paul get tired about being asked about the Beatles reunion?

“I don’t mind, as I say, at the moment we are definitely going on tour of America with Wings, and that’s a nice thing I’m looking forward to. But I don’t count out anything else. Maybe in America one night, we’ll loon down to a studio with someone,” said Paul non-commitally. “I’m just playing it by ear. The main thing about this huge offer…THE HUGE OFFER…well the man’s an embarrassment.

“If I were a fellow back in Liverpool aged 18 doing me first job, well I’d think, ‘nobody can refuse that, can they?’ It’s just too much money. Even if we were terrible it would be worth it, right?

“Well for me, the trouble is, I’ve always been so proud of the Beatles thing and the embarrassment of the thing is that so much money is being offered, most people in the world would say: ‘You have to accept’.

“But for me the thing is that for a thing like that to actually happen I wouldn’t want it that way, ‘cos of money.It’s what people said when we split up. All the wiseacres, all the Jack the lads, ‘Well they’ll be back soon enough, as soon as they feel the pinch.’

“I hate that that’s what it’s come to. It’s a drag and, for me, the main truth about the whole thing is I know as much about this offer as you know.

“Exactly what’s papers in the and the telegram I’ve received from this man Bill Sargent. Er haven’t had any now I other communication besides that from anyone. You can talk to the other three about it. 

“In fact, I talked to John the other night. Just happened to be talking to him on the phone. We chatted for about an hour and a half he was in New York.

“We just chatted and rambled, about politics, whatever we were interested in. A natter. And we never once mentioned the reunion or the offer.

“I thought about it after we got off the phone. We just didn’t even mention it. John didn’t say: ‘Well what do you think? So that’s where it’s at for me. It’s a funny one.

“I understand how most people in the world think we’d have to accept it.

“For me, the only way the Beatles could come back together again would be if we wanted to do something musically, not lukewarm just to get the money.

“You could do it to make a lot of money, but it would be the wrong motive, and this is what bugs me. I really don’t want to do a thing that was always for the right motives. and the Beatles were for the right motives and make it a total cop-out.

“It would ruin the whole Beatles thing for me, If the four of us were really keen on the idea, or something in the next year makes us keen on it, or I just talk to the others and find out that they are really keen secretly, then I must feel I ought to do something about it.

“But not having talked about it at all as I say we talked on the phone for an hour and didn’t even mention it. And I’d read the papers which said John Lennon was the hottest on this.

“And I spoke to the bugger and he didn’t even mention it. Where do you go from there?”

Last updated on August 6, 2023


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