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Jul 09, 1972 • France • Ollioules • Centre culturel Chateauvallon
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I want to know that I’m ready if there is a super-critical audience. This is no snub to Britain, but I don’t like going in when I’m not ready. Doing this tour is like playing Hamburg eight hours a day with the Beatles.Paul McCartney
“DID YOU know,” whispered a pop cognoscente, “that the Beatles invented Scotch and Coke? No one drank it before 1962.” A trestle table in the garden of a small chateau, in the hills above Toulon, was appropriately filled with bottles of both – and nothing else. It was just after midnight, the air was thick with the scent of pine, and everyone at the party was being very, very nostalgic. Paul McCartney had not only given his first concert for six years in this obscure and charming place, but actually hadn’t rushed off afterwards, “Ten years…” mused the cognoscente, mixing himself another Beatle Special, McCartney strode jerkily around, shaking hands and looking cheerful, acting as though everything was quite as it always was, that he had not been a hermit from publicity for the last five years (to the extent that rumours swept America that he was dead), and had not been one of the most publicised entertainers in history before that. He was talking about Liverpool and pop music.
Earlier, during the performance by his new band Wings (which includes his wife Linda) he had startled some dedicated Beatle-watchers with his rough and ready approach playing a mixture of blues, rock, reggae, and country, and not worrying if the sound was undistinctive and crossed into the territory of a hundred other bands.
“Wings,” he said, “will play any type of music. I like the idea of a band being the sort of thing that if someone shouts for ‘Knees up. Mother Brown,’ it can do a good old version of it. You know?” He wasn’t kidding. “My interests go back to the age of three. I like songs like ‘September Song’. To me that isn’t light music, that’s ‘eavy, man.” He started to sing it. “Then there’s Carolina Moon, that’s a fantastic song. We’d go to a party in Liverpool with our family and if you were drunk at the end of the evening and there was an uncle of yours singing it, and you could get with it, it could be the most fantastic experience ever. I can dig it.”
“Yeah,” said Linda, previously from New York, “it’s beautiful.“
Wings didn’t actually play “Carolina Moon,” but they included a lot of songs that would have been helped by audience participation and a pub atmosphere. It was easy to draw comparisons with the very early days of the Beatles, though (even allowing for the faulty amplification system) none of the new songs McCartney performed matched “Michelle,” let alone “Yesterday.” “Maybe I’m Amazed” (which was popularised by The Faces) is now his best song, and he performed it far better than on his first solo album. He also put far more feeling into his conservation song “Wild Life,” while his rock numbers “Soily” and “Hi, Hi, Hi” should be very effective by the time the band has been together for a few weeks. Along with these (and the dreadful “Mary had a Little Lamb”) Wings played a lot of straightforward mainstream pop that the Beatles would never have touched. Was this a reaction to the Beatles being over-intellectualised?
“Yeah – well, not because of the Beatles, but because of music generally. After the Beatles, everyone dug it, and got in on it, and you found a load of people who weren’t musical, but clever, all in on the act. I don’t take it all that seriously – if it sounds good, I like it.”
I would have thought that the gap between “thinking rock” and “entertainment rock” had been effectively bridged, by a host of bands from the Grateful Dead to Pink Floyd, but for McCartney they are different and present a choice.
“I like to see people leaping around and dancing and enjoying it, better than sitting there and analysing it. I must say that I got into that thing of it being art quite easily and I enjoyed it for a while, but I began to feel that you can lose a lot of what it’s really all about if you don’t go and play to people.”
Perhaps after he’s been playing for a while he will decide that “art” can exist in enjoyable live performances – not just in the elaborate studio work of the last Beatle albums. Certainly, McCartney is too shrewd to let the new populist approach cause standards to drop: he is not letting the band play in Britain and (especially) America until it is good
“I want to know that I’m ready if there is a super-critical audience. This is no snub to Britain, but I don’t like going in when I’m not ready. Doing this tour is like playing Hamburg eight hours a day with the Beatles.”
The Beatles were struggling in Hamburg, but Wings are going to cruise around Europe for two months in a dazzingly open-top London bus, complete with stereo and a playpen for their children. Some bands hate touring, but McCartney is determined both to enjoy himself, see the towns where he is playing for the first time, and as he says, “play to the people”. He is obviously pleased to be the first ex-Beatle to do so (John has played only in Toronto and New York, and George and Ringo only at the Bangladesh concert in New York); no doubt he also has in mind Lennon’s unhappy experience at his first solo concert at Toronto (where he was literally ill with nerves) and so is taking entirely the opposite approach.
But there is another side to the Wings tour and the re-emergence of McCartney into public life; it is best summed up on the official Wings programme, where the band, in old-fashioned pop style, list their likes and dislikes. Along with such information, as Paul’s favourite colour being “All”, and favourite food “chips”, Linda Louise McCartney lists her “Pet hate” as “Allen Klein” (whose name is actually misspelt on the programme), who currently represents John, George, Ringo, Apple and the Beatles. Linda’s father and brother, Lee and John Eastman, have battled long and hard with Klein over the Beatles and Paul’s contract, so it is not surprising that Linda is interested in talking business. What is surprising is that Wings have gone on the road with none of those problems sorted out. These were the reason, according to Linda, why she and Paul disappeared to their Scottish farm so much in the past few years.
“The business thing got so heavy that we decided on a bit of country – get back with God, and all that. Thank God we did, it straightened us out.”
“We have no income, it all goes to Apple, even from Paul’s solo album, ‘Ram’,” Linda alleged, “we are stuck, let me tell you.” She also blamed the other Beatles. “What annoys me is the other three and their preaching. John goes around saying ‘Join Rock Liberation – give the people what’s theirs’ – and he could get us out. We are living on our personal incomes – old money, there is nothing new coming, in.”
They will, though, be covering more than their expenses on the current European tour.
Paul, who obviously felt more like talking about his new band than about business, has reluctantly drawn in. After an hour of careful diplomacy, he too began to let fly at the other Beatles.
“I don’t see them much, but I don’t really see why I should see them We had a bit of trouble and that trouble is still on.”
“We saw John and Yoko. at Christmas,” said Linda, “and it was all ‘we’re going to do it,’ and ‘you’ll be out by March, man,’ and Yoko said ‘to hell with the contracts’ – but nothing happened.”
Paul added that he could now understand how the men at UCS felt, and that he appreciated how important it was to have a job you enjoyed, even if you had money. He angrily countered a suggestion that Lennon was more politically and socially conscious (“I do it in my own way”). With that, they left for their bus journey across Europe.
Last updated on June 5, 2022