- Published by:
- Melody Maker
- Timeline More from year 1971
- Album This interview has been made to promote the Wild Life LP.
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IN THEORY, it threatened to be the non-event of all time. But only an ex-Beatle could stage a glorified Saturday-night-hop-style dance in the West End of London on a Monday night in cold November — and come up smiling like a winner.
The bizarre event was Paul and Linda McCartney’s party this week to launch their new group Wings, pictured on today’s MM front page. They hired the Empire Ballroom in Leicester Square for 800 pop biz guests – and the Ray McVay dance band played for quicksteps. waltzes, congas and formation displays.
It was a weird idea from the mind of one recognised as being hip.
But then, McCartney has always been rather conventional — a sentimental traditionalist at heart.
And when they’d been there for an hour or so and realised it wasn’t a stunt but as straightforward as it appeared, even the heaviest of rock guitarists joined in and had a ball.
Why the Empire Ballroom on a Monday night?
“Why not?” Paul answered.
“We thought,” said Linda. “it would be a nice idea to invite a whole lot of our friends to a big party – where they could bring their wives.“
“EMI are paying for it,” said Paul.
The couple had left the seclusion of their Scottish farm the night before, boarded the sleeper train (second class) and brought their children to their London home before playing host and hostess at the ball.
“I Sheared the sheep yesterday before coming.” McCartney said, “We love it up there. Have you heard the Wings album? We’re pretty pleased with it… really this is a very glorified press conference – to make sure everybody came”.
And the McCartneys achieved an impressive turn-out of personalities
including Jimmy Page, Sandy Denny, Elton John, Mary Hopkin, Deep Purple, Who men John Entwistle and Keith Moon, Faces Ronnie Wood, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagen and Kenny Jones. many disc jockeys and other group musicians.
It had all the trappings of an important film premiere. Crowds thronged the pavement outside, policemen cleared a path through for the
bewildered guests. Flashbulbs popped as limousine doors were opened. Tickets were at a premium – touts could probably have raised up to £20 for the precious invitations written in Paul’s own hand.
Security was tight – invitations were strictly vetted and punched as the doors opened.
Inside the ballroom, it was just like any other dancing night. Waitresses served wine and bread and cheese courtesy of the hosts, but the tills were ringing at the bars. Ray McVay played as he always does, or nearly – for all through the night he did not play a Beatle melody.
Midway through the evening, a team of formation dancers took the floor to hilarious applause. It must have been idea Paul’s idea of a joke, like the way he stepped forward at the end to draw the winning raffle ticket. The prize – a magnum of champagne – was won by DJ Jeff Dexter.
Wings never actually played, though they were all there. Between breaks in the dance music, their new album was played. The dancing carried on and guests clapped each track was played.
Although listening conditions were poor, the Wings LP seemed much better more and more instantly melodic than “RAM”.
The first side is taken up with rock numbers – including a version of the Everlys’ “Love Is Strange” – and the second side is the slow melodic McCartney of “Yesterday” and “Michelle” days.
When will we hear Wings live? “Well, it should be soon now,” said Paul, engrossed in a conversation with Graham Bond. “We want to start in a very small way, maybe do some unadvertised concerts or something“.
“We don’t want all the bigtime at all. Paul’s been through all that,” said Linda, all the time clinging to his left arm.
Paul, in an outrageously loud check suit, chatted amicably with everyone in sight. His short hair, quiffed up with grease, black plimsolls and drape jacket gave him the appearance of a fifties teddy boy.
He was the Beatles, remember, who wanted the group to make small-time appearances in a tiny hall as the Raiders at the peak of their career. Now he plans to return to his roots – with Wings.
The word Beatle was never mentioned in his presence. None of the other Beatles was present. Nor were any of the Apple crowd at the ball.
It was after midnight when the affair came to a halt. The album was still playing but the guests had dwindled.
Paul and Linda sat on the edge of the stage at the front of the dance floor, alone for the first time in the evening.
Wings had been strangely but successfully launched.
Last updated on February 14, 2022