Interview for New Musical Express • Saturday, October 27, 1973

Wings in the Air

Press interview • Interview of Paul McCartney
Published by:
New Musical Express
Interview by:
Julie Webb
Timeline More from year 1973
AIR Studios, London, UK

Album This interview has been made to promote the Band On The Run (UK version) Official album.

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In the studios with the McCartneys. Why two Wingmen split. How Africa got unhealthy.

AIR STUDIOS, four stories above Oxford Street, is one of those opulent places that is unnerving to visit. For a start, there’s an officious little man in uniform who takes you up in the lift then there’s the maze of corridors to walk. through, and finally, an imposing reception area surrounded by deep pile carpets.

Roxy Music are recording down the corridor but in Studio One, time has been booked by Wings. There may only be three of them now, but they are still Wings McCartney, his missus and Denny Laine, recording a Linda composition which, strangely, is not for inclusion on the new album. According to one of their entourage, it may be released under the name of Suzi and The Red Stripes.

The atmosphere is relaxed. Engineer Geoff Emerick, a straight-looking, plump man who helped engineer the Beatles at one time, sits behind the controls. Ian, Wings’ sound engineer, wanders round. Peter Swettenham, ex-Grapefruit, now with Air, watches intently.

Behind the glass they sit, or stand, or whatever. Can’t for the life of me see them. But a slow steady drumbeat is evidence that someone is kicking in the other room. Momentarily there’s words from Paul and laughs from Linda and in the control room, tea is being given round to pass the time. Five minutes and they finish and come through to the control room, McCartney looking somewhat dishevelled, Linda, surprisingly, all dressed up to the nines in low-cut black dress, freshly washed hair and some amazing baggy red moon boots.

She’s friendly and polite and has the nicest way of saying “Can you wait?” adding “We’ll do the interview soon!

Back again into the studios where the backing track is beginning to make more sense. Basic and simple, it sounds reminiscent of the “Brother Louie” track. A few more minutes and they come through again and pore over pictures of their children, courtesy Robert Ellis.

I begin to wonder if the interview will take place at all. But it’s Paul who wants to go on working, “Got to get her to work, y’know,” he says as once more they re-enter the control room.

IT’S ALMOST a national pastime, criticising Linda McCartney. And for those who never forgave her actually marrying Paul there are even more who reckon she has no place out on that stage with Wings. But what do people really know about her? Very little. She’s blonde, got big bazookas, bangs a tambourine and plays keyboards on stage. Has a penchant for hanging on to Paul’s arm. Is American. So how does she feel when people say she’s only in Wings because she’s his missus?

“It’s probably true. Well not now. But to begin with Paul said ‘look I want to go back on the road. I want you in the band. I know you can do it!’ And I thought ‘Yeah, I can do it’, so that’s why I’m doing it.

The departure of two of the Wings personnel has undoubtedly altered their overall sound but, says Linda, “I must own up: I think it’s better. I know we had far more fun recording this album than any previous one.

So why did McCullough and Seiwell quit?

“There was no row when Henry left,” she says adamantly. “Somebody picked that up – but it’s not true. It was all over a silly little musical thing on Denny’s song. Denny had a song and Henry was asked to play this little bit and he didn’t. Then he just rang up and said ‘I’m quitting’. Haven’t seen him since.”

She is pleased however that McCullough is working with Cocker again, commenting:

“I think that’s what he was always happier with. You see, we threw a band together to get back on stage. We didn’t really know Henry and he didn’t know us. We had Seiwell, Laine, Paul and myself and thought we’d like a lead guitar player to take some of the weight off.

“Somebody mentioned Henry; he came to one rehearsal and we said ‘Okay, we’ll have you’. It worked out great on the road, though.”

While McCullough’s departure was foreseen by a lot of people, it was a surprise to many not the least Wings when drummer Seiwell quit. 

“When Henry left we thought, right, fair enough but Denny Seiwell rang up five minutes before we were leaving to record in Lagos and just said, ‘Hey, man, I can’t make the trip’. I don’t think he wanted to go to Africa.

“I thought it was a bit much but, there again, I think everybody should do what they want. That’s what we said Wings would be if anybody fancies leaving, great. But we knew Denny (Laine) would come to Lagos. I think Denny has always been very happy in Wings, I don’t think he’s considered doing anything else. He was, after all, part of the nucleus.”

While Linda affirmed that the depletion in the ranks of Wings hasn’t affected the recording of the new album, she will admit they’ll have to get some new members in for live work.

“We’ll definitely get a new act together. Use our imagination a bit as well. We can either get a new guitar player and drums or a congas section, something like that. I think we’ll sort it out once we get the album done hopefully at the end of the month. We’ll start really thinking about what kind of live act we do want because we want to play the stuff on this album. I don’t know how soon it will be. Remember, we spent two years getting Wings together. That’s the only drag for me about Wings, all that work in getting it together and then you get personality problems”

Seven of the ten tracks from the new album were cut in Lagos and before you jump to conclusions about it being an Afrorock set, Linda insists that they chose Lagos for many reasons but mainly because it was sunny.

“We just got the list of studios off EMI and there were about three sunny places – Lagos, Rio and Mexico City, so we thought, Africa has great music, so let’s get vibed up.”

Is there an African flavour to the music?

“No, we wrote everything before we went but some of the songs now have that African feel to them. That’s all.”

African jazz musician Fela Ransome Kuti allegedly went on Lagos radio claiming Paul was ripping off African music. Linda smiles when I bring up the subject.

“It was a lot of misunderstanding. We met Fela through Ginger (Baker) who has a studio over there, and one night we went down to “The Shrine”, a club that Kela has. Anyway he used to come by the studios and it was all very friendly and then one day he came by with a lot of heavies and sort of sat Paul down and said ‘You’re stealing our music’. And Paul said ‘I’m not. Come and listen to the tracks. I haven’t used any of your musicians’. The trouble was, Hugh Mesekela went there and used an African band and they did the same thing to him, you know. ‘You’re not going to take our music back and exploit it?’ and Hugh said No and he did.”

So with no session musicians, just the three remaining members of Wings are playing on the album.

“On the album I play piano and moog and Paul plays the drums – he’s quite fantastic. Through the whole Beatles thing he was very involved with drums. He played on ‘McCartney’ but didn’t get into it – that was like a knock-off. But with this one we thought, right, Denny has written one song on the album which is just lovely. Paul wrote little bits with him. No, none of my songs are on it.”

NEXT to Yoko Ono, Linda is considered by many to be the main instigator of the Beatles’ split. And as a direct result, both of them have taken a bashing from the public.

“I think every event split up the Beatles. I don’t think it was just us although we probably had something to do with it. I think everybody who entered into the picture at the time did. But there was so much bad feeling at the time. I think the most frustrating bit was I thought ‘they don’t really understand, they don’t really know. I read these things that were so away from what was really happening in everyday life but you go crazy trying to set everybody straight. 

“Like, John quit and went round putting it all down which he didn’t need to do. I think it just got to be a lot of gossip. And what happened after was people would do to John and say ‘D’ya hear Paul’s new record? It’s lousy!” We know that happened because John told us that they were always trying to get him to say bad things. But at the time of the split I was so naive about it all.

“I didn’t feel very good when they split because to me it is all music. But it’s great that they are all putting music out now. If they’d stopped playing and singing…”

She pauses to consider the fact before adding “I’ve heard bits of Ringo’s new album and it’s great and John and George have done amazing things too.”

Back to the old question of what right has Linda got out on that stage with Paul. What kind of musical education has she got?

“I didn’t really have any musical training. Just musical appreciation. Paul had taught me a lot and Denny, too. I had piano lessons as a kid but I never practised. I’d wait till my parents went out and when they came back I’d say ‘I practised while you were out. Only I didn’t.”

The first time she got her true break – taking photographs on a professional level – was shooting The Rolling Stones when they visited America in the mid-sixties.

“I was the only one who got pictures so they got in every magazine and after that I quit my job and people started giving me freelance work. Groups would call and say “Can you take our pictures”? or Elektra would call and say ‘Would you take Tim Buckley? I took pictures of Jimi Hendrix the first time he came in. I was supposed to take the Electric Ladyland cover as well”…

Finally, some words on that image of hers.

“Yeah, well, I’ve learned a lot. When I came over to England I sort of came to visit Paul and we had a good time together. We got married and I hadn’t really thought what it would be like. Like I never thought, will people resent me? And all that. I’ve since learned instead of resenting things just look at them. And they’re never that bad.”

Last updated on August 14, 2023


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