The Paul McCartney Project

Wings University Tour

From Feb 09, 1972 to Feb 23, 1972 • By Wings

Albums covering this tour


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This was with Wings on the Students’ Tour doing those crazy, crappy little gigs was hairy. Nottingham, Lancaster, any of those gigs. Those were mad. We only had like 11 numbers and we had to repeat ‘Lucille’ to pad out the show by saying ‘We’ve had a request from Willie from the languages course, he wants to hear Lucille again’. We just made it up; 50p on the door, no hotels booked, no gigs booked, no nothing booked. Even the lowliest group throughout history has had a hotel booked for them, but we were just mad.

Paul McCartney, in the 2003 Back To The World tour book – talking about his favourite gigs

From Wikipedia:

Wings University Tour was a UK concert tour by Paul McCartney & Wings in 1972, shortly after the band’s formation and initial album release, Wild Life. Wings’ lineup for the tour was Paul and Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Henry McCullough, and Denny Seiwell.

McCartney had formed Wings for the purpose of having a band to go on the road with, and he wasted no time in doing just that. During the waning years of The Beatles, notably during the Get Back sessions, he had suggested they return to live performances by showing up unannounced at pubs and playing for the patrons. The idea was never seriously considered by the other Beatles. From 2 to 7 February 1972, Wings held rehearsals for the tour at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). The rehearsals were filmed by Tyncho Films, and titled by McCartney as The ICA Rehearsal, and features footage of: “The Mess“, “Wild Life“, “Bip Bop“, “Blue Moon of Kentucky“, “Maybelline”, “Seaside Woman“, “My Love“, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” and “Lucille“. A short except of the footage was included in the TV documentary Wings Over the World.

McCartney took the band on an impromptu tour of the United Kingdom’s universities, showing up unannounced and performing for whoever happened to be on campus. The band’s intended first stop on the tour, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, had no suitable venue, so the band moved on to the more receptive Nottingham. Admission to the first show which was held at 12 noon in the Portland Building Ballroom was GBP 0.40, proceeds being split up equally among the band members. At Hull, the word circulated fast, and a full hall of about 800 welcomed Wings at 50p per head.

Paul McCartney in "Conversations With McCartney", by Paul Du Noyer:

We got a band and hatched the plan of the university tour. Didn’t want to have a big supergroup, just wanted to try and learn the whole thing again, hopefully learn some new things rather than repeat the Beatles. Which has been about as successful as anyone in the world was ever gonna get with anything. The theory was that by going out and looking at the whole deal again, you might get a few new clues. So we literally took off in a van up the M1 , got to Ashby-de-la-Zouch [in Leicestershire], liked the name. Great! Turn Off here. But there wasn’t a gig, just a little village. It was a signpost. We kept going until we got to Nottingham University, and then it suddenly hit. “Ah, let’s do universities”. Otherwise there weren’t any gigs. That’s a captive audience. There’s people.

I remember thinking one good thing that might come out of this, in future years we’ll meet people who’ll say, “l was a student when you came”. They might go on to be something, and we’ll be infiltrating with them now. “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” was the message on that tour, so they’ll know we were being a bit political. If they become a big whizz at the BBC or something, they’ll be able to say, “l was there, way back when”.

For us it was just to get road experience. We showed up at these places and it was crazy. If we’ve got five hours some time I’ll tell you about it. It’s a whole saga. I remember telling it to John Schlesinger [the film director] and he said, “Oh, I wish I’d been there, I would have loved to have filmed that”.

In November 1971, Paul McCartney sat down with Chris Charlesworth for an exclusive interview that would appear in the November 20th issue of Melody Maker magazine. (from beatlesinterviews.org):

“Before John was leaving the Beatles, I was lying in bed at home one night and I thought we could get a band together, like his Plastic Ono Band. I felt the urge because we had never played live for four years. We all wanted to appear on a stage but not with the Beatles. We couldn’t do it as the Beatles because it would be so big. We’d have to find a million-seater hall or something.”

“I wanted to get in a van and do an unadvertised concert at a Saturday night hop at Slough Town Hall or somewhere like that. We’d call ourselves Rikki and the Red Streaks or something and just get up and play. There’d be no press and we’d tell nobody about it. John thought it was a daft idea.”

“My best playing days were at the Cavern lunchtime sessions. We’d go onstage with a cheese roll and a cigarette and we felt we had really something going on. The amps used to fuse and we’d stop and sing a Sunblest Bread commercial while they were repaired. I’d walk off down the street playing my guitar and annoying the neighbors. I couldn’t do that now, but it’s what I want to do with this new group.”

“We just don’t know how we are going to do. I don’t want to start with a Wings concert at the Albert Hall with the world watching and analyzing. I just want to play a small dance, and rock a bit.”

“We will start just by turning up at a place we fancy visiting, and just play a straightforward gig. We might use another name to keep it quiet. We have rehearsed and we can play live together. In fact it sounds quite good. It doesn’t really matter that much.”

“I don’t want Wings to become a media group, with our signatures on knickers which are sold for promotion. I don’t like that now. I was happy with that situation in the Beatles, but it died in the end. We are starting off as a new band, but if we ever get to be huge like the Beatles it will be very different.”

Paul McCartney in "Wingspan: Paul McCartney's Band on the Run":

We had decided that we would go back to square one. We wouldn’t book a big tour, we wouldn’t even book hotels, we’d just go in a van – the band, the kids, the dogs – take up the motorway and find somewhere to play. We wanted to play at universities, where there was a captive audience, and our idea was to go in and say, ‘Do you want us to play for you?’ It was as simple and as mad as that.

Our roadie would go in, find someone from the Students’ Union and say, I’ve got Paul McCartney in the van, with his band Wings. Do you want ’em to play for you?’ ‘Yeah, sure, pull the other one.’ ‘No, really. Come and see’. The student would come out to the van and I’d say ‘Hello, yes, it’s me. We’ll play for you if you want’.

We didn’t have many songs. To be precise, we had eleven, which – at about three minutes a song – is a 33 minute act. They wanted longer so we repeated things. ‘We’ve had a request to do Lucille. We did it earlier but now we’re gonna do it again for Jenny Babford on the science course’. Whatever. We just repeated things, especially our new single Give Ireland Back to the Irish. The gigs went quite well but it’s funny to look back and realise that we had such little material.

[…] The university tour was really a public practice. The Beatles made all their mistakes in private, at the little clubs before we were watched by any critics. With Wings, I knew that when we went public all the critics would be sitting there with their sharpened pencils –‘Oh, he’s not as good as he was.’ It was like I had returned to amateur status, trying to relearn the whole game.

The Beatles were old and comfortable gloves – you just slipped them on and hey, it all happened. Wings was new gloves – you had to break them in. Before certain gigs Linda would suddenly think, ‘God, what have I got myself into here?’ From being a photographer she was suddenly in a band with me. Crazy.

Last updated on May 17, 2019


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