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Pins over America - marking the cities played by Wings during the band's one and only us tour, 1976
Of course, all it took was for one silly journalist to write ‘l hear that the Beatles could reunite on this tour' and the story spread like wildfire. So, in the first week or so of Wings' tour, the opening question in all the press conferences was ‘Paul, is it true that the Beatles are gonna show up and reunite?' In a way it was good, because it meant that everyone was going to buy a ticket, to see if it happened. But mostly we felt disappointed because it was detracting from what we had with Wings.
Wings' finest tour of Britain, in autumn 1975, was a huge success and fans everywhere gave them a rapturous reception
I always had to answer those questions about the Beatles reunion, so I came up with a Muhammad Ali-type verse:
The Beatles split in '69, and since then they've been doing fine.
If you ask that just once more, I think I'm gonna break your jaw.
1: Wings fans milling around outside the Southampton Gaumont on the opening night of the 1975-76 tour
2: One year later the tour returned to Britain for the closing dates, at whith this fetching piece of voguish apparel could be purchased
Venice was a memorable concert. We bounced laser beams off the famous Venetian architecture. Zagreb was also great for me because the audience took over and sang Yesterday on their own and I let them do it. It was a very warm moment.
I said it each time and made sure everyone knew this wasn't about a Beatles reunion but a Wings tour. It was Iike, 'Never mind the Beatles, this is Wings, this is a good show to see, this is something completely different’.
Come the first night, when we did a good show, the news people, the media, started to accept it, saying ‘Hey, who cares about the Beatles? This is a good band..’ That was what we had wanted to achieve from the start. We weren't trying to do much more than that-as musicians you just want to get a good band.
Linda had got through those nervous, early years and was really on top of it by this point, playing quite complicated keyboard parts. She was really cooking, doing the cheerleader bit with the audience singing harmonies and playing keyboards. She was very sassy, Linda You can see it in the old interviews -she was confident and enjoying being in the band. She had answered all her critics.
Four years the frayed nerves of Wings' impromptu university tour, Linda steps out into the vast American arenas a confident rock star
1: Wings greeting a legion of devoted fans outside the Seattle Kingdome. Inside - well that was a whole other story.
3: Denny Laine bangs the drum for the Let 'Em In and America's 200th birthday celebrations.
4: That inevitable (but always moving) lighter moment.
It was a good period all round. Linda, Denny and I had put in a lot of time and effort and felt comfortable, and with the addition of Joe and Jimmy, and the work we'd all put in, by the time we got out on that big '76 tour we established ourselves as a separate entity from the Beatles. It was the culmination of Wings, really.
I hadn't played live in America for over a decade, and it was great to be back. When I play in an English-speaking country I feel a little bit more at home than if I'm playing elsewhere because I don't have to think about how to communicate. I just talk naturally and so feel a bit more as one with the audience.
2: Los Angeles. Wings recruit a starry new bass guitarist...
3: Laser lights and the horn section adorn Soily, a staple of Wings' touring repertoire.
It was quite a high-tech tour, with lasers and light shows. When you play those big stadiums you've got to provide that or people say, ‘l came to see you and you were like a little pinpoint on the horizon’. So we tried to build a good set, use visual effects and make the sound system as good as possible. We had a horn section and made really good music.
I'd seen lasers in James Bond films, where they could cut people in half. I first saw one in a rock concert when I went to see Led Zeppelin at Earls Court in London, and I remember thinking, ‘How brave is that Robert Plant? He's standing right in front of this thing and it could cut him clean in half...'
It was an epic tour. Wings' touring era had started with us piling into a van and driving up the motorway. Now it was an intricately planned major operation, with a crew and a convoy of huge trucks.
1: 'Sure every cent goes to the artist'
2: Pre-show transportation deluxe
3: Killing time on board chartered Wings Over America plane
4: Paul turns 34 and gets a special Speed of Sound cake
Jimmy McCulloch was a great player but he had an attitude. This is rock and roll-people do have attitudes; you can't expect everyone to be choirboys. But on one show on the Wings Over America tour-I think it was Boston-he refused to do the encore. Our thing was to run off, the crowd would ask for an encore, hopefully, and then we'd go back and do two more songs. So I was just running back for the encore when one of the roadies said, 'Jimmy's not coming on.' I ran down to the dressing room, grabbed him and gave him a rollicking - 'You're going back on - get on that stage now.' And he did, and played great.
Linda and I always had to consider the effect of these tours on the children, because we were taking them away from school. The teachers weren't always happy about it, but we hired tutors and encouraged them to find out what the children were learning at school and to continue the same work. Obviously it wasn't as good as them actually staying in school, but they all went on to do better academically than Linda and me.
We had decided our policy in the early days. We had children, we wanted to tour, what to do? We had long talks with teachers and other people about it, and the consensus seemed to be that we shouldn't remove them from school, that it would make life too unstable for them. Our react ion was, ‘Yes, but what happens if we're in Australia and somebody rings up to say that one of the kids has a fever of 103 degrees?' Get back quick from Australia? So we just said, 'No, we're a close family, we've got to take them with us. Whether it's a good thing or not, we want to be with them.' We just felt that it was right.
Wings (and children) in the air, 1976, somewhere over America
When we had late-night parties we made sure the children were in bed first. This was very much against their will, I might add, but we played it pretty straight with them and they had as near to a normal life as possible in that sort of showbiz world. There are plenty other showbiz people who have brought up kids more conventionally, and they turned out to be nightmares.
The media said ‘What are they doing, dragging their children around the world?' as if we were taking them against their will. Well, let's just hope they brought up their kids better. I doubt it.
We had decided to send the children to state schools, and not pack them off to boarding schools. I came through the state system, and Linda and I figured that the best thing for our children would be to bring them up with their feet on the ground. You can bring children up in such a highfalutin way that they can never talk to ordinary people. We didn't want that. We figured that if ours wanted to get a bit sophisticated later in life then they could do that themselves.
It was a little bit unusual at the time, to take a family on a rock and roll tour. It had been groupies, sex and drugs, man. But because we were married it was no longer on the agenda. People can get a bit ‘Hey, this is rock and roll, man, we're dangerous dudes, get out of my way, sucker' but I've never been into that. I think all that is phony.
It wasn't a heavy tour and it wasn't a really druggy tour. On some tours the band are heavily into drugs and it filters down to the crew. Our thing was always quite 'family' and the crew responded to our lead.
There were a few people who thought it was a bit soppy, a Mums-and-Dads tour, but it worked and there were many more who thought, This is interesting, they seem pretty normal’. People often ask me how I stay so normal and I just say ‘Well, I've always been around normal people.’
Linda being there in Wings, to share these great moments, was wonderful for me. It was the payoff. This crazy idea that we'd started in the beginning, of 'What if you're up on stage with me?', had actually worked. Even though it had seemed impossible, that we'd never achieve it and she might never learn all the music, it was all happening. It was really great for me to be able to look over and see her there.
Linda loved horses so much, and one of her favorite breeds was the Appaloosa, a spotted horse bred by North American Indians. During that tour, while we were in Dallas, I used to drive to Fort Worth so that we could rehearse, and one day she spotted an Appaloosa away over in a field. We turned off the freeway and found the place, called Lucky Spot Stables.
Linda was saying to the man there, ‘Should we look at that horse out in the field?' He said, I'm not selling him! 'but Linda had fallen totally in love with the horse by this point. She rode him a little bit and-seeing this-the man realised she was a good horsewoman and eventually we persuaded him to sell. We named the horse Lucky Spot, took him back to England and started breeding Appaloosas. When Linda was a child a lot of her friends were bought horses by their parents, and every Christmas morning she used to look out of her bedroom window and pray there would be a horse on the lawn, with a bow round its neck. But her father was never going to do that. It wasn't his thing. When we got married, and she told me all these stories, I thought, 'Right, I'm going to be the first person to buy her a horse’ She already had one named Cinnamon, and loved it, but when she saw Lucky Spot she was crazy for him.