Some years ago, Ringo Starr released a famous video in which he stated that he no longer would sign his autograph for fans. Howard Stern asked Paul McCartney about that. And, with that prompting, we learn a lot more about the "real Ringo."
Paul McCartney in a humorous appearance on a very British morning show in 1983 along with Linda. At first, it appears that Paul is there to promote his upcoming film "Give My Regards to Broad Street." Actually, though, Paul is there for a much different reason.
Paul McCartney had just released his "Say, Say, Say" video. Paul and Michael Jackson, his duet partner in the song, made a video, but it came out after the single started dropping in the charts. "Top of the Pops" would not show the video because they had a weird rule that videos were not allowed for any single dropping in the charts. Since he couldn't get on Top of the Pops, Paul and Linda went on "The Late, Late Breakfast Show" with Noel Edmonds to promote the single.
The odd thing about this - actually, there are several odd things - is that the awkward interview worked. "Say, Say, Say" reversed course and went back up the British charts, ultimately peaking at No. 2 (and No. 1 in the United States). However, there are some other tasty bits about this interview. Note that Paul mentions filming the "Say, Say, Say" video north of Los Angeles. While filming the video, Paul and Linda stayed at a grand estate. Michael came to visit them there, fell in love with the house and grounds, and bought the estate after Paul and Linda left. This became Michale Jackson's famous "Neverland Ranch."
The jokes fall a bit flat, but Paul's a trouper and energetically promotes his video along with Linda. Paul repeated the stunt with "Spies Like Us," which also did well on the charts. As you can see, even when you're a global superstar and one of the richest men in England, it's still important to get out there and flog your product.
"Coming Up" was a transitional song and can be confusing to explain. "Coming Up" was a Paul McCartney track on McCartney II, not a Wings song, and McCartney II was a solo project (though Wings was still technically in existence). However, somewhat confusingly, the most popular rendition of "Coming Up" was by Wings during a concert in Glasgow. The single had a studio performance on one side and the live performance by the group at Glasgow on the other, and the intent was for the studio version to be the "A" side everywhere. However, the live version was preferred by US DJs of the day, and so the Wings version took the single to No. 1 in the United States - only credited to Paul McCartney, not Wings.
Paul spoofed his own Moptop image in the music video.
So, basically, Paul used his band Wings as a backing band with him as a solo artist frontman - overlooking the fact that Wings with McCartney also was considered by many to be just his backing band. It's all kind of weird but makes sense when they parcel out the money. Incidentally, the whole point of McCartney II was for Paul to not use Wings, so for the most popular version of the song to feature Wings must have been somewhat ironic and perhaps even discouraging to Paul. Just to clarify, the live version hit No. 1 in the United States and Canada, while the studio version hit No. 2 in Great Britain. But even that is not completely accurate, as we'll get to below.
There was a third version of "Coming Up" that was not the studio version nor the Glasgow performance that became the radio hit. This "Concert for Kampuchea" version is more like the album version, sort of midway between the album and the raucous Glasgow version. All are nice versions. The Concert for Kampuchea version is quite nice, with the full Wings lineup along with a full horn section but minus the outdoor-stadium vibe. As Paul explains about the song:
I originally cut it on my farm in Scotland. I went into the studio each day and just started with a drum track. Then I built it up bit by bit without any idea of how the song was going to turn out. After laying down the drum track, I added guitars and bass, building up the backing track.
Then I thought, 'Well, OK, what am I going to do for the voice?' I was working with a vari-speed machine with which you can speed up your voice, or take it down a little bit. That's how the voice sound came about.
John Lennon heard the song - he couldn't avoid it if he was listening to the radio in 1980 - and his desire to match or top it became one of the reasons for his own return to the recording studio. Those sessions turned into Lennon's "Double Fantasy" as well as much of his posthumously released work.
Deadpan keyboard players were a "thing" in the late 1970s.
The "Concert for Kampuchea" version is a very clean take, Paul knows how to make the sound come out just right. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how extremely difficult it is to get a live performance to sound this similar to the album version. It is so close that when Paul varies his phrasing just slightly, you really notice it (if you are familiar with the original, of course).
The studio version on "McCartney II" did not fare as well as the live version with Wings.
Incidentally, Linda McCartney adds a high-pitched chorus refrain that may be her biggest contribution in the history of Wings (and Paul's solo career). Very unique sound, never duplicated or copied. Very tight band overall, I must say. The music video is notorious in its own right, with McCartney obviously tweaking Lennon by calling his "group" "The Plastic Macs," a take-off on the name of Lennon's "Plastic Ono Band" group of the early 1970s. In essence, Paul imitates various iconic and not-so-iconic figures of rock, including a couple of generic rock figures that apparently weren't based on anyone in particular (or so Paul claims).
The music video for "Coming Up" featured Paul performing his studio version - which was not the popular version.
Pretty much everything about "Coming Up" leads to more questions. Paul apparently didn't want the live Wings version to be used in the States - after all, this was a solo project, not a Wings project - but his US record label knew better. It turned out that Columbia Records indeed knew its business since it is difficult to see the studio version hitting No. 1 like the Wings live version did (in fact, if not technically). Despite the live version receiving the most airplay, Billboard Magazine, which decides these things, gave credit to the studio version rather than the live version (though it switched that decision midway through the single's chart run, causing more confusion). Thus, what might have been the final Wings triumph turned into (technically, at least) Paul's first solo No. 1 since the early 1970s. Or, looked at another way, "Coming Up" was both the last Wings hit and the first solo Paul McCartney hit since... before Wings.
Paul performed "Coming Up" on the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater for the David Letterman Show. Notice how he works a little bit of the "Peter Gunn Theme" into it. The song begins at 14:55.
Versions of the "Band on the Run" Album from Around the World
This is a collection of "Band on the Run" albums released in different markets. Back in the day, vinyl was distributed in various formats around the world, depending upon which local label was doing the distribution. Of mere historical curiosity now, the labels actually are pretty fair artwork in and of themselves. This collection shows the global reach of Paul McCartney in the 1970s, with each market alone sufficient to support an artist who does well there.
"Band on the Run" was released on 5 December 1973 in the United States and 7 December 1973 in the United Kingdom. It came after a period of indifferent performance (by Paul McCartney standards) by Wings on the charts.
"Band on the Run" was a huge success around the world. It went to No. 1 in the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain, Norway, Canada, and Australia.
Unlike most albums of the 1970s, which had their day and that was it, "Band on the Run" remains popular into the 21st Century. A 2010 reissue saw "Band on the Run" return to the charts (not oldies charts, but simply the album charts) of numerous countries including the United States, the UK, Japan, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands.
All material on "Band on the Run" is credited to Paul and Linda McCartney except "No Words," which is credited to Paul and Denny Laine. Paul did the overwhelming majority of the composing, and Linda was added for obscure financial reasons.
While everyone knows that "Band on the Run" is an absolute classic of the 1970s, few may recall that, at first, it struggled on the charts. It took months for the album to gain momentum, which is completely different than albums today, which usually peak in their debut week. The reason "Band on the Run" surged up the charts after a few months of fairly mediocre performance (for Paul McCartney) is that the singles "Jet" and "Band on the Run" exposed people to the album. Many record buyers were a bit skeptical of McCartney at this point after singles like "Mary Had a Little Lamb," but the radio play erased those doubts.
"Band on the Run" became the top-selling album of 1974 in Australia and Canada.
"Band on the Run" is certified triple-Platinum in the United States, Platinum in the UK, and Gold in France. It is estimated that "Band on the Run" has sold 6 million copies worldwide.
"Band on the Run" finally hit No.1 in the United States in April 1974, months after its release.
Reviewers generally view "Band on the Run" positively. It regularly appears on "Best Album" lists.
While Paul McCartney basically buries some of his compositions (have you heard "Biker Like an Icon" recently?), that is not the case with "Band on the Run." Songs from the album appear as a cornerstone of all of McCartney's compilations that appear with great regularity.
Subsequent issues of "Band on the Run" have included additional material and with better fidelity. Currently, "Band on the Run" is available with high-resolution 24bit 96 kHz with no dynamic range compression limited and unlimited audio versions of all 18 songs on the remastered album and bonus audio disc. That's a bit better than the scratchy original albums.
"Band on the Run" was available in other formats, too. These included cassettes and 8-track cartridges. In the US, the 8-track tape version divided "Bluebird" in half. The UK 8-track tape version simply rearranged the order of the tracks to avoid splitting up any songs.
"Band on the Run" also is famous for its iconic cover. It featured a posed shot by multiple celebrities of the day who either were close British friends of the McCartneys or who were in London at the time. This latter group included actor James Coburn, who happened to be in England filming "The Internecine Project."
Linda McCartney came up with the concept for the cover shoot. It featured the members of Wings (Denny Laine and Linda) alongside talk show host Michael Parkinson, singer Kenny Lynch, actors James Coburn and Christopher Lee, boxer John Conteh, and Member of Parliament Clement Freud. Paul has vaguely stated that the idea of a "band" on the "run" came from a general Zeitgeist at the time in which many songs referred to "desperados" and outlaws and the like.
Yes, it's a Wings Christmas-time! This is from 1979, the last incarnation of Wings. It is around the time of "Wonderful Christmastime," which isn't really a Wings song, though they did the video for it. Just a corny old picture that will bring back memories, perhaps.
Linda McCartney hard at work
Here is the video, which is quite good, especially for pre-MTV:
Is "Wonderful Christmastime" a "Wings" song? Only sort of. Paul wrote it and performed it alone while doing the same with "McCartney II." He just used the other Wings members for this video, almost like a hired crew of extras. They filmed it at an inn somewhere in West Sussex, England.
Keeping the rights completely to himself was a shrewd business move, as "Wonderful Christmastime" became a seasonal that still gets airplay to this day during the holiday season. It has earned him a ton of money. It did not appear on any Wings albums until the 1993 reissue of "Back to the Egg." That is a weird choice, since by rights it should go on "McCartney II."
However, because of the Wings band members in the video and the fact that this was released well before "McCartney II," people naturally associate "Wonderful Christmastime" with Wings material. In that sense, it is in the same boat as early hits like "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," which had absolutely nothing to do with Wings, but which many people always consider a Wings tune.
Either you enjoy "Wonderful Christmastime" or you don't. Many prominent artists have covered it, including Amy Grant, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland and Chicago, so it can't be that bad. It is just a fun song, nothing profound. The general public enjoys it, so it continues to be played every year, starting at Thanksgiving and ending on Christmas.
It's rather a nice design for the cover, don't you think?
For no real reason, I just thought I would post the cover for Paul McCartney and Wings' aborted 1980 tour of Japan. It's pretty cover art. In this time of Paul re-issuing 'Wings Over America" and other events, I don't think we'll be seeing any publicity about this particular episode from him.
Paul very carefully gives everybody the proper finger salute on his way home from jail. Notice the police carefully observing his hand.
The dates of the tour were to have been Budokan Hall, Tokyo (21-24 January), Aichi-Ken, Taiiku-Kan, Nagoya (25-26 January), Festival Hall, Osaka (28 January), Osaka Furitsu-Kan, Osaka (29 January), Budokan Hall, Tokyo (31 January to 2 February). Eleven performances in all. Hurry up and get your tickets!
Paul and his band on the run out of Japan.
According to his cleaning lady Rosaura Lorenzo, John Lennon was stunned at his former songwriting partner’s idiocy. Lorenzo quoted Lennon as shouting at the TV “You're a Beatle, boy. Your face is in every damn corner of the planet. Why have you been so stupid?'"
Paul should indeed have known better. McCartney was arrested on three previous occasions for possession of the drug; in Sweden in 1972, on his farm in Scotland in 1973, and in Los Angeles in 1975.
The McCartneys had flown directly from New York, where they had purchased the drugs (New York had pretty stiff drug laws at the time as well); unwilling to throw the remainder away before leaving for Japan, the songwriter decided to take a chance, a decision he later said made him “shudder” at its stupidity.
“We were about to fly to Japan and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get anything to smoke over there,” McCartney said in 2004. “This stuff was too good to flush down the toilet, so I thought I’d take it with me.”
Paul was not taken by surprise, and has not claimed such:
“We’d been told [that] whatever we did, don’t take it to Japan. Very severe penalties.”
The only answer, then, is hubris. Well, or plain stupidity. Eh, probably hubris.
“When the fellow pulled it out of the suitcase, he looked more embarrassed than me,” he said. “I think he just wanted to put it back in and forget the whole thing, you know, but there it was.”
Called ‘Prisoner 22’, McCartney was given no special treatment in the jail. He had to work out for himself that he was not allowed to wash and brush his teeth each morning until he had swept his cell and folded his bedding.
Paul very wisely decided to become a model prisoner. As he said in the ‘Wingspan’ documentary:
“I started to realize, “Right, I’m going to get up when the light goes on, I’m going to be the first up, I’m going to be the first with his room cleaned, I’m going to roll up my bed, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.’”
He also remained in the clothes he had landed in for three days, being unaware that he could ask for a change of clothing. So much for the life of a rock star!
After nine days, the Japanese deported Paul and did not even file any charges against him. That they treated him with kid gloves no doubt contributed to his willingness to return to Japan years later.
Just to remember those times, below are some pictures from that episode, which included wacky statements such as this from Linda:
“It’s really very silly. People certainly are different over here. They take it so very seriously. Paul is now in some kind of detention place and I have not been allowed to see him. As soon as they get someone nice like Paul, they seem to make a field day out of it. I’ll never come back to Japan again. This is my first trip and last!”
Actually, I'm not sure, but I think it was her only trip to Japan. And almost all of it spent in the airport!
Well, Linda obviously didn't speak to a public relations expert before saying that, which is kind of charming in a candid sort of way. Paul, meanwhile, admitted that it had been "dynamite weed" and thus, presumably, a real loss - aside from the millions of quid he gave up, of course.
He summed up his experience this way:
“I have been a fool. What I did was incredibly dumb. My God, how stupid I have been! I was really scared, thinking that I might be imprisoned for so long and now I have made up my mind never to touch the stuff again. From now on, all I’m going to smoke is straightforward [cigarets]s and no more pot!”
Now, now, Paul. He did give up the weed - twenty years later, though. But not before another drug bust, in Barbados in 1984. that time, he only was fined, the Barbadian not quite the sticklers for draconian punishments.
Paul claimed that he sang to murderers while in jail and that he got on well with them. It was four more years before he got busted again, this time in Barbados. Obviously, international trips were not a good idea for Paul at that stage of his life. He since has claimed to have given up smoking weed completely.
Does that guy look happy finding all that weed, or what?
Of course, there was extensive collateral damage. Paul and family arrived in Japan on January 16, 1980. He was arrested immediately upon arrival. The other members of Wings left Japan on 21 January and embarked upon other projects. Paul, still in jail, apparently (it is rumored) thought their departures indicated disloyalty.
Paul had a big fan base in Japan, including these young ladies making "wings" with their hands. To this day, Paul is considered one of the titans of popular music in Japan.
Unexpectedly, he was released without charge on January 25, 1980, and deported. He might have felt better about things if his bandmates had stayed until his release, and they probably would have stayed if they had known what would happen, but nobody knew that his release would be that soon.
Stella hasn't quite gotten her fashion sense in order yet.
Over 100,000 tickets had been sold for the tour dates. The promoters had no option but to cancel all of the band's tour dates the day after Paul's arrest.
Even in 1980, people knew better than this, believe me on that. Ugh.
Paul's family stayed in the Okura Hotel, along with Denny Laine, Laurence Juber and Steve Holley of Wings.
The drug bust turned a typical tour into a media sensation.
Customs officials at Narita International Airport found 219 grams of weed, with a street value of 600,000 yen, hidden in Paul's luggage and inside the hood of one of his children. The bust was particularly embarrassing because Paul hadn't been able to get a Visa to enter Japan in 1976 (the time of "Wings Over America") because of his previous drug busts. The Japanese felt they were extending him a courtesy to allow him entry at all.
Paul gave Michael Jackson some memorabilia from the canceled tour.
The drug bust eventually led to the end of Wings. The other band members quickly lined up new projects, no doubt thinking that McCartney was going to be pounding rocks for a few years. Nobody could have guessed that he would be out and on his way home within ten days. Everybody got in a snit about it, and while it took another year for the official announcement, rigor mortis was already setting in by then.
The incident cost McCartney millions of pounds, which likely was his biggest regret of the whole affair. Some sources cite the compensation bill as £1 million for the musician, but there also were lost revenues, no doubt live recordings that were never made, increased sales of his back catalog that disappeared, and many, many other invisible costs.
Paul no doubt was going to end Wings soon anyway, considering that it had served its purposes and their popularity and creative impulse showing signs of fading with the turn of the decade.
The concert tour program for the 1980 Wings tour of Japan. It is in Japanese.
Knowing McCartney, if the Japanese offered to pay him that much to get busted, he'd probably do it again, as it was always about the cash for Paul in those days (much of his money was still tied up in Beatles-related litigation). As it was, he held no grudges and returned to Japan for six dates in March 1990 (The Paul McCartney World Tour) and for three dates in November 1993 (the New World Tour), all in Tokyo. To my knowledge, he has not been back to Japan since despite the fact that Japan reportedly is the second-largest pop music market in the world (he did go to Japan in 2014 for a tour, but incurred a mysterious illness and once again missed his tour dates - Japan obviously having imposed some kind of curse upon him).
It's all very ironic, incidentally. Japan is the second-largest music market in the world, and they love Paul in Japan. Often-times, particularly recently, he receives his highest chartings there. Thus, his problems when visiting the Land of the Rising Sun must be particularly galling to him.
Here is Johnny Carson's take on this. Carson never seemed to be a big fan of McCartney's even in the best of time, and this commentary isn't mean at all, but notice how he manages to mispronounce the name of one of the most famous men in the world. I doubt that was sheer carelessness.
Here is Paul McCartney on the Carson show a few years later, to show there were no hard feelings... or were there. Paul seems a bit wooden. Johnny seems bored and asks intelligently, "do you still compose?" Paul later complained that Johnny gave him a hard time during this interview, but everyone survived and lived happily ever after.
As a special bonus, below is the cover for the Wings fan club, er, I mean "Fun Club."
Below is the band rehearsing for the tour that never was.
Paul should have known better. He had gotten into some trouble before 1980. In any event, the event made the news around the world and everybody had a chance to feel superior to the former Beatle for a little bit.
And below are some fairly rare videos from the time of the arrest.
This is a collection of photos that sum up Paul McCartney's career, at least to me. What's interesting about these photos is that they all seem to show some inner intelligence by Paul at key moments in his life, as if he knew what he was about, and is trying to make a statement to posterity. It's kind of uncanny, the looks on his face, the settings he chooses, the freaking shirts he wears, who he allows himself to be photographed with. Just astonishing when put into historical perspective.
Paul with Stu Sutcliffe, who had the best photographer-feel of any of them. However, Paul was no slouch himself.
At Paul's Cavendish home early 1969.
In which photo, above or below, do you think Paul looks happier? In which is the woman present smiling? The two questions are related.
Again at Cavendish, now with Wings, 1972. Different time, different woman. A lot has changed, and nothing has changed.
Paul at the Apple launch 1968. Say cheese!
It's interesting that Paul is showing such an interest in photography right after meeting Linda. He rarely did ever again.
At the Concert for George, with Dhani Harrison, 2002.
The Concert for George is just amazing, perhaps the best all-star concert ever performed and filmed. Paul can't resist playing lead guitar even at George's funeral.
Recording RAM in 1971 with Linda.
Linda's main value as a songwriter was that she was not a party to the Beatles litigation and thus could collect her full songwriting payments without any garnishment or holds. This kept the couple afloat financially.
In India early 1968. "Isn't this something to remember," he seems to be saying to us.
With the Quarrymen circa 1959. Notice the shirt, we'll see it again below.
How much you want to bet that he still has that shirt, and he knows precisely where it is, and it is in immaculate condition? Also, in the photo below, do you agree that Paul looks astonishingly like Matthew Broderick from "Ferris Bueller"?
Same fellows, same Paul shirt, years later. An unbelievably cool nod to history and posterity that goes right over most fans' heads. Personally, I think Paul looks like Ferris Bueller in this shot.
In Nashville 1974 circa "Junior's Farm," having fun with the locals.
Paul with Linda at Sgt. Pepper launch, while still officially with Jane Asher. This is one of their first photos together.