‘TAKE IT, TONY!’
Wings began recording their first album in London, working quickly and using up leftovers from Paul’s LA sessions. The record was Wild Life, named after one of Paul’s new compositions - an inchoate song about animal welfare the lyrics of which were sketchy to the point of meaninglessness. ‘Man, you’ve gotta care’ was the considered message. Musically, this and several other tracks on Wings’ début album sound like stoned jams; the very first track, ‘Mumbo’, most obviously was a jam, over which Paul could be heard yelling excitedly to his engineer. As with his two previous albums, Paul was the producer, and again, without a strong hand to rein him in, he was content to release tracks that should never have left the studio, including folderol like ‘Bip Bop’.
The whole album was recorded and released with reckless speed. ‘Five of the eight tracks41 were first takes,’ notes the drummer, Denny Seiwell.
Whatever we did as a band was going to be compared to the last thing they heard of the Beatles, so what we were trying to do was give an honest representation of this new band, and we didn’t want to use every studio trick in the world … it’s gonna be a little raggedy, but that is what we are … that record was done in a heartbeat. I mean ‘Mumbo’, we were just jamming, fooling around in the studio and you can hear him screaming at the engineer, cos it was getting good: ‘Take it, Tony!’42
The band had a rocking sound, which was partly Denny Laine’s influence. The guitarist says he envisaged Wings as ‘a rough and tumble rock/blues-type’ band. But there were no shortage of good-time rock ’n’ roll bands in the early 1970s, and in the cold light of day there were only two interesting songs on Wild Life: ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Dear Friend’. Recorded in LA during the West Coast sessions for Ram, the latter is sometimes read as a message from Paul to John Lennon, but in truth it could mean almost anything, so insubstantial are the words, and by the time Paul had made Wild Life John had addressed their broken friendship much more eloquently on his Imagine album, which he made with help from George Harrison and Klaus Voormann, under the direction of Phil Spector, demonstrating in the process what a difference a professional producer can make. Paul’s record sounded amateurish and thin; Imagine sounded big as a mountain, Lennon touching profundity with the title song, ‘Imagine’; delivering a powerful anti-war message in ‘I Don’t Wanna be a Soldier Mama I Don’t Wanna Die’; and writing a love song as tender as any Paul had penned with ‘Jealous Guy’.
Lennon was still sufficiently irked with Paul to mock him with Imagine , having himself photographed wrangling a pig for a souvenir postcard included with the LP, in parody of Paul shearing sheep on the cover of Ram, and including two songs that expressed contempt for his former partner. ‘Crippled Inside’, a country-and-western pastiche, described a man who was emotionally dead, while ‘How Do You Sleep?’ was direct character assassination, suggesting that Paul didn’t know what the Beatles had on their hands when they made Sgt. Pepper, noting nastily that ‘those freaks’ were right when they said Paul was dead; criticising Paul for living with ‘straights’ while being bossed about by his ‘Mamma’ (Linda). Most hurtfully, Lennon stated in ‘How Do You Sleep? ’ that the only song of consequence Paul had written was ‘Yesterday’, since when his music had been typified by the sugary ‘Another Day’, and soon everybody would realise his music was actually just Muzak - a disparaging reference to the American company that created muted versions of pop hits for public places, a use Paul’s tunes were suited to. In summary, Lennon asked his old mate how he slept at night, the implication being that Macca was such a complete bastard his conscience - if he had one - should keep him awake. Was Lennon speaking the truth, seeing McCartney through the clear eyes of someone who had known him as man and boy, or was he merely trying to get even after his defeat in court? There is probably truth in both hypotheses. It should be remembered also that Lennon was abetted at this stage in his career by Phil Spector, whom Paul had crossed on Let It Be. Spector now seemed to encourage Lennon in his feud, as an exchange between the two while they were working in New York on a new Christmas song illustrates: ‘Have you heard Paul’s new album? ’ Spector asked Lennon, referring to Wild Life.
‘It’s really bad,’ replied the producer spitefully, ‘it’s awful.’
‘Don’t talk about it. It depresses me.’
‘Don’t worry, John. Imagine is number one, and this will be number one, too. That’s all that matters.’43
These comments were reported in Melody Maker the week Paul launched Wings with a party at the Empire Ballroom in London’s Leicester Square. Although security was tight, and many famous faces were among the guests, there was a relaxed, homely feel to the event that typified Wings, from the hand-made invitation cards to the McCartneys’ own party clothes. Paul showed up in a baggy tartan suit, like a Caledonian clown. Lin wore a maternity dress. Paul had cut a sharp figure during the Sixties, never more so than when he strode across the Abbey Road zebra crossing in a beautifully tailored Savile Row suit. Now he had mislaid his style compass. It would be years until he found it again. Not all Seventies fashion was bad, but it is fair to say that Paul McCartney dressed appallingly throughout that decade and much of the Eighties, wearing vulgar and ill-chosen clothes and sporting a trendy yet hideous mullet haircut.
There was a conscious turning away from the Sixties in other areas of his life. Despite the size of the Wings launch party, none of the other Beatles attended, and there were hardly any old faces from Apple at the function. It was as if Paul wanted to forget his illustrious past. ‘This was a fresh start, clean slate,’ says Denny Seiwell, ‘and we did not discuss the Beatles. Every once in a great while he might make a reference to an old story or something, but very, very seldom.’
The exception came when interviewers drew Paul on the ongoing legal fight over the break-up of the Beatles. ‘I just want the four of us to get together somewhere and sign a piece of paper saying it’s all over, and we want to divide the money four ways,’ Paul told Melody Maker that month. Paul’s personal assistant Shelley Turner, together with Laine and Seiwell, sat and listened uneasily as Paul went on about the Beatles break-up in what was meant to be a band interview. (‘He’s talking about money now. That’s one of his pet points. He’ll never stop,’ Turner told the reporter in a worried aside. ‘Please get him on to talking about Wings.’) Still, Paul had more to say on the rift, responding to John’s dig in ‘How Do You Sleep?’: ‘So what if I live with straights?’ he asked. ‘It doesn’t affect him. He says the only thing I did was “Yesterday” and he knows that’s wrong.’
Mild though this and Paul’s other remarks were, Lennon retaliated with an open letter to Melody Maker, which had become a forum for the ex-Beatles to snipe at each other. ‘Dear Paul, Linda, et all [sic] the wee McCartneys,’ Lennon began, before resuming the old arguments about who owed what to whom, and challenging Paul’s version of events in his recent interview. He mocked his former friend mercilessly throughout, referring to ‘my obsessive old pal’, and saying Paul took ‘How Do You Sleep?’ way too literally. One of the bones of contention between the men was Maclen Music. Lennon wanted Paul to sell his share to the other three, but according to Lennon Paul had refused. ‘… two weeks ago,’ Lennon harangued his ex-friend,
I asked you on the phone, ‘Please let’s meet without advisors etc., and decide what we want,’ and I especially emphasised ‘Maclen’ which is mainly your concern, but you refused - right? You said under no condition would you sell to us, and if we didn’t do what you wanted, you’d sue us again … If you’re not the aggressor (as you claim) who the hell took us to court and [shit] all over us in public?
Paul chose not to respond publicly to these allegations.
BACK ON STAGE
The McCartneys went to the United States for Thanksgiving, leaving their pets - Eddie, Martha, a Dalmatian named Lucky and several cats - in the care of their housekeeper Rose Martin. The McCartney menagerie was a source of disquiet in Cavendish Avenue where, despite his fame and wealth, Paul was not altogether popular. Some neighbours snobbishly looked down on Paul as nouveau riche, considering the press and fans he attracted a damn nuisance. Then there was the time the McCartneys painted their listed house in bright colours, which led to complaints to the council, who made Paul change back to an authorised scheme; while one particular neighbour, Alice Griswold, an elderly woman whose wealth and class were established by the fact she ran a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce, seemed to have it in for the family. Mrs Griswold got it into her head that the McCartneys were neglecting their dogs, leaving them locked in the house while they were in America, and made a complaint to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA). When the McCartneys returned home, Paul went over the road and had ‘a right row’ with Mrs G. He told her sharply he’d never harm his dogs; he and Lin were animal-mad, and Rosie had been in every day to make sure the animals were all right. The man from the RSPCA agreed. Lin remarked that, ‘Mrs Griswold gives me a pain in the you-know-what.’
After Christmas, Paul hired an additional guitarist for Wings. Born in Northern Ireland in 1943, Henry McCullough had been a professional musician since the age of 17, playing notably with Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, and was an old friend of Denny Laine’s. ‘I wanted to bring more of a blues element into the band,’ explains Laine. ‘I didn’t want to be in a pop group, and Henry was the epitome of a blues player.’ So Henry joined Wings on the standard £70-a-week deal, rehearsing initially with the group in rooms off the Mall. It soon became clear that Henry didn’t quite fit into Wings, which was poppier than both he and Laine wished, with a distinct weakness in the keyboard department. Henry suggested to Paul that they hire a professional keyboardist to strengthen their sound. Paul admitted that his wife was ‘absolute rubbish’ on keyboards, but there was no prospect of replacing her. ‘Once that was accepted by meself and everybody else, that was it. Linda was 100 per cent a part of the band and that’s the way we worked,’ says Henry, who developed a respect for Mrs McCartney, as most Wings members did, not for her musical ability, but for her pluck and charm.
On Sunday 30 January 1972, what became known as Bloody Sunday, news came from Northern Ireland that the British Army had opened fire on a Republican demonstration, killing 13 people: In the wake of this appalling incident, Paul did something that was for him very rare indeed: he wrote a protest song, not only condemning the shootings, which most people lamented, but calling for the British to get out of Ireland, which was more problematic because the Protestant Loyalist population feared they would be murdered by their Catholic neighbours if the British Army withdrew. In writing this song, Paul put himself on the side of the Republican movement and its terrorist group, the IRA, which was engaged in a murderous campaign against the British. Paul’s maternal grandfather had been Irish, which gave him a personal connection to Ireland, but one wonders if his decision to write a Republican marching song had more to do with wanting to match John Lennon, who projected a trendy image of political engagement these days and had written two songs of his own about Bloody Sunday, both of which shared the simplistic sentiment expressed by Paul in his self-describing ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’. It is also possible that Paul wanted to reach out to John again by aligning himself with one of his old friend’s pet causes. Certainly Paul tried hard to remake their friendship in the Seventies.
A slow song, with incongruously jaunty hand-claps, ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ was released as a single in February 1972. It was the first major Wings project for Henry McCullough, an Ulster Protestant who says he didn’t discuss the song with Paul and had been on the road too long to feel personally connected to Irish politics. ‘I knew it would cause a little bit of a fuss,’ is as far as he will go, diplomatically. It is hard to believe Henry was truly indifferent to a song that commented directly on the delicate politics of his homeland, and he certainly looked uncomfortable when Paul invited a US television crew into Cavendish Avenue to film Wings rehearsing the number. Paul gave the Americans a short interview, in which he said he didn’t intend to become a political singer, but ‘on this one occasion I think the British government overstepped the mark and showed themselves to be more of a sort of oppressive regime than I ever believed them to be’.
As the song was rush-released, Paul led his fledgling band out on the road for the first time. On the morning of Tuesday 8 February 1972, an Avis truck and green van pulled up outside 7 Cavendish Avenue. The McCartneys, together with their children, the band and the family dogs, climbed aboard the van; roadies Trevor Jones and Ian Horn loaded the truck with equipment, and the two vehicles headed north on the M1, whither no one knew. Paul was realising the ambition he’d harboured in the latter years of the Beatles to go back on the road and play small provincial shows, but he’d taken the concept to the extreme, setting off without any theatres booked.
After driving 130 miles north, Wings reached Nottingham University, where the roadies informed the students’ union that they had Paul McCartney outside. Could Wings put on a show? Strange though this now seems, British rock bands such as the Who and Led Zeppelin did play universities at this time, building up their fan base, but acts didn’t turn up at universities unannounced in the hope of a chance booking, and Paul McCartney’s status as an ex-Beatle elevated him above and beyond everyday rock musicians. Then, as now, McCartney was one of the most famous entertainers in the world, and the students didn’t believe he had come to play for them until they saw him for themselves sitting in the van with Lin and the kids, at which point the booking was made. The McCartneys went off to find a guest house, leaving their roadies to make the necessary arrangements. Fliers were posted around the campus advertising a surprise show the next day. The entrance fee would be just 40 new pence (61 cents).
So it was that the following lunchtime Paul McCartney got back on stage in Nottingham University Hall to play for a live paying audience for the first time since Candlestick Park. In a clear return to the start of his professional career he opened with a Little Richard cover, ‘Lucille’, after which it was mostly unknown territory. For Paul wasn’t going to play any Beatles songs, and Wings were a new band without much of a repertoire. ‘We haven’t got too many numbers yet,’ McCartney told the students, much as he and John must have apologised to the patrons of the Indra when the jejune Beatles first went to Hamburg. ‘We’re just checking things out.’ The kids yelled that they didn’t mind. Even so Wings could only play four original songs, including ‘Wild Life’. The show was padded with Elvis covers, some jamming and more Little Richard, Paul closing with ‘Long Tall Sally’.
Back in the van, Wings divvied up the takings, mostly in coins and one pound notes. ‘Paul would go, “Here we go, one for you, one for you, one for you …”’ recalls Seiwell, adding with some bitterness: ‘It was probably the most money I ever made touring with Paul and it was nothing, you know.’
The next night they played Goodridge College in York, followed by a string of university towns including Hull, Newcastle and Leeds. At each show, Wings performed ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’, which usually went down well with the students, but was banned by the BBC from its radio network for being too political, with Paul roundly criticised in the normally pro-McCartney national press for taking a simplistic stance on Northern Ireland. In response, he took out an advertisement in the Sun newspaper urging the public to buy the record and make up their own mind. While many did purchase the single, the radio ban hindered sales, and ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ rose no higher than number 16 in the UK charts. When Wings passed through the university town of Lancaster, Linda aired her views on the issue for Melody Maker, saying: ‘Look, in Ireland the IRA was forced into existence by the fact that Britain took over the country more than 800 years ago, or whenever it was. Therefore if the British got out of Ireland there’d be no need for the IRA …’ In response, a reader from Ulster wrote to the paper asking, if the McCartneys were so committed to the province, why didn’t they come over and play in Ulster? Over the next few years Wings played all over the world, but they never gave a show in Northern Ireland. Perhaps Paul considered the province to be too dangerous.
Linda’s musicianship proved as feeble as her political history. On one occasion, when Paul counted the band into ‘Wild Life’, he was met by silence from his left. Looking over, he saw his keyboardist wife mouthing back that she’d forgotten the chords! The audience didn’t care, and neither did Paul. He was having a ball, while the guys in the band learned to accept Linda as an enthusiastic amateur, appreciating the family vibe a husband and wife playing together engendered.
Despite what Denny Laine hoped for, Wings was not ‘a rough and tumble rock/blues-type’ band. It was a Mom and Pop act. Backstage you were liable to find Mary and Heather McCartney drawing pictures while baby sister Stella (known as Stelly in the family) slept in a make-shift cot in a drawer. When Paul and Linda decided they needed a Wings fan club, they devised the jokey Wings Fun Club, seemingly pitched at children Heather’s age rather than adults. Most significantly, the band’s next single-despite the fact Paul was always talking about wanting to shake off his soft-centred image - was an arrangement of the children’s nursery rhyme ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’, because Mary McCartney had a pet lamb in Kintyre. Wings put the record out in May, as big a contrast to ‘Give Ireland Back to the Irish’ as could be imagined. Some commentators suggested it was meant sarcastically, as if Paul was telling the BBC: ‘You won’t play serious music, so we’ll give you nursery rhymes.’ But it was really about indulging the kids. Denny Laine felt very uncomfortable. ‘If it was going to be going in that direction, and no other direction, I would not have liked it at all.’ One can imagine how Laine felt when Paul had Wings mime to the song on the Basil Brush Show.
Most rock stars would be too concerned with their image to contemplate singing a nursery rhyme on a kids’ TV show hosted by a fox glove puppet, but Paul had been so successful for so long that he seemed immured from such considerations. It was as if he believed the public would like him whatever he did, and if they didn’t, so what? He was rich enough to do as he pleased. It was in this spirit that the McCartneys indulged their interests, however whimsical or childish. Linda was soppy about animals and, under her influence, Paul became animal-mad too, the couple and their children looking upon the entire animal kingdom as if it were of a piece with The Wonderful World of Disney. Apart from working on the putative Rupert the Bear cartoon, and performing on the Basil Brush Show, the McCartneys now decided they should make an anthropomorphic Disney-type film about ‘a family of cartoon mice living underneath the stage when we were performing’, as Denny Seiwell recalls. Wings did some work on this at Elstree Film Studios, though the picture never saw the light of day. ‘There was a lot of that kind of stuff going on.’
Being a parent had evidently changed Paul. Family life was now all important, and when he took Wings out on a European tour in the summer of 1972 there was a strong family feel to the enterprise. The band travelled in a brightly coloured double-decker bus, painted with the legend WINGS OVER EUROPE, the open top deck laid out with bean bags and mattresses for the McCartneys, their band and the kids to lounge about on. While the bus was no doubt huge fun for the wee McCartneys, it was a slow and inefficient way to navigate the continent. ‘It only went 35 mph, so people would go whizzing by us on the motorways and see this gang of hippies in this bus. It was quite nice, but it didn’t make a lot of sense,’ remembers Seiwell, who also recalls that Linda suffered a severe attack of stage fright prior to their first-night show at Châteauvallon, a cultural centre near Marseille in the South of France. ‘She was crying on my shoulder, she was scared.’ Audiences were so thrilled to see a Beatle they hardly paid any attention to Paul’s wife, and McCartney’s confidence carried the night, as it always would.
The idea of this European tour was to play small venues in mostly out-of-the-way places to get the band some road experience before they attempted anything more ambitious. So the Wings double-decker trundled up through France into Germany, then into Switzerland where, fatefully, Denny Laine met Joanne ‘Jo Jo’ Patrie. Jo Jo was a vivacious American model turned groupie whom Linda McCartney suspected of having her true sights set on Paul, which turned out to be correct. ‘She was basically trying to go through me to get to Paul,’ concedes Laine, who discovered Jo Jo had sent Paul love letters as a teenage Beatles fan. ‘I didn’t know this to start with. I found out later.’ Paul and Linda treated Denny’s new girlfriend disdainfully, which offended both Denny and Jo Jo as they grew closer together, becoming a regular couple, having children and ultimately getting married. ‘I find it insulting that Linda looked on Jo Jo as a groupie. Linda was one of the biggest groupies on the face of the Earth if you want to put labels on people,’ Denny said in an angry interview in the 1980s. ‘Jo Jo was a groupie-nobody is denying that. But what is a groupie? Just a chick that likes musicians.’ These days Laine sees things slightly differently. ‘They tried to get on with Jo Jo,’ he says of Paul and Lin, ‘but she was a lot of work. What can I say?’
Almost all the adults on the Wings double-decker smoked grass, Paul having been an avid pot smoker since meeting Bob Dylan in 1964. For a long tour they needed a regular supply. Rather than risk taking drugs through customs, the band had dope posted to them from England. One parcel was addressed to Denny Seiwell care of the Gothenburg Park Hotel, where Wings arrived on 10 August to play a show at the nearby Scandinavian Hall. While the roadies set up their equipment, the McCartneys took a limousine to the hotel to collect Denny’s parcel, which contained five and a half ounces of prime marijuana. Unbeknownst to the McCartneys, the Swedish police had been alerted and were watching the drop. As the band came off stage that night, Paul, Linda and Denny Seiwell were seized by Swedish detectives. ‘It was just me at first-then I hear Paul and Linda … They were being brought in, too, screaming bloody murder,’ says Seiwell, who was arrested because his name was on the package; Paul and Linda were nicked because they picked it up. Also dragged down to the station was Paul’s secretary.
The McCartneys initially denied the drugs were theirs, then admitted it, according to the police: ‘They said they had made arrangements to have drugs posted to them each day they played in different countries …’ Paul, Linda and Denny Seiwell were ordered to pay a fine/good behaviour bond totalling £1,000 ($1,530), and allowed to go on their way. ‘They said, “Tell your rock ’n’ roll friends not to bring marijuana into Sweden, because we’ll find it and they’ll be arrested,”’ says Seiwell. ‘It was lame. It was really no big deal. If I remember correctly we had some marijuana a day later!’ It was a big deal, though. The drug conviction meant Paul was now unable to take Wings to the United States and Japan, as he had planned. The Gothenburg bust also seemed to show the McCartneys to have an arrogant attitude towards the law, while there was really no need to get into this sort of trouble. Many rock stars use drugs routinely on tour, but do so with enough discretion to avoid arrest. Paul had blundered into this situation through his cack-handed arrangements, and would make similar mistakes again and again during the course of his career.
Another chronic problem with post-Beatles Paul was the way he paid his musicians. When the Wings Over Europe tour concluded in Berlin on 24 August 1972 his sidemen found themselves more or less broke. During the tour the band had been booked into the same luxury hotels as the McCartneys. Bed and breakfast was paid for, but room service and bar bills were not covered, and the boys ended up spending most of their wages on extras. ‘When the whole thing was over,’ complains Seiwell, who was increasingly concerned about the way the band was being treated, ‘it cost us money. Sold out every concert and when it was all over the band got paid nothing for 28 cities and two and a half months of a European tour. We got nothing. Because the expenses were so high.’ The money was only part of the problem. As bad was the superior attitude Paul and Lin showed on occasion. Seiwell again:
There were times when we were a family. We really bonded as a family, the five of us, musically and socially with the wives and the kids. Everybody was a family. And then there were times when it was - this is really hard to say - but there were times when it just was about them, and we did not matter whatsoever.
The McCartneys were back in London when news reached Cavendish Avenue that Paul was in trouble again with the police, this time in Scotland. In the aftermath of the Gothenburg bust, Detective Constable Norman McPhee of the Campbeltown police had found marijuana growing in a greenhouse at High Park Farm. The story given to the press was that DC McPhee had been on a routine crime prevention tour of the area when he spotted the plants, recognising the leaf shape he had been taught to look out for on a recent drug-awareness course. The truth was that the police had been tipped off, according to Paul’s Scottish lawyer Len Murray, meaning Paul wasn’t as popular in Kintyre as he thought he was. In any event, Paul was summoned to appear before the sheriff’s court in Campbeltown to face charges under the Misuse of Drugs Act. ‘And of course that was really quite serious. Growing cannabis was viewed a great deal more seriously in those days,’ says Murray, who organised Paul’s defence when the case came to court in the spring of 1973.
Paul’s reaction to these busts remained one of defiance, so much so that Wings released what might loosely be termed their second protest song, ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’, only loosely because while it could be interpreted as a celebration of getting high on grass the song was also a paean to sexual intercourse. The man who had written so eloquently of blue suburban skies and the love you make being equal to the love you take was now singing of giving his baby his ‘sweet banana’ and doing it to her ‘like a rabbit’ all night long! Released at the end of the year as a single, with a reggae number, ‘C Moon’, on the flip side, this truly stupid song was promptly banned by the BBC for its sexual content. It reached number five in the UK charts, anyway, number ten in the USA. On the grounds of taste, it shouldn’t have been released at all. ‘What it was supposed to be getting at was a “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” kind of thing, trying to be sexual, but I thought it was a bit kind of lightweight,’ says Laine. ‘You know what, I think Paul’s always had a bit of a problem of wanting to be a little bit tougher than he is, and sometimes he’ll write a song to try and show that side of him.’
The following spring Paul and Lin flew by private plane to RAF Machrihanish in Kintyre, where they met their lawyer Len Murray and John McCluskey QC, the advocate hired to represent them in court on drugs charges. For once, the McCartneys didn’t have their children with them and, freed from parental responsibility for the day, Linda had seemingly enjoyed a joint on the flight. ‘She was stoned out of her mind,’ notes an unimpressed Murray, ‘stoned out of her mind.’ A giggling Linda borrowed John McCluskey’s bowler hat and wore it throughout the day, as though laughing at the proceedings. Paul was in a more sober frame of mind, knowing the problems a drugs conviction could cause him. There was immediate good news, though. Before leaving the airport, Paul’s legal team explained to the star that they had persuaded the Prosecutor to drop two charges of possession, owing to a technical problem with the way the case had been brought, agreeing in return that Paul would plead guilty to the lesser charge of cultivation. This was good for Paul, who had been set to plead guilty to all three charges. The legal conference at an end, the lawyers drove Paul and Linda to Campbeltown’s court house, which was surrounded by journalists and cameramen. ‘We had to fight our way through, saying nothing,’ says Murray. ‘Linda enjoyed it all. She was obviously in her element having all this attention.’
Inside the court, John McCluskey told the sheriff that his client had grown the marijuana plants at High Park from seeds sent to him by a fan. With his ‘genuine interest in horticulture’ Mr McCartney had planted and watered the seeds, though his horticultural interest didn’t extend to a knowledge of what it was he was growing. The matter was dealt with as a first offence (Paul’s spot of bother in Sweden couldn’t be used against him in a Scottish court). The sheriff fined Paul a nominal £100 ($153), at which point Linda tossed her hat in the air for joy. Outside the court, Paul told the press: ‘I still think cannabis should be legal for use among consenting adults. It is no more dangerous than drink.’ Linda was evidently still as high as kite as they got back in their plane. ‘I was quite impressed with the way he conducted himself throughout that morning,’ Len Murray says of McCartney. ‘He was quite respectful and conscious of the responsibility of it all, and the importance of it all … He certainly never gave the impression of not caring …’ The same could not be said about his wife.
Paul and Linda were as one, however, Paul’s devotion to his wife expressed in Wings’ new single, ‘My Love’, recorded at AIR Studios, George Martin’s new facility above what had been Peter Robinson’s Oxford Street department store, overlooking Oxford Circus. Paul had come to AIR because he wanted to record with an orchestra, and George was the best man for that job. One of the most uxorious of Paul’s ‘I-love-you-Linda’ songs, ‘My Love’ was lifted by a stirring guitar solo by Henry McCullough, who, when it came to the recording date, bucked against Paul’s regimented way of making music-‘in blocks’, as he characterises McCartney’s method. ‘I was in there with a fifty-piece orchestra, just meself and guitar and I wanted to change the solo.’
‘What are you going to play?’ Paul asked his guitarist.
‘I have no idea,’ replied Henry, who wanted to extemporise.
‘Oh Jesus, Henry!’
As the orchestra played, McCullough tore off the solo of his life. ‘It wasn’t a confrontation, [but] it had got to the point where I achingly wanted to be the guitar player in the band, instead of learning parts,’ says the guitarist, ‘and Paul, I think, found that way of working a little risky, which it is, but it hit the mark and it was left there.’ The song was released as Wings’ next single, becoming a number one hit in the USA. This success was followed by the new album, Red Rose Speedway, which Paul asked another old friend to produce.
To try and create a collaborative atmosphere in Wings, Paul was experimenting with becoming just another member of the group, on a par with Lin, Laine, McCullough and Seiwell. ‘The first session he came into the control room and he said, “Now I don’t want you to think of me as Paul McCartney, I want you to think of me as the bass player in the band,”’ recalls Glyn Johns, grimacing as he tells the story. ‘Well, you can imagine how long that lasted! The minute I started talking to him like the bass player in the band it was, you know, “Who the bloody hell do you think you’re talking to?”’
Following the Let It Be fiasco, Johns had gone on to become one of the foremost producers in rock, working successfully with Eric Clapton, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin and the Who. To his mind, Wings were not in the same league as these acts, couldn’t really be considered a band at all. ‘It’s called Wings, [but] it’s Paul McCartney. It doesn’t really make any difference who’s in the band. They are all very competent, professional musicians, but they’re not a band in my view - it’s Paul McCartney [with] a bunch of guys.’
The essential problem to Glyn’s mind was that, despite the presence of Denny Laine, Paul lacked a musical equal in Wings. ‘I think that while the Beatles existed Paul had John Lennon keeping a beady eye on him, and he wouldn’t let him get away with anything too syrupy, if you like. He’d take the piss out of him, he’d sit on him, he’d squash him,’ says Johns. Glyn had come to see Paul as an insecure person in some ways. ‘You’ve only got to look at his body language.’ Paul clearly needed people around him, like Linda, but Linda ‘just wasn’t a musician. Period.’ The result was that Wings smoked dope and jammed in the studio to little effect. Johns didn’t even bother to run tape. He sat in the control room and read the newspaper. One evening Laine and Seiwell remonstrated with him.
They said, you know, ‘We’re not happy with you as a producer. You’re not taking any interest in what we are doing.’ I said, ‘When you do something that’s interesting, I’m there. But if you think because you are playing with Paul McCartney that everything you do is a gem of marvellous music, you’re wrong. It isn’t. It’s shite. And if you want to sit and play shite and get stoned for a few hours that’s your prerogative, but don’t expect me to record everything you’re doing, because frankly it’s a waste of tape and it’s a waste of my energy.’
Paul joined the discussion, the band sitting in a semi-circle around the producer, who felt as though he was on trial. He didn’t appreciate it, or the sycophantic atmosphere around Paul (despite the conceit of Paul just being the bass player in Wings). ‘The fact is that they were all obviously really thrilled to be in a band with Paul McCartney … they all were up his bottom.’ So Johns quit Red Rose Speedway, describing the album Wings went on to make without him as ‘a load of rubbish’, which is harsh, but in a record review one couldn’t award it more than three out of five stars.
More mediocrity followed when Paul agreed to take part in a music special for the television arm of Sir Lew Grade’s media empire. Grade, the owner of Northern Songs, had been suing Paul over registering his new songs to Paul and Linda McCartney, thereby depriving Grade of royalties he would receive if titles such as ‘Another Day’ were credited to Paul alone. To settle the dispute, Paul agreed that Wings would appear in a 55-minute television special for Grade’s Associated Television company (ATV). Broadcast on 10 May 1973, James Paul McCartney consisted of a series of musical performances by Wings and Paul, including Beatles songs such as ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Michelle’ (a sign of what a hard bargain Grade had driven). Many numbers were presented in the form of short, video-like films. For ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’, Wings mimed along to a backing track while surrounded by a flock of sheep. The most interesting part of the show was footage of Paul hosting a family party in a Merseyside pub. Jim McCartney was present, a smartly dressed gent of 70; also, the aunts. Paul was evidently delighted when Ginny hoved into view, a stout old lady with a fag on the go. ‘All right, darling, how are you?’ Paul hailed his favourite aunt. ‘Get yourself parked, Ginny.’ The McCartneys then enjoyed a singsong, rattling through ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ and ‘You Are My Sunshine’ as the cigarette smoke thickened and the bar till rang.
The other highlight of the ATV film was a performance of a dramatic new song titled ‘Live and Let Die’, which Paul had written for the new James Bond film of the same name, having read the Ian Fleming novel over a weekend. He cut the record with George Martin at AIR, Martin having written an arrangement for orchestra. Despite the fact that the producers didn’t like the song at first, thinking Paul had merely recorded a demo, ‘Live and Let Die’ was a perfect Bond theme, capturing all the excitement of the secret agent character; it was a top ten hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and became a mainstay of Paul’s stage show. It is in fact one of the best half-dozen songs of his post-Beatles career, not coincidentally because McCartney was working again with the old pro himself, George Martin, one of the few people in the music business whom he respected enough to be guided by. ‘Live and Let Die’ was also a very modern-sounding song, tailored for the bombastic, pyrotechnically enhanced stadium rock shows of the 1970s, which were just around the corner for Wings.