Paul McCartney & Wings, ‘Wings Over Wembley’ (Empress Valley EVSD 1492/1493)
Disk 1 – Got To Get You Into My Life / Getting Closer / Every Night / Again And Again And Again / I’ve Had Enough / No Words / Cook Of The House / Old Siam Sir / Maybe I’m Amazed / Fool On The Hill / Let It Be / Hot As Sun (47:11)
Disk 2. Spin It On / Twenty Flight Rock / Go Now / Arrow Through Me / Wonderful Christmastime / Coming Up / Goodnight Tonight / Yesterday / Mull Of Kintyre / Band On The Run (45:40)
1979 was shaping up to be a good year for Paul McCartney. What wasn’t intended to be Wings’ last album, ‘Back To The Egg’, had been completed and released. Abuzz with plenty of ideas still, Paul took to his home studio to begin the elements of what would become his next solo album – Enough material was made for a double, ‘McCartney II’ – though with a little judicious editing, it was nibbled down to a single disk, albeit one with a killer single that would blow smoke up his career and, by all accounts, would be part of the reason that John Lennon started to get excited about getting back in to the studio again. But what of Paul’s own live plans? Having last toured in 1976 with a world tour, things had been quiet on the stage – It was time to get back to action.
Booking in a 19 date UK tour – Starting with a four night stint in Liverpool as a home crowd pleasing gesture and wrapping up at the Concert for Kampuchea, where the rumour mill was ratting in to overdrive regards that fabled Fabs reunion. A series of show that Chip Madinger / Mark Easter describe in ‘Eight Arms’ as “anticeptic”. While it’s true they’re not quite as loose as the 1976 shows, it’s not as tight as the statement might suggest – The band still err on the side of a little bit giggly and fun, maybe Macca was pulling rank now the band had changed again and was trying to fit in to the style of the restrained new wave performers.
In the middle there was a clutch of 4 consecutive dates at Wembley Arena, huge shows that were readied for c. 12,000 fans who queued up to see Macca and the band on his uppers. The shows at Wembley have previously been bootlegged as ‘Wembley 07th December, 1979’ (Entertainment Records), a copy of the original vinyl release was subsequently booted by Misterclaudel and released on ‘Wings Over Wembley’. That label also gathered up a recording from the 9th (the third show) on a title called ‘Wings Over Wembley II’. Thus far, the second and fourth nights haven’t been bootlegged – Until now, that is as Empress Valley have copped and exclusive recording of the 10th, the final night at Wembley.
Recorded by Mike B (You’ll recognise his name from other recordings such as the Rolling Stones Empire Pool 1973 on Rover Records and the Stones at Knebworth 1976 on Tarantura / T2K), this tape is a lively wide stereo capture of the show from start to beginning. It’s a little distant, but let’s ensure that we focus on ‘little’, the mastering seems to be that maybe you could tweak the bass on your home system to apply a little heft but other than that, it sounds very, very good indeed. There’s a bit of conversation at parts as it appears that the taper has a request for his lighter – A bit of comedic relief for this to be captured but all that happens is it gets in the way of a little bit of announcement. As an aside, before I received my copy, I heard a sample on Twitter – It sounded rubbish. It’s certainly worth persevering and finding a better sample if you want to go for the taste test.
What do we know about the shows anyway? After litigious diversions and bitter feelings had ebbed away, Paul was in love with the Beatles again – The shows started with ‘Got To Get You In To My Life’ for a start – If we were one of those over polarising sites who etch a Venn diagram around every point, we might suggest that this might be a response to the many suggestions that the Beatles reform for charity or cash, but we’re not so we won’t.
Paul cheerily barks “Welcome to Wombley!“ (Sic) before the band crash through ‘Getting Closer’ and slide an arm around ‘Every Night’. What you do start to hear is that Linda is audibly there too. A good thing though, as her vocals, while the target of some disdain, are swooningly nostalgic now a days – It would be far too easy to miss them in the later days of Paul’s newer band.
‘I’ve Had Enough’, one of the stand out, glam-stompers from ‘London Town’ appears mid set – With the drubbing the album gets it’s easy to consider that this track / single exists but in it’s shape of “one of those tracks that Macca could throw together in a weekend”, it would be unfairly passed by. The same with the next track, ‘No Words’, yeah, the album it’s from is far more famous but squished between two of the prettier tracks on the album, it would be easy to forget it exists – It fights it’s corner here however with some bracing, short solos that bring it’s mettle to the fore. The same can’t be said fully for the follow up track – I like it but the taper or his companion aren’t too sure, flippantly remarking that this is their ‘loo song’, perfectly presentable and poppy, most of the rest of the crowd seem to appreciate it.
‘Old Siam Sir’ is greeted with just as much enthusiasm, Paul starts as he means to go on, taut, sharp vocals – A stinging coda sends the song off replete.
Paul pre-fakes ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ with a brief take on ‘When The Red, Red Robin’ tonight, the main scene itself has a grand, organ backing through parts and the glorious guitar solo is pretty much note perfect. Seamlessly moving over to ‘Fool On The Hill’, Paul gets back on his Beatles ‘ed. The juxtaposition is perfect, the fact that the band are using proper instruments for the shows rather than the synthesisers that would become a lot more commonplace later, is a blessing.
The atmosphere dips due to a tape change just before, ‘Let It Be’ – another magnificent rendition – before it changes again before the next – regarding, LIB, the arching solo that reels along through to the coda is a welcome addition too. The now almost entirely obscure instrumental (Indeed, out taper or his accomplice has to ask the other, “What’s that one called?”, such is the songs infamy) ends the first disk – brilliant to hear – the song has a massively positive party vibe in a mariachi style. Quite the thing to warm the bones in the cold of a British autumn-time.
Disk two leads in with ‘Spin It On’, Paul proceeding the song by asking who’s a bopper in the audience. Played a little more “heavy metal” as opposed to the CV, the venue turns it in to a tin can calamity – Far too bright in treble, it’s almost painful to hear. Opposed to this, ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ sounds brilliant – the rumbly bass that flows through has the track pitched perfectly, it also causes a big glut of the audience to clap along – Not everyone immune to a good old bit of rock n’ roll, obviously – Lawrence’s wiggly guitar solo a treat.
Denny’s solo spot, the evergreen, ‘Go Now’ is proceeded by a ‘Tip Top Through The Tulips’ out-fake as Lawrence tries to offer up an introduction before Macca returns to the stage to lead the band with ‘Arrow Through Me’ – A class song from “Back To The Egg”, it’s arch synth stabs and cool horns twinned with Macca’s strained soul vox perfectly anticipating the new-wave explosion.
Maybe it’s time to go to the loo again as Linda and Paul unveil their latest single, ‘Wonderful Christmastime’, I’ll admit, writing this review in August might have played with my feelings a bit, the fact that ‘Happy Xmas’ is also a far cooler track too might sway me but then when has Christmas ever been “cool”? Putting myself in the middle of the mindset that the single was surely sending people to Woolworths in their droves to pick up for their festive parties and that Paul hadn’t put out a Christmas single since the Beatles flexi-disks and wouldn’t again until ‘Keeping The Dream Alive’ (Yes, I await your comments.)
After a little more excitement and audience baiting, Paul teases out his latest song, The as yet unreleased, ‘Coming Up’, I know that generally “Now, here’s a new song” is generally short hand for “Let’s send everyone to the bar” but imagine being met with this monster right after hearing the new single too. A speedy rendition of the track (with real horns!) and an audibly excited Macca – The audience are full of it too as there’s a wave of on-beat clapping that peels through the audience and flows past the taper. Finishing off the promotion for the latest album, ‘Goodnight Tonight’ is brought on by “Robert the Robot”, who performs after a little “Gentle tweaking” by Paul.
Unfortunately, the false start for ‘Yesterday’ was cut by the taper so it fades up just as Paul says, “I was thinking of another one” so we miss nothing. It sounds like the crowd have though as, as song as we hear the delicate pluck of THOSE chords, the place erupts. There’s a part where Paul gives the chance to sing the lyrics over to the audience too, brief it may be, it’s quite affirming. The singalongs continue with Macca’s reposte to punk, ‘Mull Of Kintyre’. The UK’s biggest selling single at the time, the words are on everyone’s lips, there’s a flurry of excitement as the bagpipers enter the stage too.
Finally, the set almost wrapped up, the panto not quite over, the taper cuts off the final introductions a little, prior to the great last hurrah of ‘Band On The Run’, it has all the hallmarks of a great performance, however it cuts short at the coda, the taper running out of space on his tapes.
Strangely, this tape being the premier of a long stored recording and the evidence of another night having been recorded, EV have been a little tight with their packaging – A very simple slip-case in black and white with the disks in simple plastic sleeves, even the spine is that thin as to give nothing away. It seems a little rushed on the labels part and to consider we might suggest this the last era of “classic” Paul McCartney and Wings recordings, I would have liked to have seen a chunkier production, but it’s a slight gripe really.
A lovely production, a very nice mastering of the tape too – Obviously we have Glasgow from this run to REALLY marvel over but there’s a lot to be said for this show – Better than some of the other recordings (Brighton!), I’d have to reservations in telling you to pick this one up.