Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Karate Chaos In The Backyard

Following their successful Nashville trip, Paul decided to continue rehearsing the new Wings lineup in London, this time in the familiar surroundings of Abbey Road's Studio 2.

With Geoff Emerick engineering and an MPL camera crew filming the proceedings, Paul, Linda, Denny, Jimmy, and Geoff ran through 20 or so numbers. Shooting actually began August 24th with Paul performing a solo acoustic set in the Studios' small garden courtyard. The result was a short film which came to be known as The Backyard:

None of the backyard footage was used in the completed hour-long production, titled One Hand Clapping. Live band performances were shot on August 27th and 28th, including this smoking version of "Soily":

Paul bookended the filming with another solo set on August 30th, this time at the piano:

One Hand Clapping was never screened in finished form, although most of it was included on a bonus DVD with the 2009 Band On The Run remaster. The Yellow Cat CD featuring excellent stereo mixes from these sessions is a must-listen, showcasing Wings at its tightest, performing some of Paul's best material.

Back in America, John was about to begin the biggest promotional push yet for any of his solo albums, and his most concentrated series of media appearances since the Bed-in days. The Walls And Bridges blitz began in Los Angeles early in the morning of September 20th. KHJ-AM was hosting "Superstar Week", with a different celebrity filling in each day for DJ Charlie Van Dyke.

John was the Superstar for the Friday slot, and managed to drag himself to the studio at 6AM (or perhaps he just stayed up all night) to begin the morning shift. His energy level remained high for the next 2.5 hours as he took requests and chatted with callers, did time checks and read local ad copy, and plugged the new album by spinning several tracks and airing a specially-taped radio spot he'd done with Ringo a couple of weeks prior.

Later on the 20th, John spoke via telephone to his old pal Kenny Everett, now working at Capital Radio in London. It would be Kenny's last interview with John.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

At The Starting Gate

While he had been typically quiet in the public sphere throughout 1974, George's private life and musical activities had kept him busy. His eight-year marriage to Pattie Boyd had disintegrated following infidelities on both sides, and George found himself alone at home with a lot of time on his hands.

In March, he spent a few days in the studio producing an LP for Ravi Shankar in Los Angeles; Shankar Family & Friends featured short individual songs on one side and an ambitious ballet suite, composed by Ravi, on the other. The first single from the album was the lovely Indian-flavored pop song "I Am Missing You":

On May 23rd, George finalized a deal to found a new record label, Dark Horse Records, to be distributed worldwide by A&M. With Apple now pared back to a bare-bones staff, the company couldn't focus on promoting anything more ambitious than ex-Beatle product. George figured it would be easier to start his own company to cultivate artists such as Ravi Shankar and the duo Splinter.

As we've seen earlier, George had produced a song by Splinter for a film soundtrack, and he was so taken with their ability that he agreed to produce a full album at his home studio, FPSHOT, that spring. George played guitar on nearly every number, and used friends such as Gary Wright, Billy Preston, Jim Keltner, and Alvin Lee to provide musical support. The LP, The Place I Love, was issued on Dark Horse in September, trailed by the single "Costafine Town":

In mid-August, George sat down with DJ Nicky Horne and recorded an interview to launch the Dark Horse label and promote the first two signings. Issued to stations as Dark Horse Radio Special in September, the disc finds George discussing Splinter, the film Little Malcolm, his home studio, the Material World Foundation, the new label, Indian music, and the concept of karma. He also drops a couple of clues to his now-rabid Monty Python fandom by quoting the Lumberjack sketch and making a downright obscure reference to David Niven's fridge!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Surprise Surprise

Once he had moved back to New York and wrapped up the Pussycats sessions, John began to clean up his act. He accompanied Harry Nilsson to a meeting with RCA records executives, strongly insinuating that if they signed Harry, John would not only join the RCA roster when his EMI contract expired in 1976, but might bring some other ex-Beatles with him. The ruse worked, and Pussycats came out August 19th on RCA, accompanied by a TV ad:

Having written a new batch of songs that were his strongest in three years, John was ready to start recording another solo album at the Record Plant. Accompanied by a core band of Jesse Ed Davis on lead guitar, Ken Ascher on keyboards, Klaus Voormann on bass, and Jim Keltner on drums, John ran through all the new material on July 13th and 14th, recording the rehearsals and whipping the arrangements into shape:

Tracking sessions for Walls And Bridges began the following day, and wrapped up in a productive nine days, with overdubbing and mixing continuing into August. Ringo had been in Los Angeles since May recording his new LP, Goodnight Vienna, and John wrote and taped a demo of the title track using the Walls And Bridges band:

On August 6th, John flew back to Los Angeles (accompanied by May, Cynthia, and Julian) to participate in the Goodnight Vienna sessions. As well as playing piano on his own composition, John suggested Ringo record the Platters oldie "Only You (And You Alone)", laying down a guide vocal for Ringo to follow:

John and May left California on August 10th and flew to Colorado, meeting up with Elton John at Caribou Studios, where the latter was recording his LP Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. Elton had contributed backing vocals and piano to "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" and "Surprise Surprise" on Walls And Bridges, and now he and John teamed up to remake "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" in a reggae style.

It didn't fit in with the autobiographical concept of Captain Fantastic, so Elton released "Lucy" as a stand-alone single in November, backed with another Lennon cover, "One Day (At A Time)" (from Mind Games). John played guitar on both sides of the single, which shot to the top of the charts, as had most everything from Elton lately:

During all this musical prolificacy, John still had the threat of deportation hanging over his head. In fact, on a taxi ride to the Record Plant July 16th, John heard a radio news bulletin that his latest appeal had been rejected by the INS, and that he once again had sixty days to leave the country. His response was to facetiously tell the cabbie to take him straight to the airport.

Good news came down August 8th while John was in L.A., as Richard Nixon resigned, taking most of the steam out of his administration; all that remained now was for the wheels of bureaucracy to grind slowly to a halt. On August 30th, John appeared in court again; with the widespread corruption of the Nixon government now common knowledge, John and his lawyer Leon Wildes were trying to cross examine high-ranking officials in an effort to prove that the deportation push was politically motivated.

Outside the courthouse, John spoke with reporters about his odds of staying in the US, and afterwards was cornered by some fans with a tape recorder and camera. He posed for photos and sang a bit of "Hello Dolly" before changing out of his "civvies" and heading to the Record Plant to finalize the Walls And Bridges lineup. From this point on, things would only improve in John's life over the next 24 months.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Take Me Down, Jimmy!

On May 23rd, 1974, news leaked that Paul and Wings would be flying to Nashville for a six-week visit to rehearse the new band lineup and record a few numbers. The McCartney clan arrived June 6th, followed the next day by the rest of the group.

They all stayed at a farm owned by songwriter Claude "Curly" Putman, Jr., giving Paul the inspiration to write "Junior's Farm"; its B-side, "Sally G", was influenced by the local nightlife. Paul and family also ventured out during the day a few times, visiting the Grand Masters Fiddling Contest at Opryland on June 16th, where they met Dolly Parton and Porter Waggoner. They also socialized with Johnny Cash at his home.

Recording sessions at Soundshop Studios took place over the first half of July, and produced an interesting batch of songs:

In addition to the "Junior's Farm" single, Paul recruited Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, and other local pros to record an instrumental number written by his father, Jim McCartney, back in the 1950's. "Walking In The Park With Eloise" would be credited to the Country Hams when it came out as an EMI single in October.

Wings also recorded a country-tinged Denny Laine composition, "Send Me The Heart", and added overdubs to some earlier unreleased recordings, including "Wide Prairie", "Hey Diddle", and "Bridge On The River Suite" (which ended up as the B-side of the Country Hams single). Paul's plan was to gather the various Wings outtakes and rejects on a budget-priced package called Cold Cuts.

Meanwhile, Band On The Run showed no signs of slowing down; it was in the UK top 20 for every single week of 1974, and hung around the Billboard top 200 until May of 1975. A third potential single from the album, "Mamunia", was dropped in favor of the newer "Junior's Farm", but a promo film was created and aired on ITV in August:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What's The Use Of Worrying?

Before flying back to London from Los Angeles, Paul received a gold record for Band On The Run, which was proving to be the sturdiest seller in his solo career. It had entered the Billboard chart back in December 1973, and it took until April 13th (helped by the "Jet" single) to reach #1. The title track was issued as a single April 8th, and it too would top the chart by June, bringing the album back up to #1 twice more that summer.

All this success meant Paul had a chance to take a break from recording and touring while he recruited new Wings members and stockpiled fresh compositions. Jimmy McCulloch had already won the lead guitarist role, and after a series of auditions in April and May, Geoff Britton was elected to fill the vacated drummer's seat.

Although Wings issued only one single and no albums in 1974, Paul wasn't exactly hard to find on store shelves if you knew where to look. Back in 1971 during the Ram sessions in New York, he had sat in on bass with singer/guitarist Leslie Fradkin. Paul's contribution to the song "God Bless California" came out June 17th, 1974 on the LP Pass On This Side, credited to Thornton, Fradkin & Unger and the Big Band.

In early '74, during the McGear sessions, Paul also produced and played on a single for the Scaffold, a music/comedy/poetry group Mike McGear had co-founded. "Liverpool Lou" was released May 24th, and climbed to #7 in the UK:

During his and Linda's visit to the US, Paul also dropped by James Taylor's sessions for the LP Walking Man, which came out June 1st. Paul, Linda, and Carly Simon provided backing vocals on two numbers, "Rock 'N' Roll Is Music Now" and the anti-Nixon tune "Let It All Fall Down":

One of Paul's least-known compositions (co-written with Linda) was "4th Of July". It was written at least as early as the spring of 1973 (he strummed a bit of it while taping James Paul McCartney), but ended up being donated to singer John Christie. His version, produced by Dave Clark (of DC5 fame), came out as a single June 28th, perhaps too close to the holiday to make an impact on the charts:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Guaranteed To Keep You Alive

Riding high on the success of his Ringo LP, which had just spawned its third top 10 single, Ringo was eager to get back into the studio with producer Richard Perry and his musical mates such as Harry Nilsson to record a follow-up album.

Sessions for Goodnight Vienna would begin at the end of May, 1974, but Ringo was plenty busy in the weeks leading up to them. On March 29th, he and Keith Moon taped an appearance on ABC-TV's In Concert, introducing the UK band Sparks to an American audience. The show was aired November 11th:

On April 14th, Ringo and Keith made a live appearance on KROQ radio in Pasadena, sitting in on the Flo & Eddie Show. Ringo knew the duo from his work with the Mothers of Invention on 200 Motels, and the obviously inebriated drummer sang a bit of his current hit single, "Oh My My", and took calls from befuddled listeners. Legend has it that Ringo came on the show and dropped 14 f-bombs during the first 90 seconds, leading to the show's cancellation, but the truth is a bit less sensational than that.

A few days later, Ringo, Keith, and Harry flew to Atlanta for the long-delayed April 19th premiere of their film Son Of Dracula, which had sat unseen in the can since 1972. To say the film was a flop would be an understatement, as it closed soon after the gala opening night, and rarely showed up on any other movie screens. Ringo (sounding drunk yet again) did a bit of promotion for the movie during an April 27th interview for the Dutch pirate station Radio Veronica, of all places; there's no evidence the film ever opened in Holland.

Meanwhile, John and Harry had been taping Pussycats at the Record Plant, but as events spiralled out of control, they opted to ditch the Los Angeles scene and return to New York, where they could finish the sessions in relative peace. They also decided to counter the negative press their drunken exploits had been receiving with a bit of positive PR.

On April 28th, they appeared briefly at a Central Park rally for the March Of Dimes charity. WABC's Cousin Brucie introduced John and Harry to the throng of marchers, and they sang a bit of "I'm Walkin'" and fielded a few questions from the crowd:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Spoiled Soup

On March 8th, 1974, Paul and Linda were interviewed at MPL's offices in London for the US morning news show Today. Scott Osborne conducted the filmed interview, which covered the standard reunion topics and touched on Paul's songwriting technique (using "Picasso's Last Words" as an example). The film was aired in two segments on NBC March 12th and 13th.

A week later, Paul and Linda flew to Los Angeles, where they would attend the Academy Awards on April 2nd (and watch "Live And Let Die" lose to "The Way We Were" for best song, as well as seeing David Niven deal effortlessly with a streaker). Of course, John and Ringo were both in Southern California that spring, stoking the reunion fire once more.

Tired of waiting around for Phil Spector to resume the oldies sessions, John had agreed to produce Harry Nilsson's next album, Pussycats. The duo were already making headlines for their drunken antics, most notably being thrown out of the Troubadour on March 12th for heckling the Smothers Brothers.

There was a large pool of session musicians to choose from in Los Angeles (Spector had used dozens of them the previous fall), and whoever was around the Record Plant on Sunday nights would often join in a loose weekly jam dubbed the "Jim Keltner Fan Club". On one such night just prior to the Pussycats sessions, Mick Jagger was present and decided to cut a song with John producing and the "Fan Club" providing a tight backing. The result, "Too Many Cooks (Spoil The Soup)", remained unreleased until the Very Best Of Mick Jagger collection in 2007:

While that session produced admirable results, there was no better illustration of the adage about too many cooks than the events of March 28th. It was the first night of the Pussycats sessions, and after cutting the first song, a cover of Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues", a drunken (and likely cocaine-fuelled) John and Harry were joined in the studio by Paul and Linda, along with Stevie Wonder.

What could have been a memorable, if not mind-blowing, jam session was spoiled by nerves, intoxicants, and the bizarre decision to stick Paul behind a drum kit. Unable to settle on a song everyone could play, John vented his frustration by bitching about the level in his headphones; his and Harry's voices were pretty shot anyway, and the results of the sole 70's Lennon/McCartney reunion are not pleasant to hear:

By that time, John and May were living in a beach house in Santa Monica along with Harry, Klaus Voormann, and Ringo (with other musicians and partygoers such as Keith Moon, Mal Evans, and Jesse Ed Davis coming and going at will). Paul and Linda dropped by on April 1st (just missing Ringo's presence), when the above photo was taken. It was the last time John and Paul were photographed together.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Ten Years After at Strawberry Studios

The first single pulled from Band On The Run was "Jet", issued January 28th in the US with "Mamunia" on the B-side, but quickly withdrawn when Paul changed his mind and switched the flip to "Let Me Roll It", matching the UK B-side. The song reached #7 on Billboard and #4 on Melody Maker's chart.

Paul spent the first two months of 1974 at Strawberry Studios in Stockport (just outside Manchester) producing an album for his brother, Mike McGear. As well as writing or co-writing most of the songs on the LP, Paul played bass, guitar, and keyboards throughout. He, Linda, and Denny also provided backing vocals, making it a de facto Wings LP with Mike as the lead singer:

The sessions were also sort of an audition process for the new Wings lineup, as Jimmy McCulloch played lead guitar, and Gerry Conway played drums. On February 7th, Paul spoke via telephone from Liverpool to Jay Stone of KSLQ in St. Louis; despite his assertion during the interview, Gerry Conway would not join Wings, and the search for a new drummer would continue.

February 7th, 1974 also happened to be the 10th anniversary of the Beatles' momentous first arrival in New York, and Capitol Records put together a campaign celebrating the "Beatles Decade". 30-second and 60-second radio spots were produced, along with a TV commercial pushing the group and solo back catalogs.