The Beatles

[The Beatles][twocolumns]





1977: Wings' forgotten mega-hit Girls' School

It is Paul McCartney's greatest success so far: with more than two million sold copies it is still the best-selling, non-charitable, single in Britain. Only Band Aids 'Do They Know it's Christmas Time' has done better. Yet you hardly hear it anymore, because all the credits for this success go to that other A-side of the single: Mull of Kintyre.

At the time, it seems to have been a difficult choice: what will be the A-side of Wings' new single. The story goes that McCartney has presented a choice to several colleagues from the pop scene: Mull of Kintyre or Girls' School. It’s been said that David Bowie choose the first. But despite all the advice McCartney apparently couldn’t make his mind up, because in the end he decided to fall back on a proven concept from the Beatles era: the single with the double A-side. And when the 45 rpm disc is released in November 1977, the reactions are huge. Throughout Europe and Australia it stays at the top of the charts for weeks.

Video: Girls' School

Mull of Kintyre has become legendary, if only for the fact that thousands really hate this Scottish waltz with bagpipes. Girls' School, however, is quite forgotten. And that is really remarkable. Because if you were listening to European radio stations at the time, you’d hear especially this classic rocker passing by. Because even then, many DJ’s didn’t really appreciate Mull of Kintyre; not really something for a cool radio station. Girls' School fitted much better and got much more airplay. Only on tv we had to settle with the Scottish waltz; because it has a video clip.

The two songs together form a remarkable duo; a greater contrast you can hardly imagine. So sweet as Mull of Kintyre, so vile is Girls' School. Is one an ode to a Scottish region, the other is dealing with nothing less than porn. The first two verses leave little to the imagination:

"Sleepy head, kid sister
Lying on the floor
18 years and younger, boy
Well, she knows what she's waiting for

Yuki's a cool school mistress
She's an oriental princess
She shows films in the classroom, boy,
They put the paper on the windows "

But this contradiction is precisely what makes Paul McCartney so characteristic, his repertoire swings from Yesterday to Helter Skelter. And this diversity can be found on this one little record. Moreover, you could have it without any embarrassment in your record collection: Girls' School was a good excuse to buy the single, despite all the criticism on that bagpipes thing. In short, without Girls' School Mull of Kintyre would have never been such a success. 

In 2016 suddenly an alternate version of the song appeared on the internet. Completely out of the blue and from an unknown source. It’s a bit slower, about eight seconds longer, with a different mix. Also Jimmy McCullochs guitar play is slightly different. 
The appearance of this new edit gives a little bit of hope that there’s work being done on a Archive Collection reissue of the London Town album. Who knows, somewhere in the future.

Video: Girls' School, alternate version

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André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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