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1976: Wings over America

It’s a suggestion by my oldest brother, that I might like this album. And so with the money I got for Christmas from my grandmother, I went to the music store to buy the triple live album Wings over America, and my brother two cassette tapes. It turned out to be a purchase that will change my life musically forever.
I was already a bit familiar with the Beatles. My mother has the blue compilation album, of which I just couldn’t get enough. I terrorized the whole family by playing it almost daily. And my other brother had Band on the Run. But being six years younger I wasn’t allowed to touch it and he himself didn’t play the album much. So I wasn’t really familiar with McCartney as a solo artist or with Wings.

Wings over America radically changed that. If there's any album suitable as an introduction to the music of Paul McCartney, it’s this masterpiece. Wings over America is McCartney at an artistic peak, his voice sounds better than ever and his brilliant bass parts on the Rickenbacker are prominently heard on the entire album. It's Wings in the strongest line-up with a superb set list containing the best McCartney made after the breakup of the Beatles. The album rocks, swings and moves you, it’s thrilling from the beginning till the end.

Video: Venus & Mars/Rock Show/Jet


The opening still sounds almost magical to me: the rising cheers, followed by Jimmy McCulloch's guitar intro of Venus and Mars. Slowly the tension builds up until the band explodes with Rock Show, which in turn merges into Jet. The party has begun!
The album is a mix of hit singles, five Beatles songs, two covers and songs from the albums Band On The Run, Venus & Mars and Wings At The Speed Of Sound. What strikes me is that these album tracks aren’t inferior to the rest. Moreover, some of those songs are among the highlights.


For example, Magneto and Titanium Man is one of my favourites. On Venus & Mars it’s perhaps nothing more than a filler, according to some music critics, but the live version is absolute mind blowing: The best of the album comes together in this one song: McCartney's voice, Joe English energetic drums, Jimmy's fabulous guitar and the harmonies of Paul, Linda and Denny Laine. Magneto and Titanium Man rocks, it’s thereby impossible to sit still when listening to it. Other album tracks that stand out are Call Me Back Again, with great vocals, and Beware My Love.

Video: Magneto and Titanium Man

Wings sounds incredibly energetic. And what really makes the difference is the horn section that was added to the band, consisting of Americans Tony Dorsey, Steve Howard and Thadeus Richard, who also played on Venus & Mars, supplemented by saxophonist Howie Casey from Liverpool. McCartney knows him since the early days of The Beatles. The horns give the band more power, a fuller sound and especially extra swing and soul. And not just with the rock and pop songs. Listen to the horns arrangement for Yesterday. This is done in such a subtle way that it took years before I really noticed that the original strings have been replaced by horns. Trombonist Tony Dorsey crafted the new arrangement: “The trumpet is the violin, and the other horns do the cello and viola parts.”


The original LP actually had just one little disadvantage: which side to put on? Three records, six sides, each with its own charm. Side one, with the rocking opening; Pop-rock on side two, starting with the unsurpassed live version of Maybe I'm Amazed. And from day one I'm fond of side three, with the acoustic set, containing the Paul Simon-cover Richard Cory and the to me then-unknown Beatles tracks Blackbird and I've Just Seen A Face. Legendary is Howie Casey's sax solo during Bluebird.

Video: Bluebird

Or otherwise the swinging side four, consisting mainly of tracks from Venus & Mars, or side five with tracks from At Speed of Sound. Favourite is also side six, pure rock, with Letting Go, Band On The Run, Hi, Hi, Hi and Soily. The latter is the only song that never before appeared in a studio version, and so unknown to most of the audience at the concerts. In order to conclude is therefore quite a bold choice. But man, what an incredible way to end a live concert. A better closure than this steaming version of Soily is hardly conceivable.

Video: Soily


I have played the album over and over again, there’s not much left of the original LP. And up to now, no year has passed without listening to it a few times. For me Wings over America is the beginning of a lifelong, still ongoing journey discovering the music of Paul McCartney and Wings.



André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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5 opmerkingen :

  1. Andre, I really enjoyed your blog on WOA. In 1976, at the age of 14, I was already a huge Beatle and Paul McCartney and Wings fan. The album is all you describe and of course more when actually listening to it and experiencing it over and over! My first concert ever was this tour, on May 27th in Cincinnati, OH, USA. It will always rank as one of the greatest, most historic concerts and have ever seen. Thanks again for your reflections on this iconic live set!

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  2. Oh, and when the album came out I had it on 8-track. I was in a car pool with some other kids in my neighborhood and we drove to high shchool every day. And every day, I put that 8-track in and for YEARS I subjected my friends to Wings Over America Live. When I see them these days, they still remind me of that:)

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    Reacties
    1. Hahaha, good one Greg!
      And thanks for your reply :)

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  3. Like you Andre, I bought it on release and was just amazed to hear live Beatles song and wondered why he didn’t more. Unfortunately, I sold the album in the 80s and I keep meaning to re-buy it on CD, as, believe it or not, it’s the only Macca that I don’t have. Thanks for a great blog? As usual. Always interesting and informative. Regards, Albert Hand.

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