Paul’s new group was Wings

50 years ago today, on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 1971, news started breaking ever so slowly across America that Paul McCartney, formerly of the Beatles, had a new, unnamed band.

The five-paragraph item that moved on the Associated Press wire that day likely was headlined “McCartney Forms New Pop Group.” (How do I know? That’s the headline that appeared in a bunch of newspapers. Wire editors who were pressed for time, or just lazy, often copied the AP’s headline right into the paper.)

Newspaper clipping on Paul McCartney's new, unnamed band, Aug. 4, 1971

This one is from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, although I’m trying to decide whether that’s Paul or actor Anthony Zerbe in the photo.

Newspaper clipping about Paul McCartney's new, unnamed band, Aug. 4, 1971

This one is from the News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, which kinda made Macca’s new group sound like a bunch of allies from The Big One, WWII.

Newspaper clipping on Paul McCartney's new, unnamed band, Aug. 4, 1971

This one is from the Springfield (Missouri) Leader and Press, whose headline said all it needed to say and probably hit hard for those who loved the Beatles.

Paul’s new band, of course, was Wings. “His blonde American wife,” Linda Eastman, was in the band — wow, no sexist or provincial attitudes there, eh? — along with guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Denny Seiwell.

Two days earlier, on Monday, Aug. 2, they’d finished recording their first album at Abbey Road Studios in London. No mention of that, though.

Three days earlier, on Sunday, Aug. 1, Paul’s old mates, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had performed together at the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden in New York. 

I wonder whether the news dump about Paul’s new band was intended to keep him in the public eye in the wake of the Concert for Bangladesh, where he was  conspicuously absent. The AP’s report noted that it was the first time George and Ringo, the former Beatles, had played together on a stage in four years. Paul had declined to take part.

Then again, it had been barely three months since the release of Paul and Linda’s “Ram” album, which reviewers panned but fans loved. So perhaps another reason to stay in the public eye.

The debut album not mentioned 50 years ago today is “Wild Life.” It reached No. 10 on the U.S. album charts and went gold. It produced no singles, save for a British promo release of “Love Is Strange,” a Mickey and Sylvia cover. Neither fans nor reviewers were all that excited about “Wild Life.”

There was, however, a 14-year-old kid in Wisconsin who was curious about “Wild Life” upon its release in early December 1971. Curious enough to take a flyer on Paul McCartney’s new record, probably with Christmas money. Taking a flyer on “Wild Life” was no small thing. I had so few albums — I think I had four after buying this one — that I couldn’t chance getting a bad one.

Almost 50 years later, I still have it.

But I’m sitting here, trying to figure out how I might have heard about Wings and “Wild Life,” given that it produced no singles to be played on the Top 40 radio I listened to. Maybe the DJs mentioned it? There was nothing in the paper. Maybe I was just going through the records at Prange’s, saw Paul McCartney on the record jacket, read the liner notes and popped for it.

Today, not everyone remembers or even knows about “Wild Life.” But given that I had only four albums back then, every cut on it is seared into memory.

“Wild Life” ends with Paul writing about John Lennon, from whom he’d been estranged. It’s the best song on the album.

Album cover of "Wild Life" by Wings from 1971.

“Dear Friend,” Wings, from “Wild Life,” 1971.

Audio taken from the record I’ve had for almost 50 years.

 

 

 

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I briefly wanted my MTV

Memory tells me I watched from the beginning as MTV debuted 40 years ago today, on Aug. 1, 1981. A little research proves otherwise.

In Green Bay, my cable system didn’t show MTV that first day. Its programmers said they’d watch MTV off air and then decide whether to carry it. They didn’t add it until the last week of July 1982, almost a year after MTV’s debut. By then, I’d moved to Madison, where it was August 1982 before MTV was added to the local cable system.

Had I been living in the Green Bay suburbs, I’d have seen MTV sooner. The cable system serving the suburbs showed MTV that first day. However, it didn’t have the necessary equipment to air MTV in stereo and dropped MTV from its lineup. MTV returned to the suburban cable system in the spring of 1982.

Perhaps my memory of watching music videos 40 summers ago is that of “Night Flight,” which debuted on the USA Network in the summer of 1981. My cable system carried that.

Why the delays in bringing MTV to Green Bay?

Culturally speaking, MTV might as well have been beamed from another planet to the Green Bay, Wisconsin, of 40 years ago.

Practically speaking, both cable systems serving Green Bay at that time had only a 35-channel capacity. They had to make sure each channel was a sure thing.

At the beginning, MTV wasn’t a sure thing. Nor were many other cable networks back then. It seems almost unbelievable now, but even a year after MTV debuted, cable TV had made few inroads against local TV.

But MTV survived, especially after advertisers realized and tapped into the huge spending power of MTV’s young demographic.

I was part of that young demographic until I wasn’t, and that pretty much describes the arc of my passion for MTV.

I was 25 when I started watching MTV. Writing this, it turns out 1982 to 1985 were my peak MTV-watching years, a shorter time than I’d thought.

What I didn’t see, David Bowie saw. During an interview with VJ Mark Goodman in 1983, he called out MTV for not playing Black artists. That made news. It was a wake-up call for me. After that, I spent more time listening to the local indie radio station, which had a far more diverse and adventurous playlist.

Slowly, my passion for MTV waned. Regular programming started replacing music videos. That wasn’t my cup of tea. By the late ’80s, I’d grown up, gotten older, moved on. MTV had moved on, too, leaving behind a guy in his 30s.

Even so, MTV introduced me to many great artists not heard on the radio until they broke on MTV. If I had to pick three who I watched and then bought their records: Eurythmics, Bananarama and, yeah, Billy Idol. Also, I must confess I never quite got Talking Heads until I saw their videos. Then I got it.

My most memorable videos are the same as for lots of people: “Take on Me” by a-Ha and, of course, “Thriller” by Michael Jackson. But it was wonderful seeing videos by Dave Edmunds, one of my faves from long before there were videos.

Plus all those big global movements seen on MTV — Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 1984 and then Live Aid, Farm Aid (I vividly remember Sammy Hagar, having just joined Van Halen, dropping F-bombs during the live broadcast), U.S.A. for Africa’s “We Are The World” and the best and fiercest of them all, Artists United Against Apartheid’s “Sun City,” all in 1985.

 

 

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Farewell, Satchmo

Louis Armstrong file photo, Associated Press

50 years ago today, on Tuesday, July 6, 1971, the great jazz trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong died. He was 69.

The last thing he ever recorded was a charming spoken-word rendition of “The Night Before Christmas.” He did so on Friday, Feb. 26, 1971, in the den of his home at 34-56 107th Street in Corona, Queens, New York.

It’s one of our favorites. We share it here on Christmas Eve every year.

Louis Armstrong The Night Before Christmas 45 sleeve

“But I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,

‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night. A very good night.’

“And that goes for Satchmo, too. (Laughs softly.) Thank you.”

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A summer evening with Ike and Tina

Listening to Ike and Tina Turner in their prime is a good way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon. But of all my records, why that one today?

50 years ago tonight, on Saturday, June 26, 1971, Ike and Tina performed a show at the Dane County Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin.

Newspaper ad for Ike and Tina Turner concert in Madison, Wisconsin, on June 26, 1971

The show drew a crowd of about 3,500 to the Coliseum, about half full.

Some takeaways from the reviews that appeared in the two Madison papers the following Monday:

— The heavy British rock of the opening act, The Grease Band, “really didn’t belong on the bill” and was nothing to write home about.

— The Kings of Rhythm, Ike and Tina’s backing band, was introduced first. Then the Ikettes, who performed a couple of numbers. Then Ike. And then … “the hardest-working young girl in show business today! … Tina!

— One reviewer notes Tina’s introduction and immediately turns to Tina’s appearance …

Part of review of Ike and Tina Turner show, Madison, Wisconsin, June 26, 1971

Tina Turner is 31. Come on, man.

— The Ike and Tina Turner Revue summons “vicarious white fantasies of Harlem’s Apollo Theater in the early ’60s.” 

OhhhhhhhhhK.

— One reviewer mentions “Rollin’ on the River” as one of the songs performed and declares it “better than the original.” 

Oh, you mean “Proud Mary.” Come on, man.

— Tina ends the Madison show by “dancing off stage in rapid-fire strobelights and a burst of artificial fog.” But that was it. No encore. Which led to this complaint: “There were unfortunately not enough minutes of this hard work. Tina was on stage only about 45 minutes.”

I wouldn’t complain about seeing Ike and Tina Turner for 45 minutes. But had one popped for the best seats, that’s about $36.50 in today’s dollars. Whether 45 minutes of Ike and Tina in their prime is getting your money’s worth, well, that’s a judgment call for the ages.

The emcee tells the Madison crowd that the show will be roughly the same as that heard on “What You Hear Is What You Get,” a live record from Carnegie Hall that’s just about to be released. That’s the record I listened to on this rainy summer afternoon.

“What You Hear Is What You Get,” Ike and Tina Turner, 1971.

What you hear on the record as Tina dances off stage after a furious cover of Otis Redding’s “Respect” is the emcee — the hype man — shouting “Miss Tina Turner and the Ikettes, ladies and gentlemen! Tina Turner and the Ikettes! Miss Tina Turner! Tina Turner! Tina Turner! Tina Turner! Tina Turner! Tina Turner!”

You know a lot of the songs on this record. I don’t know whether they performed this less-often-heard song in Madison, but on the record, Tina, the Ikettes and Ike do a slow burner of a cover of “A Love Like Yours (Don’t Come Knocking Everyday),” which Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote for Martha and the Vandellas.

Dig it!

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It’s my birthday, too, yeah

Paul McCartney wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” when he was 14.

From that vantage point, 64 must have seemed ancient, almost unthinkable. Paul turned 79 just three days ago. Perhaps now he just smiles knowingly at what 14-year-old Paul was thinking.

It was written in 1956, a time before the Beatles and a time before me. I came along a year later.

Today is my birthday. I am 64. I don’t feel 64. Maybe 24.

Every day, though, I’m reminded that none of us are getting any younger. B-Side Records in Madison, Wisconsin, does a daily history post on Facebook, highlighting a record released on that day and then the day’s birthdays.

The record of the day for this June 21: “The self-titled debut by Unknown Mortal Orchestra,” released on this day in 2011. It’s a “neo-psych-pop project” by New Zealand musician Ruban Nielson that came after his punk band The Mint Chicks broke up. Not knowing any of that makes me feel a little older.

The birthdays are listed in chronological order from oldest to youngest. It usually turns out that the artists who are dead or older than me are the ones I know best. Once they start getting younger than me, then it’s hit or miss.

The June 21 birthdays: “Jon Hiseman (Colosseum) b. 1944; Augustus Pablo b. 1954; Lil Bub b. 2011; Lalo Schifrin is 89; Eddie Adcock is 83; Eumir Deodato is 78; Ray Davies (The Kinks) is 77; Joey Molland (Badfinger) is 74; Greg Munford (Strawberry Alarm Clock) is 72; Joey Kramer (Aerosmith) is 71; Alan Silson (Smokie) and Nils Lofgren (Grin / E Street Band) are 70; Mark Brzezicki (Big Country) is 64; Marcella Detroit (Shakespear’s Sister) and Kathy Mattea are 62; Manu Chao (Mano Negra) and Sascha Koneitzko (KMFDM) and Kip Winger (Winger) are 60; Pat Sansone (Wilco / The Autumn Defense) is 52; Eric Reed and Pete Rock and Bill Borowski (Knuckel Drager / Charlemagne) are 51; Juliette Lewis (Juliette and the Licks) is 48; Neely Jenkins (Tilly and the Wall) is 47; Mike Einziger (Incubus) is 45; Brandon Flowers (The Killers) is 40; Lana Del Rey is 36.”

Today is a good day. I know most of those who are 64 or older, or dead. Of the younger crowd, I know Marcella Detroit, Kathy Mattea, Kip Winger, Juliette Lewis, Brandon Flowers and Lana Del Rey. Not knowing about the rest, well, that also makes me feel a little older. I’ll get over it.

Fun fact: The Beatles didn’t record “When I’m Sixty-Four” until 1966. That’s 10 years after it was written. Even then, 24-year-old Paul probably just smiled knowingly at what 14-year-old Paul was thinking.

So please enjoy this version from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” the 2-LP edition, 2017 re-release of the 1967 original. This record was a birthday gift from four years ago.

“When I’m Sixty-Four (Take 2),” from Side 4. Recorded Dec. 6, 1966.

From the liner notes: “The foundation of the track was established by recording onto track one: bass played by Paul, kick drum and hi-hat by Ringo (Starr) and electric guitar from John (Lennon); track two contained piano by Paul; track three had Ringo’s brushes on a snare drum and Paul’s vocal was on track four. In later sessions, clarinets, tubular bells and vocals were added. When the song was mixed, the tape was played back at a higher speed. As a result, the key rose by a semitone. On this disc, take two is heard at its normal speed in the original key of C.”

 

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