How Paul McCartney Spread His Wings In the '70s
Wings at their peak - the mid '70s lineup: Jimmy McColluch (guitar), Joe English (drums), Linda McCartney (keyboards), Paul McCartney (vocals/bass), and Denny Laine (guitar/vocals)
Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s By Tom Doyle Ballantine, 288 pp., $27
While mighty expanses of forests have sacrificed themselves to create all the pages written about Paul McCartney's time as a Beatle, the ensuing post-breakup decade has killed far fewer trees. The 1970s found McCartney both trying to both build on his musical reputation as a Fab and distance himself from the already-looming legend, as both the leader of the ever-shifting lineup of Wings and a solo artist.
Now author Tom Doyle has added a valuable entry into the Beatles Bookshelf with this effort. Fascinating because, as he says, two words summed up Paul in the '70s: struggle and escape. That's illustrated with the book's core sources: several lengthy firsthand interviews Doyle and subject have had over the years for various music publications, plus new talks with band members and associates and research.
From his early lo-fi Paul 'n Linda records and the "Hey kids, let's put on a show" first Wings tour (where the band would pile in a van and show up unannounced on college campuses), to the massive success of Band on the Run and the "Wings Over the World" tour and subsequent band and creative fracturing, Doyle hits all the narrative points.
Many books have pointed out that McCartney's personality - perhaps more than any other Beatle - is wildly divergent: boastful and humble, generous and cheap, avant-garde and old-fashioned. Smugly aware of his powerful effect on people, but trying to project a just-plain-folks air. Man on the Run follows that theme.
All of the Pauls -- much like the video of "Coming Up" where he duplicated himself in various guises -- show up somewhere in the tome, and Doyle smartly juxtaposes McCartney's observations about himself and his career both from the '70s and in more recent years.
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Houston rates a mention for the May 4, 1976 "Wings Over America" stop at the Summit. That's when some falling scaffolding nearly crushed the show's star, and did manage to strike tour manager Trevor Jones, requiring 13 stitches. And just think: had that happened, there would be no "Ebony and Ivory."
As the book and the decade's end, McCartney finds himself at another change-of-the-decade crossroads. Wings had ground to an inelegant halt, he stupidly tried to smuggle pot into Japan and earned himself actual jail time, and frenemy John Lennon was shockingly assassinated, thus ending any potential for a Beatles reunion ever.
And while he would continue to record and perform for (at current count) nearly 35 more years since 1979 turned into 1980 -- giving 3-plus-hour shows well into his own 70s -- at no time was Paul McCartney more in flux than the Me Decade. And Man on the Run chases him the entire time.
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