Monday, August 1, 2011

Wings - Wings Over America

When you’re a young boy under the age of 13, free from the swell of girls, hormones, and away from the haze of teenage social ladders, you spend your free time entertaining the hobbies of your youth.

For some it was baseball, for others model car building, but for me it was rock and roll. On those rainy days or times of seclusion, you could find me in my bedroom, hopelessly hypnotized at 33 1/3 r.p.m.’s

It began with Sgt Pepper’s, and because the Beatles were the Holy Trinity, I followed their solo efforts-for better or worse-well into the early 80’s.

Arguably, Paul McCartney was able to deliver probably the most consistent output, albeit by a thin margin (over John), and he did so in a fashion that placed him in a league deserving of his fab heritage.

It reached its peak in 1976, when McCartney took Wings on the road throughout America, during our self-congratulatory Bicentennial. It also marked the first time that he had incorporated a large amount of his Beatles material in the set, while also supporting his successful AOR release Venus and Mars.

Live Beatle records and even live records by solo members (aside from Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh package) were a rare commodity. McCartney changed that by releasing the behemoth three record set Wings Over America.

It was a packaged priced well above my weekly allowance, and when you’ve got Hubba Bubba bubble gum, cherry Chap Stick, and Marathon candy bars also using up part of your limited funds, that meant acquiring Wings Over America would be a lengthy investment vehicle.

Thankfully, a friend of my parents was also a big record collector and he obtained a copy shortly after it was released. He also purchased a new copy of the White Album with the purple Capitol logo on stunning white vinyl, but he wanted to limit the playing time on that fabulous re-issue for obvious reasons.

But the copy to Wings Over America was fair game. Fair in the sense that-while he wouldn’t let me borrow the record and let me recorded at my house-he would let me bring over a blank cassette and recorded it on his record player.

This was fine as his components were a million times better than my crappy little Craig stereo.

The event marked the first time I had ever recorded a full album for duplication purposes too. I remember it was hard finding a cassette that could handle a three-record set, so I settled on a pair of C-60’s that left a bit of room at the end of the tape.

I learned about the art of filling out the remaining blank spots with appropriate material. I lobbied to have some of The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour placed on the end, but my elder audio consultant pointed out that it may be better to fill out the end with McCartney material closer to the release of Wings Over America.

It seemed perfectly logical, but I was still bummed that I didn’t have a copy of “Fool On The Hill.”

I used a Memorex tape, because I didn’t know any better. My gatekeeper advises that I should look for blank tapes with a “high bias” and I noticed that his preferred brand was Maxell.

I don’t even think I wrote the songs to Wings Over America on the insert; I knew them by heart anyway. I listened to that album constantly, imagining that I was in attendance at the Wings show.

The album is a fairly by-the-numbers affair, with Macca showing off his arena rock look and Linda making sure his husband was fed a steady diet of weed, vegetarian dishes, and shitty backing vocals. He even gives Denny Laine an opportunity to be part of the band, curiously allowing him to sing a song from his old band, The Moody Blues.

For all of its missteps and questionable motives, Wings Over America remains Mc Cartney’s best portrait of how a former Beatles needs to be treated in a live setting. Sure, there are occasions when you’d like to hear a Macca performance in The Cavern or in some other meaningful venue, but the reality is that in between those landmark places, a show from Paul Mc Cartney should sound like a glorious spectacle.

From packaging and performance, Wings Over America is exactly that.

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