After his first American concert in ten years, Paul McCartney was flushed and triumphant. It had been six years since the breakup of the Beatles, and the audience in Fort Worth, Texas, had just given the former Beatle and his band, Wings, a screaming ovation. Paul McCartney had proved that he could make it on his own.
More than any other ex-Beatle, McCartney, 33, has kept himself and his four-piece band on the run. Their first U.S. tour, seven weeks long, is sold out in twenty cities and expected to gross $4 million at the gate, and their current album, “Wings at the Speed of Sound,” is in the top five on the hit charts. McCartney, who is reputedly one of the world’s richest rock stars, is also producing and scoring a full-length animated feature film and starring in an hour-long TV documentary about making an album.
Green Smoke: But right now the tour’s the thing. It’s elaborately designed to solidify McCartney’s new musical identity with Wings. For two hours and fifteen minutes, McCartney and his hard-driving band put on a tightly wound, skillfully paced show that capitalizes on showbiz effects ranging from lasers and green smoke projected over the audience to a giant backdrop of a David Hockney painting. Although McCartney is careful to share the spotlight with Wings, he’s the main attraction. As one Texas fan said, “I’ve had the hots for Paul McCartney since I was 12 years old. I love whoever he plays for.”
Driving Wings through 29 songs, including five Beatles hits, McCartney still looks like a naughtly choirboy. He not only plays his famous left-handed bass but is strong on the piano as well. In a solo moment, he revives the old Beatles magic by singing “Yesterday,” and he acknowledges the cheers with an exuberant salute to the crowd and thumbs-up signal.
Gone are the days when McCartney found himself unemployed and miserable, battling the other three Beatles in lengthy litigation. “I had a lot of traumas when the Beatles broke up,” he says. “There’s a psychic thing when you’re unemployed. It’s quite a biggie even if you have money. The one thing that occurred to me was to go back to the factory floor and stop being the treat illustrious figure and see where it was at. So we formed a little group. We took the band and played for universities at 50 pence a go. That’s how simple it was.”
It hasn’t been entirely simple. McCartney’s new music has been attacked for being saccharine and shallow compared with Beatles music, and McCartney’s American wife Linda-who is backup singer and barefoot keyboard player with Wings-has been criticized for being a pushy no-talent. But it was Paul who asked her to join the band, and she did so reluctantly. “I love it now but I used to be scared stiff,” says Linda, a former New York photographer. “If I thought this wasn’t working out I’d say it’s not for me. I’m very independent.” Says McCartney: “I remember John Lennon — he’s an old singer — saying, ‘I didn’t think that was your taste in women!’ But when your wife comes along it doesn’t matter what your taste for women has been before, if it’s someone you love. Mind you, I could have said to John, ‘Well, look at you, you must be joking, aren’t you?’ Now we’re all older and wiser.”
The McCartneys in fact are extremely close. “It’s soul match,” says a friend. Thier two daughters, ages 6 and 4, and Linda’s 13-year-old daughter from a previous marriage are traveling with them, along with a nanny. When not on tour McCartney is probably the only British superstar still to live in Britain and pay the enormously high taxes there. “I always hated the idea that you had to live where it’s convenient for your money,” says McCartney. “But it’s getting to be a near thing. With the Beatles we got an MBE. The biggest perk from an MBE is that you can to to St. Paul’s Cathedral and not have to pay to go into the whispering gallery, 6 pence. That’s what we got for doing all we did for Britain.”
Doors: The inevitable question, of course, is whether the Beatles will do something for the world by getting back together. Recently, a promoter offered them $30 million if they would all get together just once again for a televised concert. “I doubt very much it would happen,” says McCartney. “As someone said, you can’t reheat a souffle. When this thing came along, no one happened to ring each other up in two months and talk about it, so that’s how committed everyone was.” But he doesn’t rule out an onstage reunion. “The real truth is that none of us wish to close the door. We’re all good enough friends still. We all know that possibly something may happen. Two weeks ago, I was talking to John about this exact point and I was pleased to hear his feelings were exactly mine — which is, if anything really happens we won’t close the door on it, but until it does we’ll all go on opening doors.”
Right now, McCartney is intent on building Wings. “I feel now there’s as much good music as there ever was,” says McCartney. “It’s a bit of a drag to have been a legend, but it’s also a bit of a drag to have to leave it and say, ‘Well, folks, I’m 33 now and past it.’ I don’t feel past it now in any way. I feel with this band”-and he suddenly breaks into song- “we’ve only just begun.”