Band on the Run: Paul McCartney's 1972 European mystery tour
Later this month, Paul McCartney will become the oldest performer to headline Glastonbury as, just days after his 80th birthday, he rolls out Beatles and solo classics to an audience of 100,000 and millions watching live on TV. Fifty years ago, though, with a couple of vans, children and dogs in tow, McCartney was setting off with his new band to realise a dream he’d had in the dying days of the Beatles, to play small venues and rediscover the love of playing live.
Heading north up the M1 and turning up unannounced at universities along the route, Wings raced through a set made up of 1950s rock’n’roll classics and a handful of new songs, promoting the back-to-basics Wildlife album before a sell-out tour of Europe that summer. It was the approach the Beatles had taken in January 1969, seen recently in Peter Jackson’s Get Back, before John Lennon ended any hopes of more concerts by telling Macca, “I think you’re daft. I want a divorce.”
Wings travelled the continent in a brightly painted open-top double-decker bus with mattresses on the top deck for sunbathing and a playpen for the children, playing to adoring crowds at night. Racking up over 7,500 miles in two months, they performed 25 concerts in nine countries, bringing a taste of Beatlemania to European fans who had not seen McCartney live since 1966.
Original Wings drummer Denny Seiwell recalls: “We did grunt work. We were out in the trenches. We were finding an audience, not just a Beatle audience. We had our own thing and people really listened hard. They were very indebted fans.”