Wings Over America

Paul McCartney & Wings

In 1976, Paul McCartney finally decided to go out on his first worldwide tour since 1966, back when he got off the road with the Beatles. At the time, he'd recorded seven albums since the Fabs had disbanded and established Wings as a real band. A tour was a natural progression and the first by a former Beatle since George Harrison's 1974 Dark Horse run, which didn't quite live up to expectations. By all accounts, the Wings tour was a total success that resulted in Rockshow, a live concert film, and a triple live LP called Wings Over America. Long out of print, both have been cleaned up and reissued in the midst of yet another Paul McCartney tour.

The Wings Over The World tour was a completely different situation than what Paul McCartney and his band are about today. Because it was a band — in as much as Paul McCartney could be just a "member" of a band after the Beatles — there was a conscious effort to fill the set with mostly Wings songs and only a handful of Beatles classics. Both Rockshow and Wings Over America pulls in a load of tracks from Venus & Mars, including the tour de force opener, "Rock Show," the single "Listen To What The Man Said" and "Medicine Jar," a solid rocker featuring guitarist Jimmy McCulloch on lead vocals. It was the days when artists like Paul McCartney were still charting singles, so "Jet," "Live And Let Die," "My Love," "Silly Love Songs," "Band On The Run" and "Hi Hi Hi," all featured, were all relatively fresh hits the audience could relate to.

And there's the band itself, which aside from McCartney and McCulloch, also included Linda McCartney, guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Joe English. Linda proves herself a capable keyboardist and background vocalist, while Laine takes the lead vocals on four songs including "Go Now," a song he originally recorded in 1964 as a founding member of the Moody Blues. English, who played on three Wings studio albums and has since left the music business, is perfectly in the pocket through the album. This leaves Paul McCartney, whose voice and booming bass work pretty much dominate the set. Rising to the occasion on "Let Me Roll It" or taking his place behind the piano for the epic "Maybe I'm Amazed" reconfirmed his status as the beloved musician, vocalist and songwriter who co-piloted the world's greatest band. With "band leader" added to his list of responsibilities, McCartney was in 1976 cruising at the very pinnacle of his post-Beatles career. So much so that it kind of makes you wonder if John Lennon ever snuck into one of the Wings shows just to get a peak.

Last issued on Betamax in 1981, Rockshow has finally made it to DVD and Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 mix and a bonus featurette with rare behind-the-scenes footage (see if you can spot John Bonham). It was filmed at the Kingdome in Seattle, Washington, and includes a setlist that matches the reissued Wings Over America, available in a number of formats. There's a four-book, four-disc Deluxe Edition box with the original triple LP remastered on two CDs, a bonus live CD recorded at San Francisco's Cow Palace (where Rockshow was filed), and a bonus DVD with a 75-minute television special Wings Over The World and a photo gallery called Photographer's Pass. The books are filled with memorabilia, souvenirs, mementos, keepsakes and never-before-seen photos and art work from the 1976 Wings tour. A standard version with just the two CDs, a triple 180 gram vinyl version and a digital download are also available. Which ever way you go, Rockshow and Wings Over America serve as proper documents of Paul McCartney on the road during a very active and creative period in his epic career.

~ Shawn Perry

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