Thursday, March 10, 2011

Heading Back to Old Familiar Places

“It’s D-minor, E, A-minor. Christ!” Jimmy was furious. “Medicine Jar” was his, the one track Mr. McCartney allowed him on the new Wings album and, as usual, Macca’s wife was cocking it up. As usual, Jimmy flew into a rage.

“I’m sorry, luv, but I am trying,” Linda responded, lips quivering a bit as she tried to hold it together.

“You are trying, that’s for sure. Let’s have another bash, luv, and try to get the fucking chords right,” McCulloch replied venomously, mocking the oh-so-proper British accent that ex-New Yorker sported upon marrying Paul.

Linda struggled mightily to hold her own with her band mates, but the pressure was constant, relentless. It turned out that marrying a Beatle wasn’t so easy.
“Lay off, Jimmy.” Denny, not Paul, rose to Linda’s defense.

“Piss off. Why don’t you mind your own tuning instead of helping the boss’s wife? You sound horrible.” A 22 year old guitar prodigy with a massive ego and a bigger heroin problem, Jimmy was strung out, abusive.

“Fine. It’s your song. Do it your way.” Denny put down his double necked Ibanez and stormed out of the studio.

“Jimmy, can we please get on with it?”

Finally, Paul spoke up and when Mr. McCartney chimed in it was time to get back to work. Paul tried his best to make Wings a real band, letting any member record, mix, and even write songs. There was great freedom there, but it didn’t seem to be working out.

Jimmy relaxed a bit.

“Sure, Paul, just give me a minute. I’ll be right back.” Jimmy headed out of Sea-Saint studio for his midday fix.

Paul looked to the vacant black padded stool behind the bass drum. Once again, Wings was going through a change in personnel. Geoff Britton hadn’t worked out. Another firing, but it was clear Geoff couldn’t get along with Jimmy and Denny (who could?) and that he was dreading the trip to New Orleans. Paul caught wind of Joe English, dug his playing and asked him to give it a try, but Joe was about to go out on tour with Bonnie Bramlett and needed some time to find his replacement before he set out for the Venus and Mars sessions in New Orleans.

Softly strumming the melody to a new tune, Paul looked to his wife.

“Alright then?”

Linda wiped a quick tear. “Fine, fine. God, I despise these guys sometimes. Who do they think they are? It’s not like it was back in the day, you know?”

It was as if she’d read his mind. As he watched Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch argue and carry on, Paul couldn’t help but wonder why he was working with a band of lightweights, struggling with a group of mediocrities he hardly knew and with whom he had no history. All they did was give him trouble. At least with John and George, there was always love there, you could feel it, even in the worst of arguments.

“I was thinking the same thing. Even when John takes the piss out of me I’m still sure he loves me. Does that make me barmy?”

“No, no, I think you’re right. Watching you two play together last year was great, really great. And he enjoyed it, I know he did.”

“Yeah, seemed that way, didn’t it?” Paul’s thoughts turned to last March, when he and Linda popped into the Burbank studio where John was starting to produce Nilsson’s newest album. Paul took his place behind the kit and sang along with John, who, though clearly coked to the gills, gladly jammed with him for the first times in years. It was wonderful. Now that John had a number one hit, he was feeling confident and publicly sentimental for The Beatles. He even told a reporter he’d love to record with them again. Typical John. Now that he was at the top of the charts he felt like mending fences. On his terms, of course.

“I think May is good for him, don’t you?” Linda broke Paul’s reverie. “He seemed like old John, having a bash with his mates.”

“You’re right. Wasn’t it a blast with them in Santa Monica?” Paul and the girls had dropped in on John and May’s beach house on the Pacific Coast Highway. Since Yoko pushed John out of their Dakota apartment and into the hands of her assistant, Ms. Pang, John was more available than ever. Paul and Linda even popped in to their apartment in New York. They were getting along well enough that Paul nervously asked John if he wanted to come down to New Orleans for a bit. So why was Paul secretly pleading Yoko’s case to John? It was confusing, as life with Lennon was apt to be.

“I do miss him, I can’t pretend I don’t,” Paul said sadly. He returned to his guitar and, head down focusing on his fingers, sang softly.

I Can See the Places That
We Used To Go To Now
Happiness in the Homeland

Deep in song, Paul didn’t notice Linda snap her head and leave the room. He didn’t hear her as she made her way to the studio door and said, “Hi, duckie.” And he didn’t notice the company until the visitor spoke.

“Valiant Paul McCartney, I presume?” Ah, his old name from Beatles’ Christmas shows long past.

Paul looked up and smiled away.

“Sir Jasper Lennon, I presume?”

By the summer of ’73, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were in the midst of severe marital problems. Yoko banished John from their New York apartment and delivered him into the arms of their assistant, May Pang. With Yoko out of the picture, John Lennon and Paul McCartney saw each other often. On March 28, 1974, the two ex-Beatles jammed with Stevie Wonder, Keith Moon and Harry Nilsson in rehearsals for Nilsson’s Lennon-produced LP, Pussy Cats. Paul pled Yoko’s case to John during this time.

By the end of 1974, with John’s "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" at #1, Paul invited John to New Orleans as part of what would become the Venus and Mars album. Lennon told May he wanted to go and thought it would be fun to watch Paul record. Lennon’s enthusiasm for the trip led Pang to believe John was ready to write and record with Paul again.

Lennon and Pang were set to fly to New Orleans in February of 1975, but, on Friday January 31, Lennon headed to Ono’s Dakota apartment, where she had arranged for a hypnotist to help John quit smoking. He would never return to Pang or McCartney.

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