Paul McCartney looked back at his first live album, the 1976 chart-topping Wings Over America triple-album set, which has just been reissued in a limited edition vinyl, among other formats.
During a Q&A on his official PaulMcCartney.com site, he recalled his 1975/1976 tour in which he finally acknowledged in his setlists that he'd been in a band prior to Wings, recalling, “This was the first time we started playing the Beatles songs again. So, I think, from the tours before it had been mostly Wings songs. Wings had been becoming Wings. And then on this tour, everything sort of exploded. Previously all of the efforts had been to establish Wings and to make something that wasn't like a Beatles tribute band. But once we had a few hits with Wings — and Band On The Run was a really big hit album — we had some of these hits in our repertoire, and it did feel like, 'Oh, it's okay, now we can do Beatles stuff!'”
McCartney's whose concert these days feature 23 Beatles songs in a 38-song set, remembers the dam bursting with Wings tackling a only a scant five songs by the “Fab Four” back in the day: “It was quite a relief in a way because I'm always sort of conscious of what the audience wants, because my audience isn't a narrow audience, it's quite a wide group of people. “
McCartney spoke about finally being confident in his new material to dip his toes in the past: “That was the beginning of allowing myself to do Beatles songs again because before that I thought I'd never get Wings together. I'd just fall back on the Beatles, and that would be very difficult for Wings to establish an identity. But once we got to '75-76, we had enough of an identity with the Wings stuff. So putting the two together was the winning formula. . . We'd done a lot of work getting our skills together, so now I had to do this all again with Wings. But by Wings Over America, we'd pretty much done that. We now knew what Wings were.”
Although Wings was a massively successful band across the globe, they were especially big in America. Between 1971 and 1980 the band scored 13 Top 10 singles — six of them chart-toppers; and eight Top 10 albums — including five straight Number Ones, with the final chart-topper, 1976’s Wings Over America, being a triple-record set. We asked Paul McCartney why Wings hit so big in the States: “We did bigger tours over there, I think, really. Simple as that. The records sold very well and the concerts we did over there, inevitably, had bigger venues, so we saw more people, we played to more people.”
Bill King, publisher of Beatlefan magazine, saw the first two of his many McCartney concerts during Wings' two-night stand at Atlanta's Omni Coliseum on May 18th and 19th, 1976. King recalls that above the historical “event” of McCartney playing to North American crowds again — he absolutely delivered a top-notch “worth-the-wait” live show: “The '76 tour was tremendously exciting. Seeing Paul McCartney in concert — it was a great show. Y'know, it was well produced, an enjoyable setlist, great performances, good band. He basically succeeded on every level with the Wings Over America tour. '76, I mean that was the Wings show. He threw a few. . . a handful of Beatles songs in there just sort of a gesture, and was tipping his toe into it.”