‘We needed to see if we could make it’: Paul McCartney remembers Wings’ triumphal 1976 tour of America

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Paul McCartney is taking stock of the 1975-76 world tour that produced Wings Over America and the concert film Rockshow, just as each are seeing deluxe reissue.

The album and film souvenirs recount a triumphal tour for Wings, celebrated in its moment as the first time McCartney had played live in the U.S. in 10 years — and that was as a member of the Beatles. He’s go on to form Wings in 1971, releasing a handful albums including Band on the Run over the next five years.

“I think I realized that the band now had enough practice, and we needed to see if we could make it at a bigger level,” McCartney says in the video below. “And America, you know, is the bigger level.”

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: Paul McCartney’s sprawling ‘Wings Over America’ isn’t a perfect album, but its high points make the new reissue well worth the cost of admission.]

The touring lineup, together for studio albums including 1975’s Venus and Mars and 1976’s Wings at the Speed of Sound, featured the late guitarist Jimmy McCulloch, now-retired drummer Joe English, band stalwart Denny Laine and — in a once controversial move, since she had no prior musical experience — McCartney’s late wife Linda on keyboards and background vocals.

“I liked the idea that we would all learn it together,” McCartney insists. “By this time, Linda had had enough experience to know how to play all of the songs, to know how to sing all of the harmonies. By then, she had developed this sort of great thing of being the cheerleader. She had a lot of spirit that way, so she became the emotional core of the band.”

At the Speed of Sound arrived just prior to the tour’s reaching the U.S. Wings Over America, which included a hit version of McCartney’s “Maybe I’m Amazed,” then became the band’s fifth consecutive No. 1 album. Rockshow, filmed during Wings’ Seattle stop at the massive Kingdome, followed in 1980 — and its new remastered version still provides insights for McCartney, decades later.

“It kind of solidified that lineup,” McCartney says. “Now I can just sit back and watch Jimmy play. He’s a great player. I can watch Joe drum, whereas I could never do that. I always had my back to them, or they were to the side. So I really enjoyed it.”

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