Does anyone have, or can anyone point out to me where on this blog I posted a photo of Paul during The magical mystery tour, in it, taken I ‘think’ during the ‘Walrus’ filming, Paul’s mask is of a giant fish head. Let me know in the comments below of you can help.
Something big was shifting and changing for Paul in the nineteen eighties. By late 1979 Wings were struggling, he was facing having to try and reheat a souffle with the band. How to repeat the success of 1976?. For me, the 1979 incarnation of Wings just didn’t have that ‘spark’. Tho technically good, neither Steve nor Lawrence really moved, or struck a chord with me. Paul himself has hinted that deep down he felt Wings at that point weren’t working.
Nineteen eighty dawned, Paul greeted the decade in handcuffs, in jail, and in a foreign land. Wings somehow pulled themselves together later that year for rehearsals, a cursory listen to those tapes, and you can tell nobody’s hearts were really into playing.
Steve and Lawrence last played with Paul in October, when they recorded some overdubs for the Cold Cuts project.
Later that month, sessions for what would become the albums ‘Tug of war’, and ‘Pipes of peace’ began, working with George Martin, and at this stage, Denny Laine. Did Paul feel some loyalty to Denny, but knew Lawrence and Steve weren’t the right fit?. Paul says they decided to ‘cast’ the musicians for each track, instead of using a band, and by April of the next year, Denny was also gone.
Then came December the 8th.
That’s a pretty crazy year to start a decade, a decade which i think of as Paul’s ‘aimless’ years. This was a time where Paul was still in a mindset where a pop artist released an album a year. That’s a pretty punishing work ethic, and one which i think, at least artistically, would have benefited, if Paul had dialed it back a bit.
I’m not sure what else was coming into play in Paul’s life, that caused the ‘Eighties wobbles’, but we can speculate. Paul had gone from being an active, touring performer, with a band, and the lifestyle that brings. By 1982, Paul was forty, not touring, his kids were all at school, and i feel the ‘Funky years’ were transforming into the ‘Pipe and slippers’ years. Traveling the world touring, was now being replaced by domesticity, and folly such as the Broadstreet project. It was at this point i feel Paul began to drift, and his career became a bit aimless.
Right about now the idea of an album a year should have stopped. Imagine for a minute (or five) that Broadstreet didn’t happen, and Paul released a rejigged Pipes of peace in late 1984.
1) Pipes of Peace
2) Say Say Say
3) The Other Me
4) Keep Under Cover
5) So Bad
1) The Man
2) Sweetest Little Show
3) No more lonely nights
4) Not such a bad boy
5) Through Our Love
Now THAT is an album that would be a lot harder to criticize (okay, harder for ME to criticize). Holding over Average person, Hey Hey, and Tug of peace as ‘B sides’ (at best).
But the eighties malaise shrouded Paul. The the Pipes of peace album had two massive hit singles on it, but the critics were circling, and Paul’s ‘free pass’ and good will from the public was fading. I can’t really describe it, but around this time, there was a slight air that something was going amiss.
As a super fan i always found joy in all of Paul’s projects, but, i remember taking ‘Tug of war’ to a party, and people were into it, and it was cool to do it. By the time Pipes of peace came around, it was definitely not okay to play at a party.
Moving further along, Paul was busted for drugs twice in 1984. The cool factor on a street cred level was one thing, but in hindsight, i think it highlighted a bigger problem. Paul was in a wacky thumbs aloft bubble, disconnected from the live scene, from working, and gigging as a musician. Paul was isolated with family life on the farm, the legend of The Beatles was rising, but Paul’s stocks in being able to ride along, on the good faith of the Fabs, was dwindling fast.
Broadstreet came along in October 1984, and the critics pounced, and pounded, and tore at Paul like never before. The one success from the project was the song ‘We all stand together’, a big hit in the UK. I have no issue with the song, and i’ll defend it to the hilt, as a children’s song, which is what it was, it was a brilliant piece of work.
I guess the drubbing Paul took from Broadstreet shook him up. Next came ‘Press to play’, which showed Paul trying to be contemporary. What it showed, was Paul was just a voice, on an album in which his character could not be heard. No distinctive Paul bass, guitar, drums or even piano. It was a sterile album, and the brain worm melody’s just weren’t there.
By now the album sales were faltering, and it was a very weird time to be a fan. Over the next two years Paul recorded a lot of material with Phil Ramone producing. In my opinion, these recordings are the absolute nadir of Paul’s recorded output. I’m so thankful Paul came to his senses, and these weren’t released as an album, i’m not sure how Paul’s career could have recovered from that.
I think Paul realized something major had to give, he was spiraling out of control, he had to have known his output was aimless, and seemed without conviction.
Then, something happened. Paul got a new manager, who got Paul in touch with Elvis Costello. Someone who would challenge Paul, and maybe relight the fire in his belly. No one (not even Paul) could have missed the critical savaging from Broadstreet, or the giant yawn that greeted ‘Press to play’. Thankfully Paul has a healthy ego, and there is nothing like a scare, and a bruising to it, to shake him up a little. From ‘Press to play’ we got ‘Flowers in the dirt’, and from ‘Driving rain’ we got ‘ Chaos and creation in the backyard’, let us all be thankful for bruised ego’s.
My fears were not allayed when i put the single ‘Once upon a long ago’ in my cd player, it was more ‘Macca mild’, but, once ‘Back on my feet’ came on, i just ‘knew’ Paul was back, i knew it, and i knew something great was going to follow.
Thankfully nothing like the eighties malaise has struck Paul since, there have been one or two ‘minor’ bumps, but since 1989’s ‘Flowers in the dirt’, it’s been an upward trajectory, unmatched by any of his contemporary’s.
I’m loving the archive series of re releases, at last we can reappraise Paul’s songs and melodies, unencumbered by the era of their original release. When it comes down to it, that is all that’s really important, the songs.
Music being subjective, for every five people that can’t stand ‘Tug of peace’, somewhere out there is someone, who absolutely loves it (I haven’t met that person yet, but i think i’d like to).
As with all these sets, the sound is great, and as good as it is going to get without being remixed, which, strangely, Tug of war has been.
The one critique i have, there are a few quality control issues this time, with obvious dates being incorrect, and musician personal credits being wrong.
In a world full of hardships, and day to day life sometimes hard to bare, these sets from Paul are a treat, a real gift to the fans, full of photos, and just the right amount (for me) of outtakes and rarities, but not so many that they overwhelm the original album, which is what is being highlighted.
The nineteen eighties started with Paul in handcuffs, they ended with Paul unshackled, finally soaring, and he didn’t need Wings for that.