- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 10, 2001

NEW YORK — Sir Paul McCartney recalls slipping a compact disc into his cars CD player and getting lost in reminiscences about that group he was a part of all those years ago.
No, not that group. The other one.
Remember Wings? Youre forgiven if youve forgotten; some of those years are even a little fuzzy to Mr. McCartney.
A double-CD retrospective of Mr. McCartneys post-Beatles work is out this week, along with a two-hour movie to air on ABC tomorrow night. Both are sure to reignite interest in — and maybe some re-evaluation of — this overlooked stretch of his career.
"It was good to revisit it," Mr. McCartney, 58, says on a recent trip to New York City. "In some ways its more interesting because I kind of know the Beatles stuff better than the Wings stuff."
Wings memories were literally stuffed into a box and placed on a back shelf. Thats where Paul and his wife, Linda, found a collection of snapshots and home movies from the 1970s while housecleaning a few years before her death from breast cancer in 1998.
Without Mr. McCartneys knowledge, Mrs. McCartney had their son-in-law, filmmaker Alistair Donald, stitch the material into a small movie for an anniversary present. Mr. McCartney liked it so much he decided to expand it to a public project, bringing his songs back to the marketplace after many years.
"The 60s was sort of four guys let loose on the world and conquering it," Mr. McCartney says. "This was more to do with a marriage, family and trying to follow the Beatles, which was a virtually impossible task."
That prospect left Mr. McCartney depressed and somewhat lost for a while. He contemplated inviting some famous friends to form a supergroup, but instead he brought Linda into a low-key combo that began by piling into a van and playing unannounced gigs at English colleges.
They werent easy years. Mr. McCartney was battling the other Beatles in court, was blamed by many for breaking up the band and was laughed at for having his wife in his new group.
To much snickering, a bootleg tape from a Wings concert isolating Mrs. McCartneys painfully off-key background vocals was widely circulated.
"Nobody likes to see the wife ridiculed," Mr. McCartney says. "Are you married? You can imagine the feeling. You want to take a pop at them. We sort of realized that we would have to do it, that we would have to persevere. And that became the drama of the Wings story."
His music was vilified at the time for being sickly sweet and occasionally sloppy; he answered critics at the time by writing "Silly Love Songs." But it took a toll on his reputation. Mr. McCartney was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist five years after John Lennon. When he got the honor in 1999, daughter Stella wore a profane T-shirt saying it was "about time."
"The critics werent helping," he says. "They were intent on giving me that complex. When you think about it, no one was saying, 'Dont worry, Paul, youre starting over. Its to be expected.
"There was not that kind of sympathetic attitude. And, in truth, in those first couple of years, where the Beatles had peaked and had done all their best work, we were doing our least good work."
Some of that music has aged well. "Maybe Im Amazed," from his first solo album, is one of Mr. McCartneys best-ever love songs, and "Junk" has low-key charm. The album, "Band on the Run" was a creative peak. Even such lesser songs as "Another Day" and "With a Little Luck" have Mr. McCartneys classic melodic sense.
Such singles as "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" and "Juniors Farm" havent improved much with time. Fortunately, "Wingspan" pretty much weeds out the weak. The package is divided into "hits" and "history" discs, the latter composed of some personal favorites.
Wings was a revolving door of musicians, with the McCartneys and Denny Laine as the constants. Mr. McCartney broke the band up with some ill feeling after his 1980 drug bust in Japan; the others were angry that his arrest cost them an expected lucrative Japanese tour.
Ask Mr. McCartney whether the former Beatles felt competitive with one another during their solo years, and you get a revealing answer.
Not really, he says at first.
Well, a little bit.
All right. Sure we were.
One of Mr. Lennons recording engineers told Mr. McCartney he brought a copy of the single, "Coming Up," into the studio one day and played it. Mr. Lennon responded with an expletive and said, "Now Ive got to get to work, Pauls done something good."
"There was a little bit of that feeling, just like it was in the Beatles, that if I had written something good, then John would feel he had to match it," he says. "That kind of tradition sort of continued."
Sadly, that ended with Mr. Lennons assassination.

Mr. McCartney is keeping busy three years after another major sadness in his life, becoming a widower. Hes dating Heather Mills, an activist for the disabled. He has put out a book of poetry and given readings. He met with Secretary of State Colin Powell to urge the eradication of land mines.
He also is completing a new album with producer David Kahne, set for release this fall, where he plays with some young, little-known musicians.
Mr. McCartney, who was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997, says the most satisfying thing about the successful Beatles "1" album was its appeal to young people.
"People say, 'The kids dont care when it was made, they just love it." he says. "So I was very pleased to hear that. Then what sort of came after that wave was the people saying that their kids wanted to know what happened next.
"I said, 'Thats cool, because were putting together this "Wingspan" thing. For me, that was what happened next."


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