A Grand Illusion? Paul McCartney & Wings – Wings Over America & Rockshow

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The fire would crackle and the camp director would pull out his guitar and play. Three songs would ring out of the gulley or over the lake and drift through the air toward nearby Waterloo… the songs were always moving. He would start with Simon & Garfunkel’s “Punky’s Dilemma” switch into an original called “Heroes” and finish with the Beatles “Blackbird.” Those songs have lingered in my memory for 35 years, and I suppose they’ll be with me for the rest of my life – it was just that powerful.

It’s also telling that I have always identified with McCartney’s live version over the Beatles original because of the illusion of immediacy; the idea of an acoustic guitar being played directly to you rather than through a set of speakers. Of course the reality is somewhat different.

Wings Over America/Rockshow is a performance piece, the show that solidified the conceit that a concert needed more than musicians and instruments to create a great ‘show.’ The set list itself is meant to bring about different moods throughout the performance in what was a grand spectacle. The background showing huge pictures of super villains and large displays of… well anything that was needed.  Even Wings themselves trading off vocals and playing the band camaraderie card comes off as forced when you watch Rockshow. In fact, individual songs are being spliced mid-performance to keep the illusion alive. Introductions taken from Seatle placed into a song played in L.A., horns from Seattle appearing in L.A. footage. Everyone appears as best friends. It doesn’t even matter if this was truth or not, as the illusion of Rockshow moves directly onto the recordings for Wings Over America which contain numerous studio overdubs. The entire package is rock ‘n’ roll in its greatest excess. It is selling the trappings of a spectacle as both a huge performance and an intimate live show. The thing is, does the reality change how you feel about listening/watching it go down?

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For me at least, it doesn’t. My cassette copy of Wings Over America is worn from the amount I listened to it between the ages 13 & 20, and I continue to hear it with teenage ears and sensibilities. Rockshow is a document of a 70’s stadium concert at the height of their power. This is a time when bands toured to support record sales rather than the current model of album to get interest in seeing bands live. Yes it is spectacle, but so is much of modern entertainment.

The Wings Over America vinyl is three records of 180 gram bliss lovingly taken from the original sources. It sounds fantastic. The blu-ray of Rockshow also sounds fantastic, and does its best to restore the movie to top quality taken from the original 35mm film and turned into stereo 5.1 surround sound.

Sure I would love to be in front of a true artist delivering an intimate performance by campfire. Yeah, I’d love to invite McCartney over for dinner and see what he does with the guitars hanging on the wall. Hell, I’d love to have that old camp director over. Anyway, we all know that isn’t about to happen, so at least I can put some vinyl on and dream my way into the past.

How Superstitious Are You? Playlist April 5/15

  1. “Slipin’ & Slidin’” – Little Richard

I read somewhere once that Here’s Little Richard is one of the most ‘essential’ records of all time. After listening a few dozen times in recent weeks, I believe that I agree. There is currently a special limited edition of it at Newbury Comics.

  1. “Livin’ For The City” – The Dirtbombs

Love this record and love this band. I highly recommend you give them a listen. You can order stuff from here.

  1. “Superstition” – Stevie Wonder

After reviewing The Dirtbombs, I couldn’t resist playing something from the legend himself. Wish he hadn’t lost his political edge for a bunch of wedding played syrup, but still, when he was at his creative peak, he couldn’t be touched.

  1. “Your Touch” – The Black Keys

Earlier Black Keys, they just frickin’ rock – no matter what Mr. White has to say.

  1. “Hold On” – Alabama Shakes

Something about this band just leaves me wanting more; looking forward to getting the new stuff.

  1. “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs

A good Neil Young cover is always welcome around here. Besides it gives me another excuse to play something from those great cover albums by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs.

  1. “Ballad of Big Nothing (Alternate Vocal)” – Elliot Smith

Another re-release from Newbury, … I love Smith’s music, I just wish it didn’t remind me of… well, less talk – more listen.

  1. “Punky’s Dilemma” – Simon & Garfunkel

Started writing a review that included a memory of this song; haven’t finished the review, but the song makes me smile all the same.

  1. “Blackbird” – Paul McCartney & Wings

Besides the recent re-master of Wings Over America, I actually have an old cassette copy I got back when I was about 15. Can’t believe this guy is still touring… can’t believe Kanye fans didn’t know who he was… actually…. I can believe that. Nevermind.

  1. “Magnet and Steel” – Walter Egan

Don’t own it on vinyl, but I really do love this song. For some reason I always thought this was a Buckingham – Nicks song and always pictured Lindsay & Stevie singing it together. For a billion years I’ve known the truth, but that image just never goes away.

  1. “Don’t Let Me Break Your Heart Again” – Turbo Fruits

Best Strokes sounding song not put out by the Strokes in a very long time; can’t wait to hear the whole record.

  1. “The Root” – Kim Deal & Morgan Nagler

Kim Deal is so frickin’ awesome it hurts. Don’t want to picture the Pixies without her – so I don’t. She has her own web store where she is selling her singles and posting videos. This video is pretty cool.

  1. “What Ever Happened?” – The Strokes

No, I’m not paid to promote Newbury! BUT – they do put out some cool collectible vinyl!

  1. “Disarm” – The Smashing Pumpkins

It is getting hard to find this edition of Siamese Dream that is 180 gram vinyl with a gatefold cover. Get it soon or wait for the next significant anniversary.

  1. “Positive Bleeding” – Urge Overkill

Yeah… I broke down and bought it! Probably use it as an example of how the poor exchange rate makes buying from south of the border a little on the expensive side.

  1. “Until The Sun Comes” – Rival Sons

Love this song, I’m just not sure about the band yet. I’ll let you know later.

  1. “If Only We Were Dogs” – Juliana Hatfield Three

Soon to be sold out from her web store, if you are thinking about it… you better get on it.

  1. “I Ain’t Superstitious” – The Jeff Beck Group

It just made it across the Atlantic, and it already seems hard to get. Good Luck!

  1. “Communication Breakdown” – Led Zeppelin

No problem finding this gem any and everywhere.

  1. “John, I’m Only Dancing (Sax Version, 2003)” – David Bowie

This record has become “My Precious” he says in his best Gollum voice. This is a great version of the classic “John, I’m Only Dancing.” Why do I love it so much – the answer is in the song.