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Paul McCartney & Wings / One Hand Clapping review

David Quantick on McCartney’s 1974 rehearsal tapes

Paul McCartney photographed by David Litchfield

One Hand Clapping is a rehearsal tape for live shows, the sound of a band coalescing, and getting ready to take on the world.”

It can be hard to keep up with the constant mudslide of Beatle-related reissues and repackages (although as yet we’ve sadly not been granted the Ringo box) as each week seems to bring the anniversary of what is alleged to be a classic album from one ex-Beatle or another. At times this can feel like homework (all those mixes and out-takes to wade through) and at other times it can feel like hell (the recent John Lennon Mind Games box was announced with a reverence more suited to a Holy
Grail than an old tin cup).

So it is with a sceptical ear that the informed listener approaches One Hand Clapping. After all, it feels like barely an hour since the 50th anniversary reissue of Wings’ Band On The Run, whose 2024 hook was a disc of songs with the orchestra removed, and several tracks from OHC have already been released, on several occasions. Also, it’s not even an actual album, it’s the soundtrack to a film – a film moreover that never came out at the time, and consists almost entirely of Paul McCartney and Wings performing live-in-the-studio versions of songs available elsewhere in posher versions. What, a casual listener may enquire, is the point? After all, if there’s one artist with a huger archive of unreleased songs (and unreleased live shows – where is Live In Glasgow?), it’s Paul McCartney.

In the mid 1970s, Paul McCartney had become the unreliable Beatle

David Quantick

The point is that One Hand Clapping is great. As a soundtrack, it’s also a brilliant live album, capturing songs from – let’s use the phrase – the band’s imperial phase just as it begins. In the mid 1970s, Paul McCartney had become the unreliable Beatle, whose quirky yet domestic albums were fun but somehow lacked the killer vision of his Beatle days: the disasters surrounding the recording of Band On The Run gave Paul a kick up the backside whose momentum propelled him and Wings into a new era of mega-success, and Wings went from being a quirky yet domestic solo experiment to the world’s first stadium pop band, culminating in the epic Wings Over America tour and album.

All this was to come, of course, and here we see the 1974 Wings – a new line-up for a new era – settling into their role as purveyors of very big pop indeed. Here are songs from Band On The Run – ‘Jet’, ‘Bluebird’, the title track – performed live and raw with energy and style. Here are Beatles songs – ‘Let It Be’, ‘The Long And Winding Road’ – that McCartney was preparing to reclaim as his own (no longer worried about his present being compared to his past). And here are enough genuine obscurities, rarities and cover versions to make any collector feel they’ve bought something worth having.

Most exciting of all is the sound of One Hand Clapping. There had, even as early as 1974, been several incarnations of Wings – prototype Wings, if you like. Early Wings had blues numbers, nursery songs, the odd jamming session. Then the slickness came in, but the big songs still weren’t there. In 1973, everyone apart from Denny Laine walked out (we think, nowadays, of Paul McCartney as a rock legend, someone who anyone would kill to work with but there was a time, long ago, when people felt otherwise).

But this version of Wings – the McCartneys and Laine with ace-up-the-sleeve guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and karate-mad drummer Geoff Britton – was something else. Something gelled, and for the first time since 1970, McCartney was the leader of a group again. The Wings on One Hand Clapping is a brand new band who sound like they’ve got something to prove; on these recordings, they sound energised, they sound fresh and they sound hungry. Above all, they sound confident. This isn’t one of Paul’s slightly indulgent side projects like a cartoon about a mouse or a one man song and dance special: One Hand Clapping, as the name suggests, is a rehearsal tape for live shows, the sound of a band coalescing, and getting ready to take on the world.

The Wings on One Hand Clapping is a brand new band who sound like they’ve got something to prove

David Quantick

For the first time, contemporary audiences were able to hear everything McCartney had been doing lately in one place: as well as the Band On The Run songs, there are other McCartney hits – ‘Junior’s Farm’, ‘My Love’, ‘Live And Let It Die’, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’, all classics now but then just the first side of a Greatest Hits album in waiting. And they all sound fantastic: with the tautness and gloss of the studio version, plus added live verve. Not that the rawness only extends to the stompers: hearing a song like ‘Live And Let Die’ – in its single form, a polished George Martin performance – in this setting, with a full live orchestra, as well as the band rocking itself into a froth, is like being backstage at a very loud stadium gig.

Long-time fans will be happy, too, with the less well-known tracks. McCartney’s prolificness has always been such that he’s able to fire out songs for other people, so we get ‘Let’s Love’, gifted to jazz legend Peggy Lee the year before. He’s also known for his ability to hold onto a song for years, so here are first
appearances for ‘I’ll Give You A Ring’ (a b-side in 1982) and ‘All Of You’, never officially released until now. There’s also a great version of fan favourite ‘Soily’ as well as the totally-unreleased instrumental ‘One Hand Clapping’, whose beefy Moog sound recalls Macca’s mighty ‘Zoo Gang’.

And that, as they say, is just disc one. Disc Two features those Beatles classics (as well as ex-Moody Bue Denny Laine revisiting ‘Go Now’) and an appealingly random selection of songs, from ‘Let Me Roll It’ and a cover of Elvis’ ‘Blue Moon Of Kentucky’ to the oft-derided ‘Wild Life’ and a sparky version of ‘Power Cut’ (only Paul McCartney could take the electricity blackouts of mid-70s Britain and turn them into a charming song about romance by candlelight). As the weight of exciting new versions of old songs combined with rare material and new material amasses on One Hand Clapping, the listener begins to realise that for once they’re getting value for money and not a load of old toot.

This would, in short, be a great collection if it were just the above slabs of music, but in there’s also a bonus in the form of The Backyard [available only on the seven-inch in the exclusive version], a collection of songs recorded live by McCartney with just an acoustic guitar on the last day of filming. Half of it is covers – ‘Twenty Flight Rock’, ‘I’m Gonna Love You Too’, ‘Peggy Sue’, and half is McCartney songs – ‘Country Dreamer’, ‘Blackbird’, and the unreleased ‘Blackpool’, a song in which Paul tells us that he “likes ‘em heavy and tall/ not skinny and small”.

So there we have it. An archive collection as it should be: new material, new versions, excellent sound quality (kudos to a restrained Giles Martin) and a sense, not of something stale being reheated, but something fresh being created.

One Hand Clapping was reviewed for SDE by David Quantick. It is released on 14 June 2024, via Capitol/UMe

D2C One Hand Clapping product available here: US store • UK store

Tracklisting

Paul McCartney / One Hand Clapping reissue

One Hand Clapping Paul McCartney & Wings /

    • SIDE ONE
      1. One Hand Clapping* 02:15
      2. Jet* 03:59
      3. Soily* 03:55
      4. C Moon/Little Woman Love* 03:19
      5. Maybe I’m Amazed* 04:52
      6. My Love* 04:15
      SIDE TWO
      1. Bluebird* 03:27
      2. Let’s Love* 01:09
      3. All of You* 02:04
      4. I’ll Give You a Ring* 02:03
      5. Band on the Run* 05:20
      6. Live and Let Die* 03:26
      7. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five* 05:50
      8. Baby Face* 01:56
      ** Previously released as bonus audio on Archive Collection releases
      *Previously released 2010 Band on the Run Archive Collection DVD
    • LP 2
      SIDE ONE
      1. Let Me Roll It** 04:28
      2. Blue Moon of Kentucky 03:05
      3. Power Cut 01:33
      4. Love My Baby 01:13
      5. Let It Be 01:02
      6. The Long and Winding Road/Lady Madonna 02:10
      SIDE TWO
      1. Junior’s Farm 04:17
      2. Sally G 03:28
      3. Tomorrow 02:12
      4. Go Now 03:35
      5. Wild Life 04:30
      6. Hi, Hi, Hi 03:57
      ** Previously released as bonus audio on Archive Collection releases

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