A gazillion years ago, when I was a kid — around 1970 — I was a big listener of AM radio. I’d sit in front of my folks’ ginormous ol’ console system, and listen to the local stations — WDXB, WGOW and WFLI. This was well before FM radio represented mainstream music, and so I got to hear popular music, not the talking heads that seem to own AM nowadays.
I can just remember listening to The Beatles on the radio. I knew who they were, and some of their music. When Paul McCartney formed Wings shortly thereafter, I was a little older, and they became a huge part of my listening experience. When Wings toured America in 1976, I can remember talking with my friends about how much we wanted to go see Wings at the Omni in Atlanta (the closest venue to Chattanooga). That never happened for me, but I did do the next best thing.
I bought Wings Over America. On vinyl. Probably with money earned mowing yards. 🙂
This was a huge set, on three records, and had many of my Wings favorites, along with some Beatles tunes. I listened to it a ton, wearing the grooves out. I could tell you every moment in that live recording, every comment by the band, every high and low. It was one of those recordings that got in my DNA, and I loved listening to it.
Fast forward a decade or so, and I finally found Wings over America on CD. Once again, I listened to that thing like crazy in its digital perfection. (Yeah, yeah, I know there’s a whole argument out there about the warmth of vinyl, and the harshness of digital. I get it, but the convenience of digital music has made it the right answer for me for a long, long time.)
Fast forward again, this time to this year.
Somehow, someway, I got wind of Wings Over America being re-released in a uber-special box, with extra tunes, video, books, etc. I hounded it on Amazon for months, perpetually having it in my wish list, occasionally moving it into my shopping cart, only to pull back. It wasn’t that I didn’t want this newly refreshed edition, and it was certainly within my finances. I’ve just grown a little weary of all the re-releases of the music of my youth. It seems like every month, there’s some other musical crustacean re-releasing a newly updated or re-mastered edition of seminal music from our shared youth. And some of those are amazing (like the recent Pink Floyd Immersion Editions), and others aren’t exactly all that.
This was different though. This was Macca. He’s “big-three” territory for me, with Kraftwerk and Pink Floyd being the other corners of that triad that formed the foundation of my musical tastes in my youth. So I finally pulled the trigger, and waited for it to arrive. (How did we ever get by without Amazon Prime?)
I watched my phone to see when Brown Santa (aka UPS) delivered it, and dashed upstairs to grab it off the porch practically before the truck sped away. And like a kid at Christmas, I tore into the box, and retrieved my wondrous new arrival.
And it was wondrous.
Packed inside was a really amazing-sounding version of the concert I knew so well. Plus eight tracks from the concert in San Francisco in ’76. Plus a DVD of Wings over the World. And if that weren’t enough, there were four books included: a retrospective of the tour, a scrapbook-like book, a book of photos from the tour taken by Linda McCartney, and a fourth book that collected sketches from the tour’s official artist. I climbed in my comfy chair, and devoured those four books. It was amazing to see that tour through “grown up” eyes, but reflected through the eyes of my youth. It just blew me away.
And like Wonka with his Golden Ticket, there was a little extra something-something inside. I found a little card in the set. This card contained a code to visit Macca’s website, entitling me to pull down ultra-high resolution 24-bit/96khz versions with almost no sound processing. It’s just about as close as you could get to the master tapes… and they’re glorious! The sound is bright, uncompressed, and simply astonishing. There is so much depth — things in the background, subtleties in the foreground — in these recordings that I’d never heard before.
I vaguely remember seeing Wings over the World in the late 70s. The books indicate that CBS aired it back then, but for some reason I have a memory of seeing it on PBS in Chattanooga. No matter — it was here, and I reveled in seeing film from the tour I never got to visit. (And yes, I know Rockshow is out now, and it’ll be hitting my door soon.) I was transfixed, riveted to the screen, watching this crazy second chapter in McCartney’s career unfold through live concert footage
This box set was a time machine for me, carrying me back almost forty years, and giving me a little door through which to crawl every now and then, and re-experience a really significant part of my musical youth.
And now I hear that Wings at the Speed of Sound and Venus and Mars are being released in similar editions next month. I guess Amazon and I have a little more dancing left to do.