Sir Paul McCartney is one of the most iconic musicians of all time.
As part of The Beatles, Paul McCartney shaped global pop music in the 60s and 70s. After the greatest band on earth disbanded in 1970, Paul McCartney stroke solo.
In 1971 he formed the band known as The Wings. It was made up of his then-wife Linda, drummer Denny Seiwell, guitarist Denny Laine and others
Signed to EMI at the time, McCartney asked the record label to give him a list of studios around the world. The international record label had studios in Bombay and Rio de Janeiro but the former Beatles singer decided to head to Lagos for the group’s next recording.
It wasn’t an easy decision to make. A few weeks before its trip to Lagos, lead guitarist Henry McCullough pulled out of the group. A night before the band’s departure, August 8, 1973, Seiwell left also.
Paul McCartney, his wife Linda, guitarist Denny Laine and Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick landed at Murtala Mohammed Airport on August 9, 1973, to record the next album.
Lagos wasn’t the tropical paradise that was advertised overseas. Nigeria was under military rule led by General Yakubu Gowon. Reports say Lagos was riddled with corruption.
The EMI studio in Apapa was a whole lot worse. It was under-equipped. There was only one tape machine in the studio and a Studer 8-track. Microphones were hidden in a cupboard also. Despite the challenges, Emerick managed to rig the studio to be up and running.
The band rented houses near the international airport in Ikeja. Paul, his wife and three kids stayed in one house while the others stayed in the second house. It took them an hour to drive from their homes to the studio every day.
The Wings would record on the weekdays. In the morning they would hang out at a country club in Lagos, most likely Lagos Country Club because it is located in Ikeja. In the afternoon they would head to the studio and record all night, sometimes into the early hours of the morning.
Recording went smoothly for a while and it seemed Lagos was the ideal location until they saw the other side of the gritty city. One night, Paul and Linda were on a walk (they were advised not to) when a car pulled up in front of them. Five men came out from the vehicle brandishing knives. They robbed the couple of their valuables including a bag that contained the group’s lyrics, songs and demos.
Paul McCartney would go on to have a health scare. During one of his recording sessions, the former Beatles man collapsed after he was unable to catch his breath.
“Within seconds, [Paul] turned as white as a sheet, explaining to us in a croaking voice that he couldn’t catch his breath,” said Geoff Emerick.
“We decided to take him outside for some fresh air…[but] once he was exposed to the blazing heat he felt even worse and began keeling over, finally fainting dead away at our feet.
“Linda began screaming hysterically; she was convinced that he was having a heart attack…The official diagnosis was that he had suffered a bronchial spasm brought on by too much smoking.“
On a musical front, Paul McCartney and The Wings had to contend with Fela. The Afrobeat maestro claimed that McCartney was in Lagos to steal African music. Fela said this on the radio.
Paul McCartney later met up with Fela and assured him he wasn’t in Lagos to exploit African music. As a sign of faith, he told Fela that he would not use any of the local musicians in any of his sessions. He also told him that none of his songs would have any “African” sound.
McCartney would end up being a fan of Fela. Till today he still talks about the spiritual experience he had when he watched Fela and Afrika 70 play for the first time.
With all the craziness happening around them, The Wings were able to record their album in six weeks. They left for London to add overdubs and orchestral arrangements.
The title of the album is “Band On The Run” and it was released on December 7, 1973, in the United Kingdom. The LP is regarded as Paul McCartney’s best post-Beatles project. Even his former bandmate/rival/friend John Lennon praised the album and he was not in the habit of heaping praises on McCartney at that time.
The crazy, manic and energetic streets of Lagos has not only inspired millions of Nigerians but one of the best albums of all time.