Jimmy McCulloch tells what life was like in Paul McCartney's band Wings and beyond...
| Through My Eyes: A Jimmy McCulloch Story|
“I can’t believe I am here right now....I’m jammin’ with Paul McCartney! I never thought that I’d get a chance to play with McCartney. It’s like some sort of dream right now, I mean he used to be a Beatle and here he’s talking to me like I matter,” I thought to myself as I played on one of the tracks that we were recording for Linda McCartney’s solo album. “Thanks for playing on a few tracks Jimmy....you are a really talented guitarist, a real whiz kid,” Paul said to me after we had gotten through recording. “Thanks Paul...coming from you that is an honor!” I said, not hiding my excitement. “Haha....we’ll defiantly give you a call if we need anymore work done on anything,” Paul told me, flashing a grin. I had a smile on my face the whole way home. As soon as I got home, I bragged to all my friends that I played with Paul McCartney.
A couple of months after playing on Linda’s album, I got another phone call from Paul, this time he wanted me to play on his brother’s album entitled McGear. Denny Laine also played on the album...he’s an awesome guitarist as well. I feel really comfortable playing with Paul, Linda and Denny....I would love to join Wings, that’d be a dream come true. I’ve been in and out of a lot of bands and I want have something down on a record that would be appreciated instead of always being in bands that so few people hear about.
Well...what do you know..about a month or so after working on the McGear album, Paul rang me up again....only this time he asked me if I wanted to join Wings! He told me that “I was an established guitarist whose playing was compared to Eric Clapton’s at times and he felt that I would fit in the band.”
I had the biggest grin on my face and I only had to think about it for a micro second! First though, I had to honor a contract that I made with Robert Stigwood before I could become a permanent member of Wings. After the dust cleared I was a full fledged member. The only problem I had about being in the band was the other new “Wing”, Geoff Britton. I didn’t like him from day one.
We flew down to Nashville, Tennessee on June 6. We went there to get acquainted with each other privately and to record some music without all the fan-fare. Nashville is a really cool place, the people are so down to earth, not to mention some hott looking women! We spent several weeks in Nashville working on new stuff and getting to know each other.
Things weren’t clicking with me and Britton. He’s the exact opposite of myself. Whereas I’m short, dark and one hell of a partier, he’s tall, blonde and soft spoken. A real momma’s boy. He’s also a black belt in karate, most of the time, he comes to sessions in his karate uniform. That’s just a tad bit weird. He also doesn’t drink or do drugs....he needs to be shown the light man! As much as I dislike him as a person, he’s a pretty decent drummer, and that’s about it.
We couldn’t stay in Nashville for very long though because I had a run in with the law. I was coming out of the local bar one night and I was a little drunk and out of nowhere this policeman comes up to me and starts telling me how much he hates Wings and he specifically noted my guitar playing and that it sucked hardcore and that his great grandma could do better, so me, being drunk and having a short temper, beat the living daylights out of him, and he had to go to the hospital. Nobody messes with Jimmy McCulloch.
When we returned to Britain on July 17th, we were meet with rumors that Wings had broken up. I don’t know where these rumors get started. After relaxing for a few days upon our return to Britain, it was back to the swing of things as we returned to the studio to record a new song called Junior’s Farm.
On November 20th, we performed Junior’s Farm on Top of the Pops to promote the single. I really enjoyed working on Junior’s Farm because it was a hard rocker and I had a great solo where I really got to showcase what I can do. I was reading the paper and a critic had a little piece about me, he said “Wings IV introduced Jimmy McCulloch, a spunky lead guitarist with grit, able to spur Paul on unlike any previous soloist. His debut track, the magnificent single `Junior's Farm', stands as one of Wings' finest emotional and technical releases." I really appreciated the kind words, I feel like I am the type of musican that can take Wings to the top.
In January, we flew to New Orleans, Louisiana to continue recording for Venus & Mars, the long awaited follow up to Band On The Run. The only problem was that Geoff Britton, didn’t want to go to New Orleans. He had grown depressed and miserable, then he got the bright idea to call up Melody Maker to tell them how pissed off he was, he told them that I was a “nasty little cunt.” I didn’t try to defend myself though...I know I’m not some little angel, I am a bit weird and I’ve had a lot of experience in music, but experience in life, knowing how to treat people, when to say something and when not to and when you’ve put your foot in it, I’m still a bit green that way and sometimes there’s a Jekyll and Hyde within me. Sometimes I really blow it and get on people’s nerves.
So Britton left Wings after only completing a couple of tracks for the new album. We were put in a tough spot but luckily, Tony Dorsey who was the arranger of the brass section for Venus & Mars introduced Paul to a drummer by the name of Joe English. Paul was very impressed with both Joe himself and his drumming and invited him to play with us.
So with Britton out and English in, sessions continued for Venus and Mars. In February, we went to Los Angeles, California to complete the recording of the album. While on the way to the recording studio for mixing sessions, Paul asked Joe English to permanently join Wings. Joe said yes and that was it.
I contributed a song called Medicine Jar to the album. I co-wrote it with my friend Colin Allen. It is a song about my problems with drugs. I am trying to stop, but once you start doing drugs, you are going to have a hard time trying to stop. As an older guy, Paul does try and warn me about the dangers of drugs and he always asks me, “What’s going to happen when you’re 30? You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.” I understand that he’s looking out for me and I appreciate that
. Venus and Mars was released on May 30th and the critics response was pretty respectable. Record Mirror’s reviewer commented, “McCulloch and English have added new vitality to Wings as is proved on this excellent album.” I think that myself and Joe are that “missing link” that had been missing in the previous lineups that Wings has had.
After Venus and Mars was released and there was favorable public response to the album, Paul felt that the lineup was strong enough to begin a full fledged tour. It was going to be an enormous tour with state of the art sound equipment, lights and lasers, 12 and ½ tons of equipment, semi trucks and a specially chartered jet with “Wings over America” on its sides. Oh it’s great to be famous!
Paul also planned to put us through a series of long rehearsals, perfecting every element of the show before appearing in public. On September 6th, we held a dress rehearsal before 1200 EMI employees and members of the U.K. Wings fan club. After listening to the employees opinions and making a few changes to the show, we were ready to soar over Britain 3 days later.
The 1st leg of the tour consisted of 12 British cities in two weeks. After the 1st concert at the Southampton Gaumont on the 9th, we were in the hotel, getting ready to settle down for the night when I decided to go down to the bar for a late night drink, not even caring if people recognize me. As I was about to order my drink, when a girl came up to me, she looked to be round 18 years old. She had long brown hair and tan skin and beautiful eyes. Talk about a bombshell! She said “ Hi! I’m Nana and Oh my god! You’re Jimmy McCulloch of Wings! You are my favorite and you are a major hottie!” I couldn’t help but smile and said “Thanks love, you are quite the good looker yourself.” She fainted and I had to help the poor girl up, after she recovered, she asked if I could autograph her left wrist, she wanted to make a tattoo of it.”
I was about to make a move on her when guess who showed up! That’s right...Paul McCartney of all people showed up and ruined my chances with Nana. I had to go up to my room and rest up since we had a concert the next night. McCartney treats me like such a kid sometimes.
The rest of the tour throughout Britain went really well with the public and critics alike were ecstatic with all the concerts being sold out. On October 28th, we were going to fly to Australia to start that leg of the tour but we were delayed and the people on the flight were pissed off to say the least because they had to wait on us for an hour on the runway at Heathrow Airport. There were even some protests that the airline consented to Paul’s request to wait.
When we finally got to Australia, that leg of the tour was another success. The tour didn’t really feel like work though, it was more like a holiday. We gave a ton of interviews to the press and not surprisingly, most of the questions were directed towards Paul about the Beatles, in which Paul always politely responded that he was a member of Wings and this tour wasn’t Paul McCartney, the ex-Beatle. I am impressed by the way Paul handles all the Beatles questions because if I were him, I’d say look...this band I got with me now...does they fucking look like the Beatles? No...that’s what I thought, my band’s called Wings, get it through your heads W-I-N-G-S.
On one of our off days, while in Australia, we decided to take a visit to a zoo and as we were about to leave, the McCartney’s house keeper, Rose Martin had just arrived and she was prepared for the day, with a new hair style and a camera and then suddenly Linda, in front of everybody, announced that Rose wasn’t invited. She had a list of things for the house keeper to do. I felt really bad for Rose because Linda just dissed her hardcore. Everybody felt really bad for Rose, except Linda of course. JoJo, Denny Laine’s girlfriend at the time, wasn’t really that surprised that the incident happened however. She said that Rose had told her how “lady like and gracious” Paul’s former fiancee, Jane Asher was and that she wouldn’t like to repeat the things that Rose used to say about Linda.
The zoo trip was a lot of fun, everybody went off to explore on their own and so I headed to where the koala bears were. I always liked them and they are very unique. I have a soft spot in my heart for animals. The next destination for Wings was Japan and everything was all set, the visas were stamped and the tickets were sold to the fans.
But while we were in Melbourne, Australia, we received a call, Paul’s visa had been canceled because of his earlier drug convictions. The tour was cancelled and needless to say, everybody in the band was disappointed, especially Denny who had wanted to visit Japan for several years. So to show the Japanese government what they denied their people and to console the fans, Paul offered a film of the group performing to be shown for the public on Japanese television. The film was a lot of fun to make, we sang Bluebird in this hotel room and it was really funny to look back at the tape and see Joe using the couch as his drums.
The canceled Japanese leg of the tour allowed us to go on vacation. The McCartney’s flew to Hawaii, Denny Laine and his girlfriend JoJo went to France, Joe English and his girlfriend Dayle traveled to the Bahamas, while myself went to the Playboy Mansion in California. Nothing like soakin’ up some California sun in the daytime and then spend the night with a lot of Playboy bunnies! I didn’t want to leave all those lovely ladies behind, but Jimmy McCulloch’s gotta do what Jimmy McCulloch does best, and that’s being the lead guitarist in one of the greatest rock bands ever, Wings.
During the months of January and February, we were back in the studio recording a new album called At The Speed Of Sound. It was an interesting album with each member of the group having lead vocals.
This time, I contributed a song called Wino Junko and again I co wrote it with Colin Allen. It’s another song about my addiction to drugs. I really enjoy writing songs, the songs that I write are personal and are reflections on my life.
Linda sang lead on a song called Cook of the House, and I am really pleased for her because the song was a tribute to her because she can cook up a meal in no time. In March, we continued our European tour. Wings: At The Speed Of Sound was released on March 26. The reviews were solid although there were a few critics who didn’t like the album at all. The critics that didn’t like the album can bite me.
Soon after Speed Of Sound was released, I received a very thoughtful letter from a kid named Paul Salley who lived in the States. He lives in Iowa and he wrote that he is my biggest fan and that he is learning how to play guitar and that I am his inspiration.
It is a great feeling to know that I am an inspiration. He left me his telephone number and so I gave him a call. Needless to say, he was really surprised that I called. I thanked him for the letter and told him that if he ever need anything, to just give me a call. I also gave him and his mom backstage passes to one of our concerts, when we tour America later on this year. I am really excited to meet Paul and Mrs. Salley
We were set to conquer America in April and May but I got into a fist fight with an American tv and recording star and broke a finger on my left hand. I forgot the star’s name but I remember it was in a bar one night and I was really drunk and we got into a fight and then he broke a beer bottle over my left hand. Needless to say, after that happened I punched him in the face and broke his nose and he ran off crying like a little baby. Need I say again, you don’t mess with Jimmy McCulloch.
The only problem about having a broken finger on my left hand was that it prevented me from playing guitar so the American tour was rescheduled for May and June. A couple of days after I broke my finger, this reporter asked if he could inspect my broken finger, so I held it up and said, “Look, it’s fine now,” to which Paul replied, “Yeah, we’re going to break his arm next week.”
The first concert was on May 3rd, in Fort Worth, Texas. The show went smoothly and we awoke the next morning to the headlines of “Wings soar over Texas” and “Wings show what live rock and roll should be, both musically and visually.” When we were in New York, we went in one of those Town Trolley city tours and it was great. It was a really cool way to learn about the history of New York and its’ landmarks. I saw the World Trade Centers and shit they are huge. They are going to be here forever.
After the concert in Kansas City, I met Paul and his mom backstage. They are both down to earth and sincere people. Paul had a great amount of energy and was aw struck by the whole thing. Mrs. Salley was extremely nice and she’s a very hardworking and dedicated mother. Paul is lucky to have her as his mom. After talking for about a half hour and having my picture taken with Paul, it was time for me to go. It is really cool to get to know your fans on a personal level.
When we did the Boston show, we had just done the 1st encore, and the sound wasn’t quite right and it pissed me off and so I told one of the roadies to tell Paul that I wasn’t coming back on to do the 2nd encore. He came down to the dressing room and we both started cussing and arguing and then he whacked me in the face. I went on stage after that. I played a blinder, according to Paul. After the show, Paul apologized for hitting me in the face.
I was really excited for our show in St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 4. I turned 23 years old. Before the show, I had a birthday party. I love parties. I had a great birthday, I received some awesome gifts and I got whacked in the face with my birthday cake. Mmm birthday cake.
We closed the world tour with 3 concerts in 3 nights at the Wembley Empire Pool in late October. The Rolling Stones performed there in May and their performance were judged a failure but we triumphed with our concerts there. The world tour was a huge success, in Seattle, we broke the record for the largest turnout for an indoor concert by a single act, 67,100 people showed up at the Kingdome and it was the tour was something completely different from all of the normal concerts.
After the tour was over, I formed a band for fun with my brother Jack and my buddy Dave Clarke. We were called Jimmy McCulloch and White Line. We recorded an album called White Line Complete featuring Jimmy McCulloch (Little Wing) and released the single Call My Name/Too Many Miles.
Paul decided to release the tour concerts as an album. He spent over 90 hours mixing the tapes as if it was a single performance. Wings Over America was a live, 3 record set of the tour was issued just before Christmas. The album was the next best thing to actually being there. Critics loved the album as they hailed the album as a great piece of work and one of the best live rock recordings of all time. Wings Over America was the most popular music event of the year according to various critics.
I think that Wings is settled for years, and it would be a shame if anything happened. I don’t see anything cracking Wings in the foreseeable future.
In February, work began on the next album. I had written a few songs after the tour and I showed them to Paul, hoping that he’d consider at least 1 of the songs for the new album. He decided that they didn’t fit the style for the album but he told me to keep writing because on an upcoming album, he is going to have at least 2 of my songs on the record. Paul told me that I reminded him of George because of my development as a songwriter.
The weather just sucked ass because it was rainy and foggy almost everyday. Needless to say, it didn’t do much to lift our spirits or spark our creative juices. Sensing an immediate change of scenery, Denny told Paul that when he was in Los Angeles, he’d visited a recording studio on a boat and thought that it was an interesting way to record an album. To Denny’s surprise, Paul agreed that we should try it. The US Virgin Islands was our chosen destination to record.
April-Early September 1977
At the end of April, we set sail for the Virgin Islands on the Fair Carol, which had a recording studio, complete a 24 track tape recording system. There were 3 other yachts as well, The Samala, was used for eating and sleeping, the El Toro, was for the McCartney’s and Wanderlust was for Wing’s use.
We were able to tape a track on the 1st day of recording. Amazing considering that salt water could possibly affect the equipment to the boat rocking in the water. May 2nd was when the serious recording began. A pattern began to emerge, 3 to 4 hour recording sessions in the morning, which was the same from late afternoon to evening, those were entwined with swimming, water skiing, and fabulous meals.
On one of the mornings, we were recording a track and Paul was playing acoustic guitar overlooking the sea and a dolphin surfaced and enjoyed the music and splashed around the boat. At night, the yachts were lit up with different colored lights while our music floated across the bay, it was one of the most peaceful moments we experienced as a band. One night in September, me and my friend Steve Marriot had been up all night having a great time, when he suddenly asked me if I wanted to join the reformed Small Faces. There wasn’t very much I was doing with Wings because all we were doing was recording and that was about it and I’d become very bored and so I began drinking more and taking even more drugs.
Besides that fact, I loved being in Wings but I was disappointed that Wings hadn’t really evolved into a total band, so I said yes. Steve rang up Paul and informed him of my decision, and then I talked to Paul for a few minutes and thanked him for everything and that I’d see him round.
Late September 1977-Early 1979
After leaving Wings, the media hounded me and asked me why I left Wings, well here you go. "With Wings I was virtually an employed musician, working mainly in the studio. With the birth of the McCartneys' son I realized it would be some time before we ever toured again and that's the side of a musican's life I like best. I left amicably. I don't think anyone was too upset about the parting. We had some very good times together. Though Linda doesn't know much about music, she's a really nice chick and I certainly learned alot over the past 3 years." I joined the reformed Small Faces and we went on a small tour. After the tour, we recorded an album called 78 In The Shade. After that, things didn’t really work out for me with the Small Faces so I left the band.
After leaving the Small Faces, I realized how much I missed Wings. The years I spent with Wings were some of the best years of my life. I now regretted leaving Wings. I wanted to call Paul and beg him to let me back in the band. I miss them.
As I pondered if I should call McCartney, I got a call from my friend Brian Robertson asking me if I wanted to join his band Wild Horses. I said yes because I was just lying on my ass like a lazy bum. I drank more heavily and I started experimenting with heavier drugs.
I really want to turn my life around but once you start doing drugs, it’s hard to stop. I rehearsed with Wild Horses for awhile but then one day after rehearsal, Brian told me that I was out of the group because I wasn’t fitting in and that they replaced me with Neil Carter. I was really hurt by that, but what can you do about stuff like that?
I read in the paper that Joe had left Wings because he was homesick from America. Paul, Denny and Linda have that trio feeling once again. I was watching television one night as I pondered my future and I saw McCartney giving an interview and he said that he wished that things would have stayed together with myself and Joe. Looking back, I wished like hell I would have stayed with Wings. I felt so comfortable with those guys. They were like my family. Paul then said that he found 2 up and coming musicians to replace Joe and myself. Laurence Juber on lead guitar and Steve Holly on drums. It will be interesting to see how they do.
March 1979-September 25, 1979
In March, I got an offer to join a band called the Dukes. We quickly recorded an album called The Dukes. I contributed a song called Heartbreaker.We had a minor hit single in the summer with Hearts In Trouble. a minor hit with the single Hearts in Trouble. Even though I am a member of The Dukes, I am itching to go solo. I want to show the world what I can do on my own.
On September 25, I went down to the record store and picked up Wings’ new album, Back To The Egg. It has a lot of different styles of music and it’s an interesting album. The new lineup is really impressive. Juber’s a really talented guitarist. His guitar riff on Old Siam, Sir is one of the best riffs I have ever heard. I was really impressed with Steve Holly’s drumming. I have plans for a solo album and I would love to have Holly as my drummer. I gave Steve a call and asked him if he wanted to do some recording with me, he said yes.
After I got off the phone, I looked at the calender and I saw that it was Paul Salley’s birthday. I gave him a call and wished him happy birthday. I told him that he could come to England for a few days to see me at work since he wants to be a guitarist. He should be here in early October.
September 27, 1979
I woke up this morning and looked out the window, another glorious day in London, a rainy day. My brother Jack is coming by for a visit today. I decided that while I wait for him that I’d watch some tv while I did my daily ritual of pot, alcohol and to smoke a few marijuana joints. I wonder if anything’s good on tv as I reached for the remote and then I closed my eyes.........
His Music Lives On
Wings and MPL were shocked and very sad at the news that ex Wings guitarist Jimmy McCulloch was found dead last month. I'm sure you will agree that Jimmy's unique style and flair contributed greatly to many favorite Wings tracks both in concert and on record. Any of you who saw Wings touring in 1975-1976 will probably never forget the sensitive but powerful guitar riffs from Jimmy--a real talent who will be sadly missed.
from the October 1979 Wings fan club publication
R.I.P. Jimmy McCulloch 1953-1979