“Guitar With Wings: A Photographic Memoir” by Laurence Juber with Marshall Terrill. Foreword by Denny Laine. Dalton Watson Fine Books, Deerfield, IL. Published May 2014. 256 pages, signed, numbered limited edition hardcover in a slipcase and CD. $100.
With a degree in music from London University’s Goldsmith’s College and past membership in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Ivor Laurence Juber wasn’t your typical rock ’n’ roll session player when, at the suggestion of Denny Laine, Paul McCartney tapped him to be lead guitarist in what turned out to be the final Wings lineup.
“So, Laurence, what are you doing for the next few years?” Macca asked at the end of an informal jam that served as Juber’s audition.
Actually, the revamped Wings’ run — which also saw Steve Holley new to the band on drums — ended up being barely three years, only two of which saw much activity.
Fortunately for us, though, Juber was cognizant of the rare opportunity he was being given — he refers to working with Paul as attending “McCartney University” — and he took his camera along with him as the new Wings rehearsed and recorded in Scotland, finished off the “Back to the Egg” album in picturesque Lympne Castle, toured the U.K. and traveled to Japan (where Paul’s arrest for pot possession ended up ultimately grounding Wings permanently).
And so we have this collection of Juber’s intimate shots of McCartney at work and play with his band and loving family. The young musician obviously thoroughly enjoyed his time with McCartney, and so what we get are fond reminscences and pertinent musical details rather than tell-all gossip about Macca and his missus. No cheap shots at Linda’s role in the band, either. In fact, Juber says, “There was a certain tone to a Wings record and Linda’s vibe and voice were essential ingredients.”
Hardcore fans may not get quite as many session details on the individual tracks as they’d wish, but there still are plenty of worthwhile nuggets from sessions for the “Rupert” demos, “Rockestra,” and “Cold Cuts” tracks as well as the “Egg” album and its videos.
While most readers no doubt are primarily interested in Juber’s time with a former Beatle, Juber and Terrill’s telling of Laurence’s life before and after Wings (with even a bit of family history included) won’t bog you down. And there’s the occasional fun detail, like how “With The Beatles” was the first LP bought by the middle-class Jewish boy who got his first acoustic guitar at age 11. (His first concert, however, was Gerry and the Pacemakers with Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas.)
And even before Juber was invited to join Wings after playing in the house band on a Denny Laine solo TV appearance, there were brushes with Beatledom: playing on a Cleo Laine session produced by George Martin, performing on the soundtrack of the James Bond film “The Spy Who Loved Me” (which featured Ringo’s future wife), encountering Macca in a studio men’s room in the summer of 1977, learning of the death of Elvis from fellow student Mike McCartney at a Transcendental Meditation retreat, and bumping into Denny, Paul and Linda at AIR studios, where they were mixing Linda’s “Oriental Nightfish.” Denny recalls Laurence saying to call him if they “needed some guitar.”
They did just that in early 1978, asking Juber to come jam. Although a Beatles fan, he wasn’t really up on McCartney’s solo work at that point and had to borrow his brother’s Wings LPs to prepare (though they ended up jamming on Chuck Berry tunes and reggae grooves).
While short on group gossip, the Wings portion of the book does include Juber’s appraisals of his fellow band members. Holley, he says, added “an edge and tougher sound to the band” with his drumming. Laine proved a good creative foil for Macca with his “r&b voice, rock guitar prowess and gypsy/folk sensibilities.” And Linda, he writes, was “the spirit” and the glue holding everyone together. “Things just worked better with Linda in the room.”
The final incarnation of Wings first worked on the song “Same Time Next Year” (intended for the movie of the same name but not used). Work on the next album began at Paul’s Scottish farm in June 1978, and Juber provides just enough musical details to keep gearheads happy, noting which guitars and studio gadgets were used on which tracks.
Fun details include Juber recording the 12-string guitar part for “We’re Open Tonight” while sitting in a stairway at Lympne Castle, the band spending “some serious time” on the ultimately unreleased track “Cage” (the title of which came from the notes on the guitar of the riff: C-A-G-E), and one session being spent placing microphones around Paul’s Rolls-Royce to capture the sound of a car horn, only to see McCartney and producer Chris Thomas eventually decide that the part worked much better on a mini-Moog.
Juber says he suggested using a noted trombone player on one section of “Baby’s Request,” but Paul preferred to create a faux “bone tone” on his mini-Moog. Laurence notes with some satisfaction that when Macca re-recorded the tune for his 2012 “Kisses on the Bottom” project, he went with a real trombone solo.
And then there was the chance Laurence got to play bass on “Love Awake.” Naturally, he was nervous since his boss was one of the world’s most celebrated bassists, but, he writes, “Much like his own production mentor, George Martin, Paul has a knack of putting you at ease to bring out the best in a creative situation.”
Juber’s track “Maisie” also was recorded during these sessions, though it didn’t make the album. (It’s on the 10-track “Standard Time” CD that comes with the deluxe edition of this book.)
During the sessions at Abbey Road, Juber recalls, George Martin popped in, followed shortly by George Harrison, with whom Juber bonded over a yoga philosophy book. (Seven years later, Juber would get to work with Harrison on a “Shanghai Surprise” session.)
An interesting aside is that Juber had to turn down a Rick Wakeman session during this time because Paul wanted Wings “to appear as an integrated band, rather than a group with added session players.” It was disappointing, he says, but “I was happy that Paul had such faith in this current Wings lineup.”
Juber also provides many shots of Paul, Linda and the band members interacting with the McCartney children. I was particularly taken with a great shot of Linda tenderly kissing young James and another of Denny with Stella.
Also covered in the book are the making of some of the “Back to the Egg” promo videos, the proposed but never filmed “Band on the Run” movie for which Willy Russell wrote a script, the work on the “Rupert” soundtrack demos, and the Rockestra session in October 1978 with John Paul Jones, John Bonham, Pete Townsend, Kenny Jones, Dave Gilmour, Ronnie Lane, Hank Marvin, Bruce Thomas, Ray Cooper, Gary Brooker, Tony Ashton and Jimmy Page’s amp (Page himself didn’t show).
Juber reveals that the gathered superstars were unaware of the film crew hidden behind false corners in the studio — so it’s not surprising that difficulties getting releases from everyone involved resulted in the film never being released.
Although working with a Beatle, Juber’s life in Britain had not changed all that much, though he bought a home. It was when Juber and Holley were sent to New York to promote the “Back to the Egg” album — and he began being recognized on the street by fans — that Laurence realized “that The Beatles were held in a very different perspective in the States compared with the U.K.”
The story of this last version of Wings culminates with the fall 1979 U.K. tour. Rehearsals were held in a cabin near Macca’s Peasmarsh home: “With a Little Luck” was tried but didn’t work well live; however, they did learn two new numbers: “Wonderful Christmastime” and “Coming Up,” which Paul had recorded on his own.
Juber feels that Wings’ last days as a concert band have been unfairly maligned, not least by Macca himself. Most of the issues that arose on the tour were strictly technical, like a buzz in the P.A. in one city, he says. “I think that caused Paul’s recollection that we were a bit under-rehearsed, which is not borne out by the live recordings.” By the two nights in Glawgow, Juber says, the band was “firing on all cylinders.”
And then there were the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea. I love Juber’s description of how during the Rockestra performance of “Let It Be” it dawned on him that no one was going to step forward and take the guitar solo, so he did it. “That moment is one of my own career highlights and I was sufficiently transported that I was not bothered by a somewhat inebriated Pete Townsend peering over my left shoulder.”
A tour of Japan was to come next, but we all know what happened there — Juber was with Paul when the pot was found in his luggage and had a close call with customs agents who wanted to take a screwdriver to his newly bought 1957 Les Paul Goldtop!
Although Macca’s bust essentially doomed Wings, the band officially continued, with Juber traveling to France in 1980 to record with Paul, Linda and Ringo Starr for the latter’s “Stop and Smell the Roses” album. Notes Laurence: “It was quite magical to watch [Paul and Ringo] interact.”
Wings regrouped that October to begin rehearsing tunes for the “Tug of War” album, on which they would end up not playing, and in January 1981 the band did some polishing work on some of the tracks planned for a “Cold Cuts” compilation that never came out. The last track they worked on was a remix of “Same Time Next Year” — so, ironically, that proved to be both the first and last track Juber worked on with McCartney.
Juber deals honestly with the end of Wings. He believes that the issue from earlier in the year of the competing versions of “Coming Up” (Paul’s solo version was on the “McCartney II” album but U.S. DJs preferred the live Wings B-side version) underscored “the reality that Paul’s artistic direction and that of the band were diverging. … His attention clearly was not on the group.”
So it wasn’t a big surprise when the decision was made that the band would not accompany Paul and Linda to Montserrat for the “Tug of War” sessions. Macca called Juber and said that George Martin didn’t want it to be a Wings album, but rather a Paul McCartney album with session players. But, Juber says, “I think [Paul] was passing the buck onto George.”
And so Wings came to an end, with McCartney choosing to go the solo route from that point on. Eventually, the idea of any sort of Wings reunion became moot with the death of Linda. Juber says Macca told him at the time of the “Wingspan” retrospective that “as much as he couldn’t imagine a Beatles reunion without John, a Wings reunion without Linda could not be a reality.”
Juber’s book chronicling the last years of Wings is a fitting tribute to an underexamined period of McCartney’s career, and Wings fans in particular will find both his pictures and the eloquent text an enjoyable addition to their library. This handsome volume has 475 images, some in color and quite a few running a full page or larger, gorgeously printed on glossy paper. (The shots of Wings on their 1979 U.K. tour were taken by Juber’s brother Graham.)
A regular trade edition of the book also is planned.
William P. King