It was like starting all over again for Paul McCartney when he greeted the audience at the Liverpool Empire this week in May 1973.

The last time he’d appeared there was December 1965 when the Beatles were at the height of their fame.

This time it was very different. His new band had spent the past three years playing pubs, clubs and universities – and touring the country in a single van!

Paul McCartney meets pupils from his old school, the Liverpool Institute, after appearing at the Royal Court Theatre, November 1979

Paul McCartney meets pupils from his old school, the Liverpool Institute, after appearing at the Royal Court Theatre, November 1979

The band, of course, were Wings. And, by the time they were on stage at the Empire, they were just starting to break into the big time.

They’d topped the American charts with the hit tune My Love in March and were furiously promoting the single Live and Let Die – the sound track of the latest James Bond movie.

On top of that, Wings had achieved chart success with the singles Give Ireland Back to the Irish, banned by the BBC for its anti-Unionist stance, C Moon and Hi, Hi, Hi.

Wings, front row, line up with Liverpool band The Real Thing, back row, at the Mirror Pop Group Awards, January 1977

Wings, front row, line up with Liverpool band The Real Thing, back row, at the Mirror Pop Group Awards, January 1977

Just as he’d done with the Beatles, McCartney played bass at the Empire in 1973. He was accompanied by Denny Laine from the Moody Blues on guitar and Denny Seiwell on drums.

Completing the line-up were guitarist Henry McCullough, formerly of Spooky Tooth and the Grease Band, and Linda McCartney on keyboards.

Pub rock band Brinsley Schwarz supported Wings throughout the 16-venue tour. They were spotted by McCartney a few weeks earlier at the Hard Rock Café in London.

Close-up of Paul McCartney on stage during the Wings’ tour of America, May 1976

Close-up of Paul McCartney on stage during the Wings’ tour of America, May 1976

Wings played two concerts back-to-back at the Empire. As well as their early hits, they belted out songs from the new Red Rose Speedway album.

The encore was a full-out rendition of the Little Richard classic Long Tall Sally, also covered by the Beatles. It was the only Beatles’ number they played.

McCartney first put Wings together in August 1971, a year after the Beatles broke up in April 1970.

Linda and Paul McCartney at home in Scotland in January 1971. The dog was called Ringo!

Linda and Paul McCartney at home in Scotland in January 1971. The dog was called Ringo!

The Fab Four’s final live appearance was the impromptu concert on the roof of the Apple building in London in January 1969.

Wings’ first album, Wild Life, was released nearly two years later in December 1971. Five of the eight songs were recorded live to give the LP ‘freshness and vitality.’

The critics were not keen. The next album, Red Rose Speedway, fared much better, peaking at No. 5 in the UK charts.

Back to basics - Wings on their British universities’ tour, February 1972

Back to basics – Wings on their British universities’ tour, February 1972

Wings’ first tour in February 1972 saw the band travel the UK playing universities unannounced. The opening gig at Nottingham attracted an audience of 700.
Coins collected from students provided the band’s pay – a far cry from the Beatles’ heyday!

At this time, Paul and Linda were living at High Farm in Scotland – the inspiration for the 1977 monster hit Mull of Kintyre. They even had a dog called Ringo!

Band members Seiwell and McCullough left at the end of the UK tour in August 1973, reducing Wings to the trio of Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine.

The Beatles’ impromptu live performance on the Apple building roof, January 1969

The Beatles’ impromptu live performance on the Apple building roof, January 1969

It certainly didn’t hinder their creativity. The three flew out to Lagos, Nigeria, to record what would become their most successful album – Band on the Run.

Helped by the hit singles Jet and the title track Band on the Run, the album went to Number One in America and the UK. It also became the best-selling studio album of 1974.

Wings had well and truly arrived.

Paul and Linda McCartney at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre, May 1973

Paul and Linda McCartney at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre, May 1973