On This Day: Paul McCartney Had to Redo a Concert Because of a ‘Lackluster’ Audience Response
In 1973, Paul McCartney and his group Wings recorded a concert that would serve as the conclusion for his TV special, James Paul McCartney. The reaction to the special was chilly at best. McCartney might have been able to predict this because, on March 18, 1973, he had to re-record the finale concert. The initial audience reaction was so lukewarm that they did not want to include it in the special.
Paul McCartney recorded a concert for a television special
On Feb. 19, 1973, McCartney began recording the TV special James Paul McCartney, his first since The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour in 1967. The special featured a number of musical performances, including music-video style shoots, performances in front of a live audience, and an acoustic medley during a photography session. Altogether, it featured 11 segments.
For the finale of the special, McCartney and Wings recorded a live performance at Elstree TV Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. Linda McCartney, his wife, typically played the keyboard for the band, but she photographed them during this performance.
Paul McCartney had to re-record the concert
The brief concert included songs such as “The Long And Winding Road,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and “Long Tall Sally.” The band exited the stage for 15 minutes, and eventually, McCartney returned to address the audience. Instead of beginning an encore, though, he announced that “due to the lacklustre audience response, the entire repertoire must be repeated for the benefit of the television cameras” (via The Beatles Diary Volume 2: After the Split).
The band returned to the stage to perform the eight songs again, hopefully to a more enthused crowd. Immediately afterward, they played another, larger performance at London’s Hard Rock Cafe.
The television special was not well received
Unfortunately, re-recording the concert was not enough to win over viewers. The special, which first aired on April 16, 1973, received many harsh reviews from critics.
“McCartney has always had an eye and ear for full-blown romanticism, and nothing wrong with that, but here he too often lets it get out of hand and it becomes overblown and silly,” a critic for Melody Maker wrote.
Rolling Stone also wrote an unfavorable review, with critic Lenny Kaye noting that the special was “impersonal at best,” with McCartney appearing “remote and distant.”
“Ironically, the most engrossing moments fell when passersby were asked to sing snippets of Beatles’ songs,” Kaye wrote, “and if the consequent production did nothing to heal McCartney’s ongoing image problem, it certainly didn’t help his musical offerings, which came off as forgettably ordinary and certainly disappointing.”
Despite all the negative press, McCartney did receive moderate praise from a surprising source: John Lennon. He and McCartney were not on the best terms at the time, but Lennon still offered his former bandmate a compliment.
“I liked parts of Paul’s TV special, especially the intro,” Lennon said. “The bit filmed in Liverpool made me squirm a bit. But Paul’s a pro. He always has been.”