The chance came up for the NME to interview Paul McCartney, it was quite surprising as we were not likely to be favourable to his music, this being in the days of Punk and since Band on the Run his albums had not been that great. I was told that I could have 15 minutes, I was to photograph the Wings Triumvirate of Paul, Linda and Denny Laine. I could also do Paul and Linda and that maybe if I was lucky Paul might pose alone.
That idea sucked in my mind, nobody was interested in Wings, just Paul, how could I guarantee to get him on his own, I figured I could go thru the motions with the three of them and then somehow I needed convince Paul to let me shoot him separately. It was all to occur under the watchful eye of their PR, Tony Brainsby, he told me he would have a stopwatch ready so that I did not push my luck and get more time! I just love pressure on important shoots, this sounded like great fun (not)…
It was to take place at Twickenham Film Studios, Paul had made some promo films there and was mixing the sound, I was going to be able to set up a mini studio, at least that was in my favor. But what could I do to snare Paul into posing alone? I figured that this was probably my only ever chance to do a Beatle, so I figured I might as well go for broke. Then it hit me, there was one thing that usually worked with potentially difficult subjects, I could make him laugh.
So off I went to Berman and Nathan’s, they supplied costumes for movies, I wanted to get a Beatle Suit, the one with no collar if possible. I went there, they did not have the collarless one but they had another that was an exact match for one of their outfits. I also rented a button down shirt and a thin black tie. Then I went to Carnaby Street and bought a pair of Wnklepickers. My outfit was complete. When I got to Twickenham Tony Brainsby nearly had a heart attack, then he saw the funny side of what I was doing, he showed me where to set up my equipment. I got everything ready.
Right on time Tony brought the three principals into the room, Denny Laine rolled his eyes at me, Linda looked a little confused, but Paul laughed loudly and came over to shake my hand. I did them as a trio (boring) then P and L as a duo (loving) and then asked Paul if I could grab a frame or two on his own (smiling)… The problem was that he was wearing this awful London Town T-shirt, gotta promote the record, right. The picture looked OK but was nothing special, so I threw out my usual line, one I pinched from Nick Lowe. “Can you throw a few shapes, Paul?” You really needed a guitar to do this but I thought it might get some kind of reaction. “I can do this” he said, closing one eye and opening the other one wide. It looked pretty great, it was not a wink, but it was an interesting looking pic. I got one frame off before Tony stepped in and said that my fifteen minutes with fame was up.
He started to usher them out of the room but instead of leaving Paul came over to me, “Are you busy? Do you have to go anywhere? If not why not hang with us for a bit.” I was unprepared for this, Tony looked at me suspiciously, “I have to get the suit back by five, but I’m free until then.” Paul took me into the mixing room, the famed Producer Chris Thomas was there, Paul just started chatting to me, asking me things about myself, what music I liked, that kind of stuff. He seemed impressed that Phil Lynott was my flatmate, said he liked Thin Lizzy. Then he asked Chris to play me a couple of tracks, he took a spliff out of his top pocket. Things were looking up.
The picture was great, it looked good in the paper and the interview was actually pretty kind to him, I figured that was the end of it. A few months later I got asked to do the Official Wings Christmas Card. I went to Abbey Road, again Paul was very friendly. The following year Tony Brainsby rang me one afternoon, “Sit down, Chalkie, I have a bit of news for you.” It turned out Paul was thinking of asking me to be the Photographer for the upcoming Wings Tour, he told me to go down to Rye where the band was rehearsing to meet with Paul.
When I got there they were in the middle of rehearsals, I sat down in the stalls, the Theatre was empty except for the Road Crew. Paul put down his Bass and moved to the Piano, he started to play ‘Something’ I have to admit it sent shivers up my spine, but then halfway thru he looked directly at me and added Chalkie to the lyrics, a Beatle had sung a song to me, with my name in it. I was in, and renting that suit was the best thing I ever did…
Photo/Words © Chalkie Davies 2013