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‘One Hand Clapping’: Paul McCartney and Wings’ Lost Classic

Decades after it was first recorded, the soundtrack is finally available to hear, complete with the original intended artwork.

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Paul McCartney Wings One Hand Clapping
Cover: Courtesy of UMe

Recorded in August 1974 at Abbey Road, One Hand Clapping is the sound of a rejuvenated Paul McCartney & Wings at the peak of their success. In an echo of his former band’s Let It Be sessions, McCartney had decided to film the rehearsals for an intended TV special. The footage was never fully released and the shows were postponed, but 50 years later, the soundtrack to One Hand Clapping is finally available to hear, complete with the original intended artwork.

It’s incredible that it was recorded in the first place. In August 1973, on the eve of Wings departing to Lagos, Nigeria, to record their third album, Band On The Run, both drummer Denny Seiwell and guitarist Henry McCullough left the group. Then, over the course of the sessions, McCartney was robbed at knifepoint of a bag containing lyrics and demo tapes of his new songs.

Order Paul McCartney and Wings’ One Hand Clapping now.

Fast-forward a year and, despite the challenging circumstances around its recording, Band On The Run had returned McCartney to the pinnacle of pop stardom. Eight months after its release, the album reached No 1 in the UK in July 1974 and stayed there for seven weeks over the summer, while hitting the top spot in the US and selling over six million copies internationally.

While Band On The Run was climbing the charts all over the world, McCartney was putting feelers out for new bandmates. Back in November 1973, he asked Glaswegian guitar prodigy Jimmy McCulloch – who’d played on Thunderclap Newton’s 1969 international hit “Something In The Air” aged 16 – to join the sessions that would lead to the Suzy & The Red Stripes single “Seaside Woman.” McCulloch got the call again in January 1974 when McCartney was producing his brother Mike’s album McGear at Strawberry Studios, Stockport, and officially joined Wings in early June, a few weeks after drummer and karate enthusiast Geoff Britton got the nod.

Junior’s Farm (One Hand Clapping Sessions)

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New recruits in tow, Wings headed to Nashville, Tennessee, in June for rehearsals, jam sessions with local musicians, and group bonding. Inspired by his surroundings, McCartney wrote future Wings single “Junior’s Farm” and its B-side, “Sally G.” Sessions were booked at Soundshop Recording Studios and the new material was laid down, along with various curiosities, including “Walking In The Park With Eloise,” a song written by McCartney’s father Jim which was recorded with a host of Nashville’s finest players (including the guitarist Chet Atkins and pianist Floyd Cramer), and released as a single in October 1974, credited to The Country Hams.

Keen to keep up the momentum of the Nashville trip and riding the wave of Band On The Run’s success, McCartney booked Abbey Road in late August for what became One Hand Clapping. Speaking about the project in 2014, McCartney reflected, “It’s nice to see that one re-surfacing. It was made by a friend of mine, David Litchfield; he produced a little magazine that was funky (Ritz, co-edited with David Bailey). We decided that he would shoot a very simple piece, on video. We would just go into Abbey Road and play basically what we had rehearsed. So we went in there and it was very simply filmed, absolute basic stuff, and I think its charm now is that there’s no pretense. It is what it is. We just called it One Hand Clapping, for absolutely no reason.”

Paul McCartney & Wings - Soily (One Hand Clapping Sessions)

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McCartney is being typically modest. One Hand Clapping has an energy, musicality and spontaneity that raises it far above a no-frills rehearsal recording. There’s a reason it became one of the most bootlegged live albums of its time. Powerfully crunchy takes on some of McCartney’s best 70s up-tempo songs (“Jet,” “Soily,” “Hi,Hi,Hi”) nestle up against all-guns-blazing blasts through the hits (“Band On The Run,” “Live And Let Die,” “Let Me Roll It”), and playful versions of some underrated gems that shine a light on their quality (“Power Cut,” “Tomorrow,” “C Moon”).

Just as in Peter Jackson’s Get Back, there is an abiding sense of music flowing freely through McCartney. Who else had the range to confidently flit between a “cabaret” section, including the cheeky future B-side “I’ll Give You A Ring” and a take on the Tin Pan Alley standard “Baby Face,” the tense and foreboding raw blues of “Wild Life,” and a bravura solo piano performance of Band On The Road closer “Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five”? Another parallel with Get Back is McCartney’s tendency to veer off track and tinker with new material, such as “Let’s Love,” a cute piano ballad written for Peggy Lee and the Ray Charles-like “Love My Baby.” And as if we needed reminding of his past, McCartney tries a few Beatles songs for size – an organ-driven “Let It Be” and a piano medley of “The Long And Winding Road” and “Lady Madonna.”

Let It Be (One Hand Clapping Sessions)

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On the last day of the sessions, McCartney recorded a bunch of solo tracks in Abbey Road’s backyard, including a loose and charming collection of ’50s rockers (“Twenty Flight Rock,” “Peggy Sue,” “I’m Gonna Love You Too”), a touching version of his Beatles classic “Blackbird” and a raunchy blues dedicated to the UK seaside town “Blackpool.” The solo al fresco tracks make for a sweet postscript to the sessions and are collected on a bonus 7” with the vinyl release of One Hand Clapping.

Always one to act on momentum, McCartney booked more sessions in Abbey Road for November that year to begin work on their next album, 1975’s Venus And Mars, followed by the massive Wings Over The World tour. But One Hand Clapping gives us a snapshot of McCartney and Wings before all that, at an exciting time, full of self-belief and ready to take on the world. And finally, we’re able to hear it all as it went down that summer in Abbey Road.

Order Paul McCartney and Wings’ One Hand Clapping now.

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