In some ways, it was business as usual when the spring of 1982 brought a new album from Paul McCartney. In others, it was a new era, because while 1980’s McCartney II appeared after what turned out to be the last Wings album, at that stage the group still existed, in name at least. By ’82, no one was under much of an illusion that Wings were likely to fly again, and Paul’s solo career was very much back in its own name with Tug Of War.
Excitingly for traditionalists and longtime fans, the new album saw McCartney reunited with the producer who had shared in, and helped to create, his very greatest triumphs. George Martin was back behind the desk for a record that was started in the sad aftermath of John Lennon’s shooting, and would contain Paul’s moving and heartfelt tribute to his friend, ‘Here Today.’
‘Tug Of War’ got off to the best possible start with one of its stellar collaborations. ‘Ebony and Ivory,’ Macca’s irresistible duet with Stevie Wonder, was in the last of its three weeks at No. 1 in the UK when, on the chart of 8 May 1982, the album also debuted at the top to give Paul a chart double. It went both silver and gold in the UK a week after it was released.
The new set was a significant departure from McCartney II, on which Paul played absolutely everything himself. Tug Of War featured quite a guest list, from Stevie to Ringo Starr, who played drums on the excellent subsequent hit single ‘Take It Away,’ with its delightful horn sound that recalled The Beatles‘ ‘Got To Get You Into Life’. The title track then gave McCartney another singles chart entry.
McCartney in the studio with Ringo Starr and Steve Gadd.
The rock ‘n’ roll-era sound of ‘Get It’ was enhanced by the presence of founding father Carl Perkins, one of Paul’s true heroes; Wings cohort Denny Laine was still on hand, as was Linda McCartney on backing vocals, and there were appearances by 10cc’s Eric Stewart, Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay, Fairport Convention’s Dave Mattacks and top jazzmen Stanley Clarke and Steve Gadd.
The album spent two weeks at No. 1 in the UK, helping McCartney to two BRIT Awards the following year. Tug Of War also hit the top in much of Europe and beyond, and by the end of May, was starting a three-week reign in America.