Monday, February 16, 2015

New book discusses McCartney visit to New Orleans

             When you have a music expert in the house, you use them, which is why my husband Bruce Coen is reviewing “Wings Over New Orleans” this week, a new book by John Taylor that details Paul McCartney’s visit to New Orleans in 1975.
            Here goes:
            Forty years ago Paul McCartney, his wife Linda and his then band Wings recorded their fourth album, “Venus and Mars,” in New Orleans at Sea-Saint studios. As the story goes Paul was always interested in New Orleans music and decided that the Crescent City was a perfect location for recording. They arrived just before Mardi Gras in 1975 and, since they would be in town for three months or so, New Orleans’ indigenous holiday was a perfect reprieve. Paul and Linda donned clown costumes and makeup, even showing up on both Canal and St. Charles routes as if they had lived in New Orleans all their lives.
            As a Beatles fan since I saw them on “The Ed Sullivan Show” that fateful Sunday night so many years ago, so my interest in John Taylor’s account of this historic event involving a Beatle was highly charged. 
            From the introduction I was expecting an insider’s view of the recording sessions and of the time Paul and the band spent in New Orleans. Instead, Taylor’s book is basically an account of a fan standing in the parking lot each day during the sessions shooting pictures with his Kodak Instamatic (I’m not surprised since Linda was Linda Eastman-Kodak before becoming Linda McCartney).
            Taylor became known to Paul and Linda due to Paul’s accessibility to his fans. Paul spent time each day upon arrival and when leaving, signing autographs and generally talking to the fans that had assembled. There are other accounts in the book from Beatles fans Taylor already knew or got to know from their shared experience. These accounts tend to be repetitive after a few readings and don’t really shed any new light on the experience.
            Taylor does give information on Paul and Linda’s Mardi Gras experience as he was right below their apartment, both of which were above the old Kolb’s restaurant. Paul and Linda recognized Taylor from the Sea-Saint parking lot and tossed Mardi Gras beads back and forth.
            Another fan’s story relates the day Paul pulled over in his rented Oldsmobile Delta convertible on his way to the studio and gave him a lift. These stories definitely show a musician of Paul’s stature being a down-to-earth person.
            What could have been of more interest to me was a journal from recording engineer Alan O’Duffy or experiences with the McCartneys and Wings by locally hired photographer Sidney Smith, along with any of the New Orleans musical luminaries. “Wings Over New Orleans” will interest the big Beatle fan, of which there are many, but will not include any more information other than some old photos and stories.
            If you really want to get the whole picture, a 40-year anniversary edition of “Venus and Mars” has been released and includes the never before released song “My Carnival,” along with other great information.
—Bruce Coen