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Paul McCartney Revealed He and Wings Would Randomly Pull Up to Colleges and Perform ‘Instant Gigs’

Showbiz CheatSheet logo: MainLogo Showbiz CheatSheet 2/5/2023 Ross Tanenbaum

Imagine you are walking to classes, and you suddenly see Paul McCartney. That’s what many college students experienced in the 1970s when Paul McCartney and Wings did a tour of universities in England. The band would often show up unannounced, giving the school some time to set up for what McCartney called “instant gigs.”

Paul McCartney and Wings would make surprise appearances at colleges

Paul McCartney | Richard E. Aaron/Redferns © Provided by Showbiz CheatSheet Paul McCartney | Richard E. Aaron/Redferns

In 1972, McCartney and Wings went on a university tour following the release of their debut album Wild Life. McCartney urged the band to do an impromptu tour as a basic test trial for his second band following The Beatles. This involved arriving at universities unannounced and giving them the surprise of a lifetime. 

“We didn’t book ’em! We literally went up the M1, which is the big central motorway, and we said, ‘Let’s go north,’” McCartney shared in an interview with Billboard. “So we went far enough away from London to be ‘away,’ and then we’d just turn off the motorway and look for a gig. We saw a sign that said Ashby-de-la-Zouch, and we asked, ‘Have they got a university or a college here?’ and they said no. So we were near Nottingham, and we said, ‘Have you got a university?’ They said yeah, so we said, ‘Where is it?’

McCartney would give the school time to set up and advertise the concert

When Paul McCartney and Wings arrived, it was hard for people to believe they were waiting to perform. Once the initial shock ended, the “Jet” singer would give the school time to set up a show and get the word out to the rest of the students. 

“We just showed up, and our road manager went in and met the guy from the students’ union. He said, ‘I’ve got Paul McCartney outside in the van.’ The guy said, ‘Sure. Pull the other one.’ Then the students’ union guy came out to the van to verify it, and I was sitting in the van and said, ‘Hello! Do you want us to do a gig?’ So we sent him into a blind panic, but we would always help arrange. We said, ‘How about tomorrow at lunchtime? We’ll go and find a hotel now, and we’ll come back tomorrow at lunch, and you’ve got time to stick up posters and put the word ’round the university, and we’ll have an instant gig.’”

The band would have problems finding hotels since none of this was planned


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The one challenge Paul McCartney and Wings faced on this tour was finding hotels to stay at. Since they hadn’t planned where they would be, there were often no vacancies in the hotels they wanted to stay at. He shared a story where the police were called after someone saw his “two roadies” sleeping in the same bed. 

“It was a surprise hotel tour as well. And we often couldn’t find them because if you haven’t been there before or go to a town where there’s conferences going, you’ll have to go to some pretty crappy hotels,” McCartney explained. “There was a place called Preston Park, and the guy called the police because our two roadies got in late, and there was only one room, and they had to sleep in the bed, so the guy reported them to the police — he thought they were homosexuals, and he didn’t like that. They weren’t, but the police did have to come and investigate.”

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