Click to play the soundtrack plus interviews with Paul McCartney and others who were there including Geoffrey Cleghorn.
In 1972 with the sights and sounds of Woodstock 1969 the festival that attracted half a million revellers still echoing across the world renowned artist Geoffrey Cleghorn was chosen to realise the vision of tranforming WNO 481 into the 1972 WINGS TOUR BUS. Geoffrey was friends with Pink Floyd, The Who & The Rolling Stones and had recently completed a giant mural for Keith Moon of The Who. He enlisted fellow Ipswich Art College (now Suffolk Campus) students Neil Dean, who designed the Wings logo, Georgina Dean & Charlie Smith.
Geoffrey Cleghorn related to BBC’s Nick Coffer how he came to get the commission to paint Paul McCartney’s 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481:
“I had painted a mural for Keith Moon. The drummer with The Who in 1971, 25 feet long. He lived in a five pyramid house if you can work that one out. It was a big pyramid in the middle and then another one stuck on each corner. And one of them was his bar. And it was in the bar that I had done it. It was Marvel comics. I was heavily into Marvel comics and it was a great meeting between about 12 or so characters. Goodies versus baddies lurking in the background in the bad section was Mephisto, the demon from the Silver Surfer comics. And Silver Surfer, Thor, Iron Man, et cetera were all steaming in from the left ready to attack.
We need this bus painted. Do you fancy having a go at it? We want it to be a like Yellow Submarine, blah blah, you know. It gelled from there. Originally, we were supposed to have about 10 days to do it. And there was a timetable, but we ended up with four days. But all the same, we got it done. We done it.
Well, no. It felt great because this was a Beatle. It felt great. “Oh, wow We’ll do that. We’ll do a good job on it.” Of course, it was good. It looks great on the CV didn’t it, you know? Basically, help fill the bus up with large blocks of color in peculiar shapes that are going to attract attention as it rolled along the road at 45 miles an hour. It’s like a billboard, but it’s a moving billboard. So, you, haven’t got to be too finicky about tiny little bits and pieces. It’s wham, bam, whoo, look at that oh, one of those.”
We didn’t meet him until, Grand Hotel, Toulon. First of all, on the second day.
Tom (Salter) somehow. I don’t remember if he came down the garage or whatever he said to me and Charlie (Smith) because it was our job. It was Charlie and I took it on and we then pulled in the rest of the crew. “Do you want a bonus? Do you want to come on the tour for a while? There might be little fiddly things that need to be done. I said, “I don’t know.” He said “have you got a passport? Do you want to come? We’re leaving tomorrow.” “Yes.” “Okay, brilliant. Bonus!”.
And I was quite excited when somebody found it. And this whole thing, it was something in its time, wasn’t it? But it was good. It’s largely with the benefit of hindsight that the story’s blowing up.
Nick: And there you were with an open-top bus driving down. Was it route seven that you had done?
Geoffrey: Route 7, yeah. People’s eyes were hanging out on stalks as we drove past.
Nick: At 45 miles an hour maximum.
Geoffrey: At 45 miles and the Porsches were doing a lot more. Even the lorries are overtaking you. They had the name of the band on the back and a bloody great black and silver W a flying ‘W’ on the back and underneath, nicely sign-written, Paul McCartney, Denny Laine, Henry McCullough, etc. etc. on the back of the bus. If you were behind the bus it was right in front of you. And people would go, “Oh, Paul McCartney, Beatles”
Hear Geoffrey Cleghorn tell the story of how he got the commission to paint the Wings bus after doing a giant mural for Keith Moon of The Who.
Discover how Paul McCartney gave a 20 year old English seaside special open top double decker bus its Wings and created the Legend Of Rock & Road.
Tom Jennings relates how the artwork needed to be restored and how he wanted to work with Geoffrey Cleghorn:
In October 2019 immediately after I bought the bus I tracked down Geoffrey Cleghorn, the original artist and asked him if he would consider restoring the original Beatles Magical Mystery Tour / Yellow Submarine inspired artwork back to Paul McCartney’s 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481. He said, “Sorry, Tom, I’m too old to climb those ladders.”
So I came up with another plan: Geoffrey Cleghorn, Neil Dean and Georgina Dean all went to Ipswich Art College and I will approach Ipswich Art College, if not Ipswich then Essex, tell them about Geoff and the artwork and Ipswich Art College’s famous connection to Paul McCartney and ask if any of the current crop of Ipswich art students are talented enough to be chosen as we are planning to reinstate the artwork as close as possible to the original.
Then I thought how amazing it would be to have Geoff select, guide and mentor those students. Geoff was already well-known as the creator of that artwork but most importantly he would be acknowledged and credited today as the creator of that work, the original and now the reinstated artwork restored to the bus.
His Wings Tour Bus artwork legacy will be re-born. Imagine Geoff inspiring a new generation of artists, being able to pick them, to guide them, mentor them directly speaking to them across the generations and passing on to them some of the magic he clearly bestowed on that bus that was used to such amazing effect by the biggest rock star on the planet for the last 50 years.
This to me is the ultimate artist’s acknowledgement and show of respect and is the accolade he deserves. I loved the original artwork, a classic time capsule. The bus and the artwork are forever linked and should be re-united and restored.
Further to a conversation yesterday with Georgina and today with Geoff I am delighted to confirm that Geoff has today agreed to work with the restoration and supervise a select group of art students to re-instate his Wings artwork.
In typical Geoff style he said, “never mind all that journalist stuff, I just want to make sure it’s done right.”
Straight-talking, witty, irascible, cheeky, naughty, modest, annoyed that his work was painted over but above all a burning talent shining through and waiting to be re-unleashed on the unsuspecting art world.
Then we got to the art school and I realised my camera didn’t have a cassette in it and all the shops were closed. So I said we’d do it tomorrow in Old Church Street. In the evening I called Duggie Fields [Syd’s flatmate, still resident at Wetherby Mansions] to check Syd had got back okay and Duggie told me he’d gone to Ibiza. He had a passport with him and he’d just gone to the airport and taken a flight to Ibiza.
When he got back we went to the basement and did the filming. I just had the camera with this psychedelic lighting. It was very amateur and everyone was very stoned. I’d sit people down and tell them to do whatever they wanted. Some took their tops off, some stared at the camera, talked, had a cup of tea… and I just filmed it because they were fabulous people. I filmed so many. In the scene I shot with Syd was Geoffrey Cleghorn, who was a friend of the Who and the Stones. I’d met him at art school in Ipswich and he’d followed when I moved to London and got involved in the whole scene. He’s an amazing guy.