BBC News visits the 1972 Wings Tour Bus restoration workshop to get up close and personal with this legend of rock and road.
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BBC News visits the 1972 Wings Tour Bus restoration workshop. Click to see the full report
The open-top bus Sir Paul McCartney and his band Wings used to take them on tour across Europe 50 years ago has been restored.
He converted the double-decker for his post-Beatles band and their families, with the seats on the upper deck replaced by mattresses and bean bags.
It was discovered in Spain and brought back to the UK where a project began to restore it at a workshop in Thorpe le Soken, Essex.
Brad Earl, who worked on it, said he was “very pleased” with the restoration.
The bus originally served local routes in Essex and Norfolk in the 1950s and 60s before being bought by McCartney, who said he did not want a normal bus during the summer tour in 1972.
After the tour, it eventually ended up outside a cafe in Tenerife before being moved to the cafe owner’s garden.
The bus, known as WNO 481, was then brought back to the UK and subsequently bought by Tom Creaven-Jennings, who wanted to restore it for the 50th anniversary of the the tour.
Mr Earl, who works at a lorry repair and body shop, said: “I came into work one morning and the owner [of the bus] had sent me an email asking me if I would be interested in restoring this bus.
“I said yes straight away, my mum was a huge Paul McCartney fan and I couldn’t give up the opportunity.”
He said it took 16 months to restore.
“It was completely rotten from top to bottom,” he said.
The bus features bunkbeds, as it did for the 1972 tour, and an original trunk donated by Wings drummer Denny Seiwell.
But there are some changes, as the upper deck, which featured blankets, beanbags, mattresses and a playpen for the children – now folds down to become a mobile stage.
It is hoped the bus will be used at motor shows, concerts and festivals in the future.
1972 Wings Tour Bus used by Paul McCartney and Wings after secret Birmingham gig coming to Classic Motor Show at the NEC
The newly-restored 1972 Wings Over Europe tour bus appearing at the Classic Motor Show at the NEC this weekend dates back to the same year Paul McCartney and his Brummie guitarist Denny Laine played a secret gig in the city at just three hours’ notice
A newly-restored 1972 topless tour bus used by Paul McCartney and Wings 50 years ago will be one of the star attractions at the Classic Motor Show at the NEC this weekend. The bus was used for the ‘Wings Over Europe Tour’ just months after the former Beatle and his Tyseley-born guitarist Denny Laine had rocked up in a self-driven van to play a secret gig at the University of Birmingham.
During the early weeks of 1972 – some 21 months before the release of Wings’ November, 1973 album Band on the Run – Macca began an unannounced tour of the UK where nobody knew where he and The Moody Blues’ original member Laine would play next. With band members including Paul’s wife Linda (keyboard), Henry McCullough (guitar) and Denny Seiwell (drums), the idea was to go back to basics on a ‘magical mystery tour’.
Driving up the M1 in a van, Macca liked the sound of the name Ashby-de-la-Zouch. But, with no venue to play, Wings ended up at Nottingham University – and so began their ‘university tour’. They then called ahead to Leeds but when the person there wanted assurances etc, Macca took the band on to York instead where the unavailability of the big hall led to them playing in the dining hall instead.
After adventures in places like Hull, Scarbrough, Newcastle, Carlisle, Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool, Wings drove to the University of Birmingham’s Debating Hall on Monday, February 21, 1972. The band casually arrived at 5.15pm and asked if they could play.
When the doors opened after 9pm, there were hundreds queuing outside. An estimated 700-750 students watched the show.
The secret tour is detailed online at www.the-paulmccartney-project.com which says the audience was 750 strong. But BirminghamLive has also sourced a cutting from the University of Birmingham’s student newspaper, Redbrick.
According to the website, the band were using a van driven by McCartney himself with a truck following behind. The organisers of this weekend’s Classic Car Show said one of its prized exhibits is a ‘newly restored 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 as used by Paul McCartney’ (with children) later that summer.
The bus has its own website here which says the Bristol KSW 5G ECW open top double decker went into service on November 3, 1953. After travelling 7.500 miles to 25 cities in nine countries during the summer of 1972 it became ‘The most famous bus in the world’.
The Redbrick cutting from the secret Birmingham gig just months earlier offers an incredible insight into the way one of the greatest pop music superstars and songwriters of all time went right back to basics. His post-Beatles aim was to rediscover the magic of his early days in The Cavern where he would enjoy playing ‘with a cheese roll in one hand’.