Paul McCartney explains why he chose a 20 year old seaside special open-top double-decker bus to be his 1972 Wings Tour Bus. Paul wanted it but promoter John Morris was against the idea as he was concerned the bus wouldn’t be able to keep up with the accompanying brand new and highly efficient Mercedes trucks etc. He tasked Tom Salter, the Tour Manager and owner of the famous Gear Boutique in London’s centre of cutting-edge fashion Carnaby St. to talk Paul out of it. Tom indicated that he would but didn’t carry the message to Paul, he thought it was a fantastic idea to have WNO 481 as the 1972 Wings Tour Bus.
To give some context as to how things were for Paul on his first major tour flying solo with a new band after the break-up of The Beatles here’s an interview he did before the first concert.
“The first show of the European tour was booked for a deliberately out-of-the-way location – a 2,000-seat Roman amphitheatre at Châteauvallon, high in the pine-forested hills above Toulon on the south-eastern coast of France. Here, before the gig, on Sunday, 9 July 1972, Paul gave an informal press conference. ‘I’m starting all over again and working my way upwards,’ he accepted. ‘You don’t fight Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali – World Heavyweight Boxing Champion) on your first time out.’ He hinted at his recent crisis of confidence and the worry of being smothered by the weight of his reputation: ‘A year ago, I used to wake up in the morning and think, I’m a myth. I’m Paul McCartney. And it scared the hell out of me.’
“We knew we were going to tour in Europe and that the weather would be nice, and the idea of being stuck in a bus all the time, going from city to city, hotel to hotel, wasn’t too appealing so we decided to travel around in an open-top bus and got some sunshine as we traveled from one place to another.” – Paul McCartney
“If we’re gonna be in Europe in the summer going to places like the south of France it’s just silly to be in some little box all day gasping for air so we came up with this idea to have an open deck, upper deck kind of thing. We’ve got some mattresses up there so we can just cruise along, fantastic, lie around & get the sun.” – Paul McCartney
“We painted the outside psychedelic, like a magic bus,” McCartney says of their tour transport on that halcyon trip. “If you look at it very straight, very conventionally, it was quite a mad thing to do, to put a playpen on the top deck of the bus and put all the children in there while driving around Europe. It was not what you’d expect from a normal band. But we weren’t a normal band.” – Paul McCartney
In 2017 Paul McCartney tweeted to his millions of followers, “We’ve heard that the 1972 Wings Tour Bus is back on the road in the UK. Have info on this? Send us a DM!”
MPL (Sir Paul McCartney’s Company)
October 2019 we received an email from MPL. “We would like to wish you the best of luck with the refurbishment and please do send photographs when the bus is completed.”
“We only wish you the best of luck on restoring the bus and look forward to seeing its wonderful completion!” – Denny Laine
“With the release of the Wings 1971-73 Box Set a whole new generation of fans is being exposed to some of the greatest rock music ever created.” – Denny Laine
“Magical. Like being part of a movie.” – Henry McCullough
“It sounds like you’re doing a beautiful thing here (the restoration of 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481). I wish you well with it” – Denny Seiwell
“I’m proud to say that when The Beatles broke up I was the first drummer that he chose to work with him which was quite an honour. I knew that the music we would be recording was going to be timeless. It was an honour to be a part of that.” – Denny Seiwell
“We did the University Tour, and Paul said, ‘We’re going to do a tour of Europe and we’re going to travel around in an old English double-decker bus.” – Denny Seiwell
“I thought “Great. What a nice way to go around the South of France.” I had no idea that it would only go 35 miles an hour though.” – Denny Seiwell
“The paint job and everything. People used to come by us on the motorways and everything and they would just freak out. It had our names on the back of the bus and everything. It was quite a trip. It really was. A lot of people just made a big fuss, over seeing that. And then we pulled into the Cap D’Antibes and the Eden Roc Hotel, probably one of the most expensive hotels in the world. I could just see that bus pulling in there next to all of the fancy cars in the parking lot. And here’s this hippie bus with a bunch of crazy guys jumping all around, taking weird pictures and stuff. It was a fun, fun tour.” – Denny Seiwell
“We had wives and kids with us and stuff and an image of The Beatles. Nobody wanted to be a drunk or high either. We thought it was very important that we gave our best performances because we knew we were going to be judged based on the last time they saw the biggest band in the world.” – Denny Seiwell
“No, there were several tables and there were a couple of bunk beds in the back. They were probably there for the kids. They weren’t for any of the band members. We just got on the bus and made it to our next destination. And I remember there were several times where, if we had to go like 150, 200 miles between cities at 35 miles an hour it would take quite a while and there were times where the promoter at the other end would send some BMW’s out on the motorway to pick us up and rush us to the venues so we’d get there in time to start the concert. I remember once in Germany there were five lime green BMWs showed up on the motorway. We got off the bus, we each got into one of these lime green BMWs and did like 150 miles an hour into the venue.” – Denny Seiwell
“The paint job was just lovely. We still have all of the pictures. We’d always take some pictures here and there.” – Denny Seiwell
“But those are such formative years. They were very profound in many ways, as far as my life went in terms of going from a top session guy to becoming a band guy and being part of a band called Wings. And that bus was a big part of it because the European tour was our breaking out. The other stuff before. That was nice, but this was saying, “okay, we’re ready now.” And we had put a lot of hard work into becoming a real band.” – Denny Seiwell
GEOFFREY CLEGHORN – renowned psychedelic artist. Friend of Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Who…
“I had painted a mural for Keith Moon. The drummer with The Who in 71, 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.” – Geoffrey Cleghorn
“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.” – Geoffrey Cleghorn
“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.” – Geoffrey Cleghorn
“We didn’t meet him (Paul McCartney) until, Grand Hotel, Toulon. First of all, on the second day.” – Geoffrey Cleghorn
“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!”. – Geoffrey Cleghorn
“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.” – Geoffrey Cleghorn
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”
TOM CREAVEN-JENNINGS – 1972 Wings Tour Busketeer, Heritage Owner & Guardian of WNO 481 – Legend Of Rock & Road.
OCTOBER 2019 – FROM VINTAGE GUITAR TO VINTAGE BUS
“I’m often asked how I came to buy the bus. In 2019 I was looking to buy a vintage guitar and ended up buying a vintage bus!
I was surfing the internet looking for a vintage guitar when one caught my eye that had been used for many years by one of my singing heroes, country legend Hank Locklin. He had a beautiful voice that I tried to emulate and before my voice broke I could reach Hank’s high notes. In my mind’s eye I could picture the guitar on Hank’s album covers. It was featured on a heritage auctions website and unfortunately was already sold by the shop in Nashville by the time I caught up with it but as often happens on the internet other things catch your eye and something very big caught my eye… Elvis Presley’s tour bus. When I followed that link it had been sold in 2015. I reckon because I clicked on Elvis’ tour bus a few days later I received information that Paul McCartney’s 1972 Wings Tour Bus was coming up for auction, I was only looking…
It was the first I’d heard of the bus in years. So many theories were flying around about what became of her that she became almost a myth like an albatross or a unicorn. I made a mental note to have a look just out of interest to see what Paul McCartney’s bus sold for. Later, when I checked I was astonished to find it hadn’t received one bid! Then I read the auction description & it didn’t match up at all to what I thought the bus should have written about it. I got outraged and thought it shouldn’t have a mere description but a provenance and it should read something like the following:
“WNO 481, this inter-national treasure on wheels is firmly parked at the intersection of time-capsule art, time-less chart-topping music / rock and roll and classically beautiful automotive design heritage. The importance of this 1953 Bristol KSW 5G ECW Open-Top Double-Decker bus cannot be overstated. This authentic, iconic, actual living 50 years of rock and roll history on wheels is surely without equal. This is not like a car or truck seen in a movie where they may use multiple vehicles during filming. This is a true ONE-OFF this is THE ACTUAL UNIQUE bus that is in all the 1972 Wings Over Europe tour videos. The bus that Paul McCartney chose, had painted, that he entrusted himself, his family and his band on to for his first European tour after the break-up of The Beatles.” – Tom Creaven-Jennings
“Paul chose this bus, the transport of the people, because he wanted to get back to his ‘band on the road’ roots after the heady days of The Beatles, the limos etc. The biggest pop/rock star in the world, the rock star of the people, chose this bus, WNO 481, to be video-ed on and carried across Europe on with his family and his new band. 25 cities, 25 concerts, 9 countries, 12,500 kilometres, 7,500 miles in two months on WNO 481 and all in the glare of the fans and the world’s media watching and recording. 50 years of rock and roll living history on wheels, the chosen one and only, the best.
When Paul McCartney gave WNO 481 its Wings he created this Legend Of Rock & Road.” – Tom Creaven-Jennings
SELLING IT TO MYSELF
What I didn’t realise at the time was that whilst I was writing out my own personal provenance of the bus I was actually selling it to myself !!!” – Tom Creaven-Jennings
“Looking forward to the 50th anniversary in 2022 and always on call for Sir Paul.” – Tom Creaven-Jennings
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.
Sketchfab adds WNO 481 3D Model to the Sketchfab Heritage Collection
“Many of us have a big collection of Beatles memorabilia… but only one fan in the whole world has a double-decker bus with a Beatles connection! The world’s biggest Beatles collectible!” – Steve Bradley
“We would like to wish you the best of luck with the refurbishment and please do send photographs when the bus is completed” – MPL – (Sir Paul McCartney’s Company)
“We only wish you the best of luck on restoring the bus and look forward to seeing its wonderful completion!” – Denny Laine
“It sounds like you’re doing a beautiful thing here. I wish you well with it” – Denny Seiwell
“Wishing you every success” – Richard Curtis
“It is a great object and it will be brilliant when it’s restored” – Museum of Liverpool
“What a great piece of music history…” – National Trust
“An interesting heritage focus” – Lottery Heritage Fund
“Fantastic historical bus” – Culture Coventry
“We would love to have it at an event at Beaulieu” – Beaulieu Motor Museum
“You would certainly be very welcome at any of our events”- London Bus Museum
“What a fab project!” – Brighton Fringe
“A unique piece of transport history” – National Museums NI
“Sounds fascinating!” – Handel and Hendrix Museum
“It would be fantastic if you and the KSW could join us for the event.” – Showbus
“I am sure we can assist with your quest to bring WNO 481 back to life and promote its historic journey, educate and aid in its heritage preservation so that future generations can enjoy the marvel that it is.” – Emma Balaam FBHVC
“This international treasure, a living museum on wheels, is parked firmly at the intersection of timeless, chart-topping music, rock and roll, a time-capsule of art and classically beautiful automotive design heritage”…anon
“WNO 481 – Probably the most famous bus in the world.”
“The Bus That Rocked”
“The Wings’ 1972 European tour produced a stunning live album.” – Rock Cellar Magazine
“My Love” – Classic love song.
“Live & Let Die” – The first James Bond theme song nominated for an Academy Award.
“This inter-national treasure is parked firmly at the intersection of chart-topping timeless music / rock and roll, classic automotive design heritage and time-capsule art.” – anon
“Woodstock On Wheels” – anon
“Macca’s Mother Ship” – anon
“Artwork inspired by The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour & Yellow Submarine art.” – anon
Best wishes from Tom and all the 1972 Wings Tour Busketeers