Click to play the soundtrack plus interviews with Paul McCartney and others who were there.
In the Summer of ’72, The Summer Of Wings Paul McCartney chose WNO 481 as the 1972 Wings Tour Bus & took it rockin’ & rollin’ across Europe after the glory days of The Beatles. With its world-famous rock superstar on board this amazing family and band adventure the tour was hotly pursued by the world’s media for over 7,500 miles across 9 countries and 25 cities.
Paul McCartney’s 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 became a Legend Of Rock & Road & landed the title “The Most Famous Bus In The World”.
The biggest rock and pop superstar in the world, not one but two Hollywood superstars, a major pop star and much-loved tv star, a footballing hero, the ultimate UK football trophy and BAFTA – The British Academy of Film & Television Arts all share the same connection. Stay with us to find out how a 20 year old seaside special open topper that started life in humble service to the good people of Essex came to live those dreams.
WNO 481 is a 1953 Bristol KSW 5G ECW open top double decker bus that started life in the Bristol Omnibus factory where the Gardner 5LW engine was fitted to the rolling chassis before moving to Lowestoft for Eastern Coachworks to fit the classic KSW body.
Its very first day of service started on 3rd November 1953 for Eastern National as a closed topper lowbridge in Chelmsford taking in Colchester then Clacton and Butlins in its golden heyday.
1965 – It was converted at Chelmsford Garage to an open topper for service along the coast road taking in Clacton, Butlins, Walton On The Naze etc.
1968 – WNO 481 was acquired by The Eastern Counties Omnibus Co. which operated an extensive network of bus services throughout the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and into parts of Essex, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, an area of some 9,000 square miles!
1972 – In the Summer of ’72, The Summer Of Wings Paul McCartney chose WNO 481 as the 1972 Wings Tour Bus & took it rockin’ & rollin’ across Europe after the glory days of The Beatles, the biggest band of the 1960’s. Hotly pursued by the world’s media for over 7,500 miles across 9 countries and 25 cities WNO 481 became a Legend Of Rock & Road and landed the title “The Most Famous Bus In The World”
It was on this bus and on that tour that Paul McCartney transformed from former Beatle to Paul McCartney & Wings that ultimately became “the best selling pop act of the 1970’s”.
“Wings toured the world and became the best-selling pop act of the 1970s, with an astonishing 27 U.S. Top 40 hits (beating Elton John’s 25) and five consecutive number one albums, including the highly acclaimed Band on the Run (1973) and Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976).”
WNO 481 can lay claim to being Chelmsford’s, Colchester’s, Clacton’s, Essex’s most famous bus. Great Yarmouth’s, Norfolk’s most famous bus. Lowestoft’s, Suffolk’s most famous bus. WNO 481 has been called the most famous bus in the world.
50TH ANNIVERSARY RESTORATION
In July and August 2022 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1972 Wings Over Europe Tour when Paul McCartney chose WNO 481 to become the 1972 Wings Tour Bus we are delighted to announce that the Legend Of Rock & Road is at this time approaching the final stages of a major restoration and will soon emerge from the restoration workshops.
Using historic photo’s and videos to help it Get Back as faithfully as possible to its glorious McCartney best both in layout and livery the lower deck is being restored to its original McCartney layout but the open top deck has been re-imagined and engineered so that WNO 481 now has an amazing new super power; the ability to transform into a performance space fit to grace any festival or event from Glastonbury to Woodstock… WNO 481 has even been called “Woodstock on Wheels” and Glastonbury have shown interest in seeing photo’s once the transformation is complete.
Just as the artwork on the bus was inspired by and is a tribute to The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine so the new performance space on the top deck was inspired by and is a tribute to The Beatles 1969 Rooftop Concert and named in honour of its very own superstar; THE McCARTNEY STAGE. After Paul’s storming set at Glastonbury 2022 who knows we may see you at Glastonbury 2023.
THE CLASSIC MOTOR SHOW AT THE NEC
Paul McCartney’s 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 is booked to star at The Classic Motor Show at The NEC in November 2022 on the FBHVC Stand at the entrance to Hall 5. We are very pleased to be associated with The FBHVC – The Federation Of British Historic Vehicle Clubs with their 250,000 members in the UK and millions worldwide through their affiliates. The bus has been featured in their wonderful and colourful newsletter magazines since the front cover feature and six page article inside in their Christmas 2020 edition https://www.fbhvc.co.uk/newsletter-archive. A presenter on the stand will talk about the restoration and interview those whose names appear on the Paul McCartney’s 1972 Wings Tour Bus Restoration Roll Of Honour, How great for all those featured names to have Paul McCartney on their cv. A true win-win.
Bands are booked to appear on THE McCARTNEY STAGE at The NEC and the exciting line-up can be seen at this link:
Paul McCartney loves buses and here are some of his quotes:
“I went to school on a bus” – Paul McCartney
The Beatles formed on a bus.
“I met George on a bus, I first saw John on a bus, George auditioned on a bus. Penny Lane was the bus depot. If I was visiting John I could go from my place in Forthlin Road to Penny Lane change and go up to his place in Menlove Avenue.” – Paul McCartney
“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 travelled 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!”
“Doing this tour is like playing Hamburg 8 hours a day with The Beatles” – Paul McCartney
“My ideal is to play off the back of a bus… ” – Paul McCartney.
In 1972 and the first half of 1973, McCartney was trying to get his solo career started, generally by playing small venues at colleges in Britain and Europe without any advance notice. In late 1973, he re-established his critical and commercial reputation in a big way with the “Band on the Run” album, but he didn’t tour for two solid years, until the second half of 1975. By then, everything had changed. He was huge, such as being on the cover of Time Magazine, and his concert tour was huge. So his 1972 and 1973 concerts occupy a unique and important part of his musical history.
THE BREAK UP OF THE BEATLES – ENTER WNO 481 – THE RISE OF PAUL McCARTNEY
In 1970 when Paul announced The Beatles were splitting up the world’s media went into a frenzy to find out what John, Paul, George and Ringo would do next. John went off and had his well publicised adventures. For Paul the summer of ‘72 became the Summer Of Wings. In July and August for the 1972 Wings Over Europe Tour Paul got himself a 20 year old English seaside special open top double decker bus.
In Tom Doyle’s book Man On The Run one of the chapters that mentions WNO 481 is titled ‘Life In The Slow Lane’. The text fondly states, “Its top speed was an un-impressively chugging 38mph …” it then goes on to explain that this was just what Paul needed after the events of the previous 3 years that started with John’s shock announcement in 1969 that he wanted a ‘divorce’ from The Beatles and then the considerable down-time lost in 1970 and 1971 Paul had spent coming to terms with the realisation that John, Paul, George and Ringo had gone their separate ways and that The Beatles as a band was no more.
“With the addition of Irish guitarist Henry McCullough, Wings plugged away on their second album Red Rose Speedway through most of 1972…” – Paul McCartney.com
James ‘Bond’ mission…
WNO 481 was in no hurry and neither was James Paul McCartney now on a ‘Bond’ mission with the guys who were set the formidable task of replacing John, George and Ringo. Paul could have gone the supergroup route and just played safe alongside superstar friends like Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, Keith Moon, Phil Collins, John Bonham and many others but he wanted to do again what he had done in the beginning with The Beatles, play gigs for fun with a bunch of musical mates. In 1969 Paul had put forward the idea of doing small gigs to the other Beatles but they refused.
We Come In Peace…
While WNO 481 cruised through the summer heat of Europe instead of sweltering inside the bus Paul, Linda, and new musical mates; Denny Laine, Henry McCullough and Denny Seiwell all lazed around on the mattresses, pillows, cushions and bean bags spread around the open top deck relaxing, goofing off, jamming, rehearsing and all the while the ever important bonding. They were living the messages in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour – Yellow Submarine inspired artwork that invited everyone loud and proud, “We come in peace, we come to play, we come to have a good time, we Come Together – join us”
Musical & Critical Success
As the tour progressed it was hotly pursued by reporters from around the globe documenting every turn of the wheel, every movement and note. It was widely reported how the band developed and by the time the tour was completed Paul McCartney and Wings had transformed into a world-class musical working unit and Paul’s writing and performing resurgence confirmed that he had completed the painful transition from former Beatle to Paul McCartney and Wings. The tour was a musical and critical success and provided the launch-pad to the next phase of the most successful music career of all time…and WNO 481 had played its part.
1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 carried Paul McCartney, Linda, Heather, Mary and Stella McCartney, Wings band members Denny Laine, Henry McCullough, Denny Seiwell, wives and girlfriends over 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometres) to perform 25 concerts in 25 cities in 9 countries across Europe.
With the ‘Bond Mission Summer Of Wings’ with 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 successfully completed Paul went into Abbey Road to record tracks for the upcoming Red Rose Speedway album which included the classic song My Love.
During the same sessions Paul recorded the song that was destined to become an instant classic and the first James Bond theme song to be nominated for an Oscar Live & Let Die.
We are left shaken and stirred at the tantalising and intriguing thought Mr Bond that the development of the band into a world class working unit resulting in the critical and musical success of the Wings Over Europe Tour, the relaxing in the sunshine on the open top deck and the sound of the ‘music’ from the Gardner 5LW on 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 for over 007,500 miles may have contributed to Paul McCartney’s songwriting creativity. With Roger Moore as James Bond if 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 played a part in this we are proud to have been of “Secret Service”.
Paul was now ready to take on the two biggest live concert challenges in the world; to rock the UK and then to rock the USA. By 1976 Paul McCartney had written hit songs and with Wings performed his way back to the pinnacle of stadium rock. New concert attendance records were set that defined how rock concerts would be staged in the future. To paraphrase a music critic of the time, “… maybe The Beatles are no more but thank goodness we have Paul McCartney and Wings.”
“Wings toured the world and became the best-selling pop act of the 1970s, with an astonishing 27 U.S. Top 40 hits (beating Elton John’s 25) and five consecutive number one albums, including the highly acclaimed Band on the Run (1973) and Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976).” – https://www.britannica.com/biography/Paul-McCartney
PAUL McCARTNEY’S WINGS ACHIEVEMENTS:
In 2016 Wings was inducted into The Grammy Hall Of Fame after 13 nominations and 6 wins… more…
PAUL McCARTNEY’S CAREER ACHIEVEMENTS:
IN SUMMARY – PAUL McCARTNEY & WNO 481
For almost 60 years Paul McCartney has been a national treasure and international superstar. He helped create the biggest band of the 1960’s The Beatles and then went on to create the biggest band of the 1970’s Paul McCartney & Wings. He has written more Top 5 hits than anyone else in history, he’s the biggest selling pop and rock star of all time but back in 1972 he was in recovery from the painful break up of the biggest band in the world, essentially starting over and for one of his most important and pivotal tours he chose a tour bus unlike any other before, or since. He could have had his pick of the newest and best buses in the world including the Mercedes and Volvo’s etc. but he chose our old English Bristol KSW 5G ECW seaside special open top double decker bus WNO 481 as the 1972 Wings Tour Bus. He then brought old English to the lands of the Volvo’s and Mercedes that in turn flew the flag for the Backing Britain Campaign started in 1968.
When Paul McCartney gave WNO 481 its Wings almost 50 years ago an iconic Legend of Rock & Road was born and landed.the title “The Most Famous Bus In The World’.
Beatles authority Steve Bradley recently stated on his excellent Beatles Facebook Group Page, “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 – Tom Jennings” Steve also called WNO 481, “The world’s biggest Beatles collectible”
Long may the 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 keep rockin’ and rollin’ – thank you.
and there’s more …
Other famous names and organisations associated with WNO 481 include:
THE EPSOM DERBY
CILLA BLACK, TREVOR BROOKING & THE FA CUP
BAFTA’s CAVALCADE TO CANNES FOR THE BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY:
… AND FINALLY TO HOLLYWOOD WITH THE UK’S OWN SUPERSTARS:
ROGER MOORE’S JAMES BOND – TANTALISING AND INTRIGUING 007
JULIE ANDREWS – THE SOUND OF MUSIC’S MARIA & MARY POPPINS
This unique 1953 Bristol open-top double-decker bus combines memories of summers at the seaside, 50 years of rock and roll history, a time-capsule of art, connections to Hollywood and almost 70 years of classically beautiful automotive design heritage.
We hope you have enjoyed reading about 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481
1972 Wings Tour Busketeer, Heritage Owner & Guardian of WNO 481 – Legend Of Rock & Road.
1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 – Legend Of Rock & Road
KEEPING ALIVE PAUL McCARTNEY’S YESTERDAY.
– Tom Creaven-Jennings
FBHVC – The Federation Of British Historic Vehicle Clubs
The Classic Motor Show
With over 250,000 members in the UK and over a million worldwide through affiliates we are delighted that the FBHVC have taken us under their ‘Wings’ (pardon the pun intended). The 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 is booked to ‘star’ at The Classic Motor Show in November on the FBHVC stand at the entrance to Hall 5, next to Starbucks so everyone gets to see it.
Issue 6 – 2020 was the first time 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 appeared in the FBHVC Magazine. It appeared on the front cover with a six page article inside. Subsequent issues have followed our restoration story.
Discover on YouTube
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.
Photo’s and Video’s of WNO 481
From the 60’s to the latest from the restoration.
The Restoration Roll Of Honour
Acknowledges the talented people instrumental in helping achieve the restoration.
3D Models including The McCartney Stage on Sketchfab
“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 – Tom Jennings. 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”
Best wishes from Tom and all the 1972 Wings Tour Busketeers
The Full History of WNO 481 At A Glance