Sir Paul McCartney says those expecting Wingspan — the combination album and documentary project covering his first decade after The Beatles' breakup — to just be a chronicle of hit singles and platinum albums will be surprised by the scope of the endeavor. "The great thing about this story is it's got a lot of human drama," McCartney says, "because it was a struggle trying to put it together after The Beatles — I mean, The Beatles' career itself was a struggle, and then having reached those heights, to try and do it over and at the same time bring up a young family was quite an interesting human interest story. And that comes over, I think. It's quite dramatic and pretty moving. And then, I think, you realize that Wings was a pretty good band."
McCartney can certainly back that claim up. During its nearly 10-year history, Wings enjoyed 17 million-selling singles — including 1977's "Mull of Kintyre," which set a British record by selling 2.5 million copies — and five No. 1 albums in the United States. Despite McCartney's best intentions, however, Wings always labored in The Beatles' shadow; interviewers constantly asked McCartney when and if the group would get back together, and Wings' releases occasionally competed in the marketplace against newly packaged Beatles collections.
Ironically, Wingspan faces similar circumstances, coming in the wake of The Beatles' phenomenally successful hits set 1. McCartney takes a share of the blame for that; he says that he persuaded the EMI conglomerate to delay the release of 1 from its originally proposed fall of 2000 date so it would not compete with the new Yellow Submarine package that came out during the same season.
"We didn't plan that timing, because Wingspan started being made about three years ago," explains McCartney, whose son-in-law, Alistair Donald, directed Wingspan. "But what's been happening is … like, I was out in Los Angeles six weeks ago, and a lot of people were saying, 'Gosh, my 6-year-old, my 8-year-old, my 10-year-old's really into you guys from the 1 album.' I was being asked to sign to all these kids, a lot of stuff, which was really interesting to me. And then people say to me, 'You know what they want to know now? What happened next?' And I say, 'You know what? The timing's right, because what happened next for me was the Wings band.'"
The two-CD, 40-song Wingspan album arrives in stores today. The two-hour documentary airs at 9 p.m. EST Friday on ABC.