Spirit of Ranachan Studio: August 1978
Recording for Back To The Egg began at the Spirit Of Ranachan Studio at the McCartneys’ Scottish farmhouse on 29 June 1978, lasting for five weeks until 27 July.
The barn had a mobile RAK recording unit, which had previously been utilised for London Town. Backing tracks for at least eight Back To The Egg songs were recorded here: To You, Again And Again And Again, Arrow Through Me, Winter Rose, Spin It On, Old Siam, Sir, Maisie, and a rough version of Love Awake.
In the final six days in Scotland, overdubs were recorded for the first six of these songs. Twelve demo recordings for a proposed Rupert The Bear animated film were also taped during a single day, and the group made a promotional film for the London Town single I’ve Had Enough.
Lympne Castle, Kent: 11-29 September 1978
Following a summer break, Wings moved to Lympne (pronounced Lim) castle in Kent, England. The owners of the castle appeared on two recordings: Dierdre Margary contributed spoken word to the opening track Reception, while her husband Harold recited The Sport Of Kings by Ian Hay and The Little Man by John Galsworthy over the backing track of The Broadcast.
We recorded most of it in a medieval castle in Kent. For a whole month we took over this fortress and proceeded to record in the kitchen, the stairwell, the spiral staircase and the main hall. What’s more, the owner found herself narrating a story called The Poodle And The Pug on a special track. It was good. It was interesting. We like to record in unusual places because it gives the recordings a healthier and brighter approach. I personally don’t believe in acoustic myths. I think that, as long as you have good mikes and good songs, you can record anywhere.
The RAK mobile studio was again used at Lympne; Steve Holly’s drums were positioned inside the fireplace in the great hall. Songs worked on at the castle included We’re Open Tonight, After The Ball, Million Miles, Reception, The Broadcast, a new version of Love Awake, and a demo of Rockestra Theme.
McCartney wrote and recorded Robberts Ball while at Lympne, and completed the unreleased Cage. Wings also taped an instrumental, Ranachan Rock, but this too remained unused.
EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London: October-December 1978
McCartney returned to the familiar surroundings of EMI Studios to record Rockestra Theme and So Glad To See You Here in October 1978. While there the group also recorded other songs including Getting Closer and Baby’s Request. Further overdubs were added to previously-recorded songs during November and on 1 December.
Rockestra Theme was recorded on 3 October, and involved some of Britain’s best-known rock musicians. They included Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, The Shadows’ Hank Marvin, The Who’s Pete Townshend, Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham and John Paul Jones, The Faces’ Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones, and The Attractions’ Bruce Thomas.
The Who’s Keith Moon had also been invited, but died shortly before the session. Ringo Starr declined the invitation to attend as he was out of the country. Guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, all formerly of The Yardbirds and with glittering subsequent careers behind them, also failed to turn up.
McCartney began by playing the assembled musicians the Lympne recording of Rockestra Theme, before spending an hour rehearsing the group. Recording began at 2pm and the track was completed quickly.
It’s amazing how tightly they all played together. With people like Pete Townshend, Gary Brooker, Hank Marvin, Ronnie Lane, Ray Cooper and Dave Gilmour, you would have expected a rougher, less controlled sound. But it didn’t turn out that way. When you get 14 rock musicians together for the first time, they can be incredibly tight.
So Glad To See You Here was recorded with the same line-up, with a live backing track and McCartney’s guide vocal, which was re-recorded the following day.
Replica Studio, London: December 1978 – February 1979
Having been informed that EMI’s Studio Two had been booked by Cliff Richard in December 1978, the impatient McCartney had a replica of the control room build in the basement of his MPL offices in London. During a three-month period much of Back To The Egg was mixed, and some new songs were recorded. These included the standalone single Goodnight Tonight/Daytime Nighttime Suffering, and the coda to So Glad To See You Here and the ending for Spin It On, as well as other overdubs.
Following this work, Replica was disassembled and the temporary walls and barriers removed.
EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London: March-April 1979
Back To The Egg was finally completed back at Abbey Road, with overdubs and mixing during March and early April. The final recording took place on 1 April when the Black Dyke Mills Band recorded their parts for Love Awake.
The final stereo master tapes were assembled on the same day, with the master discs cut by Nick Webb.
Since Wings were not due to tour Back To The Egg until the end of 1979, McCartney commissioned Keff and Co to create a set of promotional films. Filmed during the Lympne Castle sessions from 4-13 June 1978, they were intended to be shown as separate clips or as a half-hour film.
The entire set was screened by various US television stations from November-December 1979. In the UK they weren’t shown as one until the BBC broadcast them on 10 June 1981. The running order was Getting Closer, Baby’s Request, Old Siam, Sir, Winter Rose, Love Awake, Spin It On, Again And Again And Again, Arrow Through Me and Goodnight Tonight.
The historic Rockestra Theme session on 3 October 1978 was also filmed for posterity. Directed by Bruce Chattington, it was shot on 35mm Panavision cameras, with a total of 80,000 feet of film being used. In 1980 this was cut down to 5,500 feet for the resulting 40-minute programme, titled Rockestra.
I asked the fellow who was going to film if he could film it like they film wildlife. You know, they sit back off wildlife and just observe it and they just let it go on with its own thing and when you try and film our session it’s a bit like the same sort of thing. If everyone notices the cameras and lights, they all freeze up and won’t talk naturally and they all get embarrassed. So they put all the cameras behind a big wall and no one could see the cameras and a lot of them didn’t even know it was being filmed. John Bonham had no idea it was filmed… in fact he is suing us!