Paul and Linda McCartney are mugged in Lagos

Paul and Linda McCartney were robbed at knifepoint in Lagos, Nigeria, on 17 September 1973.

They were in Lagos to record the Band On The Run album, having left England on 30 August. They had chosen Nigeria for a change in scenery and wanting to be in a hotter climate, not realising that the facilities were far from ideal.

Earlier that day they had recorded ‘Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)’ at Ginger Baker’s Batakota (ARC) Studio in Ikeja, Lagos. After the session’s conclusion they chose to walk back to their rented villa, despite warnings from the locals not to go out at night.

A car pulled up beside them, and the driver offered the McCartneys a lift. Paul declined and told them he was happy to walk. The driver continued a short distance further down the road before stopping again.

This time the doors opened and five or six men got out, one of whom pulled out a knife.

We’d been told not to walk anywhere: ‘This is Africa, man. Take a car everywhere.’ But you know, that’s what they say in Harlem, and you’ve got to experience the place.

Me and Linda were walking half an hour from the mate’s place to our bungalow. It was a beautiful night, camera, tape recorders all over us, just prime mugging targets. And this car pulled up, Linda got a bit apprehensive.

The window came down. ‘Are you travellers?’

I said, ‘Er, yeah, we’re just walking, you know?’ So the car went on for a few yards and then it stopped again. They’d obviously had a discussion, and one of them got out.

I said, ‘Listen mate, its very nice of you to offer us a lift, but it’s OK, we’re walking.’ The fuckers were gonna mug us! And me, soft-head, you know, is going, ‘That’s a really nice offer, man. Fine. Off you get back in.’

And I pushed him back in the car! Another discussion, another few yards. Next time, all the doors went, six people jumped out, the little one had a knife, he was shakin’, he was shittin’ himself and so was I. There was no mistaking it, this wasn’t a lift.

Linda, who’s a dead ballsy chick, she’s screaming, ‘Don’t touch him! He’s a musician! He’s just like you! He’s a soul brother, leave him alone!’ She’s screaming at the top of her voice. ‘What do you want, man? Money? Here. You can have it. The tape? Sure! Take it. Camera. Yeah, go on, you can have it all.’

They left. I said, ‘Right, we walk fast, very fast and don’t stop for anything.’ Got back to the villa. The minute we got back, [gasping] cup of tea, the lights went, all the lights went out. Fucking ’ell.

It turned out to be a power cut, but I said, ‘They’ve followed us. They’re gonna do us.’ You know how you think, It’s not rational. And you know what we did? I said, ‘Let’s go to bed.’ That was the best we could think of. We just pulled the bedclothes over us and stayed there till morning. Praying that morning would come. And it did.

I was a nervous wreck. We got to the studio the next day and the guy who owned it says, ‘You’re lucky you’re white. They would have killed you if you’d been black, because they’d have figured you would have recognised them.

They took the demos of Band On The Run. I thought the joke would be that the guys who robbed us probably recorded over them, or chucked them in a ditch as being of no value. It’s kind of ironic. You have to laugh. But I certainly wonder what happened to those little cassettes.

Paul McCartney
Conversations With McCartney, Paul Du Noyer

The McCartneys retold the story a number of times in subsequent years, with some details varying on each telling. It was first revealed in the Melody Maker in an interview published on 17 November 1973.

The loss of the demos was not revealed until the 1980s; previously only the theft of money had been mentioned.

Wings returned to England on 22 September, five days after the mugging took place, with the album mostly complete. McCartney claimed several times that losing the demos meant recalling the songs from memory during the Band On The Run recording sessions. In fact, the last song to be recorded in Lagos was ‘Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)’, which was taped on the same night. Only ‘Jet’, ‘Bluebird’, and ‘Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five’ were recorded back in London at AIR Studios, and it may have been the demos of these that were stolen.

The date of the mugging was discovered by the authors of The McCartney Legacy. It was disclosed in an internal MPL memo sent to Wings’ publicist Tony Brainsby towards the end of 1973.

Last updated: 22 February 2024
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