Wings Over America was a triple-disc live album released in 1976, following the 13-month Wings Over The World tour which visited 10 countries.
Paul McCartney intentionally started Wings as a low-key operation, beginning with a brief tour of English universities, followed by a European tour and a fuller set of dates across Britain. He wanted the group to earn their right to play large venues, rather than trading on his reputation as a former Beatle.
The world tour was scheduled following the successes of the Band On The Run and Venus And Mars albums. Following extensive rehearsals it opened in Southampton, England in September 1975, and continued around Britain before moving on to Australia, Europe and North America.
The tour grew in scale as it progressed, with larger venues outside the United Kingdom allowing Wings to perform to bigger audiences. By the time they got the North America, the group had a specially-chartered BAC 1-11 aeroplane with Wings Over America painted on its fuselage, with three articulated trucks carrying their equipment from venue to venue.
In England… the normal venues are like 3,000, so very naturally we started off with 3,000 people, and then we went to 5,000, 6,000, 14,000 in Australia, and then we played some bigger halls in Europe, which were more like 15,000… I like things like that. I like things step by step.
The months spent rehearsing and performing turned Wings into a solid live act, and the group’s confidence grew as it progressed. The shows drew from McCartney’s entire back catalogue, stretching right back to The Beatles, and songs from the previous three Wings albums.
After the tour ended, McCartney returned to England and began sifting through over 70 hours of material recorded during the tour on 24-track tapes. He had hoped to have an album ready by November 1976, but it was delayed until the following month.
McCartney worked at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, for up to 14 hours a day for six weeks, selecting the best performances to present a complete live show by Wings. The studio engineers were Phil McDonald, Jack Maxson, Mark Vigars, and Tom Walsh.
Following its release, rumours spread that Wings Over America had been sweetened with various overdubs in the studio. Although some minor vocal or guitar changes did take place during the post-production period, the majority of songs had very few overdubs.
Wings Over America was released as a triple album, with artwork credited to McCartney’s production company MPL and design company Hipgnosis. Richard Evans designed the graphics, with letting by Geoff Halpin.
The front cover image, painted by Richard Manning, was intended to represent the group’s arrival in America, with light emerging from the opening hatch. The theme continued over the three inner sleeves.
Each half of the gatefold sleeve was split into two compartments, with the fourth holding a poster of Wings featuring photographs by Bob Ellis.
MPL commissioned Jeff Cummins to create the artwork for the inner gatefold, giving him a 10-day deadline. Cummins painted a scene from a performance featuring all the members of Wings.
Paul and Linda McCartney commissioned the painting for Wings Over America which propelled me into the international arena. Calls came in from all over the world and life became very interesting indeed!
Humphrey Ocean, the artist who had drawn the inner sleeve for Wings At The Speed Of Sound, had accompanied the group as the artist in residence during the North American leg of the tour. Ocean created a series of paintings and drawings inspired by his time on the road with Wings, which were published as Ocean Way.
An anthology of photographs taken during the tour was also assembled by Hipgnosis, and was titled Hands Across The Water – Wings Tour USA.