Wings tour bus gets around
The current owner of the tour bus used by Paul McCartney & Wings for their 1972 tour of Europe, Tom Jennings has sent us an update:
In October 2019 I bought a 1953 Bristol KSW 5G ECW Open Top Double Decker Bus more famously known as Paul McCartney’s 1972 Wings Tour Bus.
The 1972 Wings Tour Bus WNO 481 is currently down in Devon at the restorer’s workshop and when she is finally on the road she is booked to star at The Classic Motor Show at The NEC in 2022 and will then go on loan to Transport Museum, Wythall for a year.
I’m a member of Whitewebbs Transport Museum in Enfield and they also want the bus on loan, as do museums in Ipswich, Cardiff, Swansea and Scotland. She will also be attending bus rallies events etc. and, because the top deck is being converted to a stage for festivals, events etc. bands are getting in touch to engage the bus for videos, photo shoots etc. Tours of Europe, Ireland and the USA are also being discussed with some very famous names. It looks like WNO 481 will be busy.
FBHVC – Federation Of British Historic Vehicle Clubs – 250,000 members – 1m World-wide members through affiliates.
Check out the Christmas edition of the FBHVC Magazine featuring WNO 481 on the front cover with a 6 page feature inside (PDF).
WNO 481 has been called, “Legend Of Rock & Road”, “The World’s Biggest Beatles Collectible”, “The Only Beatles-related Double Decker Bus” “The Most Famous Bus In The World” but what is the actual story behind the legend? See below:
THE BREAK UP OF THE BEATLES – WNO 481 – THE RISE OF PAUL McCARTNEY
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 Lennon’s shock private announcement at Apple HQ on 20th September 1969 that he was breaking up his band and wanted a ‘divorce’ from The Beatles. Though Paul was working on songs that would eventually make it on to his first solo album “McCartney” on 9th April 1970, six months after John’s private ‘divorce’ announcement Paul was forced to tell the one-word truth when asked questions in the album launch press release, “Are you planning a new album or single with The Beatles?” Paul replied, “No”. When asked, “Do you foresee a time when Lennon-McCartney becomes an active songwriting partnership again?” Paul again replied, “No.” So, after eight years that shook the world, redefined music and rerouted popular culture it was now public knowledge that the 60’s dream was over. Paul spent a lot of down-time in 1970 and 1971 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. Years later Paul related the story that one day Linda said to him, “You know you don’t want to get too crazy.” From there he set about building his next musical life which would soon include Wings and a rather special attention-grabbing 1953 Bristol KSW open top double-decker bus. But not just yet…
For Wings First (faltering but plucky) Flight in the cold and inhospitable month of February 1972 Paul rented a scarlet caravan and an Avis truck and set off for a random, almost secret University Tour of The UK. The newly formed Wings just rocked up and asked to play. The 11 seat-of-the-pants gigs from the 9th to 23rd February 1972, the fun, the uncertainties, the Hamburg style hardships all seemed to gel the band to the point that Paul was confident enough to take the next step; a properly organised summer tour of Europe. The symbolic butterfly that emerged from that University Tour chrysalis was a bus resplendent in bright and welcoming colours that boasted loud and proud and confident messages in the artwork and invited everyone, “We come in peace. We come to play. We come to have a good time. We Come Together – Join Us”.
WNO 481 was in no hurry and neither was James Paul McCartney now on a proper ‘Bond’ mission with the guys who were now set the formidable task of replacing John, George and Ringo. Paul could have gone the super-group 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. The Beatles had stopped touring in 1966 because they stopped enjoying each other as they couldn’t hear each other over the sounds of the screaming fans. Paul yearned to Get Back (!) touring and put forward the idea of maybe even small gigs to the other Beatles but they refused. 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 open top deck relaxing, goofing off, jamming, rehearsing and all the while the ever important bonding.
When the world’s press became aware in 1970 that The Beatles were splitting up it kick-started a media 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 an old English open top double decker bus. WNO 481 carried Paul McCartney, family and Wings over 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometres) to perform 25 concerts in 25 cities in 9 countries across Europe hotly pursued by reporters from around the globe documenting every turn of the wheel, every movement and note. As the tour progressed it was widely reported how the band developed and by the time the tour was completed Wings had transformed into a world-class musical working unit. Paul’s writing and performing resurgence confirmed that he had completed the painful transition from ex-Beatle to Paul McCartney and Wings …and WNO 481 had played its part as Macca’s Mother Ship, as Woodstock On Wheels, bringing everyone together as Paul’s fully qualified new musical mates. 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.
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.”
For almost 60 years Paul McCartney has been a national treasure. 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 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. In 2016 Wings was inducted into The Grammy Hall Of Fame after 13 nominations and 6 wins.
WNO 481 is not only a cool, classically beautiful example of 67 years of transport-of-the-people motoring heritage but when Paul McCartney gave WNO 481 its Wings almost 50 years ago an iconic rockin’ and rollin’ legend was born. Or should we say Legend Of Rock And Road?
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”.
The bus now has its own website: 1972WingsTourBus.com
There’s also a Facebook page: Facebook.com/1972WingsTourBus/
Previous blog posts about Wings’ 1972 tour bus: