You Gave Me The Answer – 'One Hand Clapping' Special!

Paul recording 'One Hand Clapping' at Abbey Road Studios, 1974

One Hand Clapping – the live studio album by Paul McCartney and Wings – has finally been released! 50 years after the band headed to Abbey Road Studios to film a documentary and potential live album, the coveted studio sessions are now available to buy and stream, to the delight of Wings fans everywhere. Have you listened to it yet? 

June 2024 feels like a different lifetime to August 1974, when Paul and Linda McCartney, Denny Laine, Jimmy McCulloch and Geoff Britton rocked out in Studio 2, and yet the hallowed space hasn’t changed much – take a look at this ‘now and then’ photo:

Paul recording 'One Hand Clapping' at Abbey Road Studios, 1974
Paul recording 'One Hand Clapping' at Abbey Road Studios, 1974

To celebrate this long-awaited moment, we joined Paul on a trip down memory lane, as he looked fondly back on the recording of One Hand Clapping and gave an insight into his influences and intentions at the time… The first thing we want to know is: “What is the sound of One Hand Clapping?” Where does the title come from? 

Paul: Originally it is a Zen question. But then of course, I realised you could kind of do it with a certain hand motion, and it turned out to be a very good hand exercise! It's really good if my hands feel a bit stiff – then I will do that. We’ve seen you do that in meetings before!  And how did come to use that title for this project? 

Paul: I think it came from David Litchfield, who was the director of the One Hand Clapping film. There's no particular lightbulb moment that I can think of, we just thought it's a nice phrase, and makes people think. It does! And the sessions sound like a lot of fun, there's a lot of energy in the performances. How does it feel for you, listening back to these recordings from 1974?

Paul: It feels really good actually. I'm delighted to be transported back, just because that's the nature of old film and old recordings. I didn't realise we were that good at the time! I think people all share this thing: we're never that sure of ourselves, and looking back I really should have been sure of myself. I've proved to myself that I can write songs, and I’ve proved that I can write songs that people remember. 

I've actually got a lot of reasons to believe that I'm good, but I don't. I don't think I'm bad, but I still think what I make could be better. I first heard the phrase ‘self-loathing’ when I was talking to Lady Gaga about songwriting years and years ago. She said, “Well, you know, there's always that self-loathing”. “Self-loathing?” I said, “What? You're great, you shouldn't be saying that!” I hated to hear that she doubted herself from time to time. 

That's the thing you've got to watch out for; not getting too depressed and just being able to use it as a way of improving instead. I think not having a massive ego can draw you onward. I'm in the studio at the moment, and I'll do something and then come in the next day and think, “I can make that better”. Does your mindset change if you’ve had a big hit? At the time you recorded One Hand Clapping, you’d just had the massive success of Band on the Run with Wings. Did it feel like the pressure was off because you'd had that success, in a way? 

Paul: Yeah, a big success does help, and we’d been working towards making Wings a good band. We'd come from scratch, but we kind of pulled it off by then because we’d had a big hit record and a big tour. So yeah, we could acknowledge that we were a good band. There were still those moments of self-doubt, and I think I’ll always have that, but a big hit certainly makes it easier. When you went into the One Hand Clapping sessions you’d recently come back from a trip to Nashville. Do you feel like the city had an impact on your songwriting at that time? To our ears, ‘Sally G’ has a bit of a country twang!

Paul: Yeah, I think so. I do pick up influences, so if I'm in a place like Jamaica for example and listening to reggae all day, then I'll add a bit of that sound in, like we did in ‘Love is Strange’. Where you are can sometimes influence what you do. And yeah, on ‘Sally G’ I was definitely trying to be a country guy. 

Hey, what about Beyoncé's album? It’s cool, isn't it? It's funny, there's Beyoncé going back into country because she is a Texan, but there's Taylor Swift coming from country into more pop/Beyoncé-land. It’s true that as a musician you pick up the influences around you. Unbelievably, 1974 was the first year since 1963 that you hadn't released an album – either with The Beatles, with Wings or solo. Did you have a chance at this time to step back and look at your body of work and appreciate it? Is that the reason you played some Beatles songs in the One Hand Clapping sessions? 

Paul: Yeah, I think once we had the success with Wings, I felt that I could do any songs I wanted and obviously that included Beatles songs. Promoters had been asking me to do that for years! I'd been saying, “No, this is Wings, we don’t do Beatles songs.” So yeah, once we had our own individual success with Wings, then I felt we could do a bit of the Beatles stuff, and it was nice. I enjoy going back into that stuff now. I feel like I can pretty much do anything that I like the feel of. 

In the past I would always shy away from ‘John songs’, and I still do some extent, and do the ones that I took lead vocal on in the band instead. But sometimes now I'll do ‘the John song’ where he took the lead vocal, and people seem to enjoy it. I'll have to start doing ‘Imagine’! That would probably break the internet! Speaking of covers, part of the One Hand Clapping release includes The Backyard, which was recorded outside at Abbey Road and features you on an acoustic guitar playing some rock’n’roll classics. Was it your suggestion to record this?

Paul: Cool little session, isn’t it? I can't remember how it came about, but I thought it'd be a good idea. I’ve done a few open air recordings from time to time. I remember doing it with The Black Dyke Mills Band when we recorded stuff with them. I like the idea of being outside, it's just so different! I got in the backyard there and I suppose sitting down with guitar is what I do. And those rock’n’roll songs are the sort of songs that I would do anyway, sitting around on my own. They’re some of the first ones I ever learnt to play, such as ‘Twenty Flight Rock’ by Eddie Cochran.

My dad used to play the old standards on piano, but he wouldn't teach me. He said, “You gotta get proper lessons if you want to learn, I can't teach you. I just do it by ear.” I said, “No, you're great, just show me,” so I’d watch and pick things up. The big breakthrough song was ‘Twenty Flight Rock’, which is what got me in The Beatles. 

What a historic moment for Paul McCartney and Wings fans, who can now finally listen to these iconic sessions! 

One Hand Clapping by Paul McCartney and Wings is out now, and The Backyard is available as an exclusive 7” vinyl as part of the 2LP release. Buy/stream the record here.

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