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Wings Over America
Wings Over America
(2013 Remaster)

2001-Apr-25: Memories of the Japanese Prison

After 21 years, Sir Paul has revealed some of the details of his experience following his arrested at Tokyo airport in 1980 when customs officers seized marijuana from his suitcase.  During an interview for the Wingspan documentary, he told his daughter, Mary:

"I was thrown into nine days of turmoil in that Japanese jail.  It was very, very scary for the first three days. I don't think I slept very much at all. And when I did sleep I had very bad dreams.  I don't know what possessed me to just stick this bloody great bag of grass in my suitcase. Thinking back on it, it almost makes me shudder.  I think, I don't believe that, how could I do that? How could Linda who was much smarter than me let me do that?  I must just have said, 'Oh baby, don't worry, it'll be alright'.

"I really thought I was such an idiot. I didn't have a change of clothes. I couldn't see anyone. I couldn't even have a book. And of course they were all speaking Japanese and I couldn't understand a word of it. It took me three days to realize that you were allowed a change of clothes. I'd just worn this green suit that I'd arrived in and hadn't taken it off.

"I was scared because the actual penalty for what I did was seven years hard labor.  After a few days I started to see lawyers, but nobody actually said they would be able to get me out.  After a few days I became like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape. My sense of humor and natural survival instinct started to kick in. 'I realized from all the movies I'd ever seen and from all the books I'd ever read that the gig in the morning is that you've got to clean your cell. They'd put a reed brush and a little dustpan through the grill in the cell door.  I started to realize, 'Right, I'm going to get up when the light goes on, I'm going to be the first up, I'm going to be the first with his room cleaned, I'm going to roll up my bed, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do that.' You had to clean your room and then sit cross-legged on your blanket, and you went 'Hai and the guard came and said, 'OK, you can get washed'.   The first couple of days I'd been the last to get washed because I hadn't figured it out. But once I understood what was needed I started to become the guy who was cleaned first, who got to do his teeth first.

"During what they used to call the exercise period I'd squat down with all the other prisoners and you were allowed to have a cigarette. You squatted around a tin can, like a baked bean can, smoking your cigarette and tapping the ash in the can.

"There was one guy who spoke English. He was a student, in for social unrest. He was quite clever a bit of a Marxist. I could talk to him.  There was another guy who was in for murder, a gangster guy. He had a big tattoo on his back which is the sign of gangsters in Japan. I started to become one of the lads. I started doing games with these guys. One of my games was something we'd played in the studio with The Beatles. It was who can touch the highest part of the wall. Of course, because I was taller than the other prisoners as they were Japanese, I tended to win that game.

"So I was doing all of that, almost enjoying it by the end.

After 9 days, he was released, returned home, had a cup of tea and a long sleep, and never spoke of his "very, very scary experiences" until now.    "When I got out Linda said I'd got institutionalized."

It was after this Japanese experience, he decided to disband Wings:

"It wasn't fun anymore and the bust definitely sort of cemented that. It was like, 'Oh God, who needs all this '  The band was very annoyed with me because me being busted had blown one of their big pay days. Nobody was too happy with me at the time.  Everyone had told us, 'Don't take drugs to Japan'."

From the start, the McCartneys had met with fierce criticism for taking their young children on tour with them:

 "Basically we took the kids on the road with us because we love them. The idea of leaving them with a nanny or in a boarding school was abhorrent to us.  Our concern was always that we'd be in somewhere like Adelaide and some nanny would ring up from back home.  She'd say one of the children had a serious fever.  Linda and I wouldn't be able to stand that, your child being ill and you not being there at their side."

All the kids turned out to be very smart.  They all passed their exams in the end, so it obviously wasn't a bad thing to do.  And we all turned out to be a very close, loving family."

The production of  Wingspan has been a family affair largely through the work of  his son-in-law Alistair Donald:

"I once said to Linda, 'You know, all these home movies and snap shots that we've been taking of the kids growing up, when do we intend to look at them?'  Unknown to me, Linda had had another special album made up of photos and she'd asked Alistair to put together with Mary what they called The Anniversary Tape.

"At the end of seeing it, Linda and I said: 'You know, that would have made a great TV show.'  It was a little bit too personal for TV, but it gave us the idea for Wingspan.  We decided that Alistair should tell the story for the first time."

The documentary opens with the period following the breakup of the Beatles:

 "It was the hardest act to follow. I could have just got together a super group of famous friends.  Or I could have just gone on tour on my own and just sung my Beatle songs.  But I decided not to do that and the best thing was to just totally learn our craft again from the ground up, like going back to the shop floor.

"Linda and I used to call it our 'funky period' with Wings because it was pretty funky.  We were going against all of the normal rules and just seeing if you could do it this different way. Really it was just the beginning of all of that alternative lifestyle."

(kindly submitted by PLUGGED correspondent Joan M. Hopkins)


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