Revisit ‘Rockestra’, Paul McCartney’s supergroup including Townshend, Gilmour, Bonham and more
There are few people on this earth who are able to call Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham, John Paul Jones, The Who’s Pete Townshend, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour plus countless more rock legends as friends. But The Beatles have a way of connecting everybody so Paul McCartney can do just that.
In 1978, Macca was keen to put his heaving phonebook to the test by forming one of the biggest supergroups of all time. He asked the aforementioned rock stars, plus a host more, to attend the Abbey Road Studios to record two songs for the latest Wings record Back To The Egg. It would be the biggest collection of rock credibility of all time.
Let’s take it back to basics. When Paul McCartney calls you up and invites you to be a part of his band, even for just two songs, you gladly accept the invitation. It’s a tried and tested method that has seen many stars work with The Beatles man over the years. So when Macca had two tracks planned for his new Rockestra, there were high hopes.
The ensemble included some really heavy hitters from the great and the good of rock ‘n’ roll. The Who’s Pete Townshend heeded the call as did Kenney Jones, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker, the Faces’ Ronnie Lane, the Attractions’ Bruce Thomas, and Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and John Bonham, among a ream of incredibly talented players.
The group could have been bigger, too. Despite receiving an invite, some of the guestlist couldn’t make it. Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck were the biggest names to turn Macca down for one reason or another. Sadly, Keith Moon was scheduled to appear but died just a few weeks prior to recording.
The two songs in question ‘Rockestra Theme’ and ‘So Glad To See You Here’ would test the group as Macca pursued his usual pop perfection. Wings’ guitarist Laurence Juber often recalled how Macca would turn guitarists away from pursuing the blues riff that they all wanted, “Where Paul wouldn’t really go was into that kind of extended bluesy lead guitar solo,” he said. “Now he’ll go there more readily as part of the stage show; but then — I won’t say that it was an area not to go, but it was an area to maybe hint at. Y’know, so I needed to be inventive. And he drove me to be inventive.”
The supergroup session would go down in history as one of the most star-studded events in rock. The songs would be finished by Linda McCartney and Denny Laine and become a vital part of Wings’ set.
The group performed together only once as most of the players got together on December 29th, 1979, at the closing night of The Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea benefit at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. There they would perform a few songs including two versions of ‘Rockestra Theme’ and a couple of covers of Little Richard and The Beatles’ ‘Let It Be’.