Paul called me and said “Clive I need you to take some pictures for my new album, Wings A The Speed of Sound” and I said ‘Wow, cool title.” Then a few days later at the studio in Chelsea Paul, Linda, Denny Laine, Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English all came to the studio in Chelsea. I started off by doing individual portraits and then I said to Paul “Do you think we should do something…. then Paul interrupted me and said “Yeah, something that says more ‘Wings At the Speed of Sound’.” I said, “I’ve got an idea” so I put a piece of fluorescent white tape across the studio floor horizontally (12ft Long) against a black background.
I then said to Paul, “Stand in the centre of the tape”, I lit Paul and dimmed down the modelling light on the flash unit. Paul looked at me in a bemused way and said, “What are you up to? I walked over to him in the dim studio light and with a magic marker drew around his shoes on the white fluorescent tape. Looking up at him I said, “This is your centre point. I am going to try some multiple exposures, either side of you, to give the feeling of speed, like a visual echo”. He said “Okay lets try it, I hope it will work” and then he started laughing. As he was laughing I said “That’s great, every time you move either side of the centre point use a different expression”. I knew at heart that Paul was a fab actor and could easily do this and by doing it; encourage the rest of the band as their leader to do the same.
I had a Polaroid back fitted on the back of the Hasselblad Camera. In the darkness I left the camera lens open at F16 (a small aperture). I said to Paul “Every time I press the flash, you need to move half a step to another position on the tape, with a different expression. I then started in the dark with Linda and the rest of the band behind standing in perplexed silence. Flash! The figure of Paul appears for a fraction of a second in the darkness and I shout ‘Move to the left”. Flash! Paul’s changed face appears again out of the darkness, this time with a different expression and then we repeated the process to the left and to the right and then we all waited to see the Polaroid test result.
I myself was in a highly nervous state, because it had taken so much time to produce the Polaroid test. Peeling back the Polaroid with Paul, Linda and the band peeking over my shoulder was extremely nerve wracking and it’s fair to say I was three steps away from needing the toilet. To my absolute surprise and delight and their surprise and delight it had actually worked. Paul and Linda said, “That looks fab”. This was all done on film, there where no digital solutions at this time. I then had to break it Paul and the band that they would all have to go through the process but this time on film, two rolls of film per person (24 Frames). This was obviously time consuming and I have to hand it to Paul and the band for having the patience and good humour to go through the long and complex process again (see the images Paul and Linda above). You can also see the results in the really fantastic book Wings At The Speed of Sound. Paul very kindly sent me a copy of this amazing book that also includes the re-mastered albums.
I found the above photograph of Paul & Linda and contact sheet of Denny Laine with Paul and Linda (at the origin of Wings) in my archive recently. It was really moving to see them all when they were so young. Linda was always so kind and gracious to me as a fellow photographer and it was lovely to hear that Paul had given works to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s also really wonderful that Paul and Linda’s daughter Mary McCartney has continued the family photographic tradition even exhibiting some of her work with her mothers.
It’s actually Sir Paul’s birthday today and when I think back to the wonderfully mad things we have done over the years together (including The Band On The Run cover and Off The Ground) I am extremely delighted to have been involved in all these things. It was always such a pleasure to work with Paul and Linda and the boys. One of the maddest ideas was Paul asking for a live seal on a roulette table (see below). I have never understood the logic of this, but it was very funny. The seal completely destroyed the roulette table with various bodily functions, including sicking up a herring and defecating into the roulette wheel that had to be removed. I happened to notice the little message it left was on the number zero.
Paul Mc Cartney Blank A5 Greetings Card
Beautifully printed A5 blank Paul McCartney Card and White envelope – £3.99 (Free Postage and Packing for UK Orders) £1.80 Postage outside the UK.
- Clive Arrowsmith is shooting stunning images, staging exhibitions and is as passionate about photography as he was when he first pressed the shutter at The Paris Collections. He is available for global media opportunities related to his work and photography generally. Bespoke prints from Clive’s archive are also available by special request, for any enquiries (email Eugenie here). Clive’s book Arrowsmith: Fashion, Beauty & Portraits is available hereand Lowry at Home: Salford 1966 is available here