Evening Standard, Hulton Archive LONDON (AP) - Miles and Jimi. Jimi and Miles.…
- Posted on Feb 18th 2011 5:00PM by James Sullivan
Jan Persson, Redferns
"My name is Lennon, and you can guess the rest," he told the crowd before unveiling his new song, 'The Luck of the Irish.' Since the breakup of the Beatles, Lennon, who had Irish heritage, had been the most politically active of the estranged band members, hitting the charts with 'Power to the People,' 'Imagine' and 'Happy Xmas (War Is Over).'
But 'The Luck of the Irish' went nowhere. Instead, the ex-Beatle who drew the most controversy over the plight of Northern Ireland was the congenitally diplomatic Paul McCartney.
Within days of Bloody Sunday, McCartney had his new band in the studio, where they recorded the pointed protest song 'Give Ireland Back to the Irish.' The single was released on Feb. 25.
In England, the song was destined for controversy. When McCartney told EMI that he wanted to release it as the first single by his new band, Wings, the chairman refused. McCartney persisted and EMI relented, but the song would surely be banned, the chairman warned.
'Give Ireland Back to the Irish' was in fact banned in the UK. The host of 'Pick of the Pops' was forced to refer to the song cryptically, as "a record by the group Wings." Yet despite no airplay and unfavorable reviews, the simplistic song still managed to sneak into the UK Top 20, and it charted nearly as high in America. Not surprisingly, it hit No. 1 in Ireland.
The release was a bit uncomfortable for one of the new members of Wings, guitarist Henry McCullough, who was born in Northern Ireland. McCullough, a good friend of fellow newcomer Denny Laine, was first noticed in the UK with a psychedelic band called the People. Chas Chandler, Jimi Hendrix's manager, convinced the group to play up its heritage, and they changed their name to Eire Apparent.
McCullough later joined Joe Cocker's Grease Band and recorded the lead guitar on the original cast recording of 'Jesus Christ Superstar.' But he was perhaps best known as the disembodied voice that appears at the end of Pink Floyd's 'Money,' playing into an old Irish stereotype: "I don't know," he says. "I was really drunk at the time."
Though the guitarist hadn't lived in his homeland for some time, he "knew it would cause a little bit of a fuss," as he told McCartney biographer Howard Sounes in 'Fab.' In fact, McCullough's own brother was roughed up in Northern Ireland over the song.
McCullough's term in Wings would be short. He and McCartney squabbled over his meager sideman's salary and the musical direction of the band. When he told the bandleader he planned to improvise his solo the ballad 'My Love,' the former Beatle replied, "Oh, Jesus, Henry!"
The guitarist remained in Wings for just two years, quitting as the group was beginning work on the 'Band on the Run' album. Years later, Nick Lowe would record a version of McCullogh's song 'Failed Christian.'
After the release of 'Give Ireland Back to the Irish,' McCartney's choice for a follow-up single was perceived as a dig at EMI and the BBC for their cowardice -- a cover of 'Mary Had a Little Lamb.'