January 16 – Wings High Over Japan

Not one of Paul McCartney‘s finer hours 40 years ago.

Arriving with his band Wings in Tokyo this day in 1980 to kick off what would have been an 11-show tour of Japan culminating with 4 concerts at the famous Budokan Hall, he was arrested at the airport with almost half a pound of marijuana. He recalls that the security officer “looked more embarrassed than me” and says in retrospect he had no idea how stern Japanese laws regarding drugs were. He was whisked away to jail and spent over nine days in a small cell before being released and deported.

It wasn’t the first time “Mac” had troubles from his love of pot; he’d been fined in Sweden in 1972 for it and in Scotland in 1973 for growing it and his wife Linda was charged at L.A. airport in 1975 for trying to bring some into the country.

Although the Japanese didn’t press charges in the long run, they did briefly ban all of his music from their radio and TV and the Wings tour was canceled, resulting in a costly refund for over 100 000 tickets. Coupled with bad reviews for the 1979 Back to the Egg album (Rolling Stone called it “the sorriest grab bag of dreck in recent memory”) it was supposed to promote, the band got their noses out of “joint” and soon after broke up. Denny Laine, ex of the Moody Blues and Wings’ guitarist (and sometimes additional bassist to Paul as well) had put out a solo record by year’s end and soon McCartney would be doing the same.

10 thoughts on “January 16 – Wings High Over Japan

  1. badfinger20

    Half a pound…let me repeat lol…half a pound. The tour manager should have known how Japan was and let Paul know. Some say it was Linda’s and Paul took the rap but it’s on both of them.
    John Lennon had some fun with this story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s flabbergasting to think that he maybe thought he wasn’t going to get caught. Maybe, like the article I linked it to suggested, he wanted to (at least sub-consciously) to end the tour and perhaps the band, or else maybe he thought being A Beatle, he would be above having his luggage checked, though his past experience should have shown him that wasn’t the case.
      Ironic, I’ve read he’s finally given up smoking dope and just now it’s getting to the point where he could actually do so in a lot of places with no repurcussions.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. badfinger20

        I think the part about him being a Beatle would be the most logical. Japan though is tedious about things…there is no way he could get by with that.

        But the other could be it also…McCartney’s reputation in the rock world in the early seventies was a square…after he got busted for pot…his credibility went up again…as backwards as that sounds…but that was the rock world.

        So all of it may have played a part.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. hmm, hadn’t thought of that angle. Perhaps. with reviews bad and sales middling for that album, maybe he figured it would generate a lot of “buzz” and improve sales and his “street cred”.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL!
      I looked at the track listing and only barely remembered “Getting Closer”… looking at the reviews, I guess there was a reason the other tracks didn’t make it onto hit radio.


  2. Pingback: June 28 – 1980, Part 2 : Spirits ‘Coming Up’ – A Sound Day

  3. I never heard that album and probably never will. But I do have to say that the Japanese government went WAY overboard on their punishment for a little weed. Sheesh! 9 days in jail and the tour was canceled?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true , but be it as it may, McC knew the risk he was taking and it was damn stupid to try and not only get some through in his luggage, but enough to be considered probably ‘trafficking’ instead of just possession. I think the lawyers had to work hard to get him out as quickly as they did. Kind of like that basketball player lady (Griner ?) jailed in Russia right now for having – allegedly – some hash oil in her luggage there. Haven’t heard her lawyers say it’s untrue, and while what she did would have been legal in some states and maybe just got her a fine elsewhere here, it’s a big crime in Russia and with the tensions so high between the countries, it was just plain stupid of her. Some foreign laws may be dumb, but be aware of them before you travel I say.

      Liked by 1 person

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