Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Filming "Take it Away"

Here is a story from the July 1982 (Issue #39) of "With a little Help from my Friends" about some fans who were able to see Paul and Ringo (and George Martin) in person when they were extras for the video of the Paul song, "Take it Away".

Ringo and Barbara photo taken by Margaret Drayton
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Linda and Paul photo taken by Margaret Drayton

photo:  Dave Bearne

Filming “Take it Away”
By Margaret Dreyton
                My friend Kathy Turner had got two admission letters from the Wings Fun club to watch Paul record the “Take it Away” video at the EMI Studios at Elstree on 23rd June (1982).  It had originally been scheduled to start at noon but the letters told us that it was now to start at 10 a.m. and asked us to arrive between 9:30 and 9:45 a.m. As London was beset by a tube strike so more cars were on the roads trying to get commuters to work, we got up early and set out at 8:15a.m to allow extra traveling time.  9 a.m. found us sitting in a traffic jam thinking we were going to be late as we were only half way there but after that the roads were almost clear as we left London and we were standing in the queue outside the studios by 9:20.  Security was tight as Sue (of the Fun Club) plus a helper checked our names off her list, ticked our letters and stamped the back of our hands with a rubber stamp shaped like a cat’s paw print.  WE were told we weren’t allowed to move around the premises unless accompanied by someone who worked there so having checked in we were formed into groups and escorted into Stage 3 where some seats had been arranged in the corner of this vast warehouse-like building.  We sat there thinking it was a bit odd that there was nothing else in there e.g. a stage set, cameras, etc, but we later discovered that Stage 3 was being used as a waiting room to keep us together and under supervision while the recording was being done in Stage 4.  A Range Rover drove in the door towing the mobile toilets trailer and managed to wedge the trailer on the doorframe by turning in too sharply so it had to be dragged in by the stagehands only to find that they couldn’t plumb it in inside the building.  Then one of the stagehands put “Tug of War” on a stereo cassette system that was facing the seats and hastily took it off again when we all laughed and booed as it was going round far too slow!  Tea, coffee and biscuits were brought in and while we were drinking we were told that they were running late and wouldn’t need us until 2p.m.  As it was only 10a.m. then everyone groaned at the thought of sitting in that dreary building for four hours.  They then said we could leave the studios if we wanted to and look around the town until they were ready, so we left to cries of “don’t wash the stamps off your hands.”  As we stepped outside Stage 3 we found it was pouring with rain and the stamps started to get washed off.  With ink dripping off our fingers we wandered around the small high street and ended up in the pub where we got talking to other fans, all recognizable by the ink marks on their hands in various stages of getting washed away.

At 1:15p.m. we started queuing up outside the studios again and were let in just after 1:30.  While we’d been out they’d moved the toilets trailer outside Stage 3 and just round the corner and when some of the fans had gone out to use it they’d met Paul.  We sat there envying them when we were told they wouldn’t need us until 4pm.  We sat around getting really bored and frustrated and at 3:50p.m. they brought us more tea.  At 4:05 p.m. they took the first 100 out of the 400 or so fans off to Stage 4, the others were to follow in groups of 100 I nearly missed the first group as I’d picked the wrong moment to pop around the corner but just managed to get included.  We entered Stage 4 to find Paul already on the set with the band (including Ringo) jamming away and managed to get seats in the sixth row.  All the seats were level though so we had to keep ducking around trying to see through the people in front.  The band was standing inside a large blue shell (like half an Easter Egg) on a silver floor.  Behind this and on the left and right walls were sheets of material with a sunset type pattern in blue and red.  Paul looked really gorgeous – a moment of pure magic after all that hanging around.    The band was wearing white shirts with the collars turned up at the front, black bootlace bow-ties, black trousers with a gold stripe down the outside of each leg and black jackets with differing naval rank gold stripes around the cuffs.  Linda was wearing a white dress with the same tie, black waistcoat and short white socks!  When everyone had filed in and sat down (and stood up again to see and had been told to sit down again!)  Paul introduced the band - George Martin on electric organ, “Richard” on drums, “A Steve Gadd lookalike…Butler (I didn’t catch his first name) also on drums, Eric Stewart (of 10cc fame) on lead guitar, the Q-tips brass section, “Our Lin on tambourine” and “my name’s Fred!”!  He explained that they didn’t know many tunes together but they’d fool around.  They carried on jamming together with Paul hamming it up as usual making faces at the audience and putting on funny voices during the lyrics.  A lot of the jamming especially at the beginning was instrumental but Pau did sing several rock n roll numbers such as “Lucille,”  “Twenty Flight Rock,”  “Searchin’” throughout the evening.  He was in great voice and the band played very well together especially when you think none of it was rehearsed.

We discussed that our part in the video was to be the audience during the second verse and chorus of “Take it Away” and they did a few takes in between the jamming.  The band was playing live but only the studio track will be hard on the video.  Every time they were filming they started the playback of this to ensure lip synch.   They asked us not to take photos when the camera were rolling but in between takes they didn’t mind as long as we didn’t go up near the band and winkle the silver floor with our feet (or mob Paul of course!)

After a couple or so takes someone using Paul’s mike started telling us when to clap, when to stand and when to cheer and unknown to him Paul was standing behind him taking the mickey our of everything he said!  At one point during a lull in the jamming someone asked Ringo to sing, so he sang the “Yesterday” to great applause.  George Martin then started playing the song so we all stood up and urged Paul to sing it.  Ringo took Paul by the hand and let him to the mike, Paul walked like an old man with very infirm legs and bent double, but he wouldn’t sing it.  He said that George would carry on entertaining us so George started “Here There and Everywhere.”  Linda started singing “Maybe I’m amazed” but stopped after those three words.  At 5:30pm the band took a break and left Stage 4 by the center aisle.  We were sitting over by the right hand aisle, so we were really delighted when Paul came back in at 6 p.m. down this aisle so we could see him close and take a few photos.  The filming continued and about three quarters of an hour later we were taken back to Stage 3.
Just after 7 pm, we were escorted back to Stage 4 to find that they’d moved off all the seats nearer the set so the front row was only a few feet from the band.  I managed to duck in a side door to Stage 4 and got front row seats for us so we could see Paul better.  Ringo came back in with Barbara and walked right along the front row where we were sitting and asked if anyone had “a seat for the lady.”  He took hold of the bloke sitting next to me by the wrist and pulled him out of the seat so Barbara could sit down.  Next to her was George Martin’s wife.  Someone passed an LP down to Barbara and asked “Mrs. Starkey” to sign it but she said she’d been told not to.  Ringo lurched off to his drums before this but fortunately his drumming wasn’t affected by the booze!  When the band started up again Barbara couldn’t take her eyes off Paul and he and Linda kept smiling over her which was very disconcerting for me sitting next to her t keep seeing Paul smiling in my direction even if he wasn’t grinning at me.  A few more takes were down with us standing and cheering as before and then at about 7:45pm, they asked us to turn our seats sideways to the stage to face the left hand wall.  There wasn’t enough room to do this they soon realized so they moved us back to Stage 3 so they could do it and leave enough room for our legs.

Everyone was getting fed up with  being shunted around like this (they should have known better than to take us away from Paul!) and everyone had the same idea that first out of Stage 3 meant first into Stage 4 and in the front row so we all kept heading back to Stage 4 and getting sent back.  Apparently so did get in and knocked the chairs over.  It almost got out of hand but finally they took us back in groups at about 8:15pm.  The seats were now all facing the left wall and band had been moved to standing in front of it.  They started filming John Hunt as the “important impresario” standing at the back of the audience using the right wall as a backdrop.   They had to turn everything sideways like this as if he’d stood at the proper back of the hall the backdrop would have been bare walls with a large door.  We weren’t lucky with seats this time and ended up standing at the back of the audience to one side.  Paul started jamming and at one point when they were ready to do a take the band was in full swing so someone went up to Paul and asked him to stop.  He stopped singing and playing and turned to get the others to stop too and then hit his own hand as if he’d been a naughty boy.  Paul and the band weren’t being filmed at all but they carried on playing along with the playback to entertain us and even when it stopped they’d keep going, although Paul usually sang the vocals in a funny voice.  They played so well you could only tell the difference between the live version and the playback by the volumes the playback was really loud, apart of course from Paul’s vocals but when he sang properly that sounded the same as the record.  At one point Linda and Ringo did a drumming duet between takes (Linda on drums?)

Filming ended and we were told we could have autographs providing we behaved ourselves and didn’t go too mad.  If only they’d thought of forming us into a queue but instead Paul just disappeared in a heaving mob that made rush hours on the tube bliss by comparison.  Everyone was pushing and shoving, those at the back to get forward, those at the front to get out and those of us in the middle just got squashed between the lot.  I got pushed sideways so I ended up behind Paul and with no hope of getting an autograph.  Kathy got pushed so hard by the bloke behind her that Paul saw it, told the fan to stop pushing, signed Kathy’s picture and insisted that they let her out.  I gave up and got out and very shortly afterwards Paul left looking really annoyed as it was such a complete fiasco.  He wouldn’t’ sign anymore autographed but we were told that if we handed in our pictures with our names and addresses on the back, Paul would sign them and they’d post them back to us.  I did this and we left.  It was not 9:15pm almost 12 hours after we’d arrived and we were shattered.  It was rather obvious that the film people had no idea how to handle 400 Paul fans and that it didn’t’ work out to treat us like ordinary film extras who presumably are used to the waiting and shunting around.  They didn’t seem to appreciate that we’d all come to see Paul and that it was inevitable that it would get out of hand after all that waiting.  Still they thanked us before the autograph mob scene for being so well behaved.  The waiting around was really boring but it was all worthwhile once we got to see Paul again and I wouldn’t’ have missed that for the world. I hope I never get caught in a crowd like that again thought as it was really frightening and somewhat spoiled the day.  Still it was a good experience.  Thanks Paul!

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