Paul McCartney was already a rock ’n’ roll legend when, in the wake of the Beatles’ break-up, he started the band Wings. The group’s 1972 Wings Over Europe Tour bus soon became a legend in its own right – a legend of rock ’n’ road.
The Wings’ tour bus, a 1953 Bristol KSW 5G ECW double-decker bus will be one of the star attractions at Julien’s “Played, Worn, and Torn: Rock ’n’ Roll Iconic Guitars and Memorabilia” auction on 16-18 November at the Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville, USA.
The historic vehicle joins the previously announced lineup of 1,000 marquee items, including two of the most important guitars ever to be offered at auction: Eric Clapton’s “The Fool” and Kurt Cobain’s “Skystang I,” as well as items from Nirvana, Elvis Presley, Prince, The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Eddie Van Halen, Frank Zappa, Dee Dee Ramone, Snoop Dogg, Albert King, Kirk Hammett, Pete Townshend, and more.
In the summer of ’72, Paul and Linda McCartney – along with Denny Laine, Henry McCullough, and Denny Seiwell – set flight as Wings embarked on its first tour, which was in Europe. The open-top ’53 Bristol KSW became the band’s home away from home, and it stood out, not only because of the legendary musicians inside it but for the artwork on the outside.
Renowned artist Geoffrey Cleghorn (also known for his work with The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and The Who) modeled the psychedelic design after the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine album cover to give it the appearance of “a magic bus of love and peace.” A children’s playpen was installed on the open top deck, along with mattresses, bean-bag chairs, and blankets so that the band members and their families could enjoy the sunshine on warm summer days.
The Wings’ tour bus transported the band 7,500 miles through nine countries across Europe – France, Germany, Belgium, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom – often with fans in hot pursuit, since it didn’t exactly blend in.
“Much like John Lennon’s iconic psychedelic Rolls-Royce and George Harrison’s psychedelic Mini Cooper, McCartney’s tour bus represents a moment in the psychedelic era and its status as the world’s first Beatles-related double-decker bus,” Julien’s says. “The bus is a touchstone of Beatlemania and cultural importance as the year of 1972 spurred a wellspring of creativity that inspired McCartney to write Wings’ classic songs for Red Rose Speedway and record for the Grammy award–winning and Oscar-nominated classic James Bond theme song Live and Let Die.”
The 1972 Wings Over Europe tour sparked the band’s trajectory into superstardom as the bestselling pop act of the 1970s, with an extraordinary five No. 1 albums and 27 Top 40 hits in the U.S., including Maybe I’m Amazed, My Love, Band On The Run, Jet, Junior’s Farm, Listen To What The Man Said and Silly Love Songs.
Sir Paul McCartney has been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice, first with the Beatles in 1988 and again as a solo artist in 1999. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997.
The bus was fully restored by a workshop in Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, after being discovered in Spain in a state of decay. Its three-year restoration was completed in November 2022, and it was unveiled in England for the tour’s 50th anniversary celebration before 90,000 visitors at the NEC Classic Motor Show in Birmingham.
The interior of the bus has been restored with great detail to bring it back to the condition as it would have been on the 1972 tour. The refinished interior is complemented by wooden bunk beds, which the band members’ children would have slept on, and an original Wings tour trunk that was donated to the project by Denny Seiwell. The lower cabin perimeter has bright yellow curtains that accent the psychedelic paint scheme of the exterior. Also included is a custom-built cover for the upper deck that displays “1972 Wings Tour Bus” graphics on the roof. It is powered by a Gardner 5LW 7-litre diesel engine mated to a manual transmission.
“Tour buses have been a part of rock ’n’ roll music lore for generations,” says Martin Nolan, executive director and co-founder of Julien’s Auctions, “and there is no other one quite as famous and remarkable as Paul McCartney’s 1972 Wings Tour Over Europe bus.”