Sound Advice: Columbia’s ‘Wings Over America’ CD a rarity

By  Tim Neely

Question: I own a Columbia edition of the Wings Over America 2-CD set. I recently stumbled over an article on Wikipedia that calls this the “Holy Grail” of McCartney CDs. It is in mint condition. I am trying to determine the collector’s value of this CD and was wondering if you might be able to assist, or point me to a knowledgeable source. Thanks for any help you can provide.

— Ralph Brown via e-mail

Answer: Wikipedia seems to be correct on this one.

Columbia Records owned the rights to most of Paul McCartney’s solo catalog from 1979 to early 1985. After six years of mixed success on the label, McCartney returned to his former American label, Capitol, in the second half of 1985. “Spies Like Us,” his last U.S. Top 10 single, was his first new release on Capitol since 1978, and Press To Play (1986) was the first new McCartney Capitol album.

As part of McCartney’s original deal with Columbia, all of his pre-1979 solo albums were eventually to be rereleased on the label. All of them except London Town and Wings Greatest — the latter a “contractual obligation” compilation from Capitol — were issued on LP and cassette on Columbia.

Toward the end of McCartney’s Columbia years, the compact disc was introduced. Six of his albums were issued as Columbia CDs, four in early 1984 and two in early 1985. One of these was Wings Over America, issued as a 2-CD set in packaging that has become known to collectors as a “fatboy” case (twice the width of a regular CD case).

When McCartney left the label and returned to Capitol, Columbia removed his material from the catalog. Thus his Columbia CDs were in print for a very short time during an era when compact discs were still a novelty. By the time it was obvious that the CD format was going to stick, McCartney’s back catalog was back on Capitol.

None of the Columbia McCartney CDs — the others were Band On The Run, Venus And Mars, Tug Of War, Pipes Of Peace and Give My Regards To Broad Street — are easy to find. In that era, cassettes and vinyl LPs still made up a huge majority of music sales. But Wings Over America, as a double-CD set with a list price around $30, sold even fewer copies than the other five before the Columbia version was deleted. Thus it’s extremely rare, and today, when it’s for sale at all, it’s in the $200 range.

Question: As a long-time subscriber of Goldmine, I thought I’d write you with a question that’s had me stumped for quite awhile now. I picked up an album at a yard sale. It sounds like very early Who; it’s on Kimber Records, the number is TCR2004, and the songs are as follows:

Side 1: “Motherland Feeling,” “Rael,” “Do the Strip,” “Disguises”

Side 2: “Don’t Look Away,” “Girls,” “Glow Girl,” “Top Gear,” “Summertime Blues”

It came inside another album, so that’s all the information I have. Is there anything you could tell me about it? The album itself looks and sounds as if it’s never or very rarely been played.

— Jim via e-mail

Answer: You have half of a two-record Australian bootleg of then-rare and unreleased Who music called Archives 1967/1968, which was put together in 1979. The cover is pretty cool for its era, with a color photo of Pete Townshend playing guitar in front of a bank of speakers. It’s actually more attractive than some of the legitimate MCA albums of Who material that came out in the 1980s.

I don’t have the exact breakdown of Side 3 and Side 4, but the rest of the album includes the following: “Radio One”, “Coca-Cola,” “Signal-30,” “Batman,” “Glittering Girl,” “The Seeker,” “Young Man Blues” and live recordings of “Can’t Explain,” “Happy Jack” and “I’m A Boy” from 1968.

As for a value, a Near Mint copy recently sold for $75. Of course, that included both records and the cover, and the discs were pristine. Unless someone has a cover with only the second record and is seeking the first record to complete the album, your copy has little if any value.

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