Wings (band)


Wings (band)
Wings

Wings, 1975. L-R: Joe English, Denny Laine, Linda McCartney, Jimmy McCulloch, and Paul McCartney.
Background information
Origin England, America
Genres Rock, pop
Years active 1971–1981
Labels Apple, Parlophone, Capitol, MPL
Associated acts The Beatles, The Moody Blues, Suzy and the Red Stripes, Ginger Baker's Air Force, Small Faces
Members
Paul McCartney
Linda McCartney
Denny Laine
Past members
Denny Seiwell
Henry McCullough
Jimmy McCulloch
Geoff Britton
Joe English
Laurence Juber
Steve Holly

Wings (also known as Paul McCartney & Wings) were a British-American rock group formed in 1971 by Paul McCartney, Denny Laine and Linda McCartney that remained active until 1981.

Wings had 12 top-10 singles (including one #1) in the United Kingdom and 14 top-10 singles (including six #1's) in the United States. All 23 singles credited to Wings reached the US Top 40, and one double-sided single, "Junior's Farm"/"Sally G", reached the Top 40 with each side. Of the nine albums credited to Wings during the group's life, all went top 10 in either the UK or the US, with five consecutive albums topping the US charts.

Wings were noted for frequent personnel changes as well as success. The only three members of Wings to remain from beginning to end were McCartney, his wife Linda, and ex-Moody Blues guitarist and singer Denny Laine. In less than a decade, Wings had three different lead guitarists and four different drummers.

Contents

History

As The Beatles were breaking up in 1970, McCartney was working on his debut solo album, McCartney. Backing vocals were provided by his wife, Linda, whom he had married the previous year. McCartney had insisted from the beginning of their marriage that his wife should be involved in his musical projects, so that they did not have to be apart when he was on tour.[1] On his second solo album, Ram, McCartney added select outside musicians, including guitarists Hugh McCracken and David Spinozza and drummer Denny Seiwell. Seiwell had to perform in a secret audition for Paul and Linda before being chosen.[2]

First lineup (1971–1973)

In August 1971, Seiwell and Laine joined Paul and Linda McCartney to record Paul's third post-Beatles album for Apple Records. The result was Wild Life, released 7 December. It was the first project to credit Wings as the artist. The band name is said to have come to McCartney as he was praying in the hospital while Linda was giving birth to their second child together, Stella McCartney, in September 1971.[1] Paul McCartney recalled in the film Wingspan that the birth of Stella was "a bit of a drama"; there were complications at the birth and that both Linda and the baby almost died. He was praying fervently and the image of wings came to his mind. He decided to name his new band "Wings".[1]

In an attempt to capture the spontaneity of live performances, five of Wild Life's eight songs were first takes by the band.[2] (A version of "Bip Bop" by just Paul & Linda that was included on McCartney and Wings's 2001 song compilation Wingspan: Hits and History, has their daughter Mary giggling in the background.) Wild Life also included a reggae remake of Mickey & Sylvia's 1957 Top 40 hit "Love is Strange" as a result of Paul and Linda's love for reggae music and Jamaica.[citation needed]

The album's closer, "Dear Friend", recorded during the Ram sessions, was apparently an attempt at reconciliation with John Lennon.[citation needed] It was certainly a timely follow-up to John's attack on Paul in the song "How Do You Sleep?" from the album Imagine, which had apparently been in retaliation for Paul's digs at John in "Too Many People" and "3 Legs" on Ram.[citation needed] Music critic Ian MacDonald used "Dear Friend" as a counter-argument to the caricature of McCartney as an emotional lightweight.[3]

Wild Life left music critics cold. For example, John Mendelsohn wrote in Rolling Stone that he wondered whether the album may have been "deliberately second-rate."[4] In The Beatles: An Illustrated Record, Roy Carr and Tony Tyler called the album "rushed, defensive, badly timed, and over-publicized" and wrote that it showed McCartney's songwriting "at an absolute nadir just when he needed a little respect."[5]

In late 1971, McCartney added to the Wings line-up ex-Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough, a Northern Ireland native and a lead guitarist on the original 1970 Decca recording of the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. The new line-up immediately mounted an impromptu tour of U.K. universities, followed by a tour of small European venues (with the group driving around in a van). Although this was the first tour including an ex-Beatle after the Beatles broke up, Wings played no Beatles numbers during the tour, to show that it was a new band in its own right.[6]

In February 1972, Wings released a single called "Give Ireland Back to the Irish", a response to the events of Bloody Sunday.[7] The song was banned by the BBC for its anti-Unionist political stance and only mentioned in chart rundowns on BBC Radio 1 as "a record by Wings".[8] Despite its limited airplay, it reached #16 in the United Kingdom, as well as #1 in the Republic of Ireland and #1 in Spain. Partly in reaction to the ban, Wings released a children's song, "Mary Had a Little Lamb", as its next single, which reached the Top 10 in the United Kingdom. Wings followed that with November 1972's "Hi, Hi, Hi", which was again banned by the BBC, this time for its alleged drug and sexual references.[8] The B-side, "C Moon", was played instead.[1] The single made it into the Top 5 in the United Kingdom and the Top 10 in the United States.

The band were renamed "Paul McCartney and Wings" for the 1973 album Red Rose Speedway, which yielded the first U.S. #1 Wings hit, the romantic ballad "My Love". The album was originally intended as a two-record set, and two songs on the final album ("Get On the Right Thing" and "Little Lamb Dragonfly") had been recorded during the Ram sessions, prior to the formation of Wings; Laine added backing vocals to one of these songs, but McCullough was not on either song. Among the unreleased songs recorded by Wings during the extensive sessions for this album (which stretched over seven months and two continents) was the Linda composition "Seaside Woman", which was finally released in 1977 (although credited to "Suzy and the Red Stripes").

Paul and Linda McCartney at the Academy Awards, April 1974

Near the end of these sessions, in October 1972, Wings recorded the theme song to the James Bond film Live and Let Die, which reunited McCartney with Beatles producer/arranger George Martin. The uptempo song, released as a non-album single in the summer of 1973 (immediately after "My Love"), became a sizeable worldwide hit and has remained a popular part of McCartney's post-Wings concert performances (often accompanied by pyrotechnics). That same year, McCartney released his first American TV special James Paul McCartney, which featured extensive footage of Wings performing in outdoor settings and in front of a studio audience.

After a successful British tour in May–June 1973, Wings went into rehearsals for the next album. However, McCullough and Seiwell left the band in August, at the end of rehearsals,[9] leaving the McCartneys and Laine to cut what turned out to be Wings' most successful album, Band on the Run, at EMI's primitive eight-track recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria. The album went to #1 in both the United States and United Kingdom and spawned three hit singles: the rockers "Jet" and "Helen Wheels" (originally included on the U.S. album only) and the title track—a suite of movements recalling side 2 of Abbey Road. It also included "Let Me Roll It", which was seen as an affectionate impersonation of John Lennon's vocal style,[5] and "No Words", the first song released by Wings that was co-written by Laine (all Wings releases to this time were either Paul and Linda compositions or cover versions). Band on the Run enjoyed very positive critical reception and did much to restore McCartney's tarnished post-Beatles image among critics.[10]

Second lineup (1974–1978)

After Band on the Run, Jimmy McCulloch, former lead guitarist in Thunderclap Newman and Stone the Crows, joined the band. The first Wings project with McCulloch was McGear, a 1974 collaboration between Paul and his younger brother Mike McGear, with session musician Gerry Conway playing drums. Warner Bros. Records chose not to play up the "Wings" angle in its marketing for McGear, and the album sold poorly. However, the sessions also generated a single credited to McGear's group The Scaffold, "Liverpool Lou", which became a top-10 hit in the United Kingdom.

Shortly thereafter, Geoff Britton joined Wings on drums, and the first recording session with this full lineup was held in Nashville, where the band stayed at the farm of songwriter Curly Putman Jr.[11] The trip immortalised in the 1974 non-album single "Junior's Farm", backed with a straight country track entitled "Sally G", the group's last release on Apple Records. In a rare occurrence, both sides of the single separately reached the Billboard Top 20 in the U.S. During these sessions, Wings (with guest musicians Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer) also recorded a single that was attributed to The Country Hams entitled "Walking in the Park with Eloise," a song written years before by Paul's father James.[11]

Wings began recording sessions for its next album in London in November 1974, then moved to New Orleans to complete Venus and Mars (1975), the first release from the group on Capitol Records. The album topped the charts and contained the U.S. #1 single "Listen to What the Man Said", which also featured Dave Mason of Traffic on guitar and Tom Scott on saxophone. When the Venus and Mars recording sessions moved to New Orleans, Britton quit Wings and was replaced by Joe English. Like Seiwell before him, English won the job at a secret audition before McCartney.[12] McCulloch co-composed (with former bandmate Colin Allen) and sang one song ("Medicine Jar"); Laine sang lead vocals on a McCartney song ("Spirits of Ancient Egypt"); Paul composed and sang the rest.

In the autumn of 1975 Wings embarked on the Wings Over the World tour, following a postponement to allow McCulloch to recuperate from a hand fracture. Starting in Bristol, the tour took them to Australia (November), Europe (March 1976), the United States (May/June), and Europe again (September), before ending in a four-night grand finale at London's Wembley Empire Pool. For this tour, added to Wings' stage act was a horn section consisting of Tony Dorsey, Howie Casey, Thaddeus Richard, and Steve Howard on horns, brass, and percussion.

Denny Laine during the 1976 tour

In between sections of the tour, Wings recorded Wings at the Speed of Sound, which was released at the end of March 1976, just prior to the U.S. leg of the world tour. It represented a departure from the prior Wings template in that each of the five primary members of the band (including Linda and English) sang lead on at least one song, and both Laine ("Time to Hide") and McCulloch ("Wino Junko", again with Colin Allen) contributed songs. However, the two U.S. #1 singles, "Silly Love Songs" and "Let 'em In", were both written and sung by Paul. Four of the album tracks were played in the 1976 portion of the tour, which also included five Beatles songs. Laine sang lead vocals on several songs (including his old Moody Blues hit "Go Now", Paul Simon's "Richard Cory" and his own composition "Time To Hide"), and McCulloch on one ("Medicine Jar"), emphasising that Wings was more than just Paul McCartney's backing band.[1] One of the Seattle concerts from the American leg of the 1975–76 world tour was filmed and later released as the concert feature Rockshow (1980). The tour's American leg, which also included Madison Square Garden in New York City and Boston Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, spawned a triple live album, Wings over America (1976), which became the fifth consecutive Wings album to reach #1 in the U.S. From this album came a single release of the live version of "Maybe I'm Amazed" from the McCartney album. The single's flipside was "Soily", a previously unreleased rocker that was often used as a closer for the concerts.

After the tour, and following the release of "Maybe I'm Amazed" in early 1977, Wings took a break. Later in the year, the band started recording their next album in the Virgin Islands, but the sessions were interrupted by Linda's pregnancy and then by the departures of both McCulloch and English. McCulloch, who joined The Small Faces, had difficulty handling the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, ultimately dying of a heroin overdose in 1979. English joined Chuck Leavell's band Sea Level and later founded the Christian-oriented Joe English Band.

Undeterred by their departure, Wings released the already-completed McCartney/Laine ballad "Mull of Kintyre", an ode to the Scottish Mull of Kintyre coastal region where McCartney had made his home in the early 1970s. Its broad appeal was maximised by a pre-Christmas release. It became an international hit, dominating the charts in Britain (where it was Wings' only #1 single), Australia and many other countries over the Christmas/New Year period. Ultimately, it became the first single to exceed sales of 2 million in the UK, eclipsing the previous all-time best-seller (the Beatles' "She Loves You") and remains one of the biggest selling U.K. singles of all time. However, it was not a success in the United States, where the B-side "Girls School" received most of the airplay but barely reached the Top 40.

The core trio of Wings then released the album London Town in 1978. Much of the album included McCulloch and English, having been recorded before their departures, but only pictures of the remaining trio appeared on the album. It was a commercial success, although it became the first Wings album since Wild Life not to reach #1 in the United States (peaking at #2).[13] London Town featured a markedly softer-rock, synth-based sound than prior Wings albums. Laine co-wrote five of the album's songs with McCartney and sang two of them. "With a Little Luck" reached #1 in the United States and #5 in the United Kingdom, but "I've Had Enough" and "London Town" were commercial disappointments in both countries.

Third lineup (1978–1981)

Later in 1978, lead guitarist Laurence Juber and drummer Steve Holley joined the band, restoring Wings to touring strength. In 1979, McCartney signed a new record contract, leaving Capitol, the company he had been with since he was a Beatle, in the United States and Canada and joining Columbia Records, while remaining with Parlophone/EMI in the rest of the world. Influenced by the punk and New Wave scenes, Wings abandoned its mellow touch and hired Chris Thomas to help in the production process. The result was a somewhat less polished sound. This new version of Wings released the disco-oriented single "Goodnight Tonight", backed by "Daytime Nighttime Suffering", which reached the top 5 in both the United States and United Kingdom. However, the subsequent album Back to the Egg was not favourably received by critics and although sales were disappointing, at least compared to immediate predecessors, still it went platinum in the United States. It contained the Grammy-winning song "Rockestra Theme", the result of an October 1978 superstar session with members of Wings, The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd, among others. Two singles were culled from the album, but both performed poorly on the charts. One album song ("Again and Again and Again") was composed and sung by Laine; the rest were Paul's.

During much of 1979, Wings were inactive as McCartney worked on a new solo album (McCartney II) without the band. In November and December 1979, Wings performed its final tour of the United Kingdom, once again adding the horns and brass section consisting of Tony Dorsey, Howie Casey, Thaddeus Richard, and Steve Howard. This tour climaxed with a massive "Rockestra" all-star collection of musicians in London in aid of UNICEF and Kampuchean refugees. Also during this tour, a live version of the McCartney II track "Coming Up" was recorded in Glasgow and became Wings' sixth and final U.S. #1 hit (as well as the last Wings single A-side, although once again credited to "Paul McCartney and Wings") the following year.

Plans for a new Wings world tour were abandoned when Paul McCartney was arrested for possession of about 7.7 ounces of marijuana at Tokyo airport on 16 January 1980.[14] Other Wings members were questioned but not charged. Although McCartney was released from jail after nine days, on 25 January, he was deported from Japan.[14] As a result, the Japanese tour was cancelled along with other short-term plans for Wings.

During 1980, Wings continued to demo some more tunes, and some work was done on a never-released "cold cuts" album of previously unreleased songs. Finally, in October 1980, Wings returned to the studio to record demonstration versions of a number of songs for its next album. However, following the murder of John Lennon in December 1980, Paul McCartney was unable to continue with the sessions, and Wings went into hiatus. McCartney restarted the project on 2 February 1981 as a solo album to be dedicated to Lennon, and soon after Juber and Holley left the band, although Laine continued as part of what became the Tug of War sessions, which ended on 3 March. On 27 April 1981, it was announced that Laine also had left the group, and that Wings had formally disbanded.[15] McCartney claimed that the group members "parted in a friendly way."[16]

Potential reunion

In March 1997, former Wings members Laine, Juber and Holley did an impromptu "Wings" reunion at a Beatlefest convention in East Rutherford, New Jersey.[17] This was not a planned event, and no further reunions were intended. However, ten years later, in July 2007, Laine, Juber and Seiwell (excluding Paul McCartney, who was not interested in participating) reunited for one show at a Beatlefest (now called "The Fest for Beatles Fans") convention in Las Vegas. "Mull of Kintyre" and "Go Now". According to one report, Laine said that the three are discussing plans for a reunion tour.[18] Laine and Seiwell appeared again at The Fest for Beatles Fans in March 2010 in Secaucus, New Jersey,[19] and were joined by Juber at The Fest in August 2010 in Chicago.

Legacy

Paul McCartney was unquestionably Wings' leader and star, but Laine, McCulloch, Juber and Linda McCartney all wrote songs for the group, and Laine, McCulloch, English, and Linda McCartney all performed lead vocals on Wings songs. Nevertheless, every song on a single credited to Wings was at least co-composed by Paul McCartney, and the only three songs to appear on Wings singles that were not sung by him were all B-sides: "I Lie Around" (Laine, flip of "Live and Let Die"), "Cook of the House" (Linda McCartney, flip of "Silly Love Songs"), and "Deliver Your Children" (Laine, flip of "I've Had Enough").

The success of Wings was a vindication for McCartney (although at least one commentator felt that McCartney really did not need the vindication[20]). His early home-grown solo output, which often featured simpler songs and less lavish production than the Beatles received from George Martin, often was dismissed by critics as "lightweight" next to the more serious nature of his former bandmates' solo output after the break-up. But, by 1975, Lennon's solo career had been put on hold following the birth of his son Sean, and he stopped recording. A year later, George Harrison had all but retired from performing live (although not from recording). Ringo Starr was living in L.A. and was writing and recording successfully, but as a solo artist had not been performing onstage other than rare guest appearances (and would not tour until many years later, in 1989). Meanwhile, McCartney and Wings continued to tour regularly and to enjoy hit singles and albums the world over. By 1980, even Lennon was envious of Wings' (and McCartney's) continuing success, which largely inspired Lennon's own comeback that year.[21]

In addition to its own output, Wings recorded several songs that were released though various outlets after the band's break-up. The solo albums of three former Wings members feature songs performed by Wings. Three songs on Laine's 1980 solo album Japanese Tears – "Send Me The Heart" (written by Laine and Paul McCartney), "I Would Only Smile" (written by Laine, from the "Red Rose Speedway" sessions) and "Weep For Love" (written by Laine, from the Back to the Egg sessions) – were performed by Wings with Laine on lead vocals. Juber's instrumental "Maisie", from the Back to the Egg sessions, appeared on his solo album Standard Time. After Linda McCartney's death, a compilation of her songs entitled Wide Prairie was released that featured seven Wings songs written or co-written by Linda: the Suzy and the Red Stripes' songs "Seaside Woman", recorded in 1972 during Red Rose Speedway, and "B-Side to Seaside", co-written by Paul and recorded in 1977 during London Town, as well as "Oriental Nightfish", recorded during Band on the Run, "I Got Up", co-written by Paul and recorded during the McGear sessions (before Britton joined Wings), "Wide Prairie", recorded during the Nashville sessions, "New Orleans", recorded during Venus & Mars, and "Love's Full Glory", recorded in 1980 after the Japanese fiasco. Wings also backed Paul's brother Mike McGear on the McGear album, as well as McGear's band The Scaffold on the single "Liverpool Lou" and its B-side "Ten Years After on Strawberry Jam". McCartney also used three unreleased Wings songs, "Mama's Little Girl" (1972), "My Carnival" (1975), and "Same Time Next Year" (1978), as B-sides of his solo singles several years after Wings' break-up. Denny Laine's 1977 'solo' album, Holly Days, was actually a joint effort by Laine with Paul and Linda McCartney, the same trio who - as Wings - had recorded Band on the Run, the most heralded album of Wings' career.[citation needed]

During its life, Wings had 12 top-10 singles in the United Kingdom and 14 top-10 singles (including six #1s) in the United States. All 23 singles credited to Wings reached the U.S. Top 40 (and one single reached it with each side). Wings had only one fewer #1 single in the United States than John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr combined in their post-Beatle careers. Of the nine albums credited to Wings during the band's life, all went top 10 in either the United Kingdom or United States, with five consecutive U.S. #1s. (The only Wings album not to reach the U.S. Top 10 was Wings Greatest.)

Wings' 1977 single "Mull of Kintyre"/"Girls School" is still the biggest-selling non-charity single in the United Kingdom (although Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" sold more, its sales include a reissue in aid of the Terrence Higgins Trust),[22] and it ranked fourth in the official list of all-time best selling singles in the United Kingdom issued in 2002.[23]

In June 2007, Apple's higher-quality iTunes Plus was released, featuring albums from EMI. Among the albums included were the nine original albums from Wings. As of 4 June 2007, Band on the Run was the third most downloaded album from iTunes Plus.

Wings are sometimes the subject of satirical reference; the more pop-friendly style of the band has attracted tongue-in-cheek comparisons with the Beatles. Steve Coogan's comic creation Alan Partridge naturally admires Wings, referring to them as "the band the Beatles could have been."[24] In The Simpsons episode "Burns' Heir", a cult deprogrammer states that he "did get Paul McCartney out of Wings," to which Homer replies "You idiot! He was the most talented one."[25]

Personnel

During its ten-year lifespan, Wings underwent numerous personnel changes, including twice being reduced to its core McCartney-McCartney-Laine trio.

Timeline

Line-ups

1971–1972
1972–1973
1973–1974
1974–1975
1975–1977
1977–1978
1978–1981

Discography

Tours

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Lewisohn, Mark. Wingspan: Little Brown, 2002. ISBN 0-316-86032-8
  2. ^ a b Wright, Jeb. Denny Seiwell of Wings. Interview, Classic Rock Revisted website. Retrieved 17 May 2007.
  3. ^ MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). p. 128. ISBN 1-844-13828-3. 
  4. ^ John Mendelsohn review, Rolling Stone'. '
  5. ^ a b Carr, Roy, and Tyler, Tony. The Beatles: An Illustrated Record. New York: Harmony Books, a subsidiary of Crown Publishing Group, 1975. ISBN 0-517-52045-1.
  6. ^ Paul McCartney biography(2003). MPL Communications. Retrieved: 11 December 2006.
  7. ^ BBC Radio Leeds interview Retrieved: 21 November 2006
  8. ^ a b The seven ages of Paul McCartney, BBC News, 17 June 2006. Retrieved on 6 November 2006.
  9. ^ Emerick, Geoff, with Howard Massey. Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. Gotham; 2006. p. 337. ISBN 978-1-59240-269-4
  10. ^ For example, in Rolling Stone, critic Jon Landau described it as "a carefully composed, intricately designed personal statement" and "(with the possible exception of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band) the finest record yet released by any of the four musicians who were once called the Beatles."
  11. ^ a b Bailey, Jerry. "Paul and Linda Try the Gentle Life", The Tennessean, 18 July 1974. Retrieved 9 June 2007.
  12. ^ Joe English biography at Drummer Academy.com.
  13. ^ Joel Whitburn Presents the Billboard Albums, 6th edition. ISBN 0-89820-166-7
  14. ^ a b Wasserman, Harry. "Paul's Pot-Bust Shocker Makes Him A Jailhouse Rocker". High Times, July 1980. Retrieved 5 June 2007.
  15. ^ Laurence Juber interview, LaurenceJuber.com. Retrieved 28 June 2007.
  16. ^ Bonici, Ray. "Paul McCartney Wings It Alone", Music Express, April/May 1982. Retrieved 4 June 2007.
  17. ^ 1997 "Wings" photo page by Michael Cimino Archives.
  18. ^ "Wings Alumni to Take Flight", ClassicRockCentral.com, 10 July 2007. Retrieved 17 September 2007.
  19. ^ The Fest for Beatles Fans » Blog Archive » Denny Laine & others added to NY METRO Lineup. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
  20. ^ Bronson, Fred. "Silly Love Songs", from The Billboard Book of Number One Hits; p. 436; Billboard Books, 2003. ISBN 978-0-8230-7677-2. Retrieved on 3 June 2009.
  21. ^ Rosen, Robert. Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. 2001, pp. 135-36. ISBN 978-0-932551-51-1.
  22. ^ Morgan-Gann, Theo. The UK's Top 10 Best Selling Singles, ukcharts.20m.com. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  23. ^ UK All-Time Best Selling Singles, Listology. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  24. ^ "Alan Partridge about music", YouTube video clip. Retrieved 3 October 2007.
  25. ^ [1F16] Burns' Heir

Bibliography

  • Benitez, Vincent P. (2010). The Words and Music of Paul McCartney: The Solo Years. Praeger Publishers (Westport, Connecticut and London). ISBN 0-313-34969-X. 
  • Lewisohn, Mark (2002). Wingspan. Little, Brown and Company (New York). ISBN 0-316-86032-8. 

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