Daily Archives: February 9, 2010
As the result of a death in the family, Lynnrockets’ Blast-Off must take some time off.
Wings (sometimes credited as Paul McCartney and Wings) was a rock group formed in 1971 by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and his wife Linda McCartney. The group was the only “permanent” group that any of the former members of The Beatles were ever involved with after their break-up. 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 single, “Junior’s Farm”/”Sally G”, reached it 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 was noted for its personnel changes as well as its success. The only three permanent members of Wings 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. 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. On his second solo album, Ram, McCartney added select outside musicians, including drummer Denny Seiwell, who had to perform in a secret audition for Paul and Linda before being chosen.
In August 1971, Seiwell and guitarist/singer Denny Laine joined Paul and Linda McCartney to record Paul’s third post-Beatles project on Apple Records. The result was Wild Life, released December 7. It was the first project to credit Wings as the artist. In an attempt to capture the spontaneity of live performances, five of the eight songs on Wild Life were first takes by the band.
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. 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.
In late 1971, McCartney added ex-Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough, a native of Northern Ireland, to the line-up of Wings and returned to touring, mounting an impromptu tour of U.K. universities and later a tour of small European venues (with the group driving around in a van), playing no Beatles numbers. In February 1972, Wings released a single called “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”, a response to the events of Bloody Sunday. 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”. 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 surprisingly reached the Top 10 in the United Kingdom. However, 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. The B-side, “C Moon”, was played instead. The single made it into the Top 5 in the United Kingdom and the Top 10 in the United States.
In late 1972, Wings was re-christened 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”. One possible reason for the renaming was that two songs on this album had been recorded by Paul, Linda, and Denny Seiwell during the Ram sessions; Denny Laine added backing vocals to one of these songs, but Henry McCullough was not on either. 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”).
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 sizable 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 but was savagely criticised by noted rock journalist Lillian Roxon.
After a successful British tour in May-June 1973, Wings went right into rehearsals for the next album. However, Henry McCullough and Denny Seiwell left the band in August, at the end of rehearsals, leaving the McCartneys and Laine to cut what turned out to be Wings’ most successful album, Band on the Run, at EMI’s primitive 8-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, and “No Words”, the first song released by Wings that was co-written by Denny 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.
In the Autumn of 1975 Wings embarked on the Wings Over the World tour, starting in Bristol, which 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.
In between, 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 Joe 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” and Paul Simon’s “Richard Cory”), and McCulloch on one (“Medicine Jar”), emphasizing that Wings was more than just Paul McCartney’s backing band. 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 also spawned a triple live album, Wings over America (1976), which became the fifth consecutive Wings album to reach number 1 in the U.S.
Please enjoy the following “threefer” of Wings videos. The first is a video montage of the 1972 contovertial and BBC banned “Give Ireland Back To The Irish“. The second video is Paul McCartney‘s response to the banning in the form of “Mary Had A Little Lamb” which was aired on the long forgotten Flip Wilson Show in 1972. Finally, there is a live clip of Wings performing my all time favorite version of “Band On The Run” in 1976 in Seattle.