Wings (band)

Core members of Wings, Linda McCartney, Paul McCartney and Denny Laine.

Wings was a pop-rock band led by Paul McCartney, formed after the dissolution of the Beatles.

Before Wings

See Paul McCartney.

The Wings years

Late in 1971, drummer Denny Seiwell, and ex-Moody Blues guitarist and singer Denny Laine, joined Paul McCartney and wife Linda McCartney to record Paul's third post-Beatles project. The result was Wild Life, the first project to credit "Wings". (The band name is said to have come to McCartney as he was praying in the hospital while Linda was giving birth to their eldest child Stella McCartney.)

In 1972 McCartney returned to touring, mounting an impromptu tour of UK universities and small European venues (with the group literally driving around in a van), playing no Beatles numbers. He scored hits with the relatively light singles "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and "Hi Hi Hi" (the latter getting in trouble with the BBC for alleged drug references).

In early 1973, McCartney repeated this pattern, adding ex-Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough, and re-christening the band "Paul McCartney and Wings" for the album Red Rose Speedway which yielded the first big Wings hit, the romantic ballad "My Love". That same year, McCartney filmed his first American TV special James Paul McCartney, which was savagely criticised by noted rock journalist Lillian Roxon. Wings also recorded the hit theme song to the James Bond film Live and Let Die, which reunited McCartney with producer George Martin. Over the years this has remained one of the most memorable of all Bond songs, and is always an exciting part of McCartney's concert performances (often played to fireworks).

Following the release of Speedway, Denny Seiwell and Henry McCullough left the band, leaving the McCartneys and Denny Laine to cut their next album at EMI's recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria, recording what turned out to be their breakthrough album, Band on the Run.

The album went to #1 and spawned a half-dozen hit singles including the rockers "Jet" and "Helen Wheels", the acoustic ballad "Bluebird", the title track -- a suite of movements recalling side 2 of Abbey Road -- and the rocky non-album single "Junior's Farm". Moreover Band on the Run enjoyed a very positive critical reception, and did much to restore McCartney's somewhat damaged post-Beatles image. It also included two songs, "Let Me Roll It" and "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five", thought to be answer songs to "How Do You Sleep?", John Lennon's earlier scathing attack on McCartney.

Band on the Run was followed by similarly successful albums Venus and Mars (1975), which was recorded in New Orleans, and Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976), recorded in Nashville, both of which took top chart positions. Also during this period, Wings embarked on a hugely successful and theatrical world tour, documented in the triple-live LP set Wings Over America, which included a late 1975 tour of Australia, McCartney's first visit there since the Beatles' epoch-making Antipodean tour in June, 1964. McCartney still mostly shied away from the Beatles catalogue; only five such numbers were typically included in the American shows. One of the Seattle concerts from the American leg of the '75-'76 world tour was filmed and later released as the concert feature Rockshow (1980). Further hits followed with the singles "Silly Love Songs" and "Let 'Em In".

Also in 1976, McCartney inaugurated Buddy Holly Week in London, founded on what would have been Holly's 40th birthday and marked with an annual celebrity party; his lifelong passion for the music of this rock'n'roll pioneer was also reflected in his aquisition of Holly's publishing catalogue. Ever the astute businessman, McCartney also cannily bought the rights to an off-Broadway musical he had seen in America, and this investment reaped huge returns when the musical was adapted into the smash-hit feature film Grease.

After the world tour McCartney took a break, but this period produced both the most obscure and the most successful records he has made. During 1977 he released the peculiar, unpromoted and little-known album Thrillington -- an orchestral re-make of the earlier Ram album, issued under the pseudonym 'Percy "Thrills" Thrillington', followed by single version of a live recording of "Maybe I'm Amazed". Later in the year the band recorded their next album in the Virgin Islands.

At the end of 1977 McCartney released the ballad "Mull of Kintyre", an ode to the Scottish coastal region he had made his home in the early Seventies. Its broad appeal was maximised by a pre-Christmas release and it became a massive international hit, dominating the charts in Britain, Australia and many other countries over the Christmas/New Year period and becoming one of the biggest selling UK singles of all time.

McCartney released the album London Town in 1978. During the recording of the album in May, 1977, both Joe English and Jimmy McCullough parted ways with Wings (McCulloch died of a heroin overdose in 1979.)

Though still released as a Wings album, the band was now reduced to Paul, Linda, Laine, and a host of studio players. The album was a major commercial success, reaching #2 on the charts, but featured a markedly softer-rock, synth-based sound and yielded only minor UK hits in "With a Little Luck" and "Girlfriend" (the former was a big hit in the US).

In 1979 Wings released the singles "Goodnight Tonight", "Getting Closer" and "Wonderful Christmastime" and the album Back to the Egg, a critical and commercial failure and the last McCartney project released under the Wings moniker, with McCartney returning to solo billing on future recordings.

During that year, Wings joined Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets onstage in London at the annual Buddy Holly Week party. McCartney was also honoured by The Guinness Book Of Records with a unique rhodium disc, recognising his achievement as the most successful popular music composer of all time.

In November and December of 1979 Wings performed their final tour of the UK, climaxing with a massive 'Rockestra' all-star collection of musicians in London in aid of UNICEF and Kampuchean refugees. This final version of the band included guitarist Lawrence Juber and drummer Steve Holly, who had joined the group in 1978. During this tour the live version of "Coming Up" was recodred, this being their final US number one the following year.

Wings continued to demo some more tunes during 1980/1981 but following a disastrous aborted Japanese tour they fell apart.

The longevity and success of Wings can be seen as something of a vindication for McCartney, whose early home-grown solo output, which frequently featured simplistic nursery-rhyme styled lyrics and sketchy arrangements and production, sometimes led to critical dismissal of his work as "lightweight" next to the more serious nature of his former bandmates' solo output. Though McCartney was the first Beatle to release a solo album after the official break-up of the band, it was John Lennon's early solo output which initially gained the lead in both critical opinion and commercial success, and George Harrison had scored a huge success with his 1971 triple-album solo debut All Things Must Pass. But by the mid-Seventies Lennon's solo career had run out of steam and he had stopped recording; Harrison too was fading from view by this time as by 1976 he had all but retired from recording and performing. As leader of Wings, McCartney however was rising to a new peak of success and he became the only one of the four Beatles who continued to tour and record regularly in the years after their split.

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

Line-ups

Wings was ostensibly a true band, and in fact several members besides McCartney contributed songs and occasional vocals, but McCartney was unquestionably the group's leader and star. However, during its lifespan, Wings underwent numerous personnel changes.

Discography

  • Wild Life (1971)
  • Red Rose Speedway (1973)
  • Band on the Run (1973)
  • Venus and Mars (1975)
  • Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976)
  • Wings Over America (1976)
  • London Town (1978)
  • Back to the Egg (1979)

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However, during its lifespan, Wings underwent numerous personnel changes. Young went on to lead a moderately successful solo career. Wings was ostensibly a true band, and in fact several members besides McCartney contributed songs and occasional vocals, but McCartney was unquestionably the group's leader and star. Subsequent efforts were not as popular, and the band soon broke up in 1972 (see 1972 in music). Wings' 1977 single, "Mull of Kintyre"/"Girls School" is still the biggest-selling non-charity single in the UK (although Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" sold more, its sales include a reissue in aid of the Terence Higgins Trust) and it ranked fourth in the official list of best selling singles in the UK issued in 2002. That year, the Youngbloods released Elephant Mountain, which was critically acclaimed but sold poorly. As leader of Wings, McCartney however was rising to a new peak of success and he became the only one of the four Beatles who continued to tour and record regularly in the years after their split. It didn't hit the charts until after it was used in a public service ad in 1969 (see 1969 in music).

But by the mid-Seventies Lennon's solo career had run out of steam and he had stopped recording; Harrison too was fading from view by this time as by 1976 he had all but retired from recording and performing. "Get Together" was their first massive success; it was a Dino Valenti song that the Jefferson Airplane and We Five had already recorded. Though McCartney was the first Beatle to release a solo album after the official break-up of the band, it was John Lennon's early solo output which initially gained the lead in both critical opinion and commercial success, and George Harrison had scored a huge success with his 1971 triple-album solo debut All Things Must Pass. The band was led by Jesse Colin Young, who had already released several solo LPs and worked with John Sebastian (later of the Lovin' Spoonful). The longevity and success of Wings can be seen as something of a vindication for McCartney, whose early home-grown solo output, which frequently featured simplistic nursery-rhyme styled lyrics and sketchy arrangements and production, sometimes led to critical dismissal of his work as "lightweight" next to the more serious nature of his former bandmates' solo output. The Youngbloods were an American folk rock and psychedelic band from the 1960s, best known for the Top Ten hit "Get Together". Wings continued to demo some more tunes during 1980/1981 but following a disastrous aborted Japanese tour they fell apart.

During this tour the live version of "Coming Up" was recodred, this being their final US number one the following year. In November and December of 1979 Wings performed their final tour of the UK, climaxing with a massive 'Rockestra' all-star collection of musicians in London in aid of UNICEF and Kampuchean refugees. This final version of the band included guitarist Lawrence Juber and drummer Steve Holly, who had joined the group in 1978. McCartney was also honoured by The Guinness Book Of Records with a unique rhodium disc, recognising his achievement as the most successful popular music composer of all time. During that year, Wings joined Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets onstage in London at the annual Buddy Holly Week party.

In 1979 Wings released the singles "Goodnight Tonight", "Getting Closer" and "Wonderful Christmastime" and the album Back to the Egg, a critical and commercial failure and the last McCartney project released under the Wings moniker, with McCartney returning to solo billing on future recordings. The album was a major commercial success, reaching #2 on the charts, but featured a markedly softer-rock, synth-based sound and yielded only minor UK hits in "With a Little Luck" and "Girlfriend" (the former was a big hit in the US). Though still released as a Wings album, the band was now reduced to Paul, Linda, Laine, and a host of studio players. During the recording of the album in May, 1977, both Joe English and Jimmy McCullough parted ways with Wings (McCulloch died of a heroin overdose in 1979.).

McCartney released the album London Town in 1978. Its broad appeal was maximised by a pre-Christmas release and it became a massive international hit, dominating the charts in Britain, Australia and many other countries over the Christmas/New Year period and becoming one of the biggest selling UK singles of all time. At the end of 1977 McCartney released the ballad "Mull of Kintyre", an ode to the Scottish coastal region he had made his home in the early Seventies. Later in the year the band recorded their next album in the Virgin Islands.

During 1977 he released the peculiar, unpromoted and little-known album Thrillington -- an orchestral re-make of the earlier Ram album, issued under the pseudonym 'Percy "Thrills" Thrillington', followed by single version of a live recording of "Maybe I'm Amazed". After the world tour McCartney took a break, but this period produced both the most obscure and the most successful records he has made. Ever the astute businessman, McCartney also cannily bought the rights to an off-Broadway musical he had seen in America, and this investment reaped huge returns when the musical was adapted into the smash-hit feature film Grease. Also in 1976, McCartney inaugurated Buddy Holly Week in London, founded on what would have been Holly's 40th birthday and marked with an annual celebrity party; his lifelong passion for the music of this rock'n'roll pioneer was also reflected in his aquisition of Holly's publishing catalogue.

Further hits followed with the singles "Silly Love Songs" and "Let 'Em In". One of the Seattle concerts from the American leg of the '75-'76 world tour was filmed and later released as the concert feature Rockshow (1980). McCartney still mostly shied away from the Beatles catalogue; only five such numbers were typically included in the American shows. Also during this period, Wings embarked on a hugely successful and theatrical world tour, documented in the triple-live LP set Wings Over America, which included a late 1975 tour of Australia, McCartney's first visit there since the Beatles' epoch-making Antipodean tour in June, 1964.

Band on the Run was followed by similarly successful albums Venus and Mars (1975), which was recorded in New Orleans, and Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976), recorded in Nashville, both of which took top chart positions. It also included two songs, "Let Me Roll It" and "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five", thought to be answer songs to "How Do You Sleep?", John Lennon's earlier scathing attack on McCartney. Moreover Band on the Run enjoyed a very positive critical reception, and did much to restore McCartney's somewhat damaged post-Beatles image. The album went to #1 and spawned a half-dozen hit singles including the rockers "Jet" and "Helen Wheels", the acoustic ballad "Bluebird", the title track -- a suite of movements recalling side 2 of Abbey Road -- and the rocky non-album single "Junior's Farm".

Following the release of Speedway, Denny Seiwell and Henry McCullough left the band, leaving the McCartneys and Denny Laine to cut their next album at EMI's recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria, recording what turned out to be their breakthrough album, Band on the Run. Over the years this has remained one of the most memorable of all Bond songs, and is always an exciting part of McCartney's concert performances (often played to fireworks). Wings also recorded the hit theme song to the James Bond film Live and Let Die, which reunited McCartney with producer George Martin. That same year, McCartney filmed his first American TV special James Paul McCartney, which was savagely criticised by noted rock journalist Lillian Roxon.

In early 1973, McCartney repeated this pattern, adding ex-Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough, and re-christening the band "Paul McCartney and Wings" for the album Red Rose Speedway which yielded the first big Wings hit, the romantic ballad "My Love". He scored hits with the relatively light singles "Mary Had A Little Lamb" and "Hi Hi Hi" (the latter getting in trouble with the BBC for alleged drug references). In 1972 McCartney returned to touring, mounting an impromptu tour of UK universities and small European venues (with the group literally driving around in a van), playing no Beatles numbers. (The band name is said to have come to McCartney as he was praying in the hospital while Linda was giving birth to their eldest child Stella McCartney.).

The result was Wild Life, the first project to credit "Wings". Late in 1971, drummer Denny Seiwell, and ex-Moody Blues guitarist and singer Denny Laine, joined Paul McCartney and wife Linda McCartney to record Paul's third post-Beatles project. See Paul McCartney. Wings was a pop-rock band led by Paul McCartney, formed after the dissolution of the Beatles.

Back to the Egg (1979). London Town (1978). Wings Over America (1976). Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976).

Venus and Mars (1975). Band on the Run (1973). Red Rose Speedway (1973). Wild Life (1971).

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