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. One track, "The Good Things," attributed to Terry and the Lovemen, was actually XTC themselves, using yet another pseudonym. 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. The XTC tribute album A Testimonial Dinner was released in 1995. 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. Adam Ant," an ironic tribute by They Might Be Giants, but did not appear on the track. 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. They were mentioned in "XTC vs.

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. A boxed CD compilation, Coat of Many Cupboards, was released in 2002. 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. Colin Moulding declined to contribute his demos to the series. 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. Having left Virgin, relations have improved and Andy Partridge is releasing a series of albums of "demos" of his songs (mainly from the Virgin years) under the title of Fuzzy Warbles, on a new label imprint APE (Andy Partridge Experiments). Wings continued to demo some more tunes during 1980/1981 but following a disastrous aborted Japanese tour they fell apart. Now in control of their own work and with their own small studio, they have released instrumental and demo versions of their first two albums on Idea, Apple Venus and Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2).

During this tour the live version of "Coming Up" was recodred, this being their final US number one the following year. Finally released from Virgin, they formed their own label, Idea Records. Dave Gregory left the band during the recording of the 1999 album Apple Venus Volume 1 after contributing to a few tracks, leaving just Partridge and Moulding in the group. 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. The settlement of the accounts provided the group with much-needed cash flow, allowing Partridge and Moulding to install fully-equipped studios and work comfortably at home; they are now able to record the majority of their work themselves, although they have used major commercial studios (including Abbey Road Studios in London) for some sessions. 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. After leaving Virgin, Partridge had their accounts audited and it was discovered that the company had withheld substantial royalty payments from them. During that year, Wings joined Buddy Holly's band, The Crickets onstage in London at the annual Buddy Holly Week party. The band asked that Virgin either allow them to re-negotiate their contract or release them, but the label stalled for years until finally agreeing to released them after a change of management at the company.

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 final straw for the band was Virgin's scuttling of their 1992 single "Wrapped in Grey", which was pressed up in the tens of thousands, and then recalled and destroyed by the label. 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). Management and contractual problems had dogged the band throughout their career, and around the time of the recording of Nonsuch they had to make a legal settlement with their former manager; although most fans assume that there was some financial impropriety involved, the terms of the settlement imposed a "gag" on the band and have prevented them from speaking publicly about the matter. Though still released as a Wings album, the band was now reduced to Paul, Linda, Laine, and a host of studio players. They issued no new material during this time, although two compilations were released: Upsy Daisy Assortment and the 2-CD set Fossil Fuel: The XTC Singles Collection, which featured remastered versions of their singles, including many tracks not issued on CD before. 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.). Their 1992 album, Nonsuch, (named after Henry VIII's fabled palace) united them with famed UK producer Gus Dudgeon and drummer Dave Mattacks, but soon after its release a contractual dispute with their label, Virgin Records, saw XTC go "on strike" from 1992 through 1998, finally resulting in the termination of their contract.

McCartney released the album London Town in 1978. During their long career, XTC have also released material under a variety of pseudonyms, including two albums of psychedelic parodies as "The Dukes of Stratosphear" (released on a single CD, Chips from the Chocolate Fireball, simultaneous with the second album's vinyl release), a Viz comics promotional single as "Johnny Japes and his Jesticles," a Christmas-themed single as "The Three Wise Men" and a guest appearance on their own tribute album Testimonial Dinner as "Terry and the Lovemen." In 1979 Partridge also released a solo album of radical dub-oriented remixes of material from the Drums + Wires LP, credited to "Mr Partridge" and titled Takeaway: The Lure Of Salvage. 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. The band's followup, Oranges & Lemons, was their biggest seller yet, with "Mayor of Simpleton" and "King for a Day" getting heavy airplay on MTV. 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. ("Dear God" replaced "Mermaid Smiled", which was absent from the album until it was finally reinstated for the remastered "Skylarking" CD in 2000.). Later in the year the band recorded their next album in the Virgin Islands. Skylarking revived the band's commercial fortunes, earning critical accolades and spawning the controversial hit "Dear God", which was originally issued as the B-side of the album's first single, "Grass." Interest in the song saw the album re-pressed with "Dear God" included and the new version of the LP sold 250,000 copies in the USA.

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". Partridge has since softened his view, describing the album as "a summer's day baked into one cake.". After the world tour McCartney took a break, but this period produced both the most obscure and the most successful records he has made. The two egos of Rundgren and Partridge clashed frequently during the recording of Skylarking and when it was finished Partridge said that he was not at all happy with the resulting product. 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. This did not sit well with the band, Partridge in particular. 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. True to his "hands-on" studio production style, Rundgren insisted that everyone adhere to his scheme.

Further hits followed with the singles "Silly Love Songs" and "Let 'Em In". When the band got to Woodstock, Rundgren had already worked out a running order for both the recording and sequence of the album itself. 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). Rundgren had insisted that the band send him, in advance, demos of all the songs that they thought they might tackle for the record. McCartney still mostly shied away from the Beatles catalogue; only five such numbers were typically included in the American shows. Although the pairing of XTC and Rundgren was highly anticipated by fans, the sessions were less than enjoyable for the band. 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. In 1986, the band travelled to Todd Rundgren's studio-in-the-woods in Woodstock, New York to record what many consider to be the best album of their career, Skylarking.

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. Owen"). 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. Rather than finding a replacement, XTC has used a series of session drummers over the years, including Peter Phipps, Prairie Prince, Dave Mattacks, Pat Mastelotto, Chuck Sabo, and Dave Gregory's brother, Ian Gregory (as "E.I.E.I. Moreover Band on the Run enjoyed a very positive critical reception, and did much to restore McCartney's somewhat damaged post-Beatles image. Another major factor was his burgeoning relationship with his Australian girlfriend--they subsequently married and Chambers migrated to Australia and settled in Newcastle, New South Wales. 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". Chambers left the band shortly thereafter, unhappy with the confines of the studio, and also feeling the loss of income that resulted from their withdrawal from touring--he did not write, and so received no publishing royalties.

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. Since then, XTC has been almost exclusively a studio band, although they have given occasional live-to-air performances from radio stations. 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). The European and British dates were cancelled and after one show in San Diego the whole US leg was also abandoned. Wings also recorded the hit theme song to the James Bond film Live and Let Die, which reunited McCartney with producer George Martin. Concerned about her husband's dependence on the drug, his wife ill-advisedly threw his tablets away just before the concert without seeking medical advice -- the result was, not surprisingly, anxiety attacks of such severity that it soon forced Partridge to withdraw from touring permanently. That same year, McCartney filmed his first American TV special James Paul McCartney, which was savagely criticised by noted rock journalist Lillian Roxon. The breakdown, accompanied by uncontrollable stage fright, was reportedly precipitated by Partridge's wife throwing away his supply of Valium. According to the band's biography, Andy had become dependent upon the drug after it was prescribed to him as a teenager during his parents' divorce, but it had never been withdrawn.

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". Just after its release and at the peak of their popularity, the band embarked on a major tour, but Partridge suffered a breakdown on stage during one of the first concerts of the tour in Paris on March 18, 1982. 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). XTC's last major hit in the touring phase of their career was "Senses Working Overtime," the first single from their brilliant double album English Settlement and a Top 20 hit in the UK in 1982. 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. Other hits from this era include the non-LP single "Life Begins at the Hop" and singles lifted from Black Sea--"Sgt. Rock (Is Going to Help Me)" and "Generals & Majors." The promotional clip for the latter single (written by Colin Moulding) features an cameo appearance by the then owner of Virgin Records, Richard Branson. (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 album showcased a flawless set of classic power-pop that included enduring XTC favourites including "Rocket From A Bottle," "No Language In Our Lungs," and "Towers Of London"; the strong material was greatly enhanced by more superb production and engineering by Lillywhite and Padgham.

The result was Wild Life, the first project to credit "Wings". Their 1980 LP, Black Sea, saw the band's new sound and style come together with superb results. 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 studio was at the time much sought after for its highly reverberant "live" drum room, and it was greatly favoured by their producer of the time, Steve Lillywhite and his engineer Hugh Padgham, who also recorded successful albums there with Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. See Paul McCartney. It also saw them finding the basis of a new sound for the group and marked their first sessions at London's celebrated Townhouse Studios. Wings was a pop-rock band led by Paul McCartney, formed after the dissolution of the Beatles. The resulting album, Drums and Wires, produced the band's first big hit, "Making Plans for Nigel", which caused a minor controversy because of its lyrical reference to British Steel.

Back to the Egg (1979). The loss of Andrews' keyboard madness started the band on a path towards more traditional guitar power-pop, although Gregory also contributed occasional keyboards (and later, string arrangements). London Town (1978). Andrews went on to form Shriekback and he also worked with Robert Fripp's League of Gentlemen. Wings Over America (1976). After their second effort, Go2, Andrews left and was replaced by guitarist Dave Gregory. Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976). By the time of the punk explosion in 1977, the group's lineup had been filled out by Barry Andrews (keyboards) and Terry Chambers (drums), and the band got picked up by Virgin Records. They recorded the 3D EP later that year, and followed it up with White Music in January 1978.

Venus and Mars (1975). First coming together in 1972, the core duo of Andy Partridge (guitars, vocals) and Colin Moulding (bass, vocals) went through various band names and personnel changes over the next five years as they built up their unique brand of hyperactive pop spiked with funk, punk, ska, reggae, and art rock. Band on the Run (1973). (The name of the band predates the use of "XTC" as a drug term.). Red Rose Speedway (1973). They are considered the forefathers of the Britpop movement of the 1980s and are one of the most influential bands still working today. Wild Life (1971). XTC is an innovative new wave band from Swindon, UK.

For the energy drink, see XTC (drink).. For the drug, see Ecstasy. Voice of the Beehive. The Woodentops.

The Residents. The Lilac Time. L'Affaire Louis Trio. The following bands have worked with members of XTC:

    .

    David Yazbek. Jennifer Trynin. Saeko Suzuki. Ryuichi Sakamoto.

    Hugh Padgham. Todd Rundgren. Martin Newell. Aimee Mann.

    Steve Lillywhite. Peter Gabriel. Thomas Dolby. Captain Sensible.

    Harold Budd. Peter Blegvad. Joan Armatrading. The following artists have worked with members of XTC:

      .

      both of the above compiled as: Chips from the Chocolate Fireball (CD only, 1987). Psonic Psunspot (vinyl only, 1987). 25 O'Clock (vinyl only 12" EP, 1985). 3D (1977).

      Tunes to Help You Breathe More Easily (Recording rumoured to be in progress. Scheduled release date unknown). Coat of Many Cupboards (2002). Homegrown (2001). Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (2000).

      Homespun (1999). Apple Venus Volume 1 (1999). Fossil Fuel: The Singles (1992). Nonsuch (1992).

      Rag and Bone Buffet (1991). Oranges and Lemons (album) (1989). Skylarking (1986). The Big Express (1984).

      Mummer (1983). English Settlement (1982). Black Sea (1980). Drums And Wires (1979).

      Go 2 (1978). White Music (1978).

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