Talk to me about (Paul McCartney's) Wings

I’ve gotten to know and appreciate a lot of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles work thanks to Sirius/XM’s Beatles Channel over the past few years. Some of the more mainstream stuff (Junior’s Farm, Band on the Run, Jet, etc) I’ve know about, but (youngish Gen X-er that I am), I wasn’t around for it in the first run, and some stuff is totally new to me.

So I’m curious, was Wings just a bunch of supporting musicians to help Paul to do his thing, or was it a legit band? I know Linda and guitarist Denny Laine were in it for the long haul, but how much did they and other members actually contribute? Were any of their popular songs written by anyone else but Paul? Was Wings actually respected as a solid rock band in the 70s? Did Paul also do stuff solo in the 70s, or was his music pretty much with Wings?

Also, if you saw Wings live, tell me about it. Tell me about your experience with Wings. Please and thank you in advance.

It was basically Paul’s show, but Denny Laine did cowrite a few songs and sang lead with McCartney on the occasional song.

The thing was that Paul was so prolific that he could fill most of an album with his own material. Wings was thought of by him and the bandmates as a band, not just Paul McCartney’s backing band.

I suppose the closest analogy is the Kinks, which was a band, though Ray Davies wrote most of the material and all of their hits (Dave Davies did write some songs).

Wings was Paul’s gift to Linda, so she could pretend she was a musician.

Born in late 1960. I remember Wings not being taken particularly seriously. “His wife is on keys? What do you bet the roadies never plug her in?”

As a solid teenage John Man, I thought albums like Walls and Bridges and Mind Games were miles above anything Paul was cranking out in the mid ‘70s. George was doing better stuff, too: see “This Song” and “Crackerbox Palace.”

I didn’t see Wings in person, but if you want a good idea of what the band was like live, check out the 2013 re-issue of Rockshow. The video transfer leaves a bit to be desired, but the sound and editing (no MTV-style jump cuts every two seconds) are terrific. Paul really is in top form, probably the best performance of his ever captured on film.

My recollection was that it was a solid pop band (and seen as such), but Paul generally wasn’t pushing the envelope in experimentation the way that the Beatles had been. The Band on the Run album is generally seen as being Wings’ high point.

I remember, sometime in the early '90s, hearing a recording on the radio that was purported to be the isolated feed from Linda’s vocal mic from a Wings concert; I don’t know for certain if it was her or not, but whoever it was couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.

I heard the same feed. Mark & Brian made it a centerpiece of a number of their radio shows in LA.

I always figured Wings was to Paul as Crazy Horse was to Neil.

Much of the time, this was true, but Wings At the Speed of Sound (and, to a lesser extent, Venus and Mars) was an attempt to be more collaborative.

Don’t forget that there were two albums before Wings formed. McCartney and Ram. Ram had Uncle Albert.

I must defend Wings. I loved almost all of it until maybe the 80s. John was just too self-absorbed and too angry (and just too not writing good songs) George was too lost in the far East, and Ringo was too drunk and too limited in talent to sustain a solo career.

John writes “How Do You Sleep”, and Paul writes “Silly Love Songs.” I know which one I like more. And what’s wrong with that?

My understanding is that Paul wanted it to be a legit band, but it never quite lived up to that. He missed the kind of genuine collaboration he had with the Beatles. And he seems to always have embraced, more fully than the other Beatles, the role of Big Pop/Rock Star and crowd-pleasing entertainer.

And, for the second half of the 1970s, John wasn’t recording anything at all.

Yeah, anything with McCartney in it was going to be his band unless he teamed up with Clapton or someone else playing at his level. You can’t blame people for focusing on the former Beatle.

Wings was a genuinely good pop band. McCartney wrong catchy, hook-filled songs in major keys and generally in four/four time. If it shows anything, it shows that he was the one who knew how to ‘write a swimming pool’ when he wanted to. It’s a real skill. Songwriting is fairly straightforward, but writing catchy songs that become earworms isn’t. That’s what he understood that the others only had a vague grasp on.

Did McCartney need the others to become a star? Likely not. He was that good. Did he need John and the rest to become ‘The Beatles’. Sure seems that way.

Also, maybe the guy was just tired of being experimental and out there. Maybe he just wanted to write some fun, catchy melodies that people could enjoy. There’s a lot to be said for that.

If only he’d continued to not record Double Fantasy, aka More Songs About Yoko and the Kids.

While looking at his discography, I note that I’ve never even heard of Rock N Roll, his 1975 album. Missed it completely. The radio stations I listened to must have missed it as well.

(Don’t get me wrong - I like some of his solo years output. Just not that much of it. Not like Wings.)

I’m not as familiar with John’s post-Beatles work as I am with Paul’s or George’s. That said, Rock ‘n’ Roll was an album of cover versions of early rock songs, stemming, in part, from the terms of a legal settlement which Lennon had made to end a copyright-infingement lawsuit over a line in “Come Together.” The only song from it which I can remember hearing is his cover of “Stand By Me.” The album actually made #6 on the U.S. chart, but as it had no original songs on it, I’m not surprised that it didn’t leave a more lasting mark.

I think John also had that ability; he just didn’t value it or deign to use it as much. (It was John who knocked out “A Hard Day’s Night” overnight, when the movie needed a title song.)

I’d like to know.

'Cause here I go…

When it’s Paul McCartney and Wings, Wings can be little more than a back up band. Through in the many many line up changes…

You have to take the good with the bad. And, of course, good and bad are subjective.

But, one thing about Wings is that they had a very distinctive sound. Most of that is Paul but Linda’s voice was a, oh so crucial ingredient. And Denny and the others contributed a lot. So, no. It’s definitely not a Paul backing band… it’s a real group.

The only problem is that Paul seemed to have the ability to piss off great musicians (not paying them?) like Henry McCoullaugh, Jimmy McCulloch, Denny Seiwell, etc, etc, etc.

His rockers were very good. The ballads were a matter of taste.

Which bring to mind the old joke, “What do you call a dog with wings?”