Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Wings Albums


Regular readers of my blog will know that before I became a Beatles fan, I was a Wings fan. Of course, I still am. My family never had a record player, we had a cassette player, but when I got my first record player in my teens, I inherited a collection of singles and albums left behind by my neighbours' hippie daughter who had moved out. Some of those were by The Beatles and Apple artists, but the very first Beatles related album I actually went out and bought was "Venus and Mars" by Wings. I had heard "Band on the Run" earlier, courtesy of a relative's cassette, but "Venus and Mars" was the record that made me a fan. And for me, it still ranks above "Band on the Run" as an album.
I was thrilled and delighted when McCartney added the "Venus and Mars/Rockshow" medley (albeit way too short a version) and "Letting Go" to his live set this year, and I travelled all the way to Dublin, Ireland to see him perform them.
Back to my teenage years, Wings became a fixture and I bought all their albums. Americans may not realize this, and recent raves in the media about "Band on the Run" reflects it, but the biggest Wings success here was not that one but the single hit "Mull of Kintyre" from 1977. Standing out like an alien being in the middle of the punk rock era, the scottish flavoured ballad became the biggest selling single of all time in the UK, knocking the previous biggest seller "She Loves You" by The Beatles off the throne.


Unlike The Plastic Ono Band, Wings was more than just a backing band for an ex-Beatle. Paul McCartney was unquestionably the band's leader and star, but both Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch wrote songs for the group, and Laine, McCulloch, Joe English, and Linda McCartney all performed lead vocals on Wings songs. In concert, Henry McCullough as well as Denny Laine and later, Jimmy McCulloch performed their own songs during the Wings tours. And with the recruitment of new and younger Wings members Laurence Juber and Steve Holly, these guys had Wings fans of their own.

In my native Norway, Wings was also a tremendous success. "Venus and Mars" spent fourteen weeks at the number one spot in the charts over here. All in all it spent 26 weeks in the Top 40 album charts, while "Band on the Run" was a slower seller with only seven weeks as number one, but stayed in the Top 40 for 38 weeks. And even though "Venus and Mars" was to be the last Wings album to reach the top spot in the album charts, the remaining Wings albums also did rather well, with "Wings At The Speed Of Sound" reaching number 2 and staying 19 weeks, the triple concert album "Wings Over America" spent 11 weeks with #7 as best (not bad for such an expensive album), "London Town" reached the number two spot and had a 20 weeks run in the charts. I remember a lot of songs from that album being played on the radio and coming out from all open windows and cars in the neighbourhood that year. The final Wings album, "Back To The Egg" featured a Norwegian radio voice on the intro, but was the least successful one in Norway, not having a hit single on it. But it still spent 11 weeks in the Top 40, reaching number 5. If it had been promoted on TV by the "Back To The Egg" TV special at the time, maybe it would have fared better and perhaps Wings would have remained a band for a longer while. But we all know what happened: the Wings tour of Japan in January 1980 was cancelled when McCartney was busted at the airport, McCartney released a solo album and Wings had a slow disbanding following that event.
For me, these are the Wings albums:

1971 Wings Wild Life
1973 Red Rose Speedway
1973 Band On The Run
1974 McGear
1975 Venus And Mars
1976 Wings At The Speed of Sound
1977 Wings Over America
1977 Holly Days
1978 London Town
1979 Back To The Egg

I don't regard neither Wings' Greatest (1978) nor Wingspan Hits And History as true Wings releases, they are compilation albums made from both Wings tracks as well as McCartney solo songs and Paul and Linda McCartney releases. But two of the Wings albums in the list are worth tracking down if you don't have them, "McGear" is Wings anno 1974 used as a backing band for Paul McCartney's brother, Mike McGear. And "Holly Days" is a collection of Buddy Holly songs recorded by the Paul-Denny-Linda Wings trio (as they were on Band on The Run and upon the release of London Town) featuring Denny Laine on lead vocals. The album has still not been released on an official CD, as far as I know.

10 comments:

sys4 said...

Hello from New Orleans! I enjoy your blog very much and especially want to thank you for this post. It made me want to get the McGear album and also look into The Scaffold. Both of which are completely unknown to most American beatle fans.

Brian Fried said...

Wings were meant to be permanent; Plastic Ono, not. That's the real difference, and while Paul was unable to keep stable 4th and 5th players, those that he did get for each tour continued to enrich the songs they already had to choose from. Listen to the bootlegs from 72 and 79, and Wings Over America from 76, and you'll hear different arrangements of songs that were great to begin with to make them even better.

But you missed Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea (1981) which has Wings all over side 4.

As for what Wings might have continued with, let's not forget that Tug Of War was originally composed as a Wings album. Denny was still part of the band in the demos, and didn't quit until George Martin made it clear he felt Denny's playing was subpar. Personally, I think it was a big mistake listening to Martin, because Paul spent the next few years making albums that were perfected in studio but lifeless on record… with no real excitement live.

Brian Fried said...

PS Wings Over America was released on 10 December 1976, not in 1977. The single "Maybe I'm Amazed" was in 77, and went to #1 that year too.

DiBoLand said...

Mcgear is not a Wings Album

Spiderjeru said...

Roger:

Can you make out what the Norwegian voice is saying on 'Reception'?

Roby66 said...

Hi Roger,
This is Roberto from Italy. Thank you very much for your nice blog. I would like you to know that Holly Days was released on cd by the label Magic in October 2000. I have got this cd and, if you are interested, I think you can still source it from Amazon Uk.
Ciao!

nicolasleroy said...

Very interesting post! Regarding "holly days", it has been released in CD format. I've got it as:

Denny Laine (with Linda & Paul McCartney)
Holly Days
Magic Records
2000 MAM Productions

Kwai Chang said...

To those who may not have heard it: The McGear album is very good. If you ever hear it, you'll know who it's by!
As for your excellent site, keep it up. You have kept me informed so much, lately...that I'm starting to depend on it. Thank you, ever so kindly.

Wogew said...

Don't depend on my blog! I've recently started in a new job and won't be able to post so frequently in the coming weeks.

Kwai Chang said...

Thanks, anyway. I have an extra can of work-repellent if you need it. Onward.