In August 1971, with a fresh set of McCartney tunes, the newly formed Wings recorded their debut in slightly more than a week with the mindset that it had to be instant and raw in order to capture the freshness and vitality of a live studio recording. Five of the eight songs were recorded in one take. Paul McCartney would later cite the quick recording schedule of Bob Dylan as an inspiration for this. The first sessions was held in Abbey Road on 25 July. As well as recording, on 2 August 1971, the tracks that would turn up on the album, the group also recorded the unreleased tracks "Tragedy" and "Breakfast Blues"; the latter was broadcast in December on New York's WCBS-FM radio station. McCartney was filmed playing "Bip Bop" and "Hey Diddle", around this time, which would later be included in the made-for-TV film, Wings Over the World.
The album was rehearsed at McCartney's recording studio in Scotland dubbed Rude Studio, which Paul and Linda had used to make demos of songs that would be used in the album, and recorded at Abbey Road Studios with Tony Clarke and Alan Parsons engineering. Paul can be heard saying "Take it, Tony" at the beginning of "Mumbo". Paul handled all of the lead vocals, sharing those duties with Linda on "I Am Your Singer" and "Some People Never Know". "Tomorrow" features background vocals from Denny Laine and Linda McCartney.
On the promotional album, "The Complete Audio Guide to The Alan Parsons Project", Alan Parsons discusses how he did a rough mix of "I Am Your Singer" that Paul liked so much, he used it for the final mix on the album. Paul can be seen at Rude Studio in the 2001 documentary 'Wingspan'.
"Dear Friend", recorded during the Ram sessions, was apparently an attempt at reconciliation with John Lennon. It was certainly a timely follow-up to John's attack on Paul in the song "How Do You Sleep?" from the album Imagine, which had apparently been in retaliation for Paul's digs at John in "Too Many People" on Ram. Music critic Ian MacDonald used "Dear Friend" as a counter-argument to the caricature of McCartney as an emotional lightweight.
Wild Life also included a reggae remake of Mickey & Sylvia's 1957 Top 40 hit "Love Is Strange" in acknowledgment of Linda's love for reggae music and Jamaica. This song was almost released as a single in the UK by Apple in December 1971 with Catalogue No. R5932, but it was cancelled on the same day the album was released, due to poor album sales, and instead releasing the non-album single, "Give Ireland Back to the Irish", in response to 1972's Bloody Sunday.
After announcing to the media the band's formation on 2 August 1971, the group were titled "Wings" on 9 October 1971. On 8 November, the group held a press party in London to announce both the group and Wild Life, which was released on 7 December, in both the UK and US, to lukewarm critical and commercial reaction. The album reached number 11 in the UK and number 10 in the US, where it went gold. At the same press party, in an interview with Melody Maker, McCartney said that the group "should be soon", in regards to performing live.John Mendelsohn wrote in Rolling Stone that he wondered whether the album may have been "deliberately second-rate." In The Beatles: An Illustrated Record, Roy Carr and Tony Tyler called the album "rushed, defensive, badly timed, and over-publicized" and wrote that it showed McCartney's songwriting "at an absolute nadir just when he needed a little respect." The liner notes for Wild Life (and on the Thrillington album) were credited to Clint Harrigan, but in 1990 McCartney admitted to journalist Peter Palmiere that he was Harrigan. Lennon claimed to know the identity of Harrigan during their Melody Maker feud in 1972.
In December 1971, "Breakfast Blues" was mixed by Paul and Linda at A&R Studios. "Breakfast Blues" was played on WCBS-FM, where McCartney sponsored Wings and Wild Life, on 15 December.
The album was first released on CD by EMI's Fame label, on 5 October 1987.[nb 1] In addition to naming the previously hidden tracks, this edition added "Oh Woman, Oh Why" (the B-side of "Another Day"), "Mary Had a Little Lamb", and "Little Woman Love" as bonus tracks. In 1993, Wild Life was remastered and reissued on CD as part of 'The Paul McCartney Collection' series with singles "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb" as well as B-sides "Little Woman Love" and "Mama's Little Girl" — all recorded in 1972 except for "Little Woman Love", which was a Ram outtake — as bonus tracks, and also two hidden tracks: "Bip Bop Link" (an acoustic guitar piece) between "I Am Your Singer" and "Tomorrow"; and "Mumbo Link" (an instrumental jam) after "Dear Friend". ("Oh Woman, Oh Why" appeared separately as a bonus track on the 1993 reissue of Ram.) A version recorded in the garden of Paul's Scotland home circa June 1971 of the bluegrass-styled "Bip Bop" featured Paul and Linda's daughter Mary giggling in the background, and segued into a riff called "Hey Diddle". This surfaced in 2001 on the compilation Wingspan: Hits and History.