Paul McCartney and Wings

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File:Paul McCartney and Wings.jpg
Wings in 1971. Clockwise from left: Paul McCartney, Denny Seiwell, Denny Laine, Linda McCartney
Background information
GenresRock, Soft Rock
Years active1971–1981
Parlophone (UK)
Capitol (US)
Columbia (US)
Associated actsThe Beatles
The Moody Blues
Mike McGear
Suzy and the Red Stripes
Past membersPaul McCartney
Linda McCartney
Denny Laine
First lineup:
Henry McCullough
Denny Seiwell
Second lineup:
Jimmy McCulloch
Geoff Britton
Joe English
Third lineup:
Laurence Juber
Steve Holly

Wings was a rock music supergroup formed in August 1971, after the breakup of The Beatles, by ex-Beatle Paul McCartney.[1] Wings achieved widespread success during the 1970s and early 1980s despite continual personnel changes.[2]

The only three members in all of the different versions of Wings were McCartney, his wife Linda, and ex-Moody Blues guitarist and singer Denny Laine.


As The Beatles were breaking up in 1970, McCartney was working on his debut solo album, McCartney. Backing vocals were provided by his wife, Linda, whom he had married the previous year. McCartney had insisted from the beginning of their marriage that his wife should be involved in his musical projects, so that they did not have to be apart when he was on tour.[3] On his second solo album, Ram, McCartney added selected outside musicians, including drummer Denny Seiwell, who had to perform in a secret audition for Paul and Linda before being chosen.[4]

First lineup (1971-1973)

In August 1971, Seiwell and guitarist/singer Denny Laine joined Paul and Linda McCartney to record Paul's third post-Beatles project on Apple Records. The result was Wild Life, the first project to credit Wings as the artist. In an attempt to capture the spontaneity of live performances, five of the eight songs on Wild Life were first takes by the band.[4] However, the record left music critics cold.[5]

The band name is said to have come to McCartney as he was praying in the hospital while Linda was giving birth to their second child together, Stella McCartney.[3] Paul McCartney recalled in the film Wingspan that the birth of Stella was "a bit of a drama"; there were complications at the birth and that both Linda and the baby almost died. He was praying fervently and the image of wings came to his mind. He decided to name his new band "Wings".[3]

In 1972, McCartney added ex-Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough to the line-up of Wings and returned to touring, mounting an impromptu tour of UK universities and later a tour of small European venues (with the group driving around in a van), playing no Beatles numbers.[6]

In February 1972, Wings released a single called "Give Ireland Back to the Irish", a response to the events of Bloody Sunday.[7] The song was banned by the BBC for its anti-Unionist political stance and only mentioned in chart rundowns on BBC Radio 1 as "a record by Wings".[8] Despite its limited airplay, it reached #16 in the UK, as well as #1 in The Republic of Ireland and #1 in Spain.

Partly in reaction to the ban, Wings released a children's song, "Mary Had a Little Lamb", as its next single. However, Wings followed that with November 1972's "Hi, Hi, Hi", which was again banned by the BBC, this time for its alleged drug and sexual references.[8] The B-side, "C Moon", was played instead.[3] The single made it into the Top 5.

In late 1972, McCartney re-christened the band Paul McCartney and Wings for the 1973 album Red Rose Speedway, which yielded the first US #1 Wings hit, the romantic ballad "My Love". One possible reason for the renaming was that two songs on this album had been recorded by Paul, Linda and Denny Seiwall during the Ram sessions; Denny Laine added backing vocals to one of these songs, but Henry McCullough was not on either. Among the unreleased songs recorded by Wings during the extensive sessions for this album (which stretched over seven months and two continents) was the Linda composition "Seaside Woman", which was finally released in 1977 (although credited to "Suzy and the Red Stripes"). One other song from these sessions ("I Would Only Smile") appeared on Denny Laine's 1980 "solo" album Japanese Tears.

Near the end of these sessions, in October 1972, Wings recorded the theme song to the James Bond film Live and Let Die, which reunited McCartney with Beatles producer/arranger George Martin. The uptempo song, released as a non-album single in the summer of 1973 (immediately after "My Love"), became a sizable worldwide hit and has remained a popular part of McCartney's post-Wings concert performances (often accompanied by fireworks). That same year, McCartney released his first American TV special James Paul McCartney, which featured a lot of footage of Wings but was savagely criticised by noted rock journalist Lillian Roxon.

After a successful British tour in May-June 1973, Wings went right into rehearsals for the next album. However, Henry McCullough and Denny Seiwell left the band in August, at the end of rehearsals,[9] leaving the McCartneys and Laine to cut what turned out to be Wings' most successful album, Band on the Run, at EMI's primitive 8-track recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria. The album went to #1 in both the US and UK and spawned three hit singles: the rockers "Jet" and "Helen Wheels" (originally included on the US album only) and the title track—a suite of movements recalling side 2 of Abbey Road. It also included "Let Me Roll It", which was seen as an affectionate impersonation of John Lennon's vocal style,[10] and "No Words", the first song released by Wings that was co-written by Denny Laine (all Wings releases to this time were either Paul & Linda compositions or cover versions). Band on the Run enjoyed very positive critical reception and did much to restore McCartney's tarnished post-Beatles image among critics.[11]

Second lineup (1974-1978)

After Band on the Run, Jimmy McCulloch, former lead guitarist in Thunderclap Newman and Stone the Crows, joined the band. The first Wings project with McCulloch was McGear, a 1974 collaboration between Paul and his younger brother Mike McGear, with session musician Gerry Conway playing drums. Warner Bros. Records chose not to play up the "Wings" angle in its marketing for McGear, and the album sold poorly. However, the sessions also generated a single credited to McGear's group The Scaffold, "Liverpool Lou", which became a top-10 hit in the U.K.

Shortly thereafter, Geoff Britton was added to Wings on drums, and the first recording session with the full lineup was held in Nashville, where the band stayed at the rural farm of songwriter Curly Putman Jr.[12] The trip was memorialized in the 1974 non-album single "Junior's Farm", backed with a straight country track entitled "Sally G", the group's last release on Apple Records. During these sessions, Wings (with guest musicians Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer) recorded a single that was attributed to "The Country Hams" entitled "Walking in the Park with Eloise," a song written years before by Paul's father James.[12] Also, a Laine/McCartney song ("Send Me the Heart") was recorded but not released until Laine's Japanese Tears.

Wings in 1974 - Linda and Paul McCartney, Geoff Britton, Denny Laine, Jimmy McCulloch (seated).

The new lineup, which was once again just called Wings, started recording sessions in London in November 1974, then moved to New Orleans to complete the album Venus and Mars (1975), the first release from the group on MPL Communications, distributed worldwide by EMI (Parlophone in the UK, Capitol in the US). The album topped the charts and contained the US #1 single "Listen to What the Man Said", which also featured Dave Mason of Traffic on guitar and Tom Scott on saxophone. When the Venus and Mars recording sessions moved to New Orleans, Britton quit Wings and was replaced by Joe English. Like Denny Seiwell before him, English won the job at a secret audition before McCartney.[13] McCulloch co-composed (with former bandmate Colin Allen) and sang one song ("Medicine Jar"); Laine sang lead vocals on a McCartney song ("Spirits of Ancient Egypt"); Paul composed and sang the rest.

In the fall of 1975 Wings embarked on the Wings Over the World tour, starting in Bristol, which took them to Australia (November), Europe (March 1976), the US (May/June) and Europe again (September) before ending in a four-night grand finale at London's Wembley Empire Pool.

In between, Wings recorded Wings at the Speed of Sound, which was released at the end of March 1976, just prior to the U.S. leg of the world tour. It represented a departure from the prior Wings template in that each of the five primary members of the band (including Linda and Joe English) sang lead on at least one song, and both Laine ("Time to Hide") and McCulloch ("Wino Junko", again with Colin Allen) contributed songs. However, the two US #1 singles, "Silly Love Songs" and "Let 'em In", were both written and sung by Paul. Four of the album tracks were played in the 1976 portion of the tour, which also included five Beatles songs. Laine sang lead vocals on several songs (including his old Moody Blues hit "Go Now" and Paul Simon's "Richard Cory"), and McCulloch on one ("Medicine Jar"), emphasizing that Wings was more than just Paul McCartney's backing band.[3] One of the Seattle concerts from the American leg of the 1975–76 world tour was filmed and later released as the concert feature Rockshow (1980). The tour also spawned a triple live album, Wings over America (1976).

The Wings logo

After the world tour, and following the single release of a live version of "Maybe I'm Amazed" in early 1977, Wings took a break. Later in the year, the band started recording their next album in the Virgin Islands, but the sessions were delayed by Linda's pregnancy and then by the departures of both Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English. McCulloch, who joined The Small Faces, had difficulty handling the rock'n'roll lifestyle, ultimately dying of a heroin overdose in 1979. English later founded the very successful Christian-oriented Joe English Band.

Undeterred by their departure, Wings released the already-completed McCartney-Laine ballad "Mull of Kintyre", an ode to the Scottish Mull of Kintyre coastal region where McCartney had made his home in the early 1970s. Its broad appeal was maximized by a pre-Christmas release. It became a massive international hit, dominating the charts in Britain (where it was Wings' only #1), Australia and many other countries over the Christmas/New Year period. Ultimately, it became one of the biggest selling UK singles of all time. However, it was not a success in the US, where the B-side "Girls School" received most of the airplay but barely reached the Top 40.

The core trio of Wings then released the album London Town in 1978, a collection that sometimes included McCulloch and English. The album was a commercial success, although it became the first Wings album since Wild Life to not reach #1 in the US (reaching "only" #2),[14] but it featured a markedly softer-rock, synth-based sound. Laine co-wrote five of the album's songs with McCartney and sang two of them. "With a Little Luck" reached #1 in the US and #5 in the UK, but "I've Had Enough" and "London Town" were commercial disappointments in both countries.

Third lineup (1978-1981)

Later in 1978, lead guitarist Laurence Juber and former Elton John drummer Steve Holly joined the band, restoring Wings to touring strength. In 1979, McCartney signed a new record contract, leaving Capitol, the company he had been with since he was a Beatle, in the US and Canada and joining Columbia Records, while remaining with Parlophone/EMI in the rest of the world. Influenced by the Punk and New Wave scenes, Wings abandoned its mellow touch and hired former Apple engineer Chris Thomas to help in the production process. The result was a somewhat less polished sound. This new version of Wings first released the disco-oriented single "Goodnight Tonight", backed by "Daytime Nighttime Suffering", which reached the top 5 in both the US and UK. However, the subsequent album Back to the Egg, which was not favorably received by critics, sold disappointingly, at least when compared to its immediate predecessors. Still, it went platinum in the US. It contained the Grammy-winning song "Rockestra Theme", the result of an October 1978 superstar session with members of the Who, Led Zeppelin, Wings and Pink Floyd, and two other singles were taken off the album, but both did little in the charts. One song ("Again and Again and Again") was composed and sung by Laine; the rest were Paul's. An unreleased Laine song from these sessions ("Weep for Love") appeared on Laine's Japanese Tears album in 1980; an unreleased Juber song from these sessions ("Maisie") appeared on his solo album Standard Time.

During much of 1979, Wings was inactive as McCartney worked on a new solo album (McCartney II) without the band. In November and December of 1979, Wings performed its final tour of the UK, climaxing with a massive "rockestra" all-star collection of musicians in London in aid of UNICEF and Kampuchean refugees. During this tour, a live version of the McCartney II track "Coming Up" was recorded in Glasgow and became Wings' sixth and final US #1 hit (as well as the last Wings single, although once again credited to Paul McCartney and Wings) the following year.

Plans for a new Wings world tour were abandoned when McCartney was arrested for possession of about 7.7 ounces of marijuana at Tokyo airport on 16 January 1980.[15] Other Wings members were questioned but not charged. Although McCartney was released from jail after 9 days, on 25 January, he was deported from Japan.[15] As a result, the Japanese tour was cancelled along with other plans for Wings.

During 1980, Wings continued to demo some more tunes, and some work was done on a never-released "cold cuts" album of previously-unreleased songs. However, as Wings continued to idle, Juber (in February 1981) and Holly left the band. Finally, on 27 April 1981, it was announced that Denny Laine also had left Wings, and that the band had been disbanded.[16] McCartney claimed that the band "parted in a friendly way."[17]

Potential reunion

In July 2007, surviving Wings members Denny Laine, Denny Seiwell and Laurence Juber (excluding Paul McCartney, who was not interested in participating) reunited for one show at a BeatleFest in Las Vegas. They performed band classics including "Band on the Run", "Mull of Kintyre" and "Go Now". According to one report, Laine said that the three are discussing plans for a reunion tour.[18]


Unlike other post-Beatles projects such as the Plastic Ono Band, Wings can be viewed as a real group, not just a backing band for an ex-Beatle. Both Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch wrote songs, and Laine, McCulloch, Joe English and Linda McCartney all contributed lead vocals. However, Paul McCartney was unquestionably the band's leader and star. Every song on a single credited to Wings was at least co-composed by Paul, and the only three songs to appear on such singles that weren't sung by Paul were all B-sides: "I Lie Around" (Denny Laine, flip of "Live and Let Die"), "Cook of the House" (Linda McCartney, flip of "Silly Love Songs"), and "Deliver Your Children" (Denny, flip of "I've Had Enough").

The longevity and success of Wings was a vindication for McCartney. His early home-grown solo output, which often featured simpler songs and less lavish production than The Beatles received from George Martin, often was dismissed by critics as "lightweight" next to the more serious nature of his former bandmates' solo output. But, by 1975, John Lennon's solo career had been put on hold following the birth of his son Sean, and he had stopped recording. By 1976 George Harrison had all but retired from performing live (although not from recording). As part of Wings, however, McCartney continued to tour regularly and to enjoy hit singles and albums the world over. By 1980, even John Lennon was jealous of Wings' (and McCartney's) continuing success, which largely inspired Lennon's own comeback that year.[19]

During its life, Wings had 12 top-10 singles in the UK and 14 top-10 singles (including six #1s) in the US. All 23 singles credited to Wings reached the US Top 40. Wings had only one fewer #1 single in the US than John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr combined in their post-Beatle careers. Of the nine albums credited to Wings at the time, all went top 10 in either the UK or US, with five consecutive #1s in the US (surprisingly, the only Wings album not to reach the US Top 10 was Wings Greatest).

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 Terrence Higgins Trust) and it ranked fourth in the official list of best selling singles in the UK issued in 2002.

In June of 2007, Apple's higher-quality iTunes Plus was released, featuring albums from EMI. Among the albums included were the nine original albums from Wings. As of 4 June 2007, Band on the Run was the third most downloaded album from iTunes Plus.

Wings are sometimes the subject of satirical reference; the more pop-friendly style of the band has attracted tongue-in-cheek comparisons with The Beatles. Steve Coogan's comic creation Alan Partridge naturally admires Wings, referring to them as "the band The Beatles could have been."[20]


During its ten-year lifespan, Wings underwent numerous personnel changes and was twice reduced to its core Paul-Linda-Denny trio. (Listings for 1978 to 1981 do not include the members of Rockestra, a "rock orchestra" supergroup including Wings that can be heard on the albums Back to the Egg and Concerts for the People of Kampuchea.)


  • Paul McCartney - vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar
  • Linda McCartney - vocals, keyboards
  • Denny Laine - vocals, guitar, bass, piano
  • Denny Seiwell - drums, percussion
  • Henry McCullough - guitar, vocals
  • Paul McCartney - vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar, drums
  • Linda McCartney - vocals, keyboards
  • Denny Laine - vocals, guitar, bass, piano
  • Paul McCartney - vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar
  • Linda McCartney - vocals, keyboards
  • Denny Laine - vocals, guitar, bass, piano
  • Jimmy McCulloch - vocals, guitar
  • Geoff Britton - drums, percussion
  • Paul McCartney - vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar
  • Linda McCartney - vocals, keyboards
  • Denny Laine - vocals, guitar, bass, piano
  • Jimmy McCulloch - vocals, guitar
  • Joe English - vocals, drums, percussion
  • Tony Dorsey - horns, brass
  • Howie Casey - horns, brass
  • Thaddeus Richard - horns, brass
  • Steve Howard - horns, brass
  • Paul McCartney - vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar, drums
  • Linda McCartney - vocals, keyboards
  • Denny Laine - vocals, guitar, bass, piano
  • Paul McCartney - vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar
  • Linda McCartney - vocals, keyboards
  • Denny Laine - vocals, guitar, bass, piano
  • Laurence Juber - vocals, guitar
  • Steve Holly - vocals, drums, percussion
  • Tony Dorsey - horns, brass
  • Howie Casey - horns, brass
  • Thaddeus Richard - horns, brass
  • Steve Howard - horns, brass



  1. Wild Life (1971) UK #11, US #10
  2. Red Rose Speedway (1973) UK #5, US #1
  3. Band on the Run (1973) UK #1, US #1
  4. Venus and Mars (1975) UK #1, US #1
  5. Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976) UK #2, US #1
  6. Wings over America (1976) UK #8, US #1
  7. London Town (1978) UK #4, US #2
  8. Wings Greatest (1978) UK #5, US #29
  9. Back to the Egg (1979) UK #6, US #8
  10. Concerts for the People of Kampuchea (1981)
    • With Other Artists
  11. Band on the Run: 25th Anniversary Edition (1999)
  12. Wingspan: Hits and History Compilation (2001) UK #5, US #2


  1. "Give Ireland Back to the Irish" (1972) UK #16, US #21
  2. "Mary Had a Little Lamb"/"Little Woman Love" (1972) UK #9, US #28
  3. "Hi Hi Hi"/"C Moon" (1972) UK #5, US #10
  4. "My Love" (1973) UK #9, US #1
  5. "Live and Let Die" (1973) UK #9, US #2
  6. "Helen Wheels" (1973) UK #12, US #10
  7. "Jet" (1974) UK #7, US #7
  8. "Band on the Run" (1974) UK #3, US #1
  9. "Junior's Farm" / "Sally G" (1974) UK #16, US #3
  10. "Listen to What the Man Said" (1975) UK #6, US #1
  11. "Letting Go" (1975) UK #41, US #31
  12. "Venus and Mars/Rock Show" (1975) US #12
  13. "Silly Love Songs" (1976) UK #2, US #1
  14. "Let 'em In" (1976) UK #2, US #3
  15. "Maybe I'm Amazed" (1977) UK #28, US #10
  16. "Mull of Kintyre"/"Girls School" (1977) UK #1, US #33
  17. "With a Little Luck" (1978) UK #5, US #1
  18. "I've Had Enough" (1978) UK #42, US #25
  19. "London Town" (1978) UK #60, US #39
  20. "Goodnight Tonight" (1979) UK #5, US #5
  21. "Old Siam, Sir"/"Arrow Through Me" (1979) UK #35, US #29
  22. "Getting Closer" (1979) UK #60, US #20
  23. "Coming Up" (Live at Glasgow) (1980) US #1


  1. ^ The Beatles, Hunter Davies, 8 April 2004 (revised) Cassell Illustrated, ISBN 1-84403-104-7
  2. ^ McCartney interview, Music Express, issue #56 (GG70470), the April/May 1982 edition
  3. ^ a b c d e Lewisohn, Mark. Wingspan: Little Brown, 2002. ISBN 0-316-86032-8
  4. ^ a b Wright, Jeb. Denny Seiwell of Wings. Interview, Classic Rock Revisted website. Retrieved 17 May 2007.
  5. ^ For example, see the January 20, 1972 review by famed critic John Mendelsohn in Rolling Stone, in which he wonders whether Wild Life may have been "deliberately second-rate."
  6. ^ Paul McCartney biography(2003). MPL Communications. Retrieved: 11 December 2006.
  7. ^ BBC Radio Leeds interview Retrieved: 21 November, 2006
  8. ^ a b The seven ages of Paul McCartney, BBC News, 2006-06-17. Retrieved on 2006-11-06.
  9. ^ Emerick, Geoff, with Howard Massey. Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. Gotham; 2006. p. 337. ISBN 978-1592402694
  10. ^ Carr, Roy and Tyler, Tony. The Beatles: An Illustrated Record. 1974. ISBN 0-517-52045-1.
  11. ^ For example, in Rolling Stone, critic Jon Landau described it as "a carefully composed, intricately designed personal statement" and "(with the possible exception of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band) the finest record yet released by any of the four musicians who were once called the Beatles."
  12. ^ a b Bailey, Jerry. "Paul and Linda Try the Gentle Life", The Tennessean, 18 July 1974. Retrieved 9 June 2007.
  13. ^ Joe English biography at Drummer
  14. ^ Joel Whitburn Presents the Billboard Albums, 6th edition. ISBN 0-89820-166-7
  15. ^ a b Wasserman, Harry. "Paul's Pot-Bust Shocker Makes Him A Jailhouse Rocker". High Times, July 1980. Retrieved 5 June 2007.
  16. ^ Laurence Juber interview, Retrieved 28 June 2007.
  17. ^ Bonici, Ray. "Paul McCartney Wings It Alone", Music Express, April/May 1982. Retrieved 4 June 2007.
  18. ^ "Wings Alumni to Take Flight",, July 10, 2007. Retrieved 17 Sept. 2007.
  19. ^ Rosen, Robert. Nowhere Man: The Final Days of John Lennon. 2001, pp. 135-36. ISBN 978-0932551511.
  20. ^ "Alan Partridge about music", YouTube video clip. Retrieved 3 Oct. 2007.


  • Lewisohn, Mark (2002). Wingspan. Little, Brown and Company (New York). ISBN 0-316-86032-8. Check date values in: |year= (help)

See also