Originally, Wings over America was to be a two-record set of highlight performances but this was rethought due to the success of a bootleg called Wings from the Wings, which was released as a triple record set on red, white, and blue vinyl, and contained the entire 23 June 1976 concert recorded at The Forum in Los Angeles. This caused McCartney to release the album as a three-record set, compiled from various shows from the band's North American tour during May–June 1976. McCartney's sound engineer listened to 800 hours of tape and selected the five best performances of each song from the 30-song set list. McCartney chose and mixed the final set of recordings, mostly taken from the 23 June show. "Soily" was recorded on 7 June 1976 at McNichols Sports Arena in Denver. The live recordings then received studio overdubs during October–November 1976. According to Wings' drummer Joe English, "it took forever to get those 'Wings over America' tapes ready for the live album. We had to go into the studio and overdub most of the backing vocals."
Wings over America was issued six months after the end of the band's US tour. It was another commercial success for Wings, reaching number 1 in the US in early 1977 (the last in a five-album stretch of consecutive number 1 albums for the band) and number 8 in the UK. For the five Beatles songs included, McCartney elected to reverse the songwriting credit to McCartney–Lennon. Years later Lennon's widow Yoko Ono complained about the same songwriting credit on McCartney's Back in the U.S. album but neither Lennon or Ono publicly voiced any disapproval about the change made in 1976.
Wings over America went on to sell 4 million copies in the US alone, according to Wings biographer Garry McGee. The album was the first triple set by a group to reach number 1, and was a critical success. "Maybe I'm Amazed" was released as a single on 4 February 1977, peaking at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US, and at number 28 on the UK chart.
Two related releases followed the album: the TV documentary Wings Over the World and a film titled Rockshow, purporting to contain a complete show from Seattle. Although publicity material presented Rockshow as a document of this Seattle concert, it contains only five songs that were filmed at Seattle's Kingdome; the remainder of the film's 30 songs come from the band's New York and Los Angeles shows. Limiting their relevance, however, these additional releases appeared three and four years, respectively, after the 1976 live album.
Wings Over America was issued as a double-compact disc in 1984 on Columbia.[nb 1] The album was first released in the UK on compact disc on 26 May 1987 by Parlophone.[nb 2] Along with McCartney's Ram and Tug of War albums, Wings over America was reissued in the US on compact disc on 18 January 1988.[nb 3] The album was issued by EMI two more times on CD, in 1989[nb 4] and on 19 February 1990.[nb 5] A 1999 reissue of the album by Toshiba-EMI in Japan reinstated the three-disc format from the original LP issue, and is the only edition of the album to do this.[nb 6] Up to this point, the Japanese CD edition was the only one that was remastered. On 14 April 2008, the album was released as a digital download on both iTunes and Amazon. It was removed for some time off of digital music sites in 2010 and 2011, but as of August 2011 it is available for sale on iTunes. The album was reissued on 27 May 2013 as part of the Paul McCartney Archive Collection.Rockshow was also reissued, this time on DVD and Blu-ray, with its audio remixed into 5.1, on 10 June 2013.
Wings over America was reissued in several packages:
Standard Edition 2-CD; the original 28-track album
Remastered vinyl 3-LP version of the Standard Edition
Deluxe Edition Box Set 3-CD/1-DVD; the original 28-track album, a bonus tracks disc, DVD of the TV documentary Wings Over the World, 112-page book, assorted memorabilia, 60-page photograph book, 80-page sketch book and download link to all of the material
Denny Laine: electric and acoustic guitars, bass, backing vocals, piano, keyboards, percussion, harmonica, lead vocals on "Spirits of Ancient Egypt", "Richard Cory," "Time to Hide", and "Go Now", harmony lead vocal on "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)"
Jimmy McCulloch: electric and acoustic guitars, bass, backing vocals, lead vocals on "Medicine Jar"