Tuesday, December 6, 2011

40 Years Ago Today: First Wings Album Released


Wild Life is largely high on sentiment but rather flaccid musically and impotent lyrically, trivial and unaffecting.
John Mendelsohn, Rolling Stone

Perhaps Paul McCartney's most critically maligned album, Wild Life ( released December 7, 1971)  deserves to be heard at least once. Yes, it is Lo Fi and many of the songs seem to have been written in 5 minutes or less but that's part of the charm. It feels spontaneous and innocent ( thanks to the frankly unskilled presence of Linda) and even sloppy in places. Well, it was recorded in two weeks. But give a listen and you'll find some fine moments among the filigree.

Wings ( made up of Paul, Linda, Ex-Moody Blues singer and guitarist Denny Lane and Ram drummer Denny Seiwell) was McCartney's attempt at putting together a band that could play live.

The first track, "Mumbo", rocks as hard as anything McCartney has done since "Helter Skelter". Those aren't words he's singing by the way. McCartney--who created such beautiful lyrics for "Yesterday" and "Here, There and Everywhere" -- is phonetically tossing out "word-sounds". The reason: "Mumbo" is being made up on the spot. ( More than half the cuts on Wild Life are first takes, by the way.)

The lyrics may be silly at best but "Bip Bop" is a hypnotic bit of backwater boogie. The song infuriated critics. George Harrison is reported to have cried out "C'mon Paul! We know you can do better than that!" But in a re-evaluation in which they named Wild Life one the greatest albums of all time, Mojo Magazine called the song "absurdly hypnotic".

Now we're getting in some trouble. This reggae-treated Mickey and Sylvia cover was originally going to be the single. That didn't happen.( Phew!) In fact Paul simply doesn't talk about this album. Referring to Wild Life, Linda simply said: "We could have done it better."

The nearly 7 minute title cut ends side one. Linda's backing vox sound multi-tracked. I believe we may be entering new ground for McCartney: "filler". That said, I assume I'll be hearing from some fans who will tell me  that this is their fave cut. McCartney dug out "Wild Life" on tour every so often.


Side Two offers some love songs beginning with "Some People Never Know". Judging by the number of covers one can find on YouTube, I guess this a fan favorite. It's probably for Linda.

God bless Linda. Paul's soul mate has to sing some solo lines on a cut that sounds like a 1963 Beatles throw-away. But what do you know? A Hit Parader critic called this the best song on the album. And I'm sure a few readers will say this is their fave.


One of Paul's most overlooked gems. Mojo Magazine says "Tomorrow" could have had a place in the Abbey Road medley. I believe this cut got the most radio plays when the album originally came out.

"Dear Friend" is seen as an attempt at reconciliation with John. After the break up Paul struck in song with the Ram cut "Too Many People" ("that was your first mistake/you took your lucky break and broke it into two") Lennon retorted in "How Do You Sleep?" ("The only thing you done was yesterday/And since you're gone you're just another day") In "Dear Friend" Paul is offering the peace pipe.

The first CD version offers three non-LP cuts including "Oh Woman Oh Why", the B side to the previously mentioned "Another Day". This isn't a Wings cut. McCartney plays all the instruments. That's why it really should be an extra cut on Ram ( which is this writer's fave Macca album).

Following the backlash, McCartney hired ex Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough and toured UK college towns where they played impromptu concerts. Then he did some other stuff.

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