Paul McCartney and Wings: Wild Life (1971)
When asked to reflect on ‘Be Here Now’ twenty years after the album was released, Noel Gallagher thought that he would never write an album again while on vacation. In a way a disservice to a solid 1990s record, it was a line of thought that appropriates Wings’ debut well, the sound of a ramshackle band trying to perform together as they paraded through the British countryside.
Paul McCartney’s early 1970s material held a higher standard than his fellow ex-Beatles, from genuine masterpieces (Ram, Band On The Run) to flawed pop brilliance (McCartney, Red Rose Speedway). The only blemish between these four albums came in the form of ‘Wild Life, an unfinished work that could have made the world better if McCartney’s had chosen not to release it.’ The weakest album yet released by a former Beatles (although John Lennon would do better with his miserable bombshell ‘Some Time In New York City’ the following year), ‘Life’ was a collection of unfinished and confusing writing attempts and made little to prove that Wings was a band to be taken seriously.
Having worked with Denny Seiwell during the ‘Ram’ sessions in New York, Paul McCartney invited him to Scotland to play in his new unit. Kicking drums, Seiwell had the form and skill for the group, further embellished when Denny Laine (once a Moody Blues man) joined as guitarist / vocalist. A quartet (Linda McCartney finished training, although members of the press and other members of Wings mocked her presence), the unit had the bones of a band, although the lack of lead guitarist impaired its sound (Henry The mere presence of McCullough gave ‘Speedway’ a lot more seriousness than ‘Wild Life’. ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’ (1972) might have been silly, but at least it sounded good!) So far, she’s a pregnant woman and two unemployed musicians. together for a jam with a former Beatles. It doesn’t sound like the right ingredient for a record!
Choosing to record the entire album in a week, McCartney turned to 1960s artist Bo Dylan for inspiration. “I had read that Bob Dylan had just made a quick album,” he reflected, and I really liked the idea, because it used to take longer and longer to record. The first Beatles albums didn’t take long and it seemed to me that Dylan was getting there. “
Yes, the first Beatles records were not long in being recorded (‘With The Beatles’ visibly thrills with chills and energy), but this was the sound of a quartet that had played endlessly long hours in clubs and concerts. Wings was a unit that had not performed together prior to the recording. Again, it wasn’t until the following year, after an extensive tour of British universities, that Wings found their sound (McCullough certainly helped).
Opener ‘Mumbo’ hinted at the band’s mentality, muttering whispers and rhymes in no time. ‘Bip Bop’, a duo between husband and wife, should have remained a bedtime ritual between the two love birds.
‘Dear Friend’ turned out to be an honorable attempt to provide John Lennon with an olive branch, although it turned out to be a better thought than a song. The 1950s ballad ‘Love Is Strange’ received a reggae makeover – although Seiwell is the only member who sounds focused, this copycat reggae track seems more fun to play than to listen to. The title track ‘Wild Life’ rocked loose and free for six astonishingly long minutes. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t appear on ‘All The Best’ or ‘Wingspan’! “Some people never know” rhymed “test” with “rest”; a poor show on any album. McCartney may have lacked John Lennon’s iconoclasticism as a lyricist, but really? “I Am Your Singer” had a disgustingly bold title and a more insipid melody. There is not a single song on this record that works, and Wings never performed any of the songs live in 1975. When it was re-released in 1993, the album was parked with four substantially better songs, “Give Ireland Back To The Irish”, ” Mama’s Little Girl “,” Little Woman Love “and” Mary Had A Little Lamb “(yes, I know!), Each recorded one year after their mother album. It just goes to show how a year of acting can make a band better!
McCartney would later release shoddy records (‘Back To The Egg’, ‘Press To Play’, ‘Off The Ground’, ‘New’), but each of them had merit, be it a song, an idea or even a hook. ‘Wild Life’ has neither of those, and it remains the only real shame of McCartney’s distinguished career. Skip it.