It began as a Beatles battle, became a plea to John Lennon, and ended up the formation of a new band!
Beatles fans know all about the breakup, but here’s the story of a failed reconciliation between the John Lennon and Paul McCartney…
Paul McCartney’s Disastrous “Wings” Debut! His Plea To John Lennon!
It’s one of McCartney’s least popular albums ever – and it was the first official Wings release – and his first attempt to reconcile with John Lennon – time to look at the creation of “Wild Life!”
First, let’s set the stage: The Beatles had broken up, Paul was being sued by the other band members, and he had released one solo album, “McCartney”:
The album included one McCartney masterpiece, “Maybe I’m Amazed”, and while he looks happy – the “Battle Of The Beatles” was causing him severe financial hardship:
This book takes a great look at the financial battle over the band’s breakup – check it out here:
Facing all of these legal battles, Paul retreated to his farm with Linda to record his masterpiece “RAM”:
Widely considered his second solo album, it was in fact credited to “Paul & Linda McCartney” – his only album that credited Linda as well…it was recorded at a time of music animosity towards Paul – not only from the other Beatles, but from fans and music press as well. you can click on my story here to read about the many subtle and overt digs that Paul included on “RAM” toward his fellow ex-Beatles:
It was in this atmosphere that Macca decided to form a band and tour again – one of the factors behind the breakup of The Beatles – Paul’s desire to perform live…which leads us to the disastrous debut of Wings!
“Wild Life” was the debut album by Wings and was recorded during July–August 1971 at Abbey Road Studios by Paul, Linda, session drummer Denny Seiwell, and Denny Laine, formerly of the Moody Blues.
Let’s begin with some music! Here is a recently released piece of promotional footage with the first 90 seconds of “Wild Life” being rehearsed!
Paul and his newly formed Wings recorded their first album in just over a week! Paul wanted the songs 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!
The Music Of “Wild Life!”
“Wild Life” is, frankly, a wildly fractured collection of songs. The album begins with two slight numbers that feel like rehearsals: “Mumbo” and “Bip Bop”…as pointed out, most of the album was recorded in one take, but the “verite” feel is a strange way to begin…hard to know what point Paul was trying to make. What follows next is a COVER! Yes, the song “Love Is Strange” is a cover of someone else’s song!
To this point, the album feels like you are sitting in on a fun jam session with Paul and the band – the music is relaxed, a bit experimental, and as a listener, I’m not sure what Wings is supposed to be…then comes the title track.
I love this song – “Wild Life” is a haunting, slow rumination that showcases McCartney’s ability to tell a story and evoke images…it begins with a short introductory line before the song begins:
“Applies to the words ‘You’ and ‘Me’
While takin’ a walk through an African park one day
I saw a sign say, ‘The animals have the right of way’
Wild life, whatever happened to
Wild life, the animals in the zoo?
We’re breathing’s so hot, a lot of political nonsense in the air
You’re making it hard for the people who live in there
You’re moving so fast, but, baby know not where”
Here is a video promoting the 2012 remastered version of the album – with the title track “Wild Life” in its entirety:
Side two consists of “Some People Never Know”, a likable song that could have fit on “RAM”, then “I Am Your Singer” and “Tomorrow” – songs that seem like pleasant album cuts, but there was still no single to be heard…suddenly, the album ends with a plea to an old, and estranged friend…
The most poignant song on the album is “Dear Friend”, which was actually recorded during the Ram sessions! It was Paul’s attempt at a reconciliation with John Lennon.
Paul’s Attempt To Reconcile With John Lennon!
“‘Dear Friend’ was written about John, yes,” Paul said later. “I don’t like grief and arguments, they always bug me. Life is too precious, although we often find ourselves guilty of doing it. So after John has slagged me off in public, I had to think of a response, and it was either to be [to] slag him off in public—some instinct stopped me, which I’m really glad about—or do something else. So I worked on my attitude and wrote ‘Dear Friend,’ saying, in effect, let’s lay the guns down, let’s hang up our boxing gloves.”
This fan video was posted on youtube by “philippemarin17” – using a myriad of shots of the two over the audio of the song:
Here are the song’s lyrics in their entirety – repeated over and over:
“Dear friend, what’s the time?
Is this really the borderline?
Does it really mean so much to you?
Are you afraid or is it true?
Dear friend, throw the wine
I’m in love with a friend of mine
Really truly, young and newly wed
Are you a fool or is it true?
Are you afraid or is it true?”
“Wild Life” Bombs!
“Wild Life” was released to almost universal disdain – the album sold poorly, and critics took glee is pointing out Paul’s failure with The Beatles.
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.
Many of these songs ended up on a number of legal – and illegal – McCartney reissues like this:
You can see music videos for “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” and “Oh Woman Oh Why” by clicking on my story here:
Macca fans know that he released so much great music – just not always on the right album! In this case, many of his best songs of the early 70’s were only released as singles!
Wings took off very poorly, and it was conceivable that the band would never take flight at all. That said, you have to give Paul McCartney credit – after the horrible reception “Wild Life” received, many would have retreated to lick their wounds – but not Paul, he just kept moving forward, and it was only a year later that a new Wings album emerged:
“My Love” Rules The World!
Paul instinctively knew that a hit single was needed, and he gave the world his biggest ever: “My Love” was a worldwide smash, and so was the album “Red Rose Speedway”…but did you know that it could have been known as “RAM II?”
A few of the songs on “Speedway” were originally recorded during the “RAM” sessions! See more about his great album here:
McCartney never looked back after that point, with hit after hit throughout the 70’s…but “Wild Life” will always remain as the strange, disastrous Wings debut…leave me a note and let me know what you thought of it!