Homer: You idiot! He was the most talented one!
The band was created because, at the time, Paul didn't feel like a real musician unless he was playing with a band that he could also tour with; the name for the band came when Paul was praying during the birth of his and Linda's third child, Stella, and an image of wings popped into his head.
Wings is now considered I Am the Band for Paul McCartney, though he was in denial about it at the time — enough that many supporting band members did get the occasional song. The core members were Paul McCartney, his wife Linda McCartney, and Denny Laine (best known for this and for being a founding member of The Moody Blues, scoring a number one hit with them).
Wings was very popular in its time, in good part because Paul McCartney was in it. Wings Over America — the only complete Wings live album — was also a hot seller. It was also a successful touring band despite technical difficulties (notably Linda's singing) and Paul's reluctance to sing Beatles songs. The first Wings tour had no Beatles songs at all, even though that meant there wasn't much material to work with. By Wings Over America, there was about one record-side worth — still considered avoiding Beatles songs at the time, and much fewer than he does now, but objectively respectable when you consider how many hits Wings had between 1972 and 1976...
Paul McCartney sang lead vocals (usually) and played bass. He also played drums when the band was reduced to three members. (This happened twice.)
Linda McCartney was in Wings because Paul wanted her there. She sang back-up vocals (nearly everyone did) and played keyboards. In the beginning, she was no good at all — which was unfortunate because, even when touring random colleges in the beginning, Wings hit the spotlight. Eventually, her singing became more tolerable — at the band's peak, she was very good at Moog synthesizer. This may seem silly, but Wings used a lot of synthesizer. And the band usually used it well. Plus using a synth back then was no breeze. They were all analogue, so no pre-sets and often just getting sound was enough of a challenge.
Denny Laine was the third member, the continuity link, and the rhythm guitarist. Lead guitar was the other floating position.
The band dissolved quietly but violently in 1980. This is partly because of a drug bust in Japan that sent Paul to prison for nine days and was subsequently deported back to Europe (he got off easy)note , ending Wings's touring days right then, and partly because of personal problems between the McCartneys and Laine.
Wings had many hit singles, hitting the top of the US charts a total of five times between 1973 and 1978. Surprisingly, they reached the top spot in Paul's native Britain just once — with "Mull Of Kintyre", the best selling non-charity single in UK history.
Principal members (Founding members in bold):
- Geoff Britton - drums, percussion (1974-1975)
- Joe English - drums, percussion, backing and lead vocals (1975-1977)
- Brian Hines (Denny Laine) - guitar, bass, backing and lead vocals, piano, keyboard, percussion, harmonica, flageolet, recorder (1971-1981) note
- Steve Holly - drums, percussion, vocals (1978-1981)
- Laurence Juber - guitar, synthesizer, vocals (1978-1981)
- Linda McCartney - keyboard, piano, backing and lead vocals, percussion, organ, harpsichord, synthesizer (1971-1981, died 1998)
- Paul McCartney - lead vocals, bass, piano, guitar, keyboard, percussion, mellotron, celeste, synthesizer, double bass, drums, violin, flageolet, concertina, harpsichord (1971-1981)
- Jimmy McCulloch - guitar, backing and lead vocals, bass (1974-1977, died 1979)
- Henry McCullough - guitar, vocals, percussion (1972-1973)
- Denny Seiwell - drums, percussion (1971-1973)
Studio and Live Discography:
- 1971 - Wild Life
- 1973 - Red Rose Speedway
- 1973 - Band on the Run
- 1975 - Venus and Mars
- 1976 - Wings at the Speed of Sound
- 1976 - Wings Over America
- 1978 - London Town
- 1979 - Back to the Egg
Silly Trope Songs:
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Big Barn Bed from Red Rose Speedway (as well as the album title itself).
- Artistic Stimulation: The McCartneys were notorious marijuana smokers, which led directly to their rift with Geoff Britton.
- Award-Bait Song: "With a Little Luck" fits so much of the checklist for this, it's scary. Big-name star, lots of synth, inspirational lyrics, arrangement that builds to a big climax. The only thing disqualifying it is that it wasn't composed for a movie, yet it ended up getting used in the closing credits of one anyway (The 1979 Farrah Fawcett vehicle Sunburn).
- The Big Guy: A fitness buff and a black belt, Britton qualified even more than most drummers. In his drumming alone, he effortlessly used sticks considered too heavy for Keith Moon.
- "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five", the last song on the Band on the Run album, ends with a reprise of the chorus from "Band on the Run".
- "Picasso's Last Words" contains brief snippets of "Jet" and "Mrs. Vanderbilt".
- Wings Over America has six Beatles songs, a Moody Blues hit from Laine's tenure, and Paul's solo song "Maybe I'm Amazed". The last of these is now arguably Wings' Signature Song.
- Canon Discontinuity: "Give Ireland Back To The Irish" which was pulled off Wingspan because a car bombing happened in London shortly before that album's release, leaving an empty space exactly the size of that song on the "Hits" disc. As of 2015 it has only been re-released on the 1993 remaster of Wild Life — which was not available in the United States and is now out of print.
- Continuity Nod: The character of Sailor Sam from "Band on the Run" was first mentioned in the single "Helen Wheels".
- Cover Version:
- The Crossroads theme: an instrumental from the finale of Venus & Mars; "Crossroads" was a British TV soap opera, and was included on this album as a commentary on "the type of 'Lonely Old People' who watch those kinds of shows", it nonetheless went on to be used later over the closing credits of the show itself.
- "Go Now": by Denny Laine on Wings Over America; from The Magnificent Moodies by The Moody Blues (back when Mike Pinder and Denny were its leaders), it was their first, earliest hit as a single, and itself a cover (the original was by American Soul singer Bessie Banks).
- "Richard Cory": another cover by Denny Laine from the live Wings Over America album, this one of Simon & Garfunkel's adaptation of the poem of the same name by Edwin Arlington Robinson.
- Holly Days: credited as a Denny Laine solo album, but actually a Wings album in all but name (with Paul & Linda as the only other personnel on it); this one is an album of Buddy Holly covers.
- "Love Is Strange": on the Wild Life album.
- "Mary Had A Little Lamb": a non-LP single...seriously! And it was the A-side too!
- "Sea Breezes": by Paul's brother, Michael, as Mike McGear on his McGear album; another Wings album in all but name, this one features a cover of a cut from Roxy Music's self-titled debut album.
- "Walking In The Park With Eloise": an instrumental, non-LP single "written" by Paul's father (who only claimed to have "made it up"), recorded in Nashville (with Chet Akins and Floyd Cramer) and released under the pseudonym The Country Hams.
- Dreadful Musician: Linda was notable for being a rare real life version of Hollywood Tone-Deaf. However, she was decent with a Moog and her voice gradually evolved to tolerable levels.
- Epic Rocking:
- Wild Life has the title track at 6:48 and “Some People Never Know” at 6:35.
- Red Rose Speedway has “Little Lamb Dragonfly” at 6:20 and the medley of “Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands of Love/Power Cut” at 11:14.
- “Beware My Love” from Wings at the Speed of Sound is 6:28.
- “Morse Moose and the Grey Goose” from London Town is 6:27.
- Homage: "Let Me Roll It" (the original) is considered to be one to John Lennon.
- I Am the Band: Paul McCartney, to a point many people call the band "Paul McCartney & Wings". To Paul's credit, he struggled against this trope, but it never took, and eventually he gave up. His 1987 greatest hits compilation All the Best! is about half Wings, including huge hits like "Band on the Run" and "Jet", but it was attributed to Paul McCartney as a solo artist.
- Insult Backfire: This trope is what makes "Silly Love Songs" more than just one of Paul's Silly Love Songs.
- When defending Linda from critics of Linda's keyboard playing as "one-finger(ed)", Paul corrected them thusly:"I taught Linda the basics of the keyboard ... She took a couple of lessons and learned some bluesy things ... she did very well and made it look easier than it was ... The critics would say, 'She's not really playing' or 'Look at her—she's playing with one finger.' But what they didn't know is that sometimes she was playing a thing called a Minimoog, which could only be played with one finger. It was monophonic."
- When defending Linda from critics of Linda's keyboard playing as "one-finger(ed)", Paul corrected them thusly:
- In the Style of: "Let Me Roll It", amusingly In the Style of John Lennon. Perhaps it describes how Paul can sleep?
- Lampshade Hanging: "You'd think that people would have had enough of silly love songs...."
- Mood Whiplash: If all you know are the Silly Love Songs, then you may get surprised by the more experimental album tracks. For example, don't purchase Red Rose Speedway expecting all the songs to sound like "My Love."
- Power Ballad: Still an Unbuilt Trope at the time, so "My Love" is a little too lush-sounding to really qualify, but it fits the standard template well, especially the guitar solo.
- Protest Song: "Give Ireland Back to the Irish", a single which was released at the height of The Troubles and banned by The BBC.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: "Band On The Run", while rather incoherent, references its own Troubled Production. "Letting Go" is about Linda McCartney's desire to get back to life outside the band.
- "Call Me Back Again": from the live Wings Over America album; "I called your name, John...(emphasis ours)".
- "Rock Show": from Venus & Mars; "looks a lot like the one used by Jimmy Page...", "at the Concertgebouw", "Madison Square", etc. Heck, the whole song is practically one big Shout-Out to almost everybody...including Marvel Comics super-villain (and soon-to-be featured-in-a-Wings-song), the Titanium Man: "In my green metal suit, I'm preparing to shoot up the city".
- That song, from the same album, being "Magneto and Titanium Man", which contains shout outs to... well... note .
- Signature Style: Compare late-Beatles music with Paulian lead vocals to Wings hits. There will be some similarities. Even George Harrison said "if you want more Beatles music, listen to Wings." "No Words" may be the most Beatlesque song any of the ex-Beatles ever recorded.note
- Spell My Name with a "The": Inverted: It is NOT "The Wings".
- Stage Name: "Denny Laine" was born Brian Frederick Arthur Hines, with no readily-available reason for his rather mundane stage name (ie: "Billy Fury" or "Rory Storm" or "Ringo Starr", etc).
- Step Up to the Microphone: The non-Paul songs.
- Wings At The Speed Of Sound is notable in that every band member had at least one song on the album. Denny Laine sings "The Note You Never Wrote" and "Time To Hide". Jimmy McCulloch sings "Wino Junko". Joe English sings "Must Do Something About It". Linda sings "Cook Of The House".
- Venus And Mars: "Medicine Jar", sung by Jimmy McCulloch, and "Spirits Of Ancient Egypt", sung by Denny Laine.
- London Town: "Children, Children" and "Deliver Your Children", sung by Denny Laine.
- "Seaside Woman": A non-LP single written and sung by Linda; released under the pseudonym Suzy & The Red Stripes.