The beginning of Paul McCartney’s solo career got off to a rocky start. His two poorly received LPs, McCartney and Ram, prompted the ex-Beatle to take a break from releasing music under his own name. Starting a new band would mean a measure of pressure off of his shoulders and a clean state. Enter: Wings.
Videos by American Songwriter
Videos by American Songwriter
Though almost nothing could measure up to the career of the Beatles, Wings carved out a respectable career in the pop world, jump-starting the second leg of McCartney’s career. With the group set to get the documentary treatment, we’re taking a look back at the origin of Wings. Come on the journey with us below.
Behind the Band Name
When McCartney first began toying around with the idea of starting a second band, he called Denny Laine, the former singer of The Moody Blues. His wife, Linda, was already down so the line-up just needed a drummer to round things out. That slot was filled by Ram collaborator Denny Seiwell.
With the line-up figured out, all the housekeeping that was left was to find a name.
“We were thinking of all sorts of names,” McCartney once recalled. “We had a letter from an old gentleman in Scotland, which said, ‘Dear Paul, I see you are looking for a name for your group. I’d like to suggest The Dazzlers.’ So we were nearly The Dazzlers, with the big sequinned jackets.
“But we thought, ‘No, we need something a little more earthy,’ so we thought of Turpentine,” he continued. “But I wrote to the guy in Scotland and told him that and he wrote back, ‘I don’t think you’ll be calling yourselves Turpentine because that’s something used to clean paint off.'”
Their eventual moniker stemmed from the birth of Stella McCartney. In the film Wingspan, Paul recalls that the birth of his and Linda’s daughter saw “a bit of drama” which had the potential to be fatal for both Linda and the baby.
“I thought of the name Wings when Linda was in hospital having Stella and had persuaded the hospital to let me have a camp bed in her room to be with her. I wanted something that would become a catchphrase like the Beatles,” he said. “You know, people would say things like, ‘We’ve got beetles in the kitchen,’ and there would be some crack about it being us.”
Paul leaned into prayer heavily during this time and began to see the image of wings. That image then became the inspiration behind the group’s name.
“It was a time when most people would be thinking about a name for a child, and there we were talking about a pop group,” McCartney added.
Once they got rolling, Wings became one of the tightest bands ever. McCartney anchored all the members’ individual contributions, all while keeping things raw and free-flowing.
The band released its debut album in 1971. Five of the eight tracks were recorded in one take. The whole project took only a few weeks to complete. The simple album is chock full of underrated Wings tracks like “Tomorrow,” “Some People Never Know” and “Dear Friend.”
Their second effort, Red Rose Speedway, came two years later. With that record, they started to pump out era-defining hits like “My Love.” Their string of hits was continued on their next record Band on the Run with the title track and “Jet.”
Elsewhere they released signature tracks like “Let ‘Em In,” “Silly Love Songs” and “Live and Let Die.”
The group broke up a decade after their debut was released in 1981. They clinched their final U.S. No. 1 with “Coming Up” in 1980. After Laine decided to leave the group, the rest of the members decided to call it quits.
Photo: Barry Lategan / Nasty Little Man