The interesting fact about the Wings is to realize that they matched the number of singles released by the Beatles in their lifetime, namely 22. Of course they didn’t match the actual success of those singles (a sole number 1 as opposed to the Beatles’ 17), but it’s still no mean feat to enter the charts that many times after you’ve already changed the world with your first band. This also should remind everyone that Paul McCartney was by far the most popular and successful solo Beatle of the 70’s. Opinions on Wings’ albums are split these days, with many criticizing them for lack of substance (especially in the lyrical department), lack of seriousness and messy character. My opinion is that while the criticism is justified in most cases, it’s also irrelevant: when Paul formed the Wings, giving the world another Beatles in terms of cultural and musical relevance was not his aim at all. He just wanted to have some fun by being part of a band again, to write, sing, play, produce and arrange songs that were entertaining and memorable. To experiment with genres and structures, to be both meticulous and spontaneous in different instances and to help the other band members develop their own artistic personalities. And when judged on its own terms, without the heavy shadow of the Fab Four, Wings are simply a great band for doing all that successfully and maybe even more. And here’s ten songs that prove it:
10) Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five
I would be surprised to find out that the band ever cared much about what song closed each of their albums. True, many of the times the choices work well enough – like the jazzy ‘Baby’s Request’ ending ‘Back to the Egg’ on a calm note after the chaotic, genre-hopping character of the album – but only ‘1985’ seems like a deliberate attempt at a grand ending. This is a song that’s all about the build-up; each new strophe gives the feeling of starting at ground zero with the shy piano melody, and then the last one just goes on and on with the horns, strings, guitars, synths and Paul’s “wooh-s” all coming together in a climactic way. Then a brief ‘Band on the Run’ reprise at the end and the circle’s complete.
9) Live and Let Die
OK, I’ll admit to never have seen any James Bond movie. But I can imagine this song fitting perfectly with the action genre due to its dynamic nature – with those explosion-like moments and that middle part that just imposes a chasing scene into your imagination. A deserved top 10 hit single.
8) Silly Love Songs
The concept behind this song is actually really smart when you think about it. Critics were accusing Paul of writing only “silly love songs”, so he decided to write what on paper seems like the silliest and cheesiest love song of them all. A song whose chorus consists of nothing more than repeated “I love you”-s. But he added a twist by making it absolutely irresistible musically, with a bass line to die for and glorious horns blasting away. If all love songs were arranged this creatively, I’d have no problem with anybody wanting to “fill the world” with them.
7) Beware My Love
I’ll see your “Wings couldn’t rock” and raise you a ‘Beware My Love’. I mean, did the band ever get a more badass guitar tone than here? And Paul’s passionate screaming has gotta be his most convincing since the days of ‘Oh, Darling’. This is one of those songs that has to be heard in the context of the album though, precisely because the rest of it doesn’t rock at all and thus makes ‘Beware My Love’ stand out and give you a dose of adrenaline when you least expect it.
6) Let Me Roll It
Urban Dictionary defines sleazy as “a way to describe someone/something that is completely out of line, dirty, raunchy, perverted” and I think that is a pretty accurate way to describe this song. Maybe calling it “out of line” is an exaggeration, but ‘Let Me Roll It” is certainly different in mood than anything Wings ever attempted before or after. Comparisons with Lennon’s ‘Cold Turkey’ are inevitable, but whereas John used the repetitive riff to create a claustrophobic and aching atmosphere, here we get a vibe that’s rather stoned and euphoric. A vibe that also seems to never even come close to getting boring, despite the song’s 5-minute length.
5) Old Siam, Sir
In the wake of Punk and New Wave, the Wings answered by releasing what may as well be the most rocking song of their whole career. Not much is to be gathered from the lyrics, but with those assaulting guitar breaks and Paul’s suitable gritty vocal style who cares about finding meaning in the words anymore? This is pure rock ‘n’ roll, even more evidently so when compared to what John Lennon would be releasing a year later. I mean, I like ‘Double Fantasy’ well enough, but there should be no doubt on which of the two’s music was “heavier” during the late 70’s.
4) Listen to What the Man Said
Out of all the ultra-catchy melodies Paul composed for the Wings, this might just be the most memorable one. Just like his best pop Beatles songs, ‘Listen to What the Man Said’ seems to flow in the most natural and effortless manner. Typical Wings harmonies only enhance the experience and even the slightly eccentric saxophone seems to find its place.
3) Mull of Kintyre
Here it is, the Wings’ number one that I was talking about. I wrote a whole essay dedicated to this song back in 2013 and re-reading it now finds me in full agreement with my past self – ‘Mull of Kintyre’ is still able to take me someplace else every time I play it and I still attribute its success due to the fact that everybody can relate to having such a memories-filled place.
2) Little Lamb Dragonfly
One opinion that I’ve seen stated multiple times and never been able to quite comprehend is that you can’t get emotional over Wings’ music because all of their lyrics are meaningless. Even if that were the case (it isn’t), what about the…I don’t know, the actual music creating an emotional reaction? You know, like all those jazz records do? To be honest, the lyrics of ‘Little Lamb Dragonfly’ never made me pay any attention to them (with a single exception – the “how did two rights make a wrong?” line that always sticks in my mind) and yet the song always manages to move me like no other Wings tune. It’s gotta be the modest, homespun arrangement – with many little touches that add to the atmosphere, but ultimately don’t overwhelm the heartfelt character of the acoustic melody and of Paul’s voice.
1) Band on the Run
It’d be tempting to compare this to Paul’s previous “progressive-pop” songs, such as The Beatles’ ‘Abbey Road Medley’ or his solo ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’. But ‘Band on the Run’ is a different story because for the first time there seems to be a real sense of cohesiveness. It does not give the feeling of mini-songs glued together, but rather that of a multi-part object where every piece is in its right place, in total symbiosis with the one before and the one after it. Because of that, picking each section of the song apart would ruin the magic of it; so instead I’ll just say that every one of them is instantly memorable and offers amazing, countless musical ideas. Together they create what is one of the greatest songs I’ve ever had the chance to hear.