The Beatles

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1971: Wings Wild Life

With the release of the album Wild Life in 1971 a new stage in the career of Paul McCartney begins: the one with his band Wings. It's not the flashy debut album that you would expect from a new band; especially when the leading man is called Paul McCartney. But maybe that wasn’t the intention.

Wings’ first album is actually the last one by the band I bought. This has to do primarily with my age: as a four year old in 1971 I wasn’t really interested in music. Only after the release of the remastered version of 1993 I purchased it, and then even more out of a need to complete my collection. I didn’t had high expectations of it. Because from what I had heard about Wild Life, it was not a good album. The critics were not determined tender, to put it mildly.

My prejudices are confirmed by the first track, as the album begins messy. The opening song, the rocking Mumbo is the result of a jam session. It seems you fall immediately in the middle of it because the sound engineer pressed the record switch too late. The second song Bip Bop, a bluegrass-like tune, isn’t considered to be a favorite by McCartney himself:

Bip Bop is such an inconsequential little song. I must say, I’ve always hated that one, so lazy.

According to McCartney, he never really finished the song. Nonetheless, it’s been included on his latest compilation Pure McCartney.

Video Bip Bop

Like most of McCartney's albums Wild Life has also it’s hidden gems, of which Tomorrow is the most significant. Or Dear friend, an attempt by McCartney to bury the hatchet with John Lennon. It will take a few years before the two are on speaking terms again, but after Dear Friend it is done with the attacking, bashing or offending each other through lyrics. 
Dear Friend was written about John, yes. 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 had slagged me off in public, I had to think of a response, and it was either going to slag him of in public – and 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
It is the only song on the album accompanied by an orchestra. It is also the only one which is recorded previously, during the sessions of Ram, the predecessor of Wild Life.

Another special song is Love is Strange. The track originated from a reggae jam, see here the influence of Linda who is a great lover of the Jamaican music style. But when the McCartney's were listening to the jam, it recalls them to another old song. The lyrics of Love is Strange appears to fit, a 1956 rythm and blues song by the American duo Mickey & Sylvia, and thus the two are added together. Initially it was planned to release Love is Strange as a single. But at the last moment McCartney prefers Give Ireland Back to the Irish as Wings’ debut single, a song that wasn’t on the original album. Eventually no singles were taken from Wild Life.

Video: Wild Life (life)

The concept of Wild Life is inspired by Bob Dylan’s 1970 album New Morning, which was recorded in a week. It's an approach that appeals to McCartney, especially now he is going to make an album with a new, at the time still unnamed band. And with that band he has one goal only: going back on the road again as quickly as possible. In that endeavor fits an album that is more or less recorded live. And so it happens, the entire production lasts for two weeks and for most of the tracks the first take has been used. Additionally, the band members got to know each other better and become attuned to one another. In that sense, the Wild Life album seems more like a way to form a solid live band than a goal in itself. And with that knowledge in mind, the end result is quite nice.

Related Posts:

McCartney's Underrated Masterpiece Ram
Red Rose Speedway
McCartney 45 years live - Part 1: Wings

André Homan

André Homan is a Dutch writer and journalist.

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