50 years ago today, on Wednesday, Aug. 4, 1971, news started breaking ever so slowly across America that Paul McCartney, formerly of the Beatles, had a new, unnamed band.
The five-paragraph item that moved on the Associated Press wire that day likely was headlined “McCartney Forms New Pop Group.” (How do I know? That’s the headline that appeared in a bunch of newspapers. Wire editors who were pressed for time, or just lazy, often copied the AP’s headline right into the paper.)
This one is from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, although I’m trying to decide whether that’s Paul or actor Anthony Zerbe in the photo.
This one is from the News Journal of Wilmington, Delaware, which kinda made Macca’s new group sound like a bunch of allies from The Big One, WWII.
This one is from the Springfield (Missouri) Leader and Press, whose headline said all it needed to say and probably hit hard for those who loved the Beatles.
Paul’s new band, of course, was Wings. “His blonde American wife,” Linda Eastman, was in the band — wow, no sexist or provincial attitudes there, eh? — along with guitarist Denny Laine and drummer Denny Seiwell.
Two days earlier, on Monday, Aug. 2, they’d finished recording their first album at Abbey Road Studios in London. No mention of that, though.
Three days earlier, on Sunday, Aug. 1, Paul’s old mates, George Harrison and Ringo Starr had performed together at the Concert for Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden in New York.
I wonder whether the news dump about Paul’s new band was intended to keep him in the public eye in the wake of the Concert for Bangladesh, where he was conspicuously absent. The AP’s report noted that it was the first time George and Ringo, the former Beatles, had played together on a stage in four years. Paul had declined to take part.
Then again, it had been barely three months since the release of Paul and Linda’s “Ram” album, which reviewers panned but fans loved. So perhaps another reason to stay in the public eye.
The debut album not mentioned 50 years ago today is “Wild Life.” It reached No. 10 on the U.S. album charts and went gold. It produced no singles, save for a British promo release of “Love Is Strange,” a Mickey and Sylvia cover. Neither fans nor reviewers were all that excited about “Wild Life.”
There was, however, a 14-year-old kid in Wisconsin who was curious about “Wild Life” upon its release in early December 1971. Curious enough to take a flyer on Paul McCartney’s new record, probably with Christmas money. Taking a flyer on “Wild Life” was no small thing. I had so few albums — I think I had four after buying this one — that I couldn’t chance getting a bad one.
Almost 50 years later, I still have it.
But I’m sitting here, trying to figure out how I might have heard about Wings and “Wild Life,” given that it produced no singles to be played on the Top 40 radio I listened to. Maybe the DJs mentioned it? There was nothing in the paper. Maybe I was just going through the records at Prange’s, saw Paul McCartney on the record jacket, read the liner notes and popped for it.
Today, not everyone remembers or even knows about “Wild Life.” But given that I had only four albums back then, every cut on it is seared into memory.
“Wild Life” ends with Paul writing about John Lennon, from whom he’d been estranged. It’s the best song on the album.
“Dear Friend,” Wings, from “Wild Life,” 1971.
Audio taken from the record I’ve had for almost 50 years.