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Wings (band)
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Wings (band)

Wings was a pop-rock band led by Paul McCartney, formed after the dissolution of the Beatles.

McCartney's first post-Beatles albums, McCartney (1970) and Ram (1971), were essentially solo projects recorded by Paul and his wife Linda McCartney. Later in 1971, McCartney hired several studio musicians for his third solo project, most notable among them the ex-Moody Blues guitarist and singer Denny Laine. The result was Wild Life, the first McCartney project to use the "Wings" name. (The band name is said to have come to McCartney as he was praying in the hospital while Linda was giving birth.) In early 1973 McCartney repeated this pattern, adding ex-Spooky Tooth guitarist Henry McCullough, and re-christened the band "Paul McCartney and Wings" for the album Red Rose Speedway which yielded the first Wings hit, the romantic ballad "My Love".

Wings was ostensibly a true band, and in fact several members beyond McCartney contributed songs and occasional vocals, but McCartney was clearly the group's leader and star. Following the release of Speedway several members left the band, leaving the McCartneys and Denny Laine to EMI's recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria to record what turned out to be their breakthrough album, Band on the Run. The album went to number 1 and spawned a half-dozen hit singles including the rockers "Jet" and "Helen Wheels", the acoustic ballad "Bluebird", and the title track -- a suite of movements recalling side 2 of Abbey Road. It also included two songs, "Let Me Roll It", and "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five", thought to be answer songs to "How Do You Sleep?" (John Lennon's earlier scathing attack on McCartney).

Band on the Run was followed by similarly successful albums Venus and Mars (1975), which was recorded in New Orleans, and Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976), recorded in Nashville, both of which also took top chart positions. Also during this period Wings embarked on a hugely successful and theatrical world tour, documented in the triple-live LP set Wings Over America.

After a year's break from recording (with the exception of the odd, unpromoted release of Thrillington, an orchestral re-make of Paul and Linda's Ram album), McCartney released the album London Town in 1978. During the recording of the album in May, 1977, both Joe English and Jimmy McCullough parted ways with Wings (McCullough was found dead of a drug overdose in 1979.) Though still released as a Wings album, the band was now reduced to Paul, Linda, and long-time member Laine, along with a host of studio players. The album was a commercial success, reaching number 2 on the charts, but featured a markedly softer-rock, synth-based sound and yielded only minor hits in "With a Little Luck" and "Girlfriend". The follow-up album, Back to the Egg, was a critical and commercial failure and was the last McCartney project released under the Wings moniker, as McCartney would return to solo billing on future recordings.

November/December of 1979 saw Wings complete a brief tour of Britain with guitarist Lawrence Juber and drummer Steve Holly, who had joined the group in 1978.

During its heyday, Wings underwent numerous personnel changes. In addition to core members Paul, Linda, and Denny Laine, the band included at one time or another Joe English (1974-1977), Jimmy McCulloch (formerly of Stone the Crows) (1974-1977), Henry McCullough (1972-1973), Denny Seiwell (1971-1973), and Geoff Britton (1974-1975).

Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, a list of 150 songs circulated on the Internet, purported to be from radio conglomerate Clear Channel Communications to its subsidiaries, with the recommendation that these songs be pulled from airplay (it was later revealed that the list was originally the work of a few specific station program directors, was not an official Clear Channel missive, and changed over time as it was re-distributed). Wings' "Live and Let Die," the theme song to the James Bond movie of the same name, ware on at least one version of the list, as were four Beatles songs and John Lennon's "Imagine."

Wings' 1977 single, "Mull of Kintyre"/"Girls School", is still the biggest-selling non-charity single in the UK (although Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" sold more, its sales include a reissue in aid of the Terence Higgins Trust) and appeared 4th in the official list of best selling singles in the UK issued in 2002.

Lineups

1971-1972

Paul McCartney: vocal, bass, piano -- Linda McCartney: vocal, keyboards -- Denny Laine: vocal, guitar -- Denny Seiwell: drums

1972-1973

Paul McCartney: vocal, bass, piano -- Linda McCartney: vocal, keyboards -- Denny Laine: vocal, guitar -- Henry McCullough: vocal, guitar -- Denny Seiwell: drums

1973-1974

Paul McCartney: vocal, bass, piano, drums -- Linda McCartney: vocal, keyboards -- Denny Laine: vocal, guitar -- Howie Casey: saxophone solos -- Tony Visconti: orchestrations

1974-1975

Paul McCartney: vocal, bass, piano -- Linda McCartney: vocal, keyboards -- Denny Laine: vocal, guitar -- Jimmy McCulloch: vocal, guitar -- Geoff Britton: drums

1975-1977

Paul McCartney: vocal, bass, piano -- Linda McCartney: vocal, keyboards -- Denny Laine: vocal, guitar -- Jimmy McCulloch: vocal, guitar -- Joe English: vocal, drums -- Geoff Britton: drums -- Allen Toussaint: piano -- Tom Scott: saxophone -- Dave Mason: guitar -- Afro: congas -- Tony Dorsey, Howie Casey, Thaddeus Richard, Steve Howard: horns

1977-1978

Paul McCartney: vocal, bass, piano, drums -- Linda McCartney: vocal, keyboards -- Denny Laine: vocal, guitar -- Jimmy McCulloch: vocal, guitar -- Joe English: vocal, drums

1978-1980

Paul McCartney: vocal, bass, piano, drums -- Linda McCartney: vocal, keyboards -- Denny Laine: vocal, guitar -- Laurence Juber: vocal, guitar -- Steve Holly: drums -- Tony Dorsey, Howie Casey, Thaddeus Richard, Steve Howard, Black Dyke Mills Brass Band: horns, brass -- John Paul Jones: bass, piano -- Ronnie Lane: bass -- Bruce Thomas: bass -- Gary Brooker: piano -- Dave Gilmour: guitar -- Hank Marvin: guitar -- Pete Townshend: guitar -- John Bonham: drums -- Kenney Jones: drums -- Tony Ashton: keyboards -- Speedy Acquaye: percussion -- Tony Carr: percussion -- Ray Cooper: percussion -- Morris Pert: percussion -- Harold Margary: spoken word -- Dierdre Margary: spoken word