At the start of the 1970s, Paul McCartney had returned to square one. Although he may have been on top of the world as part of the biggest songwriting teams alongside John Lennon, the dissolution of The Beatles led to him making various experimental projects as a solo artist. McCartney always felt more comfortable in a band, though, and the start of Wings was about bringing everything back to basics.
Inspired by seeing a set of angel wings in the hospital when Linda was pregnant, McCartney thought he should start a new band with his wife. Having worked on various songs on his previous album, RAM, Linda assumed the role of keyboardist and backing vocalist, with the lineup being rounded out by Denny Laine of The Moody Blues and Denny Seiwell on drums.
Instead of coming into the studio with fully finished songs, McCartney thought his best course of action was to take the best songs out of various jam sessions they were working on. While McCartney may have been a perfectionist about every piece of his Beatles material, his need to strip everything back came from Bob Dylan.
After becoming one of the biggest musicians in the world off the back of songs like ‘Like A Rolling Stone’, Dylan experienced a level of fame on par with The Beatles, with millions of fans wanting to know the intricacies behind his classic material. With the pressure to deliver stacking up, Dylan would take his foot off the gas for the next few years, creating albums far rougher around the edges like Self Portrait.
In a similar attempt to bring his songs down to earth, Wings’ debut, Wild Life, was McCartney’s attempt to capture the feeling of a band playing together rather than to have any added extensions in the studio. Consisting of live takes that were worked on throughout the day, most tracks don’t have any set structure, with McCartney vamping a la Little Richard throughout most of the opening track, ‘Mumbo’.
While there was no set structure to most of the tracks, McCartney did find time to make songs that had a pointed message. On the album’s title track, McCartney laments the mistreatment of animals, seeing all the animals in the zoo go to waste because of their mistreatment when kept in captivity.
Even though the album did feature McCartney writing one of his own least favourite tracks, ‘Bip Bop’, he did find time on the back half of the album to reconcile with John Lennon as well. After taking shots at each other in the press and on record, ‘Dear Friend’ was McCartney’s way of making peace with Lennon while also wondering if they had reached the end of their friendship.
Although the perfectionist McCartney doesn’t show up on the final version of Wild Life, the Dylan comparisons made the album an exciting time capsule into what the former Beatle was looking to do when fronting a band again. Nothing could measure up to the impact of The Beatles, but there’s a good chance that McCartney could show a different side of himself that no one had ever seen before.