Paul’s solo career began in 1970 with his US number one album McCartney. This decade saw Paul redefining himself in the wake of the Beatles’ split, writing every song and playing every instrument on McCartney, collaborating with Linda McCartney on RAM, and going on to form the critically acclaimed and commercially successful rock band Wings. The 1970s represented a creative rebirth for Paul, bursting with new ideas, experiments, playfulness and freedom, as he enjoyed both the contentment of family life and the excitement of getting back out on the road.
Released in 1970, a month before The Beatles' swansong Let It Be, McCartney was Paul's first solo album. Notable for the fact that he performed all instruments and vocals himself, aside from some backing vocals performed by Linda McCartney, it's an album rich in experimentation, and the original home of ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’.
The McCartney album was good fun because I got a machine from EMI, only a four-track, and I just had it in my living room where I lived in London at the time. I’d just go in for the day like Monsieur Magritte. Go in and do a little bit of stuff and make something up, and knock off in the evenings. It was very interesting to do and it had a certain kind of rawness, because I was breaking loose after The Beatles, we all got a feeling of that, I think.
‘Another Day’ was Paul’s first single as a solo artist and recorded during the RAM album sessions. It reached number two in the UK singles chart and number five in the US Billboard Hot 100.
The only album credited to both Paul and Linda McCartney, RAM reached Number 1 in the UK and stayed in the US Top 10 for five months. Recorded after Paul had left The Beatles and before the formation of Wings, today RAM is held in high regard by many music critics and is often ranked as one of Paul's best solo albums. It has also been recognised as an early indie pop album.
When we went to Scotland, we had a very free, sort of hippie lifestyle. It meant I could sit around in the kitchen in the little farmhouse we lived in, with the kids running around and me just with my guitar, making up anything I fancied.
Following the release of RAM, Paul set about persuading Linda and some of the musicians who worked on the record to form a new group. Denny Laine and Denny Seiwell joined Paul and Linda at Rude Studios in Scotland, and began work on their debut album as Wings.
Only released in the US, 'Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey' went to Number One on the US Billboard Hot 100.
The closing track on RAM, 'The Back Seat of My Car' was only released as a single in the UK.
Like many debut albums, Wings' Wild Life wasn't a real reflection of what was to come, its guiding ethos being Paul’s intention to record the entire piece quickly. Taking just two weeks, Wild Life was about spontaneity: the opening track ‘Mumbo’ was recorded in one take.
Bob Dylan had just done an album in a few days, kind of thing. So I thought, ‘Yeah,’ you know. ‘That’d be good. Give it a freshness.’ That was the approach for putting Wild Life together.
From You Gave Me The Answer - Celebrating 50 years of Wings and ‘Wild Life’
In 1972 Paul went on tour for the first time since The Beatles' gruelling US leg in 1966. For Paul, it was a way of starting afresh, connecting with a new set of fans and going back-to-basics. The well-established college circuit seemed the best bet for impromptu gigs, and so it was that Nottingham University entered the history books as the venue for Wings’ first performance on 9th February 1972.
We literally took off in a van up the M1, got to Ashby-de-la-Zouch, liked that name, 'Great! Turn off here'. But there wasn’t a gig, there was just a little village and nothing else there. It was a signpost. Anyway we kept going until we got to Nottingham University, and then it suddenly hit, 'Ah, that’s it – let’s do universities.'
Written in the immediate aftermath of the Bloody Sunday shootings, Wings rehearsed 'Give Ireland Back to the Irish' in Paul and Linda’s London home and released it three weeks after the event. The song was immediately banned from radio in the UK, resulting in adverts being taken out in the press reading: BANNED EVERYWHERE
A non-album single by Wings, 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' was based on the nursery rhyme of the same name. Wings performed the song on Top of the Pops in the UK.
In the summer of 1972, Wings set out on their first concert tour of Europe. The Wings over Europe Tour was undertaken in a brightly-coloured double-decker bus, which included the McCartney children and the full road crew.
[The McCartney children] joke about it now, saying they were hippy commune kids! But it was great for us, and I think it was great for them. It meant that we didn’t have to worry about them, because they were right there with us. And we figured if you want to know geography, actually going to all these places was helpful - it was part of their education.
From You Gave Me The Answer - What was it like raising a family on tour?
'Hi, Hi, Hi' was the second Wings song to get banned by the BBC, thanks to its suggestive lyrics. Despite this, it reached Number 5 in the UK charts.
'My Love’ premiered during Wings’ 1972 University Tour during the band’s show at the University of Nottingham on 9th February, eleven months before it was recorded live in Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios in January 1973. Upon release the song became Wings’ first Number One single, going on to sell over one million copies
James Paul McCartney was Paul's first TV special since The Beatles' 1967 film Magical Mystery Tour. Much of the show was filmed at ATV Elstree Studios in front of a live audience, with segments of film from Paul's studio and a Liverpool pub.
With the addition of Irish guitarist Henry McCullough, Wings plugged away on their second album Red Rose Speedway through most of 1972, a year in which they issued no album (a first for Paul since The Beatles’ debut). By December they'd accumulated a vast amount of songs, though the idea of releasing a double-album was eventually rejected. The album did, however, include the global hit, ‘My Love’, a song that's since been covered by the likes of Cher, Corinne Bailey Rae and Brenda Lee.
I’m very proud of ‘My Love’. This was early days for me and Linda, so it’s a love song to her really. One of the things I was proud of, funnily enough, was that it charted. It sort of did very well.
In support of the recently released Red Rose Speedway album and the James Bond soundtrack anthem, ‘Live And Let Die’, Wings embarked on a 19-date UK tour, including three sold out shows at London's Hammersmith Odeon.
Paul was asked by producers Harry Saltzman and Albert R. Broccoli to write the theme tune for the new James Bond film, 'Live and Let Die'. The song was recorded at George Martin's AIR Studios during a break in the Abbey Road sessions for Red Rose Speedway, and was nominated for Best Original Song at the 1974 Oscars along with two nominations the same year at the GRAMMYs. Paul recently received a BMP Citation Of Achievement for 8 million broadcast performances of 'Live and Let Die'.
'Helen Wheels' was the name of Paul and Linda McCartney's Land Rover. This single was released ahead of the Band on the Run album release, but only appeared on the US version of the album.
Band on the Run was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, shortly after Denny Seiwell and Henry McCullough left the band. With Wings helmed by Paul, Linda and Denny Laine, Band on the Run – complete with its famous celebrity-packed cover art – proved a triumph. The album topped the US chart three separate times; in the UK, it was the biggest selling studio album of 1974 and spent a miraculous 124 weeks on the chart.
The word 'band' in the title of this song refers mostly to the idea of a group of people who've escaped prison. A band of desperados. Certain aspects of it remind me of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
'Jet' was the lead single from the Band on the Run in the UK and US. Although it is now considered one of Wings' best-known songs, at the time Paul had to be persuaded by Capitol Records to release it as single.
Taken from the 1973 album of the same name, the song ‘Band on the Run’ won the 1975 GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus.
'Junior's Farm' was a non-album single released in 1974. It was subsequently released on the compilation albums Wings Greatest, All the Best!,* Wingspan: Hits and History* and Pure McCartney.
'Mrs. Vandebilt' was a single in Continental Europe, and appears on the album Band on the Run.
Taken from Wings' album Venus and Mars, 'Listen to What the Man Said' was a Number One single in the US, selling over one million copies.
Venus And Mars was the first of two albums to feature what many regard as the perfect Wings line-up, with the McCartneys and Denny Laine now joined by guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Joe English. Recording was done in New Orleans and Los Angeles.
A lot of people who were into concerts were into alternate thinking. They'd want to know what your sign was, and they'd place some relevance on that. I was never like that. As far as I was concerned, Venus and Mars were just two random planets. But when we released the record, I realised they were also characters.
'Letting Go' appeared on the Wings album Venus and Mars and was released as a single in 1975. Wings performed the track live the following year on the Wings Over America tour.
Shortly after dawn on Tuesday 9th September 1975, Wings embarked on one of the biggest roadshows in rock music history: the Wings tour of 1975-76, which was to take in ten countries and play to two million people. The US leg of the tour was the most extensive, with Wings playing 21 cities, performing 34 shows and entertaining an estimated audience of nearly 600,000 people.
With Wings, I always knew we would have to take a few years of trials and tribulations. That was the same with The Beatles. [...] We'd done a lot of work getting our skills together, so now I had to do this all again with Wings. But by Wings Over America, and by the world tours, we'd pretty much done that. We now knew what Wings were.
'Venus and Mars' and 'Rock Show' are the first two tracks on Wings' Venus and Mars album. A medley of the songs was released as a single in 1975, with the intention that this mix would open their live shows.
Reinforced by months on the road, the cohesion of a settled line-up was much in evidence on Wings' At The Speed Of Sound, the band's fifth album. So much so, that each band member had at least one lead vocal performance, including Linda's ‘Cook Of The House’ and Denny Laine’s ‘Time To Hide’. Made at Abbey Road Studios, it was Paul’s first album to be recorded in Britain since Red Rose Speedway.
'Silly Love Songs' was written as a rebuttal to music critics who said Paul only wrote sentimental songs. Upon release, the single spent five consecutive weeks at Number One on the US Billboard Hot 100 and was certified gold for selling over one million copies.
Taken from the Wings album At the Speed of Sound, 'Let 'Em In' was released as a single in 1976. The song references a number of celebrities, as well as members of Paul's family. Paul has since said that when he met his now-wife Nancy, he was surprised to find the lyrics coincidentally referenced her family too, as she has a 'sister Suzy' and 'brother John'.
Selected from 90 hours of recordings, Wings Over America is a faithful account of the 1975-76 world tour that captures the band at its peak. It was taped at several of the US shows, but mixed as if it were a single performance.
'Maybe I’m Amazed’ originally appeared on Paul’s solo debut *McCartney *but was not released as a single at the time. Much of the song’s reputation today as a beloved staple in Paul’s live show is thanks to this 1976 single, released to promote Wings’ triple-disc Wings Over America album.
The mysterious Thrillington was an instrumental cover version of Wings’ 1971 album RAM, recorded that same year at Abbey Road Studios, under the pseudonym of Percy "Thrills" Thrillington. Paul produced the album while Richard Hewson (who had previously worked on The Beatles’ Let It Be) arranged and conducted. Thrillington was shelved following the formation of Wings and finally appeared, after a teaser ad campaign in the press, in 1977.
‘Mull of Kintyre’ was recorded during another transitional period for Wings and features the core trio of Paul, Linda and Denny Laine along with the Campbeltown Pipe Band. It was a Christmas Number One single in the UK, and was the first single to sell over 2 million copies.
'With a Little Luck' was the first single released from Wings' seventh album London Town. Recorded while Wings was going through another line-up change, Paul announced the updated band line-up during the single's promotional window.
London Town – Wings' seventh album – saw the departure of both Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English from the line-up, Linda’s pregnancy (with James), a song written for Michael Jackson (‘Girlfriend’) and the recording of one of the biggest-selling singles of all time, ‘Mull of Kintyre’. Despite its title, the album was recorded in the Virgin Islands.
Wings Greatest was the first official retrospective of Paul’s post-Beatles career and included many of his single-only releases since 1970 including ‘Live And Let Die’, ‘Hi Hi Hi’ and ‘Mull Of Kintyre’.
Taken from Wings' album London Town, 'I've Had Enough' was released in 1978.
The title track from Wings' 1978 album, 'London Town' was praised by critics at the time for its soft-rock sound and inventive melody.
'Goodnight Tonight' was a non-album single, released as a precurser to Wings' album Back to the Egg. The full seven-minute extended mix was released as a 12" single.
'Old Siam, Sir' was only released as an A-side in the UK. In the US, the track formed the B-side of 'Arrow Through Me' instead.
'Getting Closer' was the first US single released from Wings' album Back to the Egg.
Back To The Egg was the ninth and final studio album by Wings, the band having acquired two new members in guitarist Laurence Juber and drummer Steve Holly. The album saw Paul work alongside producer Chris Thomas, who had trained as a producer during recording of The Beatles' 1968 eponymous classic (The White Album).
The rather fancy-sounding Spirit of Ranachan Studio was basically a barn with a control room window at one end of it. Wackiness was the order of the day during this period - graish outfits and the punk and disco era - and they don't come much wackier than 'Old Siam, Sir'
Recorded during the sessions for what would become Wings’ last album, ‘Arrow Through Me’ became the band’s final single in North America.
Paul holds a number of Guiness World Records - including 20+ records with The Beatles - and in 1979 he was awarded 'Most Successful Songwriter' on account of 129 of the songs he had written or co-written charting in the UK.
Recorded during the same sessions as McCartney II, ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ was Paul’s first solo single since 1971’s ‘Another Day’. The video for the song was filmed at The Fountain Inn in West Sussex and recreated the McCartney family Christmas and New Year’s get-togethers.
When I was writing ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ I was trying to capture that party aspect. I did hope it would keep coming back – which it has. Sometimes people will go into a shop and hear it a little too much, but I don’t care! I’m happy!
From You Gave Me The Answer: ‘Wonderful Christmastime’ Special!
Wings began a 19-date concert tour of the United Kingdom to promote their album Back To The Egg. The shows were massively successful and even produced a Number 1 hit in the US with a live recording of ‘Coming Up’ from a Glasgow date. By this stage in their career, Wings didn’t have to prove anything – on this tour, it was time to go out and play simply for the pleasure of the thing.
Organised by Paul along with politician Kurt Waldheim, The Concert For The People Of Kampuchea was actually a series of shows held in December 1979 to raise money for the victims of war-torn Cambodia. It was also a personal landmark for Paul as the show on the 29th December marked the last-ever concert performed by Wings.