The Beatles was always going to be a hard act to follow, even for Paul McCartney but it was John Lennon, in one of his final interviews, who understood the value of Wings as he observed:
“I kind of admire the way Paul started back from scratch, forming a new band and playing in small dance halls.”
As much as anyone, Lennon perceived the sheer amount of risk inherent in creating a band in the wake of The Beatles’ juggernaut.
To sum up the achievement in record sales, from 1971 through 1980, Wings achievements were:
- Five chart-topping and eight Top 10 US albums; Wild Life, Red Rose Speedway, Band On The Run, Venus & Mars, Wings At The Speed Of Sound, London Town, Back To The Egg, Wings Over America
- Fourteen Top 10 singles, six of which reached number-one, including My Love, Jet, Band On The Run and Maybe I’m Amazed.
- All 23 of Wings’ US singles registered as Top 40 hits.
Wings won six Grammy Awards, while selling some 14 million records, garnering seven platinum and nine gold discs. Live and Let Die became the first James Bond theme song to be nominated for an Oscar. It was also nominated for a Grammy. With all of the above the realization of Paul McCartney’s triumph with Wings comes fully into view.
Throughout the 1970s, Paul McCartney led Wings, one of the most successful bands of the decade, with more than a dozen international top 10 singles and albums…
During the seven-week, 25-show Wings Over Europe Tour, the band played almost solely Wings and McCartney solo material: the Little Richard cover “Long Tall Sally” was the only song that had previously been recorded by the Beatles. McCartney wanted the tour to avoid large venues; most of the small halls they played had capacities of fewer than 3,000 people.
In March 1973, Wings achieved their first US number-one single, “My Love”, included on their second LP, Red Rose Speedway, a US number one and UK top five.
McCartney’s collaboration with Linda and former Beatles producer Martin resulted in the song “Live and Let Die”, which was the theme song for the James Bond film of the same name. Nominated for an Academy Award, the song reached number two in the US and number nine in the UK. It also earned Martin a Grammy for his orchestral arrangement. Music professor and author Vincent Benitez described the track as “symphonic rock at its best”.
In 1973, the McCartneys and Laine recorded Band on the Run. The album was the first of seven platinum Wings LPs. It was a US and UK number one, the band’s first to top the charts in both countries and the first ever to reach Billboard magazine’s charts on three separate occasions. One of the best-selling releases of the decade, it remained on the UK charts for 124 weeks. Rolling Stone named it one of the Best Albums of the Year for 1973…
In 1975, Paul McCartney and Wings won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance for the song “Band on the Run” and Geoff Emerick won the Grammy for Best Engineered Recording for the album. In 1974, Wings achieved a second US number-one single with the title track. The album also included the top-ten hits “Jet” and “Helen Wheels”, and earned the 413th spot on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Wings followed Band on the Run with the chart-topping albums Venus and Mars (1975) and Wings at the Speed of Sound (1976).
In 1975, they began the fourteen-month Wings Over the World Tour, which included stops in the UK, Australia, Europe and the US. The tour marked the first time McCartney performed Beatles songs live with Wings, with five in the two-hour set list: “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, “Yesterday”, “Blackbird”, “Lady Madonna” and “The Long and Winding Road”. Following the second European leg of the tour and extensive rehearsals in London, the group undertook an ambitious US arena tour that yielded the US number-one live triple LP Wings over America.
In November 1977, the Wings song “Mull of Kintyre”, co-written with Denny Laine, was quickly becoming one of the best-selling singles in UK chart history. The most successful single of McCartney’s solo career, it achieved double the sales of the previous record holder, “She Loves You”, and went on to sell 2.5 million copies and for many years hold the UK sales record.
London Town (1978) spawned a US number-one single (“With a Little Luck”), and continued Wings’ string of commercial successes, making the top five in both the US and the UK. Back to the Egg (1979) featured McCartney’s assemblage of a rock supergroup dubbed “Rockestra” on two tracks. The band included Wings along with Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, Gary Brooker, John Paul Jones, John Bonham and others. Certified platinum Wings completed their final concert tour in 1979, with twenty shows in the UK that included the live debut of the Beatles songs “Got to Get You into My Life”, “The Fool on the Hill” and “Let it Be”.
The final tribute to Wings has to come again by way of John Lennon who, it is said, was so enthused by Wings success that, before his murder in 1980, he was busy recording songs to go on tour with.