Graham Reid | | 5 min read
They only had themselves to rely on for support, solace, humour and an understanding of the fear about what could possibly go wrong when the screaming turned to anger and disgruntled US fans (after Lennon's Christ comment) had firearms.
And equally, no one could possibly imagine what is was like to be Paul McCartney when the band he'd loved – and which he had cajoled into continuing in those fractious closing days of their career – would go through when it fell apart in anger, litigation, regret, sniping and . . .
Where to from here for him?
In later years he admitted to drinking whiskey excessively in Scotland while hiding out at his remote farm (and presumably smoking what George Harrison always amusingly referred to as “reefer” or “jazz cigarettes”) while feeling lost and without direction.
He had broken up the most-loved band in the world with his announcement on the release of his solo album McCartney (although later would disingenuously say he didn't know what he was really saying) and he'd taken out the litigation to sue his former friends in order to . . .
But after that, what post-Fab career for him, then?
That self-titled McCartney album of 1970 was a very lowkey and deliberately understated collection of pre-Beatles divorce songs (and some working drawings) which has grown a little in stature over the decades.
But his subsequent Ram album (co-credited with his wife Linda) was a remarkable, witty, smart and crafted return to post-Pepper form with pre-Pepper pop-smarts. It has long been an Essential Elsewhere album.
However McCartney seemed to know that deep down he was a team player, always had been. After all, the only thing he knew was A Band . . . and even if he would helm A Band he knew that was where he felt secure.
And so . . . Wings.
With wife Linda, guitarist Denny Laine (of the Moody Blues) and American drummer Denny Seiwell he put together Wings and -- going back to how it had all begun for him more than a decades previous -- he went back to the roots of the road.
When Wings first toured they played low-key pub gigs and college shows, and he buried himself under a band name (like, no one would notice a former Beatle?)
The first album under the Wings imprimatur Wild Life appeared in late '71 (after Lennon's soul scouring Plastic Ono Band album and his chart-bothering Imagine).
Critics, then as now, made the usual odious comparisons and so found McCartney's Wings album lightweight and dismissed it. Much as they had done with Ram.
Wild Life now reappears as part of the on-going Paul McCartney Archive Collection reissue series (alongside its follow-up Red Rose Speedway) and it is . . .
It is what it is.
And it is, like the McCartney album, deliberately and -- in retrospect -- widely downplaying of expectation.
Many of the songs were rocking one-takes (five of the eight, in fact) and the opener Mumbo starts with him yelling “take it Tony” to engineer Tony Clark and literally calling out the chords to the band as he throws out his Little Richard scream and nonsense words.
In those days of albums as crafted as Imagine, Harrison's scrupulously re-worked (over-worked?) All Things Must Pass and even Ringo's lovely country music album Beaucoups of Blues recorded in Nashville with session greats like Elvis' Jordanaires, and pedal steel players Pete Drake and Ben Keith (the former on Dylan albums, the latter on Neil Young), Wild Life sounded rough-shod.
But as a jam Mumbo beats the crap out of Harrison's jams on All Things Must Pass; Bip Bop is a casual and twee throwaway (“put your hair in curlers we're going to see band”) and there's a easy-to-like and clever reggae treatment of the old Mickey and Sylvia hit Love is Strange (which also seems like a coded message to Lennon).
No, this was not the Beatles or even Ram, but enjoyable nonetheless . . . and expectations were usefully lowered.
The key tracks however are the declamatory tittle track when the new-vegetarian McCartney applied his most searing vocal style to “wild life, whatever happened to? The animals in the zoo”. And when he sings “you're making it haaaaaard” he sounds very close to Lennon's primal scream of anguish.
It remains an extraordinary song, even if at one point he sings “the aminals” (at 4.28). But the song seemed the more authentic and honest for that,.
There's idiot and unworthy lighter stuff (love songs to Linda, which the Rutles so astutely parodied) but his emotionally naked persona came in his address to Lennon in yet anther aural missive between former friends/partners on the piano ballad Dear Friend: “Dear friend . . is this really the borderline, does it really mean so much to you . . . I'm in love with a friend of mine, really truly . . are you a fool or is it true?”
The wound was hardly going to be healed by that aloof statement (especially when Lennon went for the low road to gut and testicles), but song remains open-heart surgery on McCartney's emotions. He could have done it better and in a more considered way, but this was how he did it the . . . with strings, so he thought about this one.
The expanded Wild Life set includes some typically retrospective fooling around: Elvis' Good Rockin' Tonight; a home recording of the easily dismissed country hoe-down Hey Diddle and other irrelevant nonsense (although the sappy I Am Your Singer to Linda almost sounds like a Rishikesh outtake).
And the home recordings of Dear Friend shows how he thought his one through (despite kids in the background) and there is one of his melodically effortless outtakes in When the Wind is Blowing which sounds like a tune-filled gift given away.
The Great Cock And Seagull Race instrumental is surplus to rock'n'blues requirements (a jam of lo-rent) and things are padded out with his rare foray into politics with Give Ireland Back to the Irish (which actually has more resonance in these Brexit days).
Mercifully her didn't include that single's follow-up which was a funny retreat (because Irish was banned) into his version of Mary Had a Little Lamb.
In the very early Seventies was going about the process of re-inventing himself as a touring artist (which his former bandmates were loath to endure again) and Wild Life was a useful and not uninteresting foot on the long ladder.)
Soon he would experiment more with Red Rose Speedway and then . . . Band on the Run by which time the careers of his former band mates were on the fiscal and critical decline and he . . .
Cover of Time, Wings were huge, had biggest grossing tour of the Seventies and, the triple live went to number one of the US charts (a triple vinyl album!!) and . . .
Paul McCartney had a career . . . after The End . . . .
Elsewhere occasionally revisits albums -- classics sometimes, but more often oddities or overlooked albums by major artists -- and you can find a number of them starting here