Sunday, December 28, 2014

Paul McCartney and Wings, The #12 Artist of the Seventies*

After the breakup of the Beatles in 1970, Paul McCartney released two albums, one a solo effort and the other a collaboration with wife Linda.  Those two albums do not factor in to the success of Wings, which was a separate project.  McCartney formed Wings in 1971 with Linda, guitarist Denny Laine, and drummer Denny Seiwell.

The group released their debut album Wild Life in 1971, which went Gold.

Early the next year, McCartney added guitarist Henry McCullough.  Wings went on a tour of universities in the U.K. and smaller venues in the U.K.  McCartney wrote "Give Ireland Back To The Irish" after the events of Bloody Sunday.  The song was banned by the BBC, yet still reached #16 in the U.K., topped charts in Ireland and Spain.

The non-album single "Hi, Hi, Hi" peaked at #5 in the U.K. and Canada and #10 in the United States.

In 1973, the group became known as Paul McCartney and Wings, and they released the album Red Rose Speedway.  The single "My Love" was a million-selling, #1 smash for four weeks in the United States, #2 in Canada, #3 in New Zealand, #5 in Australia, and #9 in the U.K.

"My Love" is still in The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*Red Rose Speedway was certified Gold, and went to #1 on the Album chart in the U.S. and Australia.

The band recorded the James Bond theme song "Live And Let Die" towards the end of the Red Rose Speedway sessions, as McCartney was reunited with former Beatles producer and arranger George Martin.  The single roared to #2 in the United States and Australia, #5 in Canada, and #7 in the U.K., and sold over one million copies.  "Live And Let Die" was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture. 

Martin won a Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists for "Live And Let Die", and the group was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus and Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture. 

The television show James Paul McCartney featured footage of Wings performing in outdoor concerts as well as in front of a studio audience.  The group toured England, then began rehearsing for a new album.  Prior to recording, McCullough and Seiwell left the group, so Laine and the McCartneys recorded the album as a trio in Lagos, Nigeria. 

In 1974, Paul McCartney and Wings released the great album Band on the Run.  "Helen Wheels", reached #4 in Canada and #10 in the U.S.

McCartney and Wings were nominated for an American Music Award for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo or Group.  The great follow-up single, "Jet", landed at #2 in New Zealand, #5 in Canada, and #7 in both the United States and the U.K.

The classic title song hit #1 in the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand, and was a solid #3 in the U.K., and sold over one million copies.  It is a solid member of The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.

"Band On The Run" won Grammy Awards for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus and Best Engineered Recording, Non-Classical, and the album was nominated for Album of the Year.  Band on the Run topped charts in the United States, the U.K., Australia and Norway, and has now sold over three million copies.  "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five" is another solid track on the album. 

"Bluebird" carries on the tradition of great McCartney ballads.
Wings hired Jimmy McCulloch, former lead guitarist for Thunderclap Newman in 1974, and the group played on an album by Paul's younger brother Mike McGear.  Drummer Geoff Britton joined Wings to replace Seiwell, and the group recorded several songs in Nashville, Tennessee.  Famous musicians Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer participated in this session, with McCartney and Wings releasing the double-sided hit "Junior's Farm" and "Sally G".  The former hit #3 in the United States and New Zealand, and reached #10 in Canada.

"Sally G" stopped at #17 in the U.S.

In 1975, Wings signed with Capitol Records and released the album Venus and Mars.  The single "Listen To What The Man Said" featured guitarist Dave Mason and Tom Scott on saxophone.  The song topped charts in both the United States and Canada, and peaked at #6 in the U.K. and #7 in Australia. 
Britton quit the group during recording of the album and was replaced by Joe English.  Venus and Mars topped Album charts in the United States, the U.K., France, New Zealand, and Norway.  It has now sold over one million copies.  "Letting Go" did not catch on as a single, but it is nevertheless a Top Track* on the album.

The single "Venus And Mars/Rockshow" stalled at #12 in both the U.S. and Canada, one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

The flip side of "Venus And Mars" was "Magneto And Titanium Man", which also received significant airplay and is one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*.

We also want to feature another Top Track* on Venus and Mars--"Medicine Jar".

Wings then went on a major international tour to Australia, Europe and the United States.  One of the concerts in Seattle, Washington was filmed and later released as Rockshow in 1980.  While on break, the band recorded the album Wings at the Speed of Sound, released in 1976.  The single "Silly Love Songs" #1 in the U.S. (for five weeks) and Canada, #2 in the U.K., and #8 in New Zealand.

"Silly Love Songs" went Gold.  The album sold over one million copies, and went to #1 in the U.S. and France.  "Let 'Em In" came up next, #2 in the U.K. and #3 in the United States and Canada.  "Let 'Em In" also sold over one million and earned McCartney and Wings another Grammy nomination for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists.

The triple live album Wings over America resulted from recordings made on the tour, and it became the group's fifth straight #1 album.  The single "Maybe I'm Amazed", originally recorded on Paul's solo album in 1970, was released as a live song.  It rose to #9 in Canada and #10 in the United States.

Wings over America was certified Platinum.  In 1977, Wings recorded a song written by Linda called "Seaside Woman".  It was released under the pseudonym Suzy and the Red Stripes.

McCartney,P&..-Wingspan1-14-Mull Of Kintyre by McCartney, Paul & Wings on Grooveshark
The band took a break before recording their next album in the Virgin Islands.  McCulloch and English both left the group during these sessions so once again, Wings were down to a trio.  They recorded the non-album single "Mull of Kintyre"., which topped charts in the U.K., Germany, Australia, and New Zealand.

Wings then released the album London Town, which included the contributions from McCulloch and English on several songs prior to their departures.  The lead single, "With A Little Luck", went to #1 in the United States and Canada, and reached #5 in the U.K.

London Town went Platinum, and topped the Album chart in the Netherlands.  The group released the compilation album Wings Greatest in 1978, and it sold over one million copies.

Later in the year, Wings hired lead guitarist Laurence Juber and drummer Steve Holley.  In 1979, McCartney signed a new contract with Columbia Records.  The single "Goodnight Tonight" was released ahead of the album Back to the Egg.  The song reached #2 in Canada, #5 in the U.S. and the U.K., and #6 in Australia and New Zealand.

The album went Platinum, but did not get good reviews.  Nonetheless, The Guinness Book of World Records proclaimed McCartney as the "most successful and honoured composer and musician in popular music history."
 The song "Rockestra Theme", the result of a jam session with members of Wings, Led Zeppelin, the Who, and Pink Floyd, among others, won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Performance.  In 1979, McCartney recorded a solo album, McCartney II, without the band.  That work counts towards McCartney's solo career rather than Wings for purposes of this special.

Wings then toured the U.K., finishing with an all-star group of musicians in London in a benefit show for UNICEF and Kampuchean refugees.

Wings released "Wonderful Christmastime" at the end of the year, with it reaching #6 in the U.K. and becoming a Christmas standard.

After the Seventies, Wings continued for a short time, before splitting up.  The group did convene for partial reunions in 1997, 2007, and 2010.

In 1987, the compilation All the Best was released, a collection of Wings songs and McCartney solo material.  The album, which contains approximately 50% Wings material from the 70's, sold three million copies.  In 2001, the album Wingspan:  Hits and History was released.  About 70% of that compilation which sold two million copies contains Wings songs from the Seventies, and must be factored into these rankings.

In 2013, the song "Band On The Run" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Wings sold over 13 million albums in the Seventies and registered 20 hits.  Eleven of those 20 made the Top 10, and the group landed five #1 smashes and put out a bunch of top album tracks as well. 

All of this puts Paul McCartney and Wings significantly ahead of #12* Creedence Clearwater Revival and just behind The #10 Artist of the Seventies*.  Thus, McCartney helped the Beatles become The #1 Artist of the 60's*, then, after their breakup, came back and led Wings to The #11 Artist of the Seventies*, a remarkable accomplishment. 

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