Wild Life

Wild Life
Wings

December, 1971

Original LP

side oneside two
MumboSome People Never Know
Bip BopI Am Your Singer
Love Is Strange
(Mickey Baker, Sylvia Vanderpool, Ethel Smith)
Tomorrow
Wild LifeDear Friend
All tracks by Paul & Linda McCartney except ‘Love Is Strange’

Remastered CD, 1993, The Paul McCartney Collection

Mumbo
Bip Bop
Love Is Strange
(Mickey Baker, Sylvia Vanderpool, Ethel Smith)
Wild Life
Some People Never Know
I Am Your Singer
Bip Bop Link
Tomorrow
Dear Friend
Mumbo Link
Give Ireland Back To The Irish
Mary Had A Little Lamb
Little Woman Love
Mama’s Little Girl
CD version: Bip Bop link and Mumbo link were on the original LP, but had no titles
The 2018 Archive Collection Box Set

There is also a 3 CD / DVD box set from the 2018 Archive Collection. Much as I would like to do the album full justice by reviewing it, it is £112 and I’m not going there.

MUSICIANS:

Paul McCartney – lead vocals, bass guitar, electric guitar, piano, keyboards, recorder, percussion
Linda McCartney – co-lead vocals, keyboards, piano, percussion, backing vocals
Denny Laine- guitars, bass guitar, percussion, keyboards, backing vocals
Denny Sewell- drums, percussion

In Melody Maker (20 November 1971), Paul McCartney explained that he played most of the lead guitar (I’ve always fancied myself as a lead guitarist). Denny Laine played harmony lead, rhythm guitar and some bass. Paul played most of the bass lines, which he kept simple, and some are overdubbed. Linda played most of the piano and organ.

CHART

I’ve listed more than usual.

UK Albums #11
US Billboard Albums #10
US Cash Box albums #6
Australia #3
Canada #5
Netherlands #6
Spain #2
Japan #15

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID:

McCartney is coming to terms with his own fluff–the overproduction sounds less cluttered this time–but it’s still fluff, and not even goosedown. Maybe the thrill of leading his very own band has him distracted. (Yes, Linda is in it–that’s the good part.) C-
Robert Christgau, Christgau’s Guide to Albums of The 70s

Wild Life is largely high on sentiment but rather flaccid musically and impotent lyrically, trivial and unaffecting. It lacks the exhilarating highs of Ram (which highs I, as one who found it as worthless as the next guy when it first arrived, can assure you are indeed present), and, in the form of a track called “I Am Your Singer,” contains the most embarrassingly puerile single piece of work Paul’s been associated with since “She’s Leaving Home.” But allow no one to convince you that it’s entirely devoid of merit: while it’s vacuous, flaccid, impotent, trivial and unaffecting. It’s also unpretentious (a humble enough vessel of praise, but one of which neither George Harrison’s nor John Lennon’s post-Beatles work is worthy), melodically charming in several places, warm, and pleasant. 
John Mendellsohn, Rolling Stone, 20 January 1972

Rushed, defensive, badly timed, and over-publicized.
Roy Carr and Tony Tyler: The Beatles: An Illustrated Record.

Wild Life had a crude but effective sound… this boils down to a Wings audition. ***
John Swenson, Rolling Stone Record Guide, 1st edition

The loyalty of Beatles fans meant that Wings would’ve had to release abysmal music in order to flop. During their career, however, they often came close to doing that … with their bland, reggae inflected album, Wild Life. **1/2
Rolling Stone album Guide (3rd edition)

Although McCartney managed to craft an indelible single or two on just about every Wings album, he too frequently wasted his time on silly trifles … the so-so album Wild Life …
Rolling Stone New Album Guide, 2004

That its chief author had played the main role in the creation of Sergeant Pepper beggared belief: this stuff was half-cocked, extremely ragged and really rather strange. McCartney obviously thinks little of it: nothing from  (Wild Life) is included (on Wingspan), save a demo of the throaway Bip Bop.
John Harris, review of Wingspan’, Q, July 2001

*
Q magazine

(Phil Spector) seemed to encourage Lennon in his feud.
‘Have you heard Paul’s new album?’ Spector says, referring to WildLife.
‘No.’
‘It’s really bad,’ replied the producer spitefully, ‘It’s awful.’
‘Don’t talk about it. It depresses me.’

Howard Souness: Ram: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney, 2010

WILD LIFE

Paul McCartney had a rough ride with critics in the early 70s. Most critics were paid-up members of the Saint John Lennon Fan Club, and at the time McCartney could do no right. He broke up The Beatles! Not only that, the pleasure in shouting ‘The king has got no clothes!’ was irresistible to many. They told him off (Could do better …) for failing to match the quality of Penny Lane, Got To Get You Into My Life, Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday or Blackbird. Or indeed, Another Day or Maybe I’m Amazed. It’s like Einstein’s accountant pointing out gleefully that he’d made an error in totting up his stationery receipts for his tax return.

If you’re into being a Lennonista rather than a McCartneyite, this album is the chief weapon in your armoury. Even the plain cover directly echoes The Plastic Ono Band.

I’ll state my position … Wild Life was the only album I didn’t buy on release being daft enough to accept what reviewers said (So beware of what I say …). I did buy the singles which became bonus tracks.

I’ve made up since by buying everything … albums, singles, The Fireman, The Family Way OST, Percy Thrillington, classical.

This is the first Wings album, and probably got the most flack. Red Rose Speedway got marginally less abuse, though not from Christgau, who had the bit between his teeth on McCartney:

(Red Rose Speedway is) quite possibly the worst album ever made by a rock and roller of the first rank
Robert Christgau.

McCartney and Ram definitely did better. But then he formed a GROUP. Wings. A group with OTHER PEOPLE! And they did an impromptu tour, and recorded Wild Life deliberately fast, in just a week. They rehearsed in Scotland, and recorded at Abbey Road. The feud with his fellow Beatles meant he refused to put the Apple logo on the LP, or on the singles released shortly afterwards.

Paul McCartney:  Taking just two weeks, Wild Life was about spontaneity: the opening track ‘Mumbo’ was recorded in one take. “I’d read that Bob Dylan had just made a quick album,” Paul explains, “and I really liked the idea, because we tended to take longer and longer to make records. The early albums by The Beatles hadn’t taken long and it seemed to me that Dylan was getting to that. I was a great admirer of his – and still am to this day – so I thought, Well, if it’s good enough for him, let’s do it. Linda was heavily pregnant with Stella while we were recording. If she’d have wanted to stop the sessions we would have done, but it just didn’t arise. A lot of women work until two weeks before the baby is due and that’s what Linda did.
Paul McCartney.com

Linda McCartney: We’ve put the rock songs on one side, and the slow songs on the other. When you want to dance you play side one. When you want to croon, you play side two.
Melody Maker 20 November 1971

Mumbo

Paul gets to do his full Little Richard screams.

Paul McCartney: We had a very short rehearsal time. We just banged out a few chords and played what we wanted. It’s very simple stuff on this album. Tony Clark engineered it for us and we told him we wanted it flat and funky. Mumbo just bombed along. We took it on the first take.
Melody Maker 20 November 1971

The odd thing about the mix is the organ on the left speaker, which is Linda. Paul said:

Paul McCartney: Linda isn’t very experienced, so the keyboard parts tend to be very simple, and that is, I think, very valuable. It has innocence rather like a child’s painting.
Melody Maker 20 November 1971

Yes. Sadly it gave credence to year after year of misogynist Linda jokes among musicians and whispered repeats about what the guys in the bands had allegedly told their pals. She was onto a certain loser with blokes who would have given their right testicle to be able to play with McCartney.

The twin lead guitar is the outstanding thing.

Bip Bop

Paul was the producer, and again, without a strong hand to rein him in, he was content to release tracks that should never have left the studio, including folderol like Bip Bop.
Howard Souness: Ram: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney, 2010

Paul McCartney: The weakest song I have ever written in my life. I’d heard about Dylan making albums in a week and wanted to see if I could too.
quoted in Mojo, July 2001

Paul McCartney: It just goes nowhere … I still cringe when I hear it.

The best I can say is that it’s “insignificant.”

Love Is Strange

The 1956 classic from Mickey & Sylvia . It was co-credited to Ethel Smith, who was Bo Diddley writing under his wife’s name. Bo Diddley released it first.

It was intended to be a single by Wings, but was abandoned. I Am Your Singer was to be the B-side, so perhaps better left unreleased. It was assigned a catalogue number. Parlophone R5932 and some copies exist. It’s listed in Rare Record Price Guide 2022 as worth £1500 mint. Discogs have a picture as a one-sided acetate. It was last sold at £4000. That may also be the only time it was sold.

Paul and reggae … an interview with Paul got me interested in Reggae Chartbusters and Tighten Up. He was an evangelist for reggae, as was Paul Simon. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da is early for mainstream interest. This is intoxicating reggae with a far away semi-stoned vocal. Lots of Linda too.

There is a Mexican EP release from 1972 on the Compact 33 format. It’s on sale online at £15 to £25 if you want a copy with an Apple label.

Wild Life

An inchoate song about animal welfare the lyrics of which were sketchy to thepoint of meaninglessness.
Howard Souness: Ram: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney, 2010

I generally take issues on the McCartney animal thing. They were “TVP vegetarians” (textured vegetable protein = soya), and even in 2020 the Linda McCartney frozen vegetarian fare tends to Vegetarian sausages, Vegetarian Bolognese. Currently they’re offering “Vegetarian Pulled Pork Burger” and the small print tells us it’s “pork style”. The brand was sold in 2006, so nothing to do with her or with Paul, but I’ve been a vegetarian on and off, and never saw the need for imitation meat. Monsanto soya products are not a healthy option in my mind.

Paul McCartney: Wild Life’ was to do with me having gone on safari and actually seeing that sign that I sing about: ‘The animals have the right of way’. Which really impressed me. You just realise the sort of dignity and strength of wild animals because here they’ve got the right of way. Whereas we’re all so full of our own importance. It’s kind of nice, you know. You’re just a guy in a Land Rover. You don’t matter so much! So that was why I wrote that song. Man, you know, we’re the “top species”, and yet we’re the ones who eff it up, which is not right.
Paul McCartney.com, 29 October 2018

As to the song, I like it. Great guitar, impassioned prog vocal, steady backing vocals. It’s catchy too. It’d unusual for this album in that it got played live on the Wings Over Europe tour in 1972, and during the UK tour in 1973. I saw that tour. It was in the rehearsal list for 1975-76 and 1989-90 tours too.

Some People Never Know

This is another that was played in 1972 on the impromptu UK university turn up and play tour. The piano and guitar and bass are deceptively simple but intriguing.

The more I listen to this album, the more I think ‘So what’s wrong with happiness and domestic bliss?’ This album is full of it.

I Am Your Singer

 It’s not the back and forth vocals between Paul and Linda that destroy it — Linda’s mediocre warbling doesn’t help one iota — but the song is incessantly maudlin in lyrics to the point of diabetic shock, and the blatant lack of musicality (even in its simplicity) is brutal.
Hokeyblog review, 26 June 2013

Too harsh, I think. The more you hear it, the more pleasant it gets … this is so often true of McCartney songs that appear lightweight on first listen. His melodic knack will get through.

Tomorrow

It was covered by David Cassidy (South African #10).

Paul McCartney:  I must say you have to like me to like the record. I mean, if it’s just taken cold, I think it wasn’t that brilliant as a recording. We did it in about two weeks, the whole thing. And it had been done on that kind of a buzz we’d been hearing about how Dylan had come in and done everything in one take. I think in fact often we never gave the engineer a chance to even set up a balance. There’s a couple of real big songs on there, that only freaks or connoisseurs know.
Rolling Stone: Well, Tomorrow?
Paul McCartney: “Tomorrow” is one of them. It’s like, when I’m talking to people about Picasso or something and they say, well, his blue period was his only one that was any good. But for me, if the guy does some great things then even his downer moments are interesting. His lesser moments, rather, because they make up the final picture. Some moments seem less, he was going through kind of a pressure period. You know, you can’t live your life without pressure periods. No one I know has.
Rolling Stone 31 January 1974

Dear Friend

Dear Friend” is the closing track of Wings’ first album, Wild Life, released in 1971. If “Wild Life” has often been considered as a low-point in Paul McCartney’s career, “Dear Friend” is usually recognized as one of the best tracks of the album (the other one being Tomorrow)
Paul McCartney.com

This dates from the Ram sessions. There was a ding dong going on. John thought Too Many People on Ram was aimed at him. So we get How Do You Sleep on Imagine. Dear Friend is Round Three of the argument, but a conciliatory one.

Paul McCartney: Dear Friend” was written about John, yes. I don’t like grief and arguments, they always bug me. Life is too precious, although we often find ourselves guilty of doing it. So after John had slagged me off in public I had to think of a response, and it was either going to be to slag him off in public — and some instinct stopped me, which I’m really glad about — or do something else. So I worked on my attitude and wrote “Dear Friend”, saying, in effect, let’s lay the guns down, let’s hang up our boxing gloves.
Club Sandwich interview 1994

Paul McCartney: I find it very emotional when I listen to it now. I have to sort of choke it back. But, for me, it is a bit like that. I remember when I heard the song recently, listening to the roughs in the car. And I thought, ‘Oh God’. That lyric: ‘Really truly, young and newly wed’. Listening to that was like, ‘Oh my God, it’s true!’ I’m trying to say to John, ‘Look, you know, it’s all cool. Have a glass of wine. Let’s be cool.’ And luckily we did get it back together, which was like a great source of joy because it would have been terrible if he’d been killed as things were at that point and I’d never got to straighten it out with him. This was me reaching out. So, I think it’s very powerful in some very simple way. But it was certainly heartfelt
Paul McCartney.com, 29 October 2018

There are orchestral overdubs, arranged by Richard Hewson. In retrospect, it’s a gorgeous and typical McCartney melody.

BONUS TRACKS from 1993

Give Ireland Back To The Irish

Give Ireland Back To The Irish: Wings, Apple 1972

I had two friends in 1972, who were both Liverpudlians and fanatic Liverpool FC fans. I played this in their presence and asked them what they thought of it.
‘I always knew Paul was an Everton fan,’ one said.

What they meant was that Paul’s mother was Catholic, although his dad was brought up Protestant and was agnostic. Liverpool’s stellar Seventies successes eroded the old Everton (Catholic) v Liverpool (Protestant) divide, I believe.

It had an air of forced political statement, normally John Lennon’s territory. Critics went for that at the time of release and accused him of deliberate controversy in search of street cred. (Not that ‘street cred’ was a phrase in use this then). John had been supportive of Republicanism, and John put two “Irish” protests on Some Time in New York City.

How sad that the only things on which (John) and Paul have agreed should have drawn from both their very worst work. Neither ‘The Luck of the Irish’ (Lennon) nor ‘Give Ireland Back to The Irish can do anything but increase the bigotry of the already ignorant.
Richard Williams, Melody Maker, 7 October 1972

The record managed to irritate everyone, not least for its naive, simplistic attitude to a complex situation … but also for its musical mediocrity. The BBC banned the record, granting it a notoriety disproportionate to its importance.
Chris Ingham, The Rough Guide To The Beatles, 2003

 McCartney’s and Lennon’s “ill-fated” musical statements on Irish politics, following on from the pair’s public sparring in the music press throughout 1971, combined to tarnish the four ex-Beatles’ standing among music critics in the UK.
Peter Doggett, Record Collector, 2001

The song was written hot on the heels of Bloody Sunday (30 January 1972) when thirteen Civil Rights Marchers were shot dead. He had spent the day before in New York with John Lennon. He booked the studios from New York, flew back, and recorded it on 1st February. EMI’s chairman phoned him to say they were refusing to release it, but Paul had the full Beatle clout. It was rush-released on 25 February.

The chart performance was significant … UK #16, US #21, but Republic of Ireland #1. Spain #1 (I suspect in Catalonia and the Basque country!) It was banned by the BBC from UK broadcasts as overtly political.

Tell me, how would you like it
If on your way to work
You were stopped by Irish soldiers?
Would you lie down, do nothing
Would you give in or go berserk?

It didn’t get onto the Wings Greatest compilation in 1978, so first appeared on album as a bonus track on the 1993 reissue of Wild Life. In 2001, McCartney decided to omit it from Wingspan, the Wings double CD compilation, agreeing that in the light of then recent terrorist incidents it could be construed as supporting the IRA.

The 45 has a Jamaican style “Version” on the B-side, with guitar and Irish penny whistle taking the melody. He had realized the possibility of an aiplay ban, so was providing an instrumental that could be played … just as Love At First Sight was used to replace Je t’aime … mois non plus.

There is a cover version by Ketch Secor on Let Us In … Americana. The Music of Paul McCartney. (2013)

Mary Had A Little Lamb

Mary Had A Little Lamb: Wings, Apple 1972

UK chart: #9. US chart: #28

Nothing wrong with it, even if it does lead to Rupert and The Frog Song and Wonderful Christmastime. I happily listen to The Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Nellie The Elephant with my grandkids in the car, and this is on the same Playlist.

Contemporary critics claimed it was an ironic response to the banning of Give Ireland Back To The Irish, but it had been written earlier. Paul and Linda had young kids. Kids songs go on forever. Paul McCartney has stated it was a sincere attempt to write a kids’ song. I believe him.

Little Woman Love

Little Woman Love: Wings B-side, Apple 1972

The B-side of Mary Had A Little Lamb. In the USA many DJs flipped the single and played this side (which got listed as US #95). It was a Ram sessions outtake. It comes as a surprise to bass guitar fans because it has acoustic double bass on it, played by Milt Hinton. David Spinozza and Hugh McCracken played guitars, and Paul McCartney leads from the piano. It also gets on to Special Editions of both Ram and Red Rose Speedway.

Mama’s Little Girl

Put It There: CD single 1990 with Mama’s Little Girl (1987 remix)

This was recorded in 1972, but it never appeared until 1990 as a track on the Put It There CD single, then on the 1993 WildLife reissue. It’s a strong song with a jug band beat. More correctly it was part of the Red Rose Speedway sessions with Henry McCullough on guitar. Paul plays acoustic and electric guitar and drums. Denny Laine is on bass guitar. It’s a good song, better than some that were used.

REVISIONISM

This album is filled with music that’s defiantly lightweight — not just the cloying cover of “Love Is Strange” but two versions apiece of songs called “Mumbo” and “Bip Bop.” If this is a great musician bringing his band up to speed, so be it, but it never seems that way — it feels like one step removed from coasting, which is wanking. It’s easy to get irritated by the upfront cutesiness, since it’s married to music that’s featherweight at best. Then again, that’s what makes this record bizarrely fascinating — it’s hard to imagine a record with less substance, especially from an artist who’s not just among the most influential of the 20th century, but from one known for precise song and studiocraft. Here, he’s thrown it all to the wind, trying to make a record that sounds as pastoral and relaxed as the album’s cover photo. He makes something that sounds easy — easy enough that you and a couple of neighbors who you don’t know very well could knock it out in your garage on a lazy Saturday afternoon — and that’s what’s frustrating and amazing about it. Yeah, it’s possible to call this a terrible record, but it’s so strange in its domestic bent and feigned ordinariness that it winds up being a pop album like no other.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Com

Back then, the Beatles stirred up so many heightened emotions; once they were gone, critical objectivity was fogged up. Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway weren’t treated as relative letdowns, but personal betrayals. Listeners in 2018 can throw out all this cultural baggage and just enjoy the tunes.
Morgan Enos, Billboard 5 December 2018

This is rootsy rock ‘n’ roll and an album that redefines rough. Think how revolutionary this album was, Paul McCartney releasing an album that is raw and unpolished, following The Beatles. It made top ten, but no singles were released from it and it is one of those albums that seldom gets mentioned, let alone air time. But it is a fantastic album, and the new deluxe version demonstrates just how brilliant it is. Kicking off with the ad libbed “Mumbo”, which sounds like the tape kicks in after the song has started, McCartney takes us on a wild ride. Animal rights, feuds with Lennon, and domestic bliss are featured throughout.
Spill Magazine, review of the 2018 Super De Luxe version

MY SUMMARY

Mostly tracks grow on you beyond an initial lightweight / bland impression, so it bears repeated listening. Wild Life, Some People Never Know, Dear Friend and Tomorrow are the four I pick out. Nothings fights its way onto Greatest Hits compilations, or even live work.

In the end this is PAUL McCARTNEY. I do hope he didn’t lose too much sleep over its reception back then. The massive 2018 archive “Super de Luxe” revisit shows that there was indeed more to it. I’ll go with the revisionist comments on this one. Much better than they said.

COLLECTABILITY

The yellow inner sleeve … yes, it’s essential for full value

Wild Life (with yellow insert)is listed as £60 mint in the 2022 guide.

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