As 1973 came to an end the stress and disappointment of the last four years seemed to come to an end for Paul.
The four solo Beatles peaked as far as sales and popularity in 1973 with John’s MIND GAMES, Ringo’s RINGO (with all three other Beatles lending much creative help), George’s LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD and finally Paul’s BAND ON THE RUN.
He now had the critical, financial and emotional success that had fully eluded him since leaving The Beatles. Offers came in from around the world for a one-off Beatles reunion for mega millions, but none of the four endorsed this in print.
The tensions that had caused so much pain had mostly gone away, as the three ex-bandmates had finally seen the light of day that Alan Klein was indeed taking advantage of them financially. The court battle wouldn’t fully clear up for a year or so but the walls had come down, and this was the main cause for the reunion hope. This wouldn’t really end until 1976, when Paul and his band toured the world with great results.
Now as 1974 started Paul had the mega-hit album, but no way to tour as his band had become just the three.
1974 was to become the year of working and helping others. The first thing he did was get back with his brother, Michael (McGear), and with the excitement of “Leave It” (recorded in 1973) he went back in the studio to produce, write songs for and play on a complete album for him. They recorded it in 10cc’s owned Strawberry Studios, where they worked at night after 10cc recorded during the day. This is where Paul met future collaborator Eric Stewart.
Paul rounded out his band by first trying out a new lead guitarist, Jimmy McCullough. Jimmy was still only 21 and had already established himself as one of rocks upcoming guitar superstars. He had played with Thunderclap Newman, had his own band, and played sessions with top artists. He found himself a free agent after his last band, Maggie Bell’s Stone The Crows disbanded in summer of 1973.
After Jimmy easily got the gig, Paul hired long time Cat Stevens drummer Gerry Conway to round out the band. While not actually calling themselves Wings (the 5th installment), Paul, Linda, Denny, Gerry and Jimmy backed Michael on every track. The album they recorded throughout January and February was called McGEAR, and released in September of 1974.
Of the 10 songs on the original release, Paul wrote six of the songs, Paul and Linda wrote three of the songs, and they covered a track written by Bryan Ferry. Michael handled all the lead vocals but all backing vocals were done by the band. And on occasion Paul is clearly heard taking the lead….
As someone who ached for the next Wings release I picked up this on its release day, and have loved it since, and always consider it the lost Wings album. I have always wondered if only Paul had taken all lead vocals and made it his record where would it have landed in his musical history. While it received very good critical reviews, it got practically no airplay and little sales impact.
In March of 1974, Paul met up with John Lennon in Los Angeles (during his “lost weekend” period) and jammed with him, Stevie Wonder, Nilsson and more in the infamous “Toot And A Snore” bootleg.
In July of 1974 Paul again decided to record again. He asked McCullough to formally join Wings, and he accepted, then asked Geoff Britton to join the band as the new drummer.
The first thing they did was begin rehearsing. While they did this they documented it all on film for the unreleased (he does this quite often, right?) “One Hand Clapping.”
So, wings now was up to phase five or six, depending on how you looked at it.
In his attempt to catch the inspiration of and spirit of the recording studio, he decided to take everyone to Nashville, Tennessee. They all stayed at an actual ranch and practiced and enjoyed all that the city offered. They went into Sound Shop studios and recorded five songs.
“Send Me The Heart” Never released by Wings, as this Denny Laine written song finally saw the light of day on his 1980 solo album. I think it might have been tweaked to be on one of the various attempts at the COLD CUTS/HOT HITS project. Not a bad song, but not great. Very C&W inspired (as were all five songs put to tape). Rating – 5
“Junior’s Farm” The only song Paul and Wings released in 1974. Inspired by his stay on the farm, this rocker cooks from start to finish. Paul formally welcomes McCullough into the fold by shouting, “take it Jimmy” before his tasty solo. Rating – 8
“Sally G”. Another heavy C&W sounding song, the b-side to “Junior.” Inspired by a night out at Nashville’s musical joints, Sally is a song about warning of the dangerous love that comes with being involved with the naughty Sally. This song got quite a lot of airplay as well and even made the country & western top 40 charts at the same time “Junior’s Farm” made the pop top 10. A harmless toe-tapper that suffers only from being too formulaic. Rating – 6.5
Paul also got together with some of C&W’s top session musicians and recorded two more songs. Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer, Bob Wills and many of the cream of Nashville’s crop got together, called themselves The Country Hams, and recorded Paul’s dad old song, “Walking In The Park With Eloise.” He did this as favor to his dad, who didn’t think what he had played Paul was actually a song. It’s a jaunty old fashioned style piano shuffle that leaves one smiling. Rating – 7
He also recorded the b-side, “Bridge On The River Suite,” a slow horn based instrumental that doesn’t really go anywhere. Rating – 5
In 1974 Paul also wrote a song and produced it for Peggy Lee called “Let’s Love.” It’s a smokey piano ballad that fits her style well. It was not a success for her, and a demo of it has finally appeared for Paul (on “Venus and Mars” deluxe archive release).
Paul also played on five songs on Adam Faith’s I SURVIVE album, and on James Taylor’s WALKING MAN album. Paul and Linda also walked into a recording studio in L.A. and invited themselves onto the recording of Thornton, Frankin & Unger’s PASS ON THIS SIDE’s “God Bless California. At one time, I wrote to the record company that released it and had a promo copy of this song…..and gave it way on a radio show in college…. Silly me….
Paul also wrote a slow island ballad for Rod Stewart on his 1974’s SMILER album, called “Mine For Me.” Paul sings and plays with Rod on the track. The single didn’t make much of an impact on its release.
Paul also recorded an amazing demo and gave it to John Christie called, “4th of July.” It is an beautiful heartbreaking song I only wish Paul had kept. His demo brings me to tears, and Christie’s single went nowhere on its release.
After finishing up writing his next batch of songs, Paul and Wings headed to New Orleans to start work on the next album.
They started working in November of 1974 by recording, “Letting Go,” “Love In Song” and the Jimmy McCullough/Colin Allen penned “Medicine Jar.”
Very quickly into their recording, the very straight and karate expert drummer Geoff Britton had a major blow up with McCullough, and realizing he didn’t fit into the lifestyle of Wings, he left.
Paul reached out locally and auditioned drummer Joe English, who soon became part of Wings 6 or seven… I don’t know… I give up.
As 1975 approached, work continued on the new album, and recording moved to Los Angeles to finish things up. What emerged from the two recording locations would become the album that brought Paul finally back onto all the world stages.
1975 would see “Venus and Mars” come to the light of day…. Next.