After the disappointing critical review of LONDON TOWN, the pressure really was on regarding his next musical effort. The gigantic contract with Columbia records, the working in another drummer and lead guitarist and the ever changing music scene was surely putting a lot of internal pressure on Paul.
As far as the new band mates, they were both recommended by Denny Laine after he met Juber on the set of The David Essex Show in 1977. Holly was a neighbor of Laine’s and he was quickly hired and appeared as drummer on LONDON TOWN’s music video for “With A Little Luck.” Holly reportedly turned down an offer to join Elton John’s band.
Both musicians were outstanding (especially Juber, a true virtuoso), and neither of them brought any behavioral issues that past choices had arrived with.
Both were young and eager to learn and grow at the hands of Sir Paul. But at a weekly salary that was 1/5th of what Paul, Linda and Denny paid to themselves.
McCartney’s new contract with Columbia made him the highest-paid recording artist in the world. As an incentive for McCartney, Columbia’s parent company, CBS, had added to his publishing portfolio by giving him the highly profitable Frank Music catalogue (making McCartney the copyright holder to Guys and Dolls and other popular musicals by Frank Loesser.
In 2005 The A.P. reported that Paul McCartney had a clause written into his $10.8 million 1979 contract with Columbia Records that would allow him to record with Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr under the “Beatles name. The details of the contract were kept secret until 2005, and while it is not an indication that a reunion was in the works, it shows that at least McCartney wanted a free hand if it ever happened.
But I truly believe that Paul wanted this album, this band to work, to be the most successful Wings incarnation and help restore Paul’s place in the Rock and Roll universe.
The album was done, and the TV special shown. Paul must have been the first artist ever to release a video album (seven of the songs on the album were done) of the music concurrently.
The album was released on May 24th in the U.S and June 8th in the U.K. They also had a BACK TO THE EGG launch party on June 11th, where all things egg were featured.
I had just moved into my first apartment in Las Vegas the day the album was released and I sat in the sweet spot in front of my stereo and opened up the album.
The packaging itself is very very well done. The cover is a still from the opening scene of their television special. The band walked in, removed a rug from the floor, which opens to reveal space….and then pans in to begin the videos.
Notice the number of ways that Wings are shown on the cover.
The lamps above the fireplace are shaped in the Wings “W” logo. The statue used on WINGS GREATEST album is on the center of top of the fireplace. Below it is a bird sculpture with its wings raised.
The band itself is positioned like the “W” in the logo and Paul’s hands form the Wings logo in reverse.
The title, “back to the egg”, meaning back to basics or back to the beginning, or back to touring, which the band was again planning on doing.
The back cover and record jacket are very colorful and informative.
Paul, always trying to maintain being relevant, brings a more modern sound to the band, with hints of new wave and punk, in addition to the styles that McCartney has always gone to.
Paul said his now teenage daughter, Heather, would play her Clash and Damned records and this influenced him to a degree.
“The New Wave thing was happening and … I sort of realized, “Well, so what’s wrong with us doing an uptempo [album]?” … Back to the Egg was influenced just as what I had wanted to do at the time, the direction I felt I hadn’t been in for a while … –Paul
The album label is two sided, sunny side up (side 1) and over easy (side 2).
I place the needle on the opening track…..
SUNNY SIDE UP
“Reception” Back in the day when we listened to music on the radio we would turn a dial to move from one station to another. This track is Paul’s imagining hitting a spot on that dial which picked up four different radio stations at one time. Juber played his guitar through a synthesizer while Paul added a funky baseline. One of the stations we hear is a reading of “The Poodle and The Pug” from the 1946 opera, Big Ben. The band is in the car and fiddling with the radio.
Rating – 8
“Getting Closer” A piano demo from 1974. The first single released, and a top twenty hit on both sides of the Atlantic. A fantastic bit of power pop, with a great lead vocals by Paul and restrained backing vocals, and a beautiful play out till the fade. I was sure this would have been a major hit, but it was a minor one. I’m sure that Paul’s lyric about “Dad will be aware of snipers” must have freaked him out after Lennon’s senseless murder less than two years later. The band approaches (getting closer) the show…. Rating – 9
“We’re Open Tonight” The working title until Egg was chosen. The band announces they are there, and ready for you….. A beautiful and gentle song, a mellow invitation to come inside and enjoy…. I love this short song. Rating – 8.5
“Spin It On” “This is it…” The band goes into their best new wave. Rating – 8
“Again and Again and Again” Denny’s only written contribution and lead vocal. Was originally a two part song that Paul had Denny combine into one. Linda’s organ work give the song its distinctive feel. A nice change of pace that doesn’t slow things down…. Rating – 7
“Old Siam, Sir” Started on in 1976, and a great performance by the band. Lush power chords and Paul belts out a very effective but slightly frayed and buried lead vocal. A single pulled from the album that failed to crack the top twenty. Rating – 7.5
“Arrow Through Me” Classic McCartney melodic techno-pop, driven by that incredible bass line working with keyboards. The vocals are again slightly murky and buried, but they work. Linda’s horns on the keys are sweet, as are the occasional backing vocals. The last single pulled, that suffered the same fate as “Siam.” Rating- 7.5
“Rockestra Theme” A song started in 1974 featuring the incredible Rockestra band. Rating 7.5
“To You” Another very modern sounding track, with Paul using an interesting vocal affect. Juber’s guitar is played through a harmonizer with McCartney altering the settings in the control room as he played. Rating – 7
“After The Ball”/“Million Miles” Two gospel inspired numbers, merged into one fantastic track. “After” is the more traditional with the band driving it to it’s fade into….. “Million,” Paul, alone on the concertina. I don’t think Paul has visited this side of the musical coin ever, or as effectively as this…. Rating – 8
“Winter Rose”/“Love Awake” Another interesting merger of two songs. “Winter” does indeed have a feel of travel on a cold winter day, with a slight oriental feel…. It gives us a taste and then fades into “Love,” a traditional McCartney acoustic love song, backed very nicely by the band and added horn section. The short middle eight is delightful ….The song rises to a climactic ending. Rating 7.5
“The Broadcast” is another instrumental, designed to give the impression of several radio signals interlaced. Over a musical backing of piano, mellotron and gizmotron, it features readings taken from the plays The Sport of Kings by Ian Hay and The Little Man by John Galsworthy. Rating – 7
“So Glad To See You Here” The second of the Rockestra band performed tracks. A big thick heavy sound with a reprise of “We’re Open Tonight” at the outro (with Paul, Denny and Linda alternating singing the tag line.) Doesn’t get too cluttered with all that talent playing at once. Rating – 8
“Baby’s Request” A smokey 1940’s style jazz number that Paul wrote with The Mills Brothers in mind for recording it. One of the few songs Paul’s vocals are clear, crisp and brought out front. Odd song to end the album, but it works. Rating – 8
When released, the album sold very well, giving Wings a number two album in The U.S. and a number four album in the U.K., but it was outwardly critiqued as a bad album by reviewers at the time. Rolling Stone called it …. “the sorriest grab bag of dreck in recent memory.”
In 1979 I was not entirely happy with it, but giving it a new fresh listen 41 years later it is a very good album, that was not understood in its time, and sort of lost in an era of transition in the music world.
I have combined the ratings for the two sets of combines songs so my overall rating for this album comes in at 7.75/10, much higher than I thought it would get and much higher than the critics gave it, and probably what I would have that March of 1979.
Paul is always affected by critic praise and especially poor reviews of product he has put his heart and soul into. I’m sure he was devastated by the reviews.
But he was on a rolling coaster that had left the starting gate and this new version of his band was anticipating that this was just the beginning for them.
Tour dates were scheduled for later that year, beginning with 19 concerts in the U.K. to finish out the year (beginning in late November). Anticipation was then hoped to extend this tour Japan and possibly the U.S. in early 1980……
But behind the scenes Paul must have wanted to this ride to end as it went click click click…up the track.
Even as they partied with friends and the press on the June 11th night, Paul would begin immediately working at home alone on songs that would become his next album. This time, no one was called in to help… It was to end up being a solo album, and a series of events led to BACK TO THE EGG being the final Wings album.
Paul has totally soured on this album, and has NEVER played one song from it in concert since 1989 on….. Maybe THIS album will come out as part of his ARCHIVE set, with all the released and unreleased videos and tracks. And I would bring Paul’s lead vocals more upfront in the mix. Either way, this ARCHIVE release needs to happen…..as it has gotten an undeserved bad rap.
Next….the rest of 1979….. the end of the decade, and Wings….