Monday 14 March 2016

"It's The Searchers" (1964)

You can now buy 'Once Upon A Time - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of The Searchers' in e-book form by clicking here!

"It's The Searchers"

It's In Her Kiss/Glad All Over/Sea Of Heartbreak/Livin' Lovin' Wreck/Where Have You Been?/Shimmy Shimmy/Needles and Pins//This Empty Place/Gonna Send You Back To Georgia?/I Count The Tears/Hi-Heeled Sneakers/Can't Help Forgiving You/Sho' Know A Lot About Love/Don't Throw Your Love Away

It's The Searchers, dear readers, but not as we knew them. For Searchers album number three - released to the world at approximately the same time as 'A Hard Day's Night' and the debuts by bands like The Rolling Stones, The Hollies and The Kinks - finds The Searchers already re-inventing the sound that's made them famous. Gone are the simply silly pop songs - the 'Sweets For My Sweet' and 'Sugar and Spice' for which the band were still best known in 1964 (however unrepresentative those songs were of the band's average setlist). Gone are the harder-edged, slightly manic American cover songs recorded in the sort of time it takes modern bands to warm their recording equipment up. Most controversially too, gone for the most part is bassist Tony Jackson who till now has been the band's leading figure in front of the cameras and lead singer of their biggest hits in mysterious circumstances who now gets a single cover to strut his stuff. The Searchers, the band who summed up the sound of 1963 like no other (an intriguing mix of tough and twee), are at the forefront of trying to work out the signature sound of 1964.

The trouble is The Searchers don't quite know what the sound of 1964 is going to be yet - they're a bit early, to be honest, in kicking out the pure pop that's been their biggest money-spinner for the past twelve months and which will hang around for much of the year. They also miss completely the emergence of a new tougher, more emotionally turbulent and frustrated sound about to arrive across the year as evidenced by the big hits for The Kinks, The Who and The Animals in this period. Worse yet, The Searchers completely miss the way the (four) winds have been blowing across the past few months and stubbornly remain a covers act with no original songs on the record at all, despite the fact that the band's B-sides in the past few months have been littered with unfairly forgotten minor classics. Given that The Beatles are already hard at work on their first all-original LP, this probably wasn't too smart a move. This is, ultimately, one of the costliest moves of The Searcher's career and responsible for seeing them lumped in with the 'also-ran bands' who couldn't get a hit past 1965 - and a strange one too given that even though it was the practice not to include any singles on albums in this era The Searchers were brave enough to break that rule with their A sides and - on other albums - sometimes the flipsides too.

That's the trouble with trying to predict the future though when your band's not in a strong enough position to shape it and the fact makes 'It's The Searchers' both the most forgettable and yet somehow also the most timeless of their five original records. It just doesn't sound like anything else being made in the first half of 1964 with a gentler, more sophisticated take on sillier, simpler sounds and it's a record with almost no consistency at all. This epitome of a 'difficult third album' features a band in a form of transition from a past they're most certain to get away from into a most uncertain future and The Searchers sound like a completely different band on every one of the fourteen tracks. Sometimes the band get lucky and really do luck onto what 1964 and even 1965 will be all about (they get into folk-rock a full year before The Byrds record 'Mr Tambourine Man' complete with Rickenbackers - and typically never get the credit they deserve for it). Sometimes The Searchers get things hopelessly wrong ('Livin' Lovin' Wreck' especially, while the bluesier 'Gonna Send You Back To Georgia' only really makes sense if Georgia has somehow been re-located to The Wirral). Sometimes The Searchers revert back to simply being a great covers band tackling standard songs that have already been around a half decade or more and are somewhat tried and tested (Burt Bacharach and Hal David - weirdly not on the same song for once - Jackie De Shannon a year before writing 'When You Walk In The Room' and a pre-Sonny and Cher Sonny Bono all appear). The Searchers remain, however, in the front row of the pop and rock world for a little bit longer and come as close as any band did to out-selling The Beatles in 1964, whatever people have thought about them since; though nobody ever seems to mention it these days they actually got in with their third album a few months before The Beatles (though admittedly the fab four were off doing a film at the same time as the soundtrack album released in July 1964 - and no site out there ever quite agrees when 'It's The Searchers' was released anyway - 'Spring 1964' is as close to a clue as we've got).

The biggest change though has to be the loss of Tony Jackson. Though he appears as large as the others on the album sleeve and seems to have played on a majority of the album, the rest of the band kept him mute and he gets only one lead vocal on the whole record (usually he gets twelve). The decision to silence the member who till now had been the Searchers' most commercial voice is, as usual, a complex one and the motives for it change depending who you ask. Drummer Chris Curtis - who was the 'real' (if self-appointed) leader of the band backstage in this period choosing most of the material and making most of the on-stage patter - commented later that as the latest member to join the band Tony was always the odd one out and a tough man to spend endless hours with cooped up backstage to boot (Jackson's nickname, one he actually seemed to like, was 'Black Jake' after his 'dark moods'). The deal-breaker seems to have been a US tour in late 1963 - The Searchers' first outside Europe - where American journalists, still unused to democratic groups and dismissive of drummers, seemed to assume that Tony was the 'star', a fact that the others resented and allegedly went to the bassist's head. There's also been a long-standing rumour, which the other Searchers have neither confirmed or denied, that Tony decided to wangle a bit of extra money by 'blackmailing' the band and threatening to reveal Curtis as a homosexual back in the days when this was still a pretty dangerous thing for a star to be (which seems daft if Tony gets dragged down with the Searchers ship, but that's showbusiness for you; legend has it this powerplay actually happened and the others sided with Curtis, calling Tony's bluff and he never actually went through with it). At the same time The Searchers were becoming aware that another 'Sugar and Spice' or 'Love Potion no Nine' wasn't going to cut it with a record buying public now used to 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' and decided to change from their original hard-rocking club sound into something a bit more middle of the road. Tony, despite his image as the 'pop' one, was arguably more rock than the other three and thought it a disaster as - against his wishes - the band decided to change tack with their fourth single, the Mike Pinder-sung 'Needles and Pins', a single on which so much rested. Had it been a failure and proved Tony 'right' he might well have been with the band until his death in 2003, with The Searchers forever rooted in the twin sounds of pure pop and pure rock. Instead the song, which doesn't feature Tony's voice at all and only some very rudimentary bass playing far below his normal standard, was of course the biggest hit the Searchers had ever had (and, it's probably not too much of a spoiler to admit, will ever have) and gave the band a new lease of life, apparently proving the 'Curtis' axis of the band 'right'.

Tony, more at odds with the band than ever, was 'punished' by the band for his disloyalty by keeping him quiet throughout the album sessions with his old 'Iron Door Club' powerhouse 'Sho' Know A Lot About Love' his only lead vocal for a band who only a year before and featured him singing lead on everything. Realising that the band might never let him sing on anything again, Jackson finally quit in July disgusted and angry at the way he'd been treated, releasing his first single 'Bye Baby' (in the harder rock edge he preferred) a few weeks later. For years afterwards Tony did his best not to talk about the events of this unhappy year, at best giving music journalists a scowl or moaning about his ungrateful bandmates (to be fair the others don't sound that easy to get on with either - except perhaps for John); for the most part Chris and Mike seemed to accept they'd made the right decision, with only John trying to heal the biggest band rift in Merseyside since Pete Best had got his marching papers. Tony was probably right to be angry - he had a right to an opinion about the band's direction and had contributed as much if not more as everyone else to the band's successful strike rate. many predicted disaster amongst The Searchers without Tony's instinctive commercial ear and expected the solo star to do better than the band - the fact people were wrong says more about the speed at which the music scene changed back in 1964 (and an ill-advised nose job that hurt his voice- Tony had a real complex about his looks, to the confusion of the many teenage girls who swooned over him) than any reflection on Jackson's own recordings, many of which eclipse his old band's.

Amazingly this tsunami of a line-up change seems to have been largely ignored by both the press and music fans, which seems unthinkable in retrospect for a band who'd just scored such a big hit (and followed it up with 'Don't Throw Your Love Away' which almost did as well). Imagine John Lennon, very much the boss in early 1964, being ousted from The Beatles or The Pacemakers coping without Gerry Marsden. Effectively reduced to a trio plus a bassist trying to do as little as possible, The Searchers have to completely renovate their sound and do it in a hurry in the public eye (the mid-1960s was a difficult time for most bands, with The Searchers contracted to come up with four singles and two albums a year for record label Pye). Mike, who'd only really done harmony vocals before this, is suddenly promoted to lead singer while Chris, only really known for a cameo per album on the first two LPs, is all over the record too, filling in the famous Searchers falsetto with his own very different, richer folkier blend. John, meanwhile, gets his first vocal on a Searchers recording, promoted to the Curtis-style cameos on 'Hi-Heeled Sneakers'. Together with the sudden change in material, from 50s rock to 60s Tin Pan Alley songwriting, it could - perhaps should - have been a disaster.

Instead the band get lucky, both in the choice of many of their songs and the sudden growth in confidence of Mike Pender who rises to the challenge of taking the lion's share of the vocal work. Pender shines like never before, delivering a softer folkier and more vulnerable tone that successfully moves the Searchers sound away from teenage pop to thoughtful early adulthood. The band aren't quite as lucky in their song choices as with 'Needles and Pins', sounding occasionally insincere or hollow as they grapple with outside songs that they've clearly only started rehearsing that morning (in strict contrast to their first two albums which, hit singles aside, they'd been playing together for years). However the 'Needles' soundalikes they choose occasionally get lucky: 'Sea Of Heartbreak' is a lovely Hal David song with a world-weary tone deeply unusual for a band all still in their early twenties, Burt Bacharach's 'This Empty Place' is pretty full-on miserable for a 1964 pop song  and 'Don't Throw Your Love Away' is an overlooked hit single, too tough to be pop even if it's not quite full-on rock. If anything it's the reversions back to Tony's formula that don't quite work: John and Tony both sound uncomfortable on 'Hi Heeled Sneaker' and 'Sho' Know A Lot About Love', two songs that need to get by on personality and swing and instead sound as if the lead singers want to get this awful experience over and done with. Even Chris sounds unusually OTT covering the Carl Perkins standard 'Glad All Over', while the less said about the attempts to return to a hard rock sound on Iron Door standard 'Shimmy Shimmy' (a Liverpudlian favourite - you can hear The Beatles do it on Hamburg bootlegs) and the Ray Charles inspired 'Gonna Send You Back To Georgia' the better.
There's a case to be made that if The Searchers weren't quite outright the best band the 1960s ever produced then they were at least one of the more consistent: their run of classic singles runs way past the point when fans stopped buying them en masse and until things start getting desperate around the time of 'Kinky Kathy Abernathy' in 1969 the band don't put many feet wrong on their career journey.

The trouble with 'It's The Searchers' is that the mistakes they do make almost all appear on this middle record, which falls between the two stools of the cheery innocence of the Tony Jackson years and the sophisticated grown-up cool of the Frank Allen ones. There are probably more weak song choices than good ones across this album and the ones that do sound good almost all sound rushed too (the singles being an obvious exception as more time was always devoted to those). However, for all this album's many weak points, I can't really say I dislike this record either. The ingredients, you see, are generally good ideas: strong sturdy songs that only the band's inexperience and the tension in the room mucks up. Even the songs that The Searchers should never have gone anywhere near sound like the band are trying to over rather than under-reach themselves and as so often happens on this website a band that's trying tends to be worth buying, however trying some of the individual tracks may be. Though the band often sound silly rather than the sophisticated style and grace they think they're bringing to the songs (and the front cover, which mimics the trend for posh signed autographs with full on colour photographs of the band looking 'cool' clearly designed for girls to hang on walls and kiss goodnight), even these mistakes have a certain charm. The Searchers have just been given the chance to sound grown-up for the first time in their careers (they are, after all, a band who had their most childish songs 'Sweets For My Sweet' and 'Sugar and Spice' foisted upon them and have been trying to rebel ever since) and by golly they're going to sound like it, even if ironically enough it's their youth and inexperience that gives them away. It's a shame that, hit singles aside, the songs on this album didn't stay in the band's set lists for longer: it would have been interesting to know what the genuinely adult, knowing, weary Searchers of 1965 might have made of 'Livin' Lovin' Wreck' (here rather thrownaway) or the desperate last-chance-saloon of 'Where Have You Been?' turned here into a gentle singalong. Given the circumstances it's amazing the record isn't worse - or simply full of Sonny Bono 'Needles and Pins' clones, which would have been the obvious and safest thing to do (a one-off such as, say, Bono's hit with Sam Cooke 'Things You Do For Me' would have been fun, though).

Though in a way I suppose it is. You wouldn't notice on first hearing but most of the songs on this album follow a similar formula (and one that The Beatles may well have nicked for their own single riff-filled most Searchersy single 'I Feel Fine' later in the year). Several songs on this album follow the pattern of 'I'm in love - and I feel great!' Needles and Pins, the 'warm embrace' of 'It's In her Kiss', the hot-dang dilly silliness the band feel on 'Glad All Over' and the deeply questionable clichés of 'Livin' Lovin' Wreck' all point to similar ideas. However it's probably fair to say that The Searchers have been looking at the bigger picture instead of the detail: none of the tracks here share the same glorious sense of gloom, powerful ringing guitars and instantly recognisable hooks of the hit single. Love isn't something that hurts either but something that makes the narrator go a bit loopy. It's almost as if The Searchers gave a one-line description of 'Needles and Pins' to a song publisher who'd never actually heard the record and said 'find me another one of these!'

Reception amongst fans to the album, then and now, seems to be heavily mixed. Surprisingly this third album is reckoned by many leading music sites (Allmusic, Virgin's Encyclopaedia of Rock) to be The Searchers' best (which makes you question if they know the poor-selling finale 'Take Me For What I'm Worth', but there you go), but even they make the comment that The Searchers are better heard through one of their many compilations anyway - almost all of which relegate this album to the two hit singles (and very occasionally 'Sea Of heartbreak'; only the 'Hearts In Their Eyes' box set contains more and that's almost as hard to find as the actual album these days I'm afraid). 'It's' is certainly the band's most ambitious and in many ways their most easy-going record, with only McNally's rather gruff take on 'Hi Heeled Sneakers' a song you can't really imagine the band releasing as a single in some parallel universe. The production, too, has really come a long way since the mad rock thrash of the first two albums, which to my ears is a shame (The Searchers always sounded better on the edge than stuck in the middle of the road) but it's a sound that clearly has its own fanbase (saleswise this album slightly peaked above 'Sugar and Spice' without quite re-creating the mania and height of 'Sweets For My Sweet', which suggests that the success of 'Needles and Pins' had something to do with that). However it does seem telling that this album is almost impossible to find today, even compared to the (originally) worse-selling fourth and fifth albums 'Sounds Like' and 'Worth'. The CD re-issue is currently selling for £22 on Amazon ('Sounds Like' is going for a tenner, the first two records around a fiver). 'It's The Searchers' then, for better and worse, with a little bit of everything next to a whole lot of (thankfully sweet) nuthin's.

AAA readers must be getting sick of Rudy Clark's 'It's In Her Kiss' by now, a cheery pop song that used to be respectful when bands like The Searchers and The Hollies covered it but lost a lot of it's once stellar reputation when Cher insisted on renaming it 'The Shoop Shoop Song'. A simple tale of a boy offering advice to a friend 'She Loves You' style, it seems to imply that the only way you can tell if someone is in love with you is from their kiss rather than their 'arms' charms' or 'eyes' - which probably isn't a scientifically accurate survey just to offer you a warning. If this was a 'battle of the bands' The Hollies take (released on second album 'In The Hollies Style' somewhere around six months after this version) would probably win on points: The Hollies are better at getting a forced cheer in their voices that doesn't sound simply stupid and rock the song up a bit, turning it from a featherweight into a sort of medium-weight. The Searchers' version, though, isn't bad either with Pender and Curtis figuring out almost on the spot what to do with their newfound sound and matching harmonies, which sound rather good here on one of the few times they both sing together more or less throughout a song (even if Curtis sounds more like Mickey Mouse at times and is all too clearly covering up for the loss of Jackson). Pender and McNally also come up with a rather inventive guitar riff that helps propel the song along which doesn't feature on either the original (Merry Clayton's flop in 1963), the biggest hit version (Betty Everett at the very start of 1964) or The Hollies' take but sounds like Cher at least knew of this version and was trying something similar in 1990. McNally turns in a quick twirling guitar solo too, which is easily the highpoint of the recording - all five seconds of it. Cheery but rather bland and lacking the sheer power and charisma of the band's first two albums, it's a fair but rather forgettable effort.

'Glad All Over' is a little better, Curtis stepping up to the microphone to offer his best Carl Perkins impression which is snappier and sturdier (it's not, thank goodness, a cover of the wretched 'Glad All Over' the Dave Clark Five had a hit with). Compared to most of the rest of the record, Curtis sounds as if he doesn't care about pleasing the public or getting radio airplay and rattles off the song with a sort of dispassionate cool that somehow makes it stand out much more than the similarly commercial songs here. In what seems to be a running theme of the album, Curtis sings about what it feels like to be kissed and seems to be caught between being thrilled and trying to stay as cool as he can to keep the girl (never has the line 'Hot Dong Dilly it's silly but I'm glad all over' sounded more serious). It's similar in many ways of course to 'Needles and Pins' in describing the effects of love and may have been chosen deliberately to ape the band's recent hit. If so then clearly there's no contest - this is a bit of good time fun given an added bite from the band's committed performance but it lacks the thought and heart put into 'Needles and Pins' not to mention as strong a hook. McNally again turns in a terrific guitar solo though which channels a lot more of the hidden emotion of the song and hinting that Curtis' cool is simply a 'front'. Something of as Liverpool favourite, the track was also performed by The Beatles (you can hear a twenty-year-old George Harrison trying to pull off a similar amount of cool on both BBC  Sessions sets and largely failing, though he does have a certain cute charm instead) who may well have been thinking of including the song on an album themselves before finding The Searchers beat them to it. As with many songs from this period, The Searchers sound much more comfortable singing it live - there's a particularly fine version on the 'Swedish Radio Broadcasts' CD recorded at around this period where Curtis drops his cool altogether and goes for a screaming emotional take that's more in keeping with the chutzpah of the first two albums (McNally also seems to turn into Jimi Hendrix on the solo!) Even so, this is a relative album highlight.

Hal David's 'Sea Of Heartbreak' was always a popular song amongst band and fans and another clear success story of the album. Featuring an early version of the sense of acoustic melancholy that will be heard over the next few singles ('What Have They Done To The Rain?' especially), it's something of a breakthrough as the band go all serious and contemplative without any Rickenbacker riffs or added gimmicks to get them through. Indeed the lead instrument is a piano, something The Searchers have never really done before and since (player unknown, although Needles and Pins co-writer and future Neil Young collaborator Jack Nietzsche seems a good fit for the style - it could also be producer Tony Hatch who could also play piano). Though the central metaphor of the narrator being a ship lost at sea without his true love around could have been over-used, especially with such a slow and languid verse, thankfully there's enough of a kick in the sped-up garbled chorus ('Lost love and loneliness, memories of your caress...') that keeps the boat a-floating. With such an empty backing track (there's a barely hard acoustic guitar in the right channel and some muffled subtle drumming and that's about it) this is an arrangement that really lives and dies based on the charisma of the front man. Luckily Pender is on top form, his confidence no doubt boosted by the success of 'Needles and Pins' and he turns the usual Searchers optimism and cheer on its head for a vocal which sounds impressively depressed, Pender's deep voice sinking lower and lower at the end of each verse (before a sweet middle eight, yearning for better times, lifts his head up instead). Country star Don Gibson (better known as a writer - 'Oh! Lonesome Me' is one of his) had the first hit with it, but this charming song never seemed to do as well with any singer as it deserved to, being something of an undiscovered gem unless you really know your country music or your Searchers.

The Searchers should perhaps have released an album of deeper emotional ballads like 'Heartbreak'. Instead, sadly, they decided to become a lightweight pop band without even the power of a 'Sugar and Spice' (even if the lyrics are rather better). 'Livin' Lovin' Wreck' is a good example of a song that other bands like The Beatles and even The Hollies would have laughed out of the room, an unusually daft novelty song by Otis Blackwell (better known for rock and roll classics 'Don't Be Cruel' and 'Great Balls Of Fire' - even the best writers can have off days you know). Once again it's a variation on 'Needles and Pins-za', but sadly one that copies the by now tired list of cliches about what the narrator's girl makes him feel rather than the guilt, depth or hooks. Pender sounds deeply uncomfortable on a song pitched a little too high for him (did they intend giving it to Jackson but he refused? He still sounds less comfortable than Jerry Lee Lewis on his cover version), while the guitar stabs are so Searchers by numbers they've used the sound at least twenty times before. It's the sheer lightness of the song that palls the most though: this is a Freddie and the Dreamers song, not a track a band with the pedigree of The Searchers should be doing in the wake of 'Needles and Pins' (it speaks volumes that the few people who know this song at all mainly know it from a Shakin' Stevens cover). Suddenly Tony sounds as if he has a point about their choice of material.

Curtis is back on lead for the cover of 'Where You Been?', a cute little song that's sadly rather thrown away by the band on all too obviously rushed recording. It's hard to know where things go wrong this time as all the ingredients are here: Curtis was a great and under-rated singer, all too often relegated to harmonies and his voice is loving and warm. The two guitarists quickly pick up on the charming riff rather hidden away in Arthur Alexander's (Lennon's great hero and writer of 'You Better Move On' and 'Anna Got To Him' among others) hit 1962 cover of this Mann and Weil song and make the most of it. The harmonies are really pretty when they arrive, as only The Searchers can be. The lyrics too make the best fist yet of the tired 'I feel different now I'm in love' vibe of the album, with the narrator wittily asking his lover why they weren't in his life earlier when he was 'feeling blue' (was this song an influence on Neil Diamond's similar 'I'm A Believer?') However the recording still falls slightly flat despite all these things going for the song. The band sound as if they're still in rehearsal mode, fluffing the odd note here and there and who patently don't know this song as back-to-front as their old Iron Door Club standards. The laboured attempt to turn this track into a bossa nova (the sort of thing The Hollies are doing a lot of in this era) are awful and mainly consist of someone overdubbing a too-loud castanet over the whole thing. Worst of all, though, there's no 'movement' here - the sad verse and upbeat cheery chorus should be perfect for The Searchers, a band who are so good at offering both extremes (though usually not in the same song) but they're both treated the same here. The song, which is so full of twists and turns, just sounds boring and slow here after a promising start with the band never quite so in need of a lunch-break and a re-take. The Beatles sang a rather better version during their Hamburg days as captured on the 'Star Club' tapes, although you have to sit through a lot of muffled cries for beer in order to hear it.

One of the more famous Beatles Hamburg tapes has the band, umm, mispronouncing 'Shimmy Shimmy' to the obvious confusion of their German audience. The Searchers' version of this frenetic dance number once again isn't anywhere frenetic enough despite the strong urgent guitar riff by McNally keeping it rattling right along and all far too 'polite'. Musically the band have simply adapted the arrangement and melody they once played for their cover of 'Farmer John' from their first LP, but if you play the two back to back you can tell what's gone wrong. That track was exciting, if messy - this song is perfect, but boring. Bobby Freeman had the first hit with the song in the early 1960s, when it already sounded somewhat anachronistic, with Pender too professional to really let go on a song that basically consists of the line 'shimmy shimmy to and fro' over and over and the narrator getting the 'creeps' as a song comes on the radio and he tries to stop dancing down the street. There's even that memorable and not-very-hip-given-it's-the-1960s verse 'The shimmy's for old folks too, you go backwards and forwards - then you're in the groove!' He'd have probably beaten up for singing those lines in Liverpool in 1964 with this song woefully out of step with the pop market despite a nicely gritty guitar sound that, believe it or not, sounds like the early DNA of heavy metal.

Side one ends with 'Needles and Pins', which somehow makes everything before it sound extra-poor. Given the tension in the studio and the amount of 'firsts' on this song (the new lead singer, the emotion in the lyrics, the unknown and untested pair of writers in Sonny Bono and Jack Nietzsche - Jack, usually a pianist, came up with the guitar lick and Sonny wrote the main melody and lyric to go along with it) the band and manager were no doubt feeling needles and pin-za at the thought of releasing this as a single. You can times that by ten given that, in the context of the pop market of early 1964, this is a step above anything even The Beatles are doing on 45rpm discs: the narrator admits to real emotions, real guilt and thoughtlessness and admits deep remorse. The effect has been rather dimmed by how many songs have tried similar lines since and other bands had done similar on album tracks before now, but releasing a single that made teenagers think and reflect rather than dance or feel happy is a huge step forward for popular music and one that's seriously overlooked (we're a few months away from 'A Hard Day's Night' remember, with 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' the last one outandH). I mean, the opening verse even has Pender 'running away' and praying and trying to hide the fact he's crying - three of the top ten most unlikely things to hear on a pop song in this era. What The Searchers manage to do so cleverly is to still make all of the above catchy and commercial without diluting the real grief inherent in what's surely Sonny Bono's greatest set of lyrics. The band owe a debt, too, to their new favourite writer Jackie De Shannon, who was the first to record the song and hers is pretty special too, with a much longer and emotional 'bridge' though that said it lacks the underlying charge and fizzle of the guitars (and only peaked at a disappointing #84 in the US, mainly so she says because her record company messed up the release dates and it got put out at different weeks in different states). Funnily enough future Searchers bass player Frank Allen also knew the song well, as his band Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rausers sang it often during their trips to Hamburg - which is where The Searchers later claimed to first hear it.

McNally's chiming Rickenbacker gives the song added toughness: this is a narrator not used to crying or feeling miserable, while Curtis' tougher-than-average drumming seems to have the narrator in a headlock, a cascade of drums musically showing him banging his head at the wall over and over. This is Pender's starring moment, though, his first prominent lead vocal and his first of any kind without Jackson right there with him and he comes up trumps with every line believable, audibly moved and broken-hearted but still trying to sound as if he hasn't really been affected. Curtis' harmony vocal, too, adds a sort of warm aural hug without detracting from the sheer loneliness of the lyric and situation. Throw in a catchy chorus that manages to rhyme 'begin-za' with 'pin-za' and somehow get away with it and you have a clear candidate for one of the best singles of 1964 (Pender later said that he's sung 'pinza' by accident and thought he'd better go along with it because the track was cooking and so sang 'begins-a' too). No wonder The Searchers had such a big hit (their breakthrough moment in America, really, swiftly followed by the runaway success of earlier album track 'Love Potion No 9' which caused some difficulties while promoting it given Tony Jackson's prominent role on that song). The only downside of the whole experience is a) a leaky bass drum pedal (the squeak can be heard particularly during the opening few seconds before Pender's vocal - and it seems to be getting clearer each time the band re-master it for CD) and b)that it didn't lead to more songs in a similar style and that The Searchers would never find as perfect a match between band and material again for the rest of the book. Other than that this is perfection and still fills me with needles and pin-za whenever I hear it.

'This Empty Place' begins side two in similarly pensive mood with what was arguably the most accurate guess The Searchers made at fortune-telling the sounds of 1964. A song recalling much of the early Kinks album tracks (the ones filled with nervy Ray Davies piano rather than flamboyant Dave Davies guitar) and The Beatles' later 'A Hard Day's Night' closer 'I'll Be Back', this Burt Bacharach song sounds edgy and distraught, full of the extra melancholy and confusion that will be heard so much across the year. Diane Warwick's version of this Burt Bacharach/Hal David song is probably better known, but The Searchers smash it out the water with a tense and edgy paranoid feel to the recording. The band's Rickebackers have never sounded more snarling and angry, the chopped piano chords add tension to the song by being unleashed at random moments and Chris' unusual deeper and scarier vocal is a triumph, perfectly mirroring the wrench the narrator feels when he walks down the street and remembers that his girl used to walk down it with him (Curtis copes better than most with the difficult art of double-tracking too, so close at times it sounds as if he's stalking himself). Curis peaks the song with a nicely underplayed sigh on the line 'If you don't come back to me I'll die'. Only a slightly clumsy bar-room piano solo and a lack of band harmonies let down an arrangement that sounds as if more time was spent on it than any of the others from this album. The result is a strong little number and one that's arguably the best track on the album that many people probably won't know (at least as sung by The Searchers).

'Gonna Send You Back To Georgia', the hardest hitting rocker on the album, has it's moments too. Curtis sings in his old 'wild manic' method that anyone who saw the band lie or heard 'Ain't That Just Like Me?' will know well, sounding almost unrecognisable from the soft scary crooning of the last song. Though not a patch on some past Searchers rockers (the band just aren't as light-footed as they once were and too nervous of each other in the new group dynamic to really let loose) it's still a good version that holds its own against the more famous Animals cover (sensibly re-made into the Geordie quoting 'Send You Back To Walker'; there's something rather odd about hearing such an 'American' song in a scouse accent, especially the line 'I brought you from the South'!) The song was initially the only hit for songwriter Timothy West, who'd only just released the song in January 1964 so The Searchers are very hot on this song, moulding it to their own strengths (barring perhaps a slightly histrionic guitar solo). To be fair, though, The Searchers have good enough been playing this song for years anyway under a variety of different names as it follows the same 12 bar blues chord sequence so many songs do, including the band's near enough identical cover of Ray Charles' 'What'd I Say?', a live highlight they sadly never record in the studio. Though the band as a whole sound tentative, Curtis is again on great form and shines on a vocal that's pitched just right between nagging anger and I-don't-really-mean-it good humour, especially an extended ending where Curtis gets carried away quite brilliantly ('So swinging hard!...So groovy hard!') Another half-winner for the album.

'I Count The Tears' was also around a lot in 1964 thanks to a version by The Drifters in 1962 (it's the flipside to 'Save The Last Dance For Me'), who'd also once had a hit with the same songwriting team of Pomus and Schuman's 'Sweets For My Sweet'. It's arguably a prettier and certainly a far more grown-up song than The Searchers' big hit was, but somehow the band aren't quite right for it without a chance to add the jangly power they gave to that song or impress with the harmonies. Pender is again on lead and sounds a little lost to be honest, while his and the band's cheery nature don't seem to match the song's actually quite bitter lyrics about the narrator being kept awake all night feeling sorry for himself after a row. The 'na na na na na late at night' hook is also one of the band's weirdest and seems to crop up randomly within the song - mid-line sometimes - with Curtis' backing vocal often sounding as if it belongs to a different recording entirely. Though not as bad as some tracks on this album, there's no real love or care going on here and The Searchers sound like they're trying to make the most out of a selection they have suddenly realised probably wasn't a good idea for them.

'Hi Heeled Sneakers' is something of a divisive song amongst the Searchers community, depending on whether you feel that nervy first-time vocalist John McNally is mangling a Carl Perkins rock classic or inventing punk twelve years early (and why not? The Searchers had a hand in developing pretty much everything else and their lo-fi aggressive style was particularly admired by the new wave acts that followed punk). Certainly John's not going to win any awards for 'vocalist in hiding of the year' the way that Pender did on 'Needles and Pins' and Curtis deserves on some of his better B-sides and the double-tracking is so far out at times it makes him sound unbelievably drunk, caught between a leer and a sneer and a sneeze. As you'd expect, though, John's choice of song for the album is really meant to be a guitar workout anyway and he comes close to matching Carl Perkins on the original with his complex, twisting guitar plucking (as a bit of trivia the song was once offered to Johnny Cash, who was working with Carl's brother Luther, before the singer told Carl it was too good to give away!)The rest of the band slightly let their guitarist down though: Mike's acoustic struggles to keep up, Chris strains at the leash to be given a chance to let fly (with some hi-hat cymbal 'sneezes' the best he can manage with such a heavy beat), while Tony is simply going through the motions and seems to be mixed even lower than usual on this record. The result is probably the strangest rendering of a rock and roll classic The Searchers ever came up with, not unlikeable and certainly not unlistenable but not altogether up to standard either.

After Hi-Heeled Sneakers is finally shoed away in comes 'Can't Help Forgiving You', the real debut of Jackie De Shannon as a writer after a few covers of songs she sang. Her association with the band goes back to that American tour when The Searchers met her and became good friends. It sort of sounds like De Shannon's later Searchers cover 'When You Walk In The Room' slowed down, with a melody that is perhaps a little too close to fellow album track 'Where You Been?' for comfort. Mike Pender for one though sounds right at home on this sweet little tale of getting frustrated at something his girl's done - right up to the point when she, err, walks back in the room. The band try out something a little different on this one, with a nice guitar part, more flamenco than The Searchers' usual twelve-string, while Curtis' drums veer from being unusually heavy on the cymbals to Ringo style 'backward fills' (the 'whallop whallop!' bits) that lead from each section of the song into another. As with so many songs on this album, it's unlike anything else being made in the first half of 1964 (exotic yet gentle) and as such gets rather lost in the crowd. It's a sweet song though that had the band spent a little more time on could well have been another hit single.

'Sho' Know A Lot About Love' would have been a guaranteed money spinner in 1963, but The Searchers were probably right to drop this style come 1964. This is the only vocal by Tony across the album and was a for a time his 'signature song', one of his most requested moments from down the Iron Door (you can hear the band play a rough early 1963 version on 'The Iron Door Club Sessions' CD in fact). You can't help but feel that the others are giving him this song to shut him up, though, and the difference between the two versions is palpable: where once The Searchers were a real 'band', driven by Curtis' singing but led front from the front by Jackson, this is now a band at war and all but sabotaging each other. Pender tries to drown Jackson out vocally and Curtis with his drum-kit (and some military rat-tat-tats not on the 1963 model), which only causes Tony to sing ever louder and off-key. What should be a really fun track (it's 'What A Wonderful World' - no not the Louis Armstrong but the Sam Cooke song as covered by Otis Redding and Simon and Garfunkel among others - with the same classroom humour as the narrator gives a long list of things he's not into before bragging that he's an expert in the ways of love) comes over as a lot of bragging and nagging quite frankly, with perhaps the worst set of vocals in Searchers history (everyone, not just Tony) and a backing track that falls heavily flat (with only McNally's sturdy 12-string keeping the song upright). Tony's last moment with a band he'd scored such success with seems designed to make him sound as unappealing to fans as possible - were the others already fearing the damage his solo career might cause? One of the band's worst moments, certainly during their time with Pye.

Luckily 'It's The Searchers' ends on a high with one of the band's most undeservingly overlooked singles 'Don't Throw Your Love Away'. Billy Jackson (no relation!)'s composition uses all the usual Searchers trademarks of guitar, harmony and hooks a plenty but more subtly than any of their other songs till now, so that this is a song that you ease slowly into rather than grabbing you by the ear. Given a second successive lead vocal on a single, Pender is growing in confidence by the day and turns in a smart double-tracked vocal that's as cute as the song, leaving the aggression to come from Curtis' bouncy drums and McNally's relentless guitar. Lyrically it's a fine song too, a variant on 'She Loves You' with the narrator offering advice not to fall in love with the wrong person because they might regret it in the future. Though nothing is said, there's just enough depth and melancholy in the song to suggest that this is advice given through personal experience, with Pender just sad and big brotherly enough to sound as if he 's speaking from experience. Curtis' sweet and golden harmonies though take the song in a quite different place and hint instead at the narrator being secretly in love with the person he's speaking to, cursing them for ending up with idiots who treat them badly when he's so full of love and tenderness he isn't courageous enough to admit. Fittingly the melody seems based around an unusual rhythm that dances around the song sideways like a crab, accentuated by McNally's guitar which darts this way and that as if playfully escaping just out of arms' reach (until the big finale of the song, which sounds like the narrator finally catching up with his intended and putting the chase to a premature end mid-note). The Searchers put in one of their better performances of the year, nailing the song's ambiguity while adding enough depth to make the musical audience at home (somewhat spoilt for choice over new singles in early 1964) prick their ears up too. A second straight UK number one (and a second straight top twenty hit in the US), this was a pretty darn good choice for a follow-up and the last in an unbroken run of four straight classics that had The Searchers riding toe to toe with The Beatles for the last time before the rather more forgettable 'Someday We're Gonna Love Again' arrives to spoil the party. Much under-rated.

Overall, though, 'It's The Searchers' isn't quite so well crafted or under-rated. The band's most difficult album to record (the atmosphere being so much better from the moment Frank Allen walks in the studio room), this record too often sounds like it was a tug of war between band members, aware that they had to change to doing something else though not quite sure what that something ought to be. Like many LPs made by a band going through a transition in line-up The Searchers nail some of the new ideas perfectly, clearly most successfully on the two spin-off singles but equally on some of the better album tracks like 'Sea Of Heartbreak' and 'This Empty Place'. Occasionally they get lucky with something that seems like an obvious mistake, revving up novelty song 'Glad All Over' into a harder-edged rocker or returning to their recent break-neck-speed past on 'Gonna Send You Back To Georgia'. However there are other times when the band seems to be running on empty, recording unsuitable songs and then wondering why what they've always done in the past suddenly isn't working. In terms of good to bad songs ratio 'It's The Searchers' is surely the worst of the original five Pye Searchers albums in the 1960s - it's certainly by far and away their most uneven. Considering that The Searchers are suddenly almost recognisable compared to what they were doing even six months before on the 'Sugar and Spice' LP though (a far happier and easier listen, but one that doesn't try quite so many brave things), 'It's The Searchers' really isn't that low a place to end up with though, thanks to Pender, Curtis and McNally all stepping up a gear and a clearly frustrated Jackson staying just professional enough not to rock the boat too much. We can only wonder how a third album with Jackson might have sounded like and whether it would have sold as well (you doubt he could have sang 'Needles and Pins' in quite the same way or that the band would have attempted it, though they might have found something else just as good); commercially this album is both a peak and the start of a surprisingly swift decline for a band who'd never scored a UK single hit that wasn't in the top two. Sadly the times they are a changin' and The Searchers won't be able to keep pace with the 1960s pack quite as well from now on (if only Curtis had included some of his fine B-sides on the album and kicked out the weaker songs, mind, it could have been a whole different story). Ultimately, though, 'It's The Searchers' is a curio with the band saying goodbye to one lead singer while breaking in another, with a new member already waiting in the wings. It may be The Searchers, but it's nothing like The Searchers that have been - or are yet to come. 

Don't go searching for other Searchers articles on this site - they're all right here:

‘Sounds Like Searchers’ (1964)

'Take Me For What I'm Worth' (1965)

'Play The System' (B sides and rarities) (1988)

Paul McCartney and Bands: Live/Solo/Compilation/Classical Albums Part One: 1967-1987

You can now buy our e-book 'Smile Away - The Alan's Album Archives Guide To The Music Of Paul McCartney' by clicking here!

"The Family Way (Original Soundtrack)"

(Decca/London, January 6th 1967)

The Family Way I (aka 'Love In The Open Air')//The Family II

"When I find myself in times of trouble Mother Mary comes to me..."

Paul's first solo work always gets forgotten, even though it was the only extra-curricular music he ever made as a Beatle. The story goes that The Boutling Brothers  heard 'Yesterday' and 'Eleanor Rigby' with their classical-style scores and though that the Lennon/McCartney partnership would be perfect for their new film. Though the production company were keen to make the film in the grand tradition of cinema, with a sweeping classical score, it was also a very modern film for its time dealing with the social issues of the day (teenage marriage and the couple's gradual drift apart) and starring an actress in Hayley Mills who was actually younger than The Beatles. While the film is ambiguous where its set (though it was filmed in Rochdale, Manchester) it's very much a 'Northern' film - another reason why The Beatles, sudden amabssadors for the North of England, got the chance. The brothers contacted George Martin first, who was already keen to take the Beatles sound in a classical direction and readily agreed if The Beatles did too. However Lennon hated the idea of prancing about with a lot of movie stars making a 'straight' film (he'd just signed up to do Dick Lester's subversive comedy 'How I Won The War', much closer to his own style of work). You can make an interesting case, in fact, that it was after the end of the touring years - when John and Paul didn't see as much of each other - that their partnership/rivalry began to slide and that these two very different and yet very John and Paul like projects are the start of their respective different journies. Paul was more enthusiastic, but only slightly - he delayed writing as long as he could, enjoying The Beatles' rare holiday after their last tour in mid-1966, and it wasn't until George Martin - tired of being badgered on the pjone - actually came to his house and forced him to write something that the muse struck him.

Funnily enough, though the first piece ever to be credited to either Lennon or McCartney alone, it was a collaboration of sorts with Paul la-laing into a tape reel the first thing that came into his head while John - a guest for the day - offered suggestions. In truth most of the donkeywork was done by george Martin who arranged his colleague's two haunting themes into twelve variations - enough for a film score and a full album (well, a short 'full' album - at only twenty-four minutes its the shortest Beatles-related release after 'A Hard Day's Night'). Though a more timid production than the classical works to come, it's interesting how 'right' Paul's melodies already sound with the style and despite Martin's heavy input how much this score still sounds like 'him'. 'Love In The Open Air' is the prettier of the two pieces, with a typicaly aching and yearning McCartney melody that's at one with his expressive pieces of longing of the period like 'Eleanor Rigby' and 'For No One' (though melody-wise its more like 'Here There and Everywhere') with the 'flute' version especially powerful. The piece that actually became known as 'The Family Way' is slightly less essential, although it works well when arranged for the sort of coliery brass band that Paul will fall in love with when working for Apple (when the Black Dyke Mills Band use a McCartney arrangement of 'Yellow Submarine' and an old teenage leftover 'Thingumybob'). George Martin's ever curious ears then re-arrange these two themes in all sorts of styles, from spoof baroque to full on orchestra, although not for the first or last time in McCartney's work the pieces sound better the smaller and humbler and more 'real' they are. The score works well with the film, which is what it was intended for, pointing at the bleakness of a life of 'shame' as Hayley becomes an unqwed single mother but with that typical McCartney sense that things might yet change just around the corner. It works less well as a record, especially given the pieces' brevity - however it's still a worthy purchase for Beatlemaniacs and though released on CD briefly in the 1990s is one of the rarer Beatle-related CDs around nowadays. 

"Rupert The Bear (Soundtrack)"

(Unreleased, 1972/1979)

1972 Version: Little Lamb-Dragonfly/The Great Cock and Seagull Race/Sunshine Sometime
1979 Version: Rupert The Bear (Theme)/Tippi Tippi Toes/Flying Horses/The Wind Is Blowing/The Castle Of The King Of The Birds/Sunshine Sometime/Sea-Storm-Cornish Wafer/Nutwood Scene/Walking In The Meadow/Sea Melody/Rupert The Bear (Closing Theme)

"You say it's too late for love to let the world go round - but it can be done!"

 Paul had always been a bit of  a Rupert The Bear fan - a rather battered copy of a Rupert book with his ten-year-old self's scrawly writing can be seen at the start of the 'final' third go at making a Rupert The Bear cartoon in 1985. However Macca only really 'got' the full impact of the Nutwood native when reading the stories out to his children, buying up the rights as one of his first 'acquisitions' with his Beatles severence pay. As ever with Paul's loves, he wanted to spread the word to his fans and tried to make a ful-length animated feature about the bear twice across the 1970s, before reducing it to a more manageable eight minute short in the 1980s. When Paul announced he was working on a first draft soon after releasing 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' as a single in 1972 and announced the project as Wings' next big release after 'Wildlife' some fans began to wonder seriously if he'd lost the plot. However the 'fit' was actually a better one than most McCartney projects: Rupert shares the same Beatle hallmarks of curiosity and tolerance and facing up to evil dangers with a similar mix of politeness and slight naughtiness and some of his adventures are very, erm, psychedelic and outrageous enough to make you wonder whether some of the illustrators had followed The Beatles on their path to drugs.

However like many of McCartney's good ideas, turning it into an actual product was a struggle. The first bash at writing it in 1972 with the 'Red Rose Speedway' line-up was intended as a feature-length animation with a storyline written by McCartney that seems to have involved a summer expedition to a new land inhabited by birds. Three songs at least were written for the project, two of which found their way onto the 'Ram' deluxe edition and one of which was re-recorded as 'Little Lamb-Dragonfly' for the 'Red Rose Speedway' album in 1973. Though that song is an out and out classic, it seems to have been greatly re-written to exclude the plot - sadly the other two songs aren't in quite the same league and are both 'instrumental' (whether they were always intended as instrumentals or are simply unfinished backing tracks is up for debate). 'The Great Cock and Seagull Race' is a curious instrumental jam that's based around a jam riff and is most noticeable for what is thought to be Henry McCullough's first contributions as a member of Wings - some howling bluesy guitar fills (goodness knows what he, a hardened rock and roll veteran, made of being hired to play children's songs). 'Sunshine Sometime' is more interesting though, a lovely mellow folk-rock song that would have made for particularly lovely background music. You can just about hear Paul singing...something in the background around the 2:30 minute mark suggesting words were written for this piece (it's not a million miles away from what will become the 'Rupert The Bear' theme song), although it's so faint he could be going 'la la la' for all we know. Sadly the needs of establishing Wings came first, the project was put on the back burner and Paul took far longer than he ever expected to return to the album.

By early 1979, in between the sessions for 'London Town' and 'Back To The Egg', he tried again - with the third and final Wings line-up playing on a series of songs that are short but otherwise sound almost ready for release. Paul revived 'Sunshine Sometime' - again as an instrumental - and wrote a further eight new pieces split roughly half and half between 'instrumentals' and 'songs' along with a couple of 'reprises'. As far as Paul was concerned this was once again the soundtrack to a full-length animated film he was busy writing and although we don't know for certain the plot it seems likely from the tracks that it was once again about a journey to see 'The King Of The Birds'. The songs have a much fuller and noticably more Wings-ier feel, with their trademark shaky mellotron and blissed out harmonies with Denny Laine spending one of his last few days as a member of Wings singing the name 'Rupert' over and over. This second version of the project came much closer to fruition though, dropped only after the animated film proved more time-consuming and costly than Paul ever expected - and abandoned fully after Wings' official split was announced in 1982.

To take them in the (probable) intended order 'Rupert The Bear' (not the horrendous 1990s version theme tune, made as a series after Paul finally cut his losses and sold the rights) is a pretty laidback back song with hints of 'Sunshine Sometime' as Paul explains the plot: the Earth has stopped turning and Rupert wants to put it right. When told that 'love' makes the world go round he sets out to find out where he can find 'love' - though we don't hear the twist I'd imagine its one of those 'love was at home all the time' moral stories. The tune is interestingly very close to the one for 'Thomas The Tank Engine' in the 1980s, the one which used the voice of Ringo Starr! Wings announce they're 'singing a song of love' and the music sounds like it too, with a much 'warmer' sound than anything on 'Back To The Egg'. 'Tippi Toes' is a short instrumental that sounds very much like background music, though its charming enough with a 'Lunchbox/Odd Sox' style piano riff answered by Laurence Juber's guitar. Reading out the plot Macca announces in a very Liverpoudlian accent that Paul is exploring in the woods when he see a stallion with a herd of flying horses who are on a mission for the king of the horses 'and orf they gallop'. 'Flying Horses' is a slightly more dangerous instrumental overlaid with the sound of marching, whinnying horses as an insistent riff is played first on the guitars and then on a 'Band On The Run' style mellotron. It's a rather good set of chord changes that would have made a fine song in different circumstances.

After leaping off a cliff and climbing there's a gentle breeze, as summed up by another pretty near-instrumental 'The Wind Is Blowing'. Paul sings in the back distance over a very beautiful chord structure that sounds like a happier version of 'Don't Let It bring You own' crossed with 'Love In Song'. The harmonics are more ethereal and other-wordly than normal  and are really lovely in places. Next Paul informs us that Rupert has now seen 'The Castle Of The King Of The Birds', announced via a rather grand and stately piano instrumental that sounds like a more sombre version of the last track, with a trumpeted burst of wordless Wings harmonies at key moments in the song. The King says that the north wind is out of control and is about to freeze the whole world. Rupert sets off for help with he help of a bird but the winds grow colder and they have to fly down to a desert island for safety. The revived version of 'Sunshine Sometime' then plays, with a brief vocal burst added (literally the word 'sunshyine sometime'). Paul is reunited with his old friend Sailor Sam - a regular character in the books and a rare human character who was clearly a McCartney favourite, referenced in the lyrics to both 'Helen Wheels' and 'Band On The Run' - and set out to sea.

Next comes perhaps the most lasting of all the 'Rupert' songs, a medley containing a moody bluesy piece titled 'Sea' ('Fly on the ocean and land with a slap on the shore'), an interjection from a helpful local pixie 'Cornish Wafer' ('I am the Cornish pastie, I have a cornish say, I eat the cornish wafer and I'm coming home to stay!') and a quite scary instrumental version of 'Sea' titled 'Storm', which is like the madder bits of 'Morse Moose and the Grey Goose' with an added sea shanty roll and some great feedback-drenched guitar. The piece leaps about between the three sections for some five minutes, leaving you quite seasick by the end, but the medley makes far more sense than the one that ended 'Red Rose Speedway' and sports a great and epic, typically McCartney melody. The crew wash up on the shore,. which just happens to be in Nutwood. Cue a happy instrumental 'Nutwood Scene' which is mere filler, with an oom-pah-pah backing I can just see Bill Badger and Algy Pug dancing to. Next up, Dr Lion helps Rupert recover and eventually he begins to feel more like himself, going out for an enjoyable walk in the 'meadow'. Hence 'Walking In The Meadow', a slow and solemn piano-and-guitar ballad that's pretty but also pretty forgettanble, even when Paul starts la-laing along. Paul decides to go back on his adventure, getting the help of a local professor who also appears in many books and a wise old hermit goat, who doesn't. Jack Frost is out to stop Rupert and his friends and force their boat to freeze in the ice - cue a song often listed as 'Storm Reprise', but which sounds more like the old war song 'Smile thpough your heart is breaking' in instrumental form. Somehow - Paul never quite explains how - 'the balance of the winds is restored' and all the charaters are invited homne for tea, I hope somebody has informed Mrs Bear first or there'll be trouble! So ends a charming album that sadly has never been re-released in any form but is surely a shoe-in for the 'Back To The Egg' deluce re-issue if Paul ever gets that far. We'll return to the stpory of Rupert with a shorter story that did get made in the mid-1980s section of this book!

Denny Laine "Aah...Laine!"

(Wizard, November 16th 1973)

Big Ben/Destiny Unknown/Baby Caroline/Don't Try, You'll Be Refused/Talk To The Head/Sons Of Elton Haven Brown/Find A Way Somewhere/Havin' Heaven/On That Morn/The Blues/Everybody/Move Me To Another Place

"You're just a child from way before your time"

Though not released until shortly before 'Band On The Run' and with a cover featuring a period Denny sporting a 'Wings' T-shirt, Denny's first solo album actually has no link to the band at all. The album was recorded in 1971, to fill the hole where Denny's all-star band 'Balls' should have been, a Birmingham band also featuring various members of The Move and - briefly - Noel Redding from The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Intended as a Midlands version of supergroup 'Traffic', geography is not always the best reason to create a band and the musicians quickly bickered, with little in common other than their accents. As the band's de facto leader, it fell to Denny to fill the hole when record label Wizard asked for a record. An unenthsuiastic Denny acquiesced, but without the band neither singer nor record company took much interest in the record, which was dulty shelved. In truth it's pretty awful, a series of over-simple performances of over-simple songs with only a handful of tracks like highlight 'Baby Caroline' shining through. Denny is clearly a better talent than this, but then he is keeping all his best songs for whast he hopes will be his 'proper' debut album soon after - a record interrupted when he got the call to join 'Wings'. Though sharing a similar acousticness and folk to Denny's later songs fro the band (particularly the folkier songs on 'London Town') there isn't really much here Wings fans will recognise and its an album that sounds curiously mid-60s considering the era it was first recorded. Though the title reads 'Aah' - which is how many fans feel when they think of Denny's contributions - in this case the response is more like 'aaagh'. Denny was reportedly less than happy when the label finally released this album on the back of Wings in Europe - and shocked when Wizard leased the album out to no less a label than Warner Brothers in the U.S. This is, sadly, all good practice for the yet-more messing around by record companies that will go on in the CD era, though oddly the re-issue of this album backed with 'Holly Days' from 1977 is one of the better Laine products, well packaged and nicely handled. Thankfully better is to come.

Henry McCullough "Mind Your Own Business"

(Dark Horse Records, '1975')

You'd Better Run/Sing Me A Song/I Can Drive A Car/Baby What You Do To Me/Country Irish Rose//Lord Knows/Down The Mine/Oil In My Lamp/Mind Your Own Business/I'm In Heaven

"If you mind your own business then you won#' be minding mine!"

Henry had already made quite a name for himself before joining Wings after years with Joe Cocker's Grease Band and found no trouble finding new work at first, signing up to The Frankie Miller Band. However Henry was getting tired of being told what to do with his guitar solos and longed to make his own musical statement and do things his way. The only problem was finding a record label that would be interested in such an untested guitarist who, with all the love in the world, didn't have the voice of some of the singers he'd been working with. An unlikely saviour was George Harrison, another Beatle who loosely knew Henry and liked his style and sympathised with the problems of working with McCartneys for a living! Interested in new artists for the 'Dark Horse' label George was in the middle of setting up with Warner Brothers, record company politics meant that this record actually came out on the label before any of George's own (after Splinter, Henry was only the second label artist). The surly album title rather gives away what mood this record was made in! The resulting album is sweet and weird in equal measure. It goes without saying that the guitar playing is first class, although it's close to the moodier bluesier style Henry was playing with Joe Cocker than with Wings. Compositionally it's a mixed bag, with some lovely melodies in there somewhere but lost under a heap of one-too-many generic blues songs (those of you who read our AAA book on Jefferson Airplane and dared to try one of Papa John Creach's albums will know what to expect as this album is just like one of those!) and some ugly stabs at white reggae. The best of the songs though - such as a the pretty nifty pop song 'I Can Drive A Car' (which sounds not unlike a Denny Laine composition)  and a fun and funky run through traditional gospel song 'Oil In My Lamp' - are well worth hearing, played with a sort of slapdash intensity that's really appealing. It's Henry's voice that's hardest to take, though if you view this album in the long line of AAA singers trying to recreate the blues 'feel' (where what you sound like matters less than how you say it) thene even this has it's moments. 

"Wings Over America"

(EMI, December 1976)

Venus and Mars-Rock Show-Jet!/Let Me Roll It/Spirits Of Ancient Egypt/Medicine Jar/Maybe I'm Amazed/Call Me Back Again/Lady Madonna/The Long and Winding Road/Live and Let Die/Picasso's Last Words/Richard Cory/Bluebird/I've Just Seen A face/Blackbird/Yesterday/You Gave Me The Answer/Magneto and Titanium Man/Go Now/My Love/Listen To What The Man Said/Let 'Em In/Time To Hide/Silly Love Songs/Beware My Love/Letting Go/Band On The Run/Hi Hi Hi/Soilly

"The lights go down, they're back in town again, behind the stacks he glimpse an axe, the tension mounts, you'll score an ounce or less, temperatures rise as he sees the whites of their eyes!"

Though many rock and rollers sneered at the time - triple albums were passe, live ones triply so and Wings were very open about the months of overdubbing sessions that went on later - 'Wings Over America' has matured nicely over the years, offering a welcome souveneir of what might well be Wings' peak line-up in their peak period and an excellent and varied track selection that offers just the right amount of crowd-pleasers and obscurities. For people of a certain age, this album was special because it marked the first Beatle-related live album ever (the archival 'Hollywood Bowl' came along about six years alter) and even for collectors who had all bootlegs it marked the only time you could actually hear what was going on. The thrill of hearing the right singer sing 'Yesterday' 'The Long and Winding Road' 'Blackbird' and 'Yesterday' after so many years of hearing second-hand second-gear covers was a joy to behold and unlike many of the later McCartney live albums he still sings these songs with reverence and care. For listeners of a different age, though, the Beatles tracks are a supporting act to the chance of hearing one of the best-selling bands of the 1970s at full throttle. Jimmy McCulloch, Joe Emglish and Denny Laine all sounds more 'alive' saomehow on tour than they did on record and captured near the end of a lengthy tour Wings sound marvellously tight (I don't care if this wasintact on the tapes or through overdubs either - this album at least sounds as if it was all raw and taped in one go, with the rough edges left in, which is the bit that really matters, with the atmpshere and essence of the original intact). This is the first album I play my Wings-snobbish casual -Beatles friends for a reason: the band really nail the rock and roll groove throughout and songs like'Rock Show' 'Jet!' 'Let Me Roll It' 'Time To Hide' 'Letting Go' and the thrilling encore 'Soilly' (a song exclusive to this set, though it actually dates back to 'Red Rose Speedway' period) are all so much better than the records and are played with real guts and drive. Even the band ‘guest spots’ are well handled, with Jimmy’s ‘Medicine Jar’ and especially Denny’s superb ‘Time To Hide’ fitting in far better than the pair’s songs do on Wings solo albums.
 'America' isn't perfect - few triple albums ever are - and you do have to wonder who this record was actually made for: the acoustic set sounds as if it belongs in a different show altogether (while the Paul Simon cover 'Richard Cory', sung by Denny in a medley with 'Picasso's Last Words' is one of those real 'what the?' moments Wings always seemed to have at least once per album) while the fans who thrilled to the rock and roll throughpout most of this album most likely hated the 1920s jazz style 'You Gave Me The Answer'  or the cod-soul 'Call Me Back Again'.There's also sadly little from 'Wildlife' and 'red Rose Speedway' (bar 'My Love'): two Wings album that were in desperate need of rehabilitation in a rockier setting like this one (can you imagine Wings Mark II doing 'Mumbo' 'Wildlife' 'Big Barn Bed' or 'Get On The Right Thing? It would have been fab!) However there's an excellent mixture of songs from the last three albums 'Band On The Run' 'Venus and Mars' and 'Speed Of Sound' and pretty much all the songs you'd want to hear from that era are here. The opening one-two-three punch of 'Venus and Mars' 'Rockshow' and 'Jet!' (all performed across ten minutes without a break) is particularly strong, while the gripping finale of 'Band On The Run' followed by the go-home high-adrenaline encores 'Hi Hi Hi' and 'Soilly' , is pretty magical too. Yes the album drags in the middle, but even with the lesser songs removed there's still a very good 90 minute show here featuring McCartney as his live best. Though 'Back In The World/America' comes close, this remains the most palatable, varied and successful of the many McCartney live albums, with a cracking band on peak form. What a tragedy this line-up of the band were over even by the time the record made it into the shops (delaying the tie-in concert film, eventually released as 'Rock Show' in 1979 and again by far McCartney's best live DVD although 'Back In The US' cuts it close).

Percy 'Thrills' Thrillington "Thrillington"
(Regal/Capitol, Recorded 1971, Released April 29th 1977)
Too Many People/3 Legs/Ram On/Dear Boy/Uncle Albert-Admiral Halsey/Smile Away//Heart Of The Country/Monkberry Moon Delight/Eat At Home/Long Haired Lady/The Back Seat Of My Car
"So I sat in the attic, a tuba up my nose, while the wind played a dreadful cantata..."
Of all the bonkers releases in the McCartney canon, this is one of the most bonkerest. Remember 'Ram', the hardest-edged, most aggressive album of McCartney originals from back in 1971? Were you crying out to hear the album remade as a bunch of James Last-style big band instrumentals with those regulars of cosy family viewing The Mike Sammes Singers (last heard on 'I Am The Walrus') doing thew wordless vocals? Me neither. Though 'Ram' is a classic of the McCartrney songbook, it's not the album that cries out for this reinvention given that it was already slightly over-lush anyway (the over-raw 'Wildlife', in comparison, might have been fun to hear like this - songs like 'I Am Your Singer' and 'Tomorrow' are heading towards this vein of songwriting anyway). Clearly Paul had a fascination with this era - this is what his dad and The Jim Mac Jazz Band might have sounded like on his own songs and there are several other examples of this sort of thing in the Macca canon from 'Honey Pie' through to 'You Gave Me The Answer'. It's the choice of album that's wrong, not necessarily the idea, with ';Thrillington' recorded back to back with 'Ram' in collaboration with arranger Richard Hewson while Paul sat on it for six years, wondering what to do with it (the album seemed more lost than ever released slap bang in the year of punk!)
The result is a real curio, originally arguably the poorest-selling and hardest-to-find album in the McCartney catalogue now given a new release of life as one of the extras on the 'Ram' deluxe edition set. The differences are, of course, huge given that this a whole new range of instruments playing in a whole new style though few changes are for the better: 'Too Many People' goes from hard-edged rock to a moody bossa nova with brass instrumental that loses the punch of the original, '3 Legs' becomes a moody blues set to 'The Stripper' music that's nothing without the winking lyrics, 'Dear Boy' becomes a safe and drama-less 'bah bahhed' chorus piece (Macca should have used The King's Singers, who are a vocal troupe much better at adding a slightly rock and roll 'danger' edge to stuff like this) and most unforgivably the wonderfully complex 'Back Seat Of My car' is turned into lounge jazz. However there are a few highlights: the new version of 'Ram On' shows up just what a lovely tune the overlooked original has and 'Smile Away' somehow retains its slightly dangerous rock and roll edge thanks to some parping animalistic horns and the same nagging riff heard right at the heart of the song, while I'd take this less daft folky-with-flutes version of 'Uncle Albert' over the original any day with those stupid lyrics replaced by some heart-tugging strings, although it's still a long way from being one of Paul's better ideas. However it still seems like an odd idea that never quite adds up, with points lost for not trying to include a versin of the 'Ram On (Reprise)'.
More interesting than the album in many ways was the promotion. Paul has always enjoyed 'playing' with the music press and 'Thrillington' was his single biggest extended 'jokes' until the similar revelation of 'The Fireman' two decades later. The first sign of the album came with a press release that announced that conductor Percy Thrillington (known to his friends as 'Thrills') was a new act signed to EMI by Paul. The news sent music reporters scrabbling to find out more about the elusive conductor they'd never heard of and Paul had an entire potted history ready he fed out to the press by bits. Paul and Linda hired an Irish farmer they knew would never be traced by them to 'model' for the part (though Thrillington was never pictured head on and wears a ram's head on the album cover, with Paul's face his 'reflection' in the studio glass on the back sleeve). Paul then took out a series of personal ads out in the papers relating to his fictional character, parodying the English sophisticate with the same drawn daggers as 'A Hard Day's Night' ('The after dinner conversation at Percy Thrillington's was simply riveting!'  'What am I going to wear at Percy Thrillington's dinner party?' 'Percy Thrillington would like to thank Lord and Lady Pinkleton-Smythe for a magnificent weekend of grouse shooting' 'Percy Thrillington requires an expert gardner to attend his croquet course' 'Newbury Canasta Champion 1977 - well done Percy Thrillington'  'Percy Thrillington Esq sends his good wishes to Lady Butler for the success of the daffodil ball' and most hilariously of all 'Percy Thrillington Esquire wishes to engage the services of a butler for his country residence - must like large wild animals').
Paul also 'invented' a receptionist for Percy, named Penelope Telfer-Smallett, who wrote her own long-winded business arrangements and accidents on ski-ing holiays in scrawl that looked very familiar to fans who'd been collecting McCartney's autographs down the years (it seems odd he wasn't rumbled sooner!) Paul even wrote some more album sleevenotes using his Wildlife pseudonym 'Clint Harrigan', fleshing out his character's back story even more. It got to the point where even those close to McCartney, who sensed a joke, were beginning to assume the character was 'real' because of the deceptive invention, but really it was just Paul getting his own back on the music business (he also opened his own 'Thrillington' account to promote the 'Ram' re-issue, which is hilarious! 'Percy Thrillington is delighted with the efforts of those concerned at the Yellowplush Gallery to humour his aesthetic needs!') Funnily enough, only Lennon saw through the deception, writing to the NME letters page debating who 'Thrillington' might be that it was only McCartney up to his old games; it was only as late as 1990 that Paul actually came out on record by saying that actually, yes, he was Percy Thrillington all the time (and possibly the walrus as well); the value of the record increased to three times the value from this very day! Most of the album, then, was just for laughs but there was a serious inspiration at work here too: also felt that 'Ram' had been given a raw deal and deserved a second chance (his inspiration was 'I wish somebody had loved this record so much they decided to make their own version of it' - and when nobody did decided to do it himself!) Fans of The Beatles' humour will find much to enjoy in the marketing campaign, then, but it's a shame there isn't a little more of that enthusiasm and laughter in the record which comes over as rather relentlessly dry, with only flashes of the wit and sophistication of the record. At least, I suppose, those who'd always compared McCartney to Mantovani got to hear what a real cross between the two would sound like...

Denny Laine "Holly Days"

(EMI, May 6th 1977)

Heartbeat/Moondreams/Rave On/I'm Gonna Love You Too/Fool's Paradise/Lonesome Tears//It's So Easy-Listen To Me/Look At Me/Take Your Time/I'm Lookin' For Someone To Love

"Rave on, it's a cazry feelin' and I know you got me reelin'"

The famous story about Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson is that the latter 'stole' the former songs from under his nose after asking for advice about what to invest his riches in and Macca sensibly telling his young protege that song publoishing was the way to go. Macca was probably thinking about his idol Buddy Holly, whose songs he'd purchased in the mid-70s (which is arguably why Lennon doesn't do any for his 'Rock and Roll' album of 1974 as expected!) and who'd organised a 'Buddy Holly Week' to celebrate his idol's birthday every year which had been a surprise runaway success and still runs to this day. Given that Paul had a vested interest in the catalogue and wanted modern audiences to hear his beloved Buddy's work it seems only natural that he should produce a Buddy Holly record by somebody; the question was who (as releasing one himself, so normal nowadays, would have been commercial suicide in 1977; fellow sicties survivors The Hollies very much got a drubbing after doing the same thing in 1980 - and yes the publishing payments did go to Macca). Step forward the ever-loyal Denny Laine, himself a big Buddy Holly fan who'd looked on with interest and probably a little jealousy as Macca spent tour bus rides discussing which of his childhood hero's catalogues he should buy.
Given that Denny was in one of the biggest bands on the planet at the time and that he'd made no bones about the fact that this was a Paul and Linda production he happened to be singing on, he probably expected a little more from this album which dies a very slow and painful death. Though more inconsequential than a Denny Laine solo record would have been, the core Wings trio demonstrate all their usual strengths across this record with inventive arrangements (especially the  acapella sighed opening to 'Rave On' and a folky 'I'm A Gonna Love You Too) and Denny is a very under-rated singer with depths and passion that rival even his famous partner, sounding especially strong on this record. 'Moonbeams', the one Holly song only major fans may know, is a particular highlight, as is the fun ramshackle closing version of 'I'm Lookin' For Someone To Love', with only a rather anonymous version of 'Heartbeat' at the start letting the side down. The Wings harmonies are as strong as they ever were, with lots of layers of Paul and Linda throughout and though clearly a bit hurried and playing too safe at times with the song choices, the record ends up sounding like more than just the throw-away it threatened to become. In a way this is how Wings should have sounded had the original game-plan for a rougher, rootsier style band first heard in 'Wildlife' not have proved such a critical and commercial disaster and like that record it's charming and oh so much better than the over-polished recordings even if it also shares a slightly disconcerting unfinished air. Laine has better albums with his own songs and McCartney has even done better covers projects that this years later, but there's a certain charm about this album that make it one of the best overlooked releases in Wings' full-to-bursting extra-curricular programme. More than deserving a re-issue on CD (there was one but it was advertised so badly sold so poorly it quickly vanished again!) One question though: why does the front cover (made by Linda) show a horse laid on top of the picture of a suit and tie?!

Wings "Greatest"

(EMI/Parlophone/Capitol, November 2nd 1978)

Another Day/Silly Love Songs/Live Let and Die/Junior's Farm/With A Little Luck/Band On The Run//Uncle Albert-Admiral Halsey/Hi Hi Hi/Let 'Em In/My Love/Jet!/Mull Of Kintyre

"I had a honey and I bet a grand, but just in the nick of time I looked at his hand"

Released right on the cusp between the golden days when Wings were cutting edge and the past-it days when they were old hat, 'Greatest' is an album that at the time was only meant as a bit of a marker mid-way through a career but turned out to be near enough the band's obituary and swansong, with only one unloved album by the partnership to go. It's a measure of how much faith EMI still had in Paul that they agreed to his and Linda's album cover ideas: taking a model of Semiramus (the wife and heir of the kindgom of Assyria they'd found on holiday) and flying it out out to the Alps so that the statue could be surrounded by 'proper' snow (although the big expense came with paying for legendary ptotographer Angus Forbes to dangerously lean out of a helicopter window to take the picture). It's a masure of how out of touch the McCartney superstar ideas were becoming that they could have made the same cover for a fraction of the costs had they been willing to compromise and shot the cover on a snowy day at the Mull of Kintrye (where they have plenty I'm told). The most expensive album cover shot in McCartney history is also by far the least convincing, a lazy shot of an unrelated object that 'goes' with the music only because the band (or at least their leaders) say it does (the statue also appears on the mantlepiece on the 'Back To The Egg' cover, although there's no explanation for what it's doing there either).

The music, too, takes the lazy way out. There are no fan-loved album tracks or well-worn B-sides here, just a gathering of the twelve biggest hits up to 'With A Little Luck' (which, frustratingly, features the shorter single version rather than the album epic). While some of the songs have become relative rarities since after being passed over for the best-selling sequel 'All The Best' (the silly but fun 'Junior's Farm' and the illegal-substance partying 'Hi Hi Hi'), the compilation backs away from being a true reflection of Wings or gathering all their singles together (the even rare 'Give Ireland Back To The Irish' and 'Mary Had A Little Lamb' being given the push, along with - rather more oddly - the American #1 hit 'Listen To What The Man Said'). Oh and bizarrely but ypically (see 'Wingspan' ) there's a very vague sense of what a 'Wings' album actually is, with the 'Paul and Linda McCartbney' single 'Another Day' squeezed in there too. The lack of credits is less forgivable, although presumably its there because the McCartneys are embarrassed at just how many players have passed through the ranks in the past six years (no less than five musicians having left and gone by this time). The album is perhaps most notable for the TV advert that went with it in which Wings go about their daily lives accicdentally overhearing 'ordinary people' humming, whistling or singing along to their tunes. The punchline is a frowning McCartney telling a lorry driver 'you're a bit flat, mate' to which he replies 'funny - I checked my tyres this morning!' which just about it says it all...
"The McCartney Interview"
 (Columbia, December 4th 1980)
McCartney II/Negative Criticisms of The Beatles and Wings/Influences/Venus and Mars/Wildlife/Band On The Run/Musical Direction/George/Ringo/Hey Jude/The White Album/Tension/Helter Skelter/Abbey Road/Musical Background/Early Beatle Mixes/The Sgt Peppers Story/Rubber Soul/Revolver/Fame and Success/Stage Fright/How Wings Started/New Wave/Early Beatles/Creating The Beatles Sound//The Beatles Conquest Of America/Haircuts and Image/Paying Dues In Hamburg and Liverpool/Weathering Pressures/The Coming Up Video/Playing Bass/The Lennon McCartney Songwrtiting Team/Beatle Imnitators/I Am The Walrus/Bowie Ferry and Elvis/Pop Music and Radio/Getting Married/Changing Perspectives/Waterfalls/Give Ireland Back To The Irish/Hi Hi Hi/Banned Songs/Children's Songs/Mary Had A Little Lamb
"...And I tried to turn it into an album. Which was the worst part for me - I was having fun till then!"
In another neat parallel with 'McCartney', the promotion for 'McCartney II' was equally low-key. Rather than do the rounds of the TV networks and the music press Paul decided to promote his rather off-beat LP with an interview record that explained the how and why that was not unlike the cryptic questionnairre included with 'McCartney' (especially the questions dodging the end of Wings instead of the end of The Beatles!) Equally the interview wasn't so much about the recent album as the whole of Paul's career so far, with this one of the longest and detauled McCartney had undertaken up to that point. The interview was originally conducted for Musician magazine as a freebie but Paul had always intended it to be a record avaulable in the shops once the promotion had finished. It's not the best interview Paul ever gave and its not exactly comparable to Lennon's Rolling Stone' interviews for revelations - he sounds weary and tired and gives many of the same excuses and complaints we heard before and since. 'I'm used to that by now' Paul sighs when asked about poor critical responses and later sounds aggreived that The Beatles 'are the most imitated band ever - even friends of ours turned out to be copiers'. However there are more than a few nuggets of interest: Paul talks about getting jealous about half-hearing a song that sounded great coming from a radio and wishing he'd made it - before discovering it was a Wings song he'd forgotten all about (we never find out what!) He also talks about having been disappointed with 'Venus and Mars' after the critics dismissed it until attending a party where the room went nuts for the album and changing his mind completely. Controversially he also says that Ringo was always given directions on what to play and that the Beatle arrangements were always very tightly controlled by him and John. There's also a fun part about The Beatles dreading playing the odd show when the nerves kicked in and Paul's suggestion 'let's not go through with it - we've made enough money, let's all run away to brighton!' Not to mention his first guitar being 'the worst ever - just a hunk of plywood with some strings on it'. However Paul is warm enough to call George 'one of the greats', sticks up over criticism of John's house-husband 'retirement' ('He's done everything else except be himself') and sounds nostalgically enthusiastic for the first Wings tour. The album sold well enough to make the American charts at #140 - pretty good for a non-music album  and considering that it was a limited edition of just 57,000 copies.

Denny Laine "Japanese Tears"

(Polydor/Arista, December 6th 1980)

Japanese Tears/Danger Zone/Clock On The Wall/Send Me The Heart/Go Now/Same Mistakes/Silver//Say You Don't Mind/Somebody Ought To Know The Way/Lover's Light/Guess I'm Only Foolin'/Nothing To Go By/I Would Only Smile/Weep For Love

"Times are changing - what can I tell you?"

Of all the things I've had to think about during the writing of this book, what to do with Denny Laine is one of the things that has concerned me the most. Clearly his works aren't as integral to the 'McCartney' canon as, say, 'McCartney' and yet Denny was a key part of the Wings sound, perhaps more integral than anybody down the years after Paul himself. Clearly then Denny's albums should be a part of this book - and yet his solo albums have tended to be minor releases by his own admission, released before they're quite ready on cheapo labels to get a bit of quick cash. So instead I've hit a compromise: there are two Denny Laine solo albums that all Wings fans should own and the rest are effectively 'extras' that are nice to have but not really essential. We'll be coming to Denny's triumph 'Reborn' later - the one record where everything works which is such a major part of my collection it was reviewed at length very early on, before I quite realised how these books were going to work. The other album you need to know about is 'Japanese Tears', a record with more input from 'Wings' than normal and the record that effectively killed them off, which is nowhere near as good but is an album curcial to understanding the Wings soap-opera.

Denny had stayed loyal to McCartney throughout the ups and downs of the 1970s - despite alleged slurs at his wife Jo-Jo and difficulties about money (always Denny's achilles heel). However the last slur came after the McCartney drug bust in January 1980 which put Denny in a difficult situation: he'd been relying on the money from the tour just cancelled and couldn't afford to wait in japan for what might have been months or even years while his boss got himself out of trouble. He was even crosser later when Paul announced that because of Lennon's death he would never tour again and had put Wings on hiatus while he promoited 'McCartney II', effectively robbing Denny of the oney he needed a second time. Instead Denny came back to Britain to try to make this album as quickly as he could to keep himself financially afloat, using a bunch of old Wings recordings that hadn't ever made it out on record and bashing out a few new songs - most of them pointed barbs at the McCartneys. Paul was less than amused, though hurt more by the fact that Denny 'abandoned' his wife and child in a foreign land and though they patched up their differences enough to start work on another album ('Tug Of War' was intended as a Wings album - it was George Martin, who really didn't like Denny for some reason, who persuaded Paul to change his mind) their relationship was pretty much over from the time this record was out (and the resultant interviews where an angry Denny complained about  Paul's behaviour - an interview he said later was given to a 'friend' off the record and taken out of context). Denny, you could argue, had shot himself in the foot by killing off his biggest cash cow for the sake of a bit of quick money - but at the time it seemed the best way to both keep himself afloat and let off a bit of steam before going back to work with Paul again (he did leave his band in the lurch after all, Denny had a right to be cross, the part few fans seem to remember). 'Japanese Tears' is a record often treated as an 'end' but it was never meant as that - it was meant to be a diversion not the start of a new career.

The record itself is the epitome of a 'patchy' record. Though played with more passion than 'Aah...Laine' and with more creative input than 'Holly Days', it's still not quite a 'proper' album - more a collection of outtakes assembled together with a few new tracks thrown in and some golden oldies to make the record sell. The sound varies considerably depending on which part of the ever-changing 1970s it was recorded in and if the vocals had been taken off fans would be hard pressed to guess that these songs had anything in common with each other. At time its horrendous - like almost all Laine albums you weep for the lost talent that's in these records that gets so easily lost under indifferent performances and clunky technology. However at its best its proof that Denny was Wings' dark horse, the glue that kept them together and the creative talent that kept even an ex-Beatle on his toes, with some excellent songs in the mix too.Steve Holley is the band's drummer, staying loyal to the man who brought him into the band, while the rest of the musicians are hardened session musician veterans like Fairport Convention's Mike Piggott and Andy Richards.

Title track 'Japanese Tears' breaks all the rules, as if a rush of adrenalin has just gone to the guitarist's head. Musically this song is written on an ascending scale of notes which, traditionally, is thought to be 'impossible' to sustain in a song - actually it works rather well and is Beatley-catchy with a nice hint of the Far East in the strrings and guitar-work. The lyrics though are brutal: Denny and Paul were once 'orphans together' but go their different ways after a trip to Japan. The rest of the song is told through the eyes of a young fan whose waited all her life to see a Beatle, only to find the tour cancelled through his stupidity and her worries about what willl happen to him. It's a clever way of couching both simmering anger and worry into a song where everyuone knows what its really 'about' without Denny having to be direct, with a pretty melody and a strong production.

'Danger Zone' is another album highlight, a nice traditional blues song dressed up to sound huge thanks to the big bank of synthesisers that play on it. Laine is a highly under-rated harmonica performer and this song sounds like a slower version of 'Time To Hide'. It's a shame it takes a full 90 seconds before the vocal start though as they're the most interesting part of the song as Denny fears for the future without being quite able to put his finger on why.

'Clock On The Wall', however, is appalling. A vocal approximation of a ticking clock fills in where the drums should be while Denny sings some daft lyrics over a cliched piano riff. The middle eight, which does a similar trick but in a minor key, is better but the song never really takes off.

'Send Me The Heart' is a Wings outtake from 'Red Rose Speedway', recorded in Nashville alongside the Country Hams recordings and 'Sally G'. It's the weakest of the three Wings recordings on this album, a lazy country song that never really takes off, but there are some nice harmonies between the Wings core and some snazzy playing from Jimmy McCullough who died just a few months before this album's release. It's a lot more palatable than the Rolling Stones' country songs anyway!

The re-recording of 'Go Now' is unconfortably 1980s, taken at a slightly faster lick than the Moody Blues classic and includes a slightly different harmony part (which joins in later) and some very OTT drumming. The Banks/Bennett classic is strong enouygh to with-hold such careless surgery however.

'Same Mistakes' is a new recording, a mournful ballad about regrets that pointedly is given over to Denny's wife Jo-Jo to sing. 'I wish we'd been together from the start - we'd never have known and avoided heartbreak' Jo Jo coos with a nice wobble in her voice alongside the pure innocent tones (she and Linda famousdly didn't get on - many fans have wondered if she was jealous of her fellow wife's voice, although it seems more like a personality clash from what I've read, with Jo-Jo a much louder, exuberant personality than her husband). You could also read this song as a 'sorry' for the end of Wings - or perhaps what Denny wants to hear from Paul. There's a nice flutey part that recalls 'Don't Let It bring You Down' and a nice folky feel which was always Denny's most comnfortable fit as a style, but it would have been nice to have had more of the writer on his own record than just some occasional 'oohs'.

'Silver' is a strong song too, a character song of the sort Mccarrtney would have been porud to write, about a young girl who could become anything, her eyes like 'dice' as she stares into adulthood on a tune that has real 10cc overtones. 'Every dude I ever knew would sigh to have a woman like silver, she passes by so fast if you're living in the past she'd kill yer' is also one of the single greatest choruses in this book, even up against a master of the art like McCartney.

'Say You Don't Mind' is one of Denny's greatest songs, released as his first solo single back in 1966 after leaving The Moody Blues and still his only charting solo song (Wings performed it on their 1979 tour when they took a break from 'Go Now', though sadly only bootlegs of it exist without an official release so far). All Wings fans should look out the original if they can, with its pretty violin accompaniment and its urgent rhythm a neat fit for lyrics where Denny regrets doing wrong and yearns to hear her say she 'doesn't mind' his mistakes. However this 1980s re-recording, with an out of place synths overpowering the song where the delicate picking should be, is a bit of a wasted opportunity to remind people just how great this fun song really is. 'Been doing some growing - I'm so scared of you going' is another classic couplet.

'Somebody Ought To Know The Way' is the weakest of the new songs, a slow and sloppy blues notable only for Denny's Jimmy-style guitar work and another lyric exploring betrayal: 'The emptiness cuts me like a knife' Denny snarls on a song similar in many ways to Lennon's directionless 'How?'

'Lover's Light' is a pretty song though one that's slightly undercooked with only a simple guitar part and a bass for accompaniment for much of the song. The echo on Denny's voice makes his vocal hard to hear, which is a shame because the lyric full of mixed metaphors about where love comes from is another strong lyric and is again very McCartney-ish. The song is detraoyed, however, by Denny's unwise decision to 'sing' (we use the term loosely) where the guitar solo should have gone!

'Guess I'm Only Foolin' is a noisy pub-rocker which has a pretty melody but a rather unloveable angular riff and the performance of the song never quite takes off compared to 'Time To Hide' et al. The lyric again has its moments though and again seems pointed towards McCartney, complianing that he's never around to talk to these days so Denny's conversation has been put into a song instead: 'I must still love you even with the crap that we've been through - how else could I explain the state of my brain?' Denny askes before adding 'I guess I should just 'let it be' - touche!'

'Nothing To Go By' is another modern song made with very 'Mccartney II' technology' but one with much more of the Wings style, sounding like a mixture of prog rock, reggae and 'Mull Of Kintyre' style Hootenany. It's unusual but memorable as Denny perfporms one of his stronger vocals on the album as he complains about 'having my roots pulled out by sorrow and joy'.

'I Would Only Smile' is the best of the Wings outtakes, a charming sunny pop song in the Mccartney mould recorded for 'Red Rose Speedway' back when it was a double album with sowcases for all members of Wings. The lyrixcs are strangely prescient, with Denny agreeing tearfully to let a girl 'go now' and thanking her for the good times and that if anyone asks him if he's in love all he can do is 'smile' that he is yet she isn't. It's a pretty song with some nice country overtones suddenly giving away to rock in the shouted chorus.

The album then ends with 'Weep For Love', a late-period Wings recording through to date to the 'London Town-Recorded-In-England-After-The-Virgin-Islands' era. It's curiously close to the contemporary style of The Moody Blues, the band Denny left behind in 1966, praising those brave enough to stand up to evil with a very wordy verse and a distinctive period guitar and drum sound. The song would have made a good follow-up to 'Mull Of Kintyre', with a similar feel, and is nicely played by the Wings core trio.
Overall, then, 'Japanese Tears' offers value for money with a full 47 minute running time that makes it longer than all Wings LPs barring 'London Town'. Thealbum has much in common with that record actually, providing an eclectic mix of just about everything, with several great songs and a few horrors thrown in. Given the speed with which it was made and the troubled circumstances behind writing it, the album is awfully good and deserves a decent re-issue; not one of those cheap and nasty 'Denny Laine featuring Paul McCartney' CDs of which there've been dozens so far. This is a pretty album with some tough lyrics thyat adds much to our understanding of both Wings' quitest member and the fallout of the band's final years, some of which is sure to appeal to fans of that distinctive band sound.

Denny Laine "Anyone Can Fly"

(Global Records, '1982')

Running Round In Circles/Be Together/Who Moved The World?/Racing Cars//Various Shapes and Forms/I Always Thought/Could Not Believe/Anyone Can Fly

"Here we are again - like we always should have been"

Denny's fourth solo record is a relative highlight of his solo career, lacking the variety and sophistiocation of 'Japanese Tears' or the weight of 'Reborn' but with an understated acoustic charm and a mellow folk-rock vibe that suits Denny very well. The album lacks the dated synths that make so much of the rest of the record such a struggle to sit through, while the songs are far more in keeping with his Wings releases, with a real McCartney bounce and optimism in many of the songs. Even the sad ones, with many of these songs also about loss and betrayal, with some particularly throughtful pieces reflecting on the split with Jo-Jo, with Denny feeling that it was years of people telling the couple they didn't belong together that split them up, despite their overwhelming genuine love for each other.  Denny also worked with an old friend in Norman 'Hurricane' Smith, who'd worked on many of the early Beatles recordings before leaving to work with Pink Floyd in 1967 and there's a real early 60s glow about many of the tracks. This also sounds like much more of an 'album' somehow rather than just a collection of recordings, with more unity than 'Tears', even if song-on-song the tracks are possibly ever so slightly weaker. The title track is particularly strong , mixing  hope and sadness pretty equally on a pastoral acoustic song that features one of Denny's greatest vocals.   'Wgo Mocved The World?' isn't far behind, with a touch of soul and gospel to add to Denny's many styles and the hard-rocking 'Various Shapes and Forms' sounds new wavey in a way that 'Back To The Egg' should have done.  Alas 'Running Round In Circles' with its cod-ska backing and 'I Always Thought'; is too daft a song to survive in such prestigious company. All in all, not bad at all - this is easily the third most essential Denny Laine album. Though the album is rare complete even for a Denny laine album, many of these songs have appeared on various compilations down the years - notably 'Rock Survivor' 'The Collection' and 'Masters'.

Paul McCartney "Give My Regards To Broad Street (Film Soundtrack)"

(EMI, October 22nd 1984)

No More Lonely Nights (Ballad Version)/Good Day Sunshine/Corridor Music/Yesterday/Here There and Everywhere/Wanderlust/Ballroom Dancing/Silly Love Songs//Silly Love Songs Reprise//Not Such A Bad Boy/So Bad/No Values/No More Lonely Nights (Ballad Reprise/For No One/Eleanor Rigby/Eleanor's Dream/The Long and Winding Road/No More Lonely Nights (Playout Version)
CD Bonus Tracks: Goodnight Princess/No More Lonely Nights (Dance Remix)/No More Lonely Nights (Extended Version)

"And I won't go away until you tell me so, no I'll never go away..."

Though rather buried in McCartney history and still unavailable on DVD (because Macca can't face the wrath of all those reviews again!) 'Broad Street' was a semi-autobiographical work where McCartney gets to hang around wioth some old buddies and new friends while making an album - that then appears to all intents and purposes to be 'stolen' by a character with a shady past Macca took a shine too. The record company are on his back and a lot is relying on the release of this album - the twist being that McCartney was right to have faith all the time and that his employee, Harry, has got locked inside a gent's toilets rather than run off making millions on the bootleg market. With every word written by Paul himself during long car rides into work for 'Tug Of War' and 'PIpes Of Peace', the script is actually more revealing than many fans take it to be and highly revealing about McCartney's mental state at the time. Paul has always been far closer and more understanding of record companies than most of his AAA brethren: he's always been ready with a smile and a wink and has stayed immensely loyal to EMI down the years, only leaving them in 2007 after financial difficulties at the label when he could easily have got a better deal elsewhere (like his three Beatle colleagues did). However for the first time ever 'Tug Of War' came in late and EMI made a slight loss in 1981 as a result of him missing the Christmas market. Paul clearly felt guilty and his portrayal of record company characters and managers in this film is highly interesting: they're all large colourful characters who are friendly till crossed.

Equally Paul also seems to be 'replying' to comments Lennon made before he died about Macca's gullibility and the yes-men characters in his entourage and while none had a past anything less as dodgy as the reformed criminal Harry this film seems like a defensive re-action that he still believes that good people will do good in the end. Most people ignore the plot of the film anyway and treat it as a series of music videos for the MTV generation - but even that is revealing, as if Paul is trying to reclaim 'his' songs from the Beatles canon by making them truly 'his' again, four years after the world has officially made Lennon a saint and 'the talented one'. 'Broad Street' is a project that Macca felt he had to make - the major problem with it (apart from the fact that Paul is not a natural actor) is that only Paul and other millionaires in his position understand the pressure if that record isn't released and the people relying on it; to everyone else this is a film without any tension at all because if the record isn't released when needed a major record company like the fictional one in the film will still able to cope and a versatile performer like McCartney would be able to re-record it in a week - or write a new one within a year. 'Broad Street' is in effect doomed to anyone who doesn't appreciate how much Macca has always wanted to please people - which ironically means that he felt worse when this film pleased almost no one (though even recognising its many flaws, I still have a soft spot for it!)

The only part of the film that anybody seemed to like was the soundtrack - and even then only grudgingly usually. A chance to re-record some old favourite songs in a slightly different way, you sense from interviews of the time that this was just an excuse to a) get people watching the film and b) for fun, because Paul hadn't had a chance to revisit many of his old favourites before. The album is interesting more for what it doesn't choose than what it does: there's no 'Hey Jude', no 'Blackbird', no 'Maybe I'm Amazed', not even 'Live and Let Die' and instead we get lesser known classics like 'For No One' and an interesting collection of songs from the two recent albums: rather than the major hits 'Ebony and Ivory' 'Say Say Say' and 'Pipes Of Peace' we get 'Ballroom Dancing' 'Wanderlust' and 'So Bad'. Most of the songs sound similar enough to the originals for outsiders to wonder why McCartney bothered and releasing the rushed 'as live' take of 'Dancing' complete with shouted instructions of 'move the sword!' and the like on this record over the album version is particularly ridiculous. However there are some real gems in there too, with a gorgeous medley of 'Here There and Everywhere' and 'For No One' supposedly performed on a radio show with some lovely brass arrangements, a more contemporary edged 'Silly Love Songs' (as it would have been had Madonna, say, been singing - supposedly performed by an 'alien band' who come out once a year to perform a mini-concert  which must be surely a unqiue cross between 'Alien' and 'Brigadoon') and a lovely jazz/blues version of 'The Long and Winding Road' with one of the few saxophone solos I actually enjoy. It's all terribly 1980s in comparison to the timeless originals and clearly they can't compete with the sheer intellectual instinctive brilliance of The Beatles versions, but they're all strong reworkings that offer something different to the original.
However it's the new material that makes the 'Broad Street' soundtrack worth buying. 'Eleanor's Dream' is a scary Benjamin Britten-style ten minute extension of 'Eleanor Rigby', supposedly running through Mccartney's worried brain as he falls asleep singing his old classic and it's still probably his most successful classical work even now with so many bigger works behind him (sidenote: I studied A-level music, not all that successfully given that it turned a subject that should be treated as an art-form into a mathematical science and most of the work we studied was horrid. Given that we were behind time we only had a rushed lessedon on 'Eleanor Rigby' and Britten's 'Peter Grimes' back to back the last week of term in which my irritatingly holier-than-thou lecturer claimed that a mere pop writer like McCartney could never think on a musical level equal to Britten. Clearly you don't make statements like that to me so out came by battered 'Broad Street' casette the next week and the class admitted that 'Broad Street' was the better, more thematically complex and harmonically intense piece, which it clearly is. Even after all that- or perhaps because of it - I still only got an 'E').

The three new 'pop' songs are also severely overlooked and amongst the very best work McCartney did in the 1980s. 'No More Lonely Nights' was the current single and appears in two versions; the uptempo 'playout' version is a bit irritatingly of its time but it does show Mccartney's talent for twisting even sad songs to make them sound optimistic; the hit 'ballad' version though is something else, revealing a vulnerability and doubt that really goes well with a sweeping McCartney melody that sounds as if its as old as time. The lyrics, though, are more interesting still, with a love affair that unusually hasn';t worked out and left Paul vulnerable, which in the context of the film seems more like Paul pleading for his audience to hang around a bit longer.The most cleverly constructed McCartney song in many a long year, it builds up bit by bit with a clever use of control until finally reaching a peak and then falling into a golden middle eight as Paul seems to address his audience: 'I won't go away until you tell me so - no I'll never go away' while a guesting David Gilmour provised one of his greatest solos, Pink Floyd or not. Though the song has little or nothing to do with the film plot, it was an obvious choice as a 'title' song and single, oozing the sort of class and casual perfection Macca used too, just the right sides of 'real' and 'contrived'. The song is one of his most unfairly forgotten and would be better loved yet had it not been so closely tied to the film.
Elsewhere though the two other new songs are both minor classics too. 'No Values' is a gorgeous rocker, the second McCartney song written after a dream following 'Yesterday' as Paul dreamt he and Linda were watching the Rolling Stones perform and woke up with this song running through his head. It does sound more like them than The Beatles but there were always closer ties between the two bands than many people realise and it's nice to hear Paul taking on a rebellious lyric as he uses the context of the film to reflect on what it means to be a millionaire selling out his soul. In the song Paul is under so much pressure to see a psychiatrist ('making money out of making me laugh') and taking a dig at all his 'former friends' who are now selling all the 'personal posessions' he'd given them down the years now he's no longer 'hot stuff'. The song ends oddly as Paul 'sees' Harry betraying him the way his friends do in the lyric as he yells out 'don't fo it!' - a shame as the full take reveals this comes after two minutes of some blistering guitar solos that really make the song. The Stones ought to cover it sometime - the guitar riff is perfect for Keef while the vocal would give Mick just the right strutting edge too. 'Not Such A Bad Boy' is another Stonesy song that only made the album by the skin of its teeth, a composition Paul felt was a bit minor by his standards jkept on the soundtrack by the insistence of both Linda and Ringo's wife Barbara Bach, who both considered it their favourite. It's certainly simpler than any of the other songs on the album, old and new, as Paul puts together a nonsense lyric that sounds like the old lad from Beatles cover 'Bad Boy' reformed together with the ghost of 'Getting Better'. Though not the very best in the McCartney canon, the song sports a great rock and roll riff, a terribly catchy chorus and is enahnced by one of the best performances in the film soundtrack with a band of all-stars who really latch onto it's goodwill groove. It's also the perfect vehicle for McCartney, who manges to be both devilish and nice all at the same time, like a Lennon-McCartney hybrid robot.

Overall, then, 'Broad Street' is a curious alternate greatest hits medley. Though it makes many mistakes and in many ways is as misguided as the film (do we really need all that dialogue and bits of 'corridor music' inserted between the songs? And why does the CD add the horrendous 'Baby's Request' style 'Goodnight Princess' in the lounge jazz 1920s style?) However its also an awful lot better than people say it is and features some interesting and some really excellent reworkings of old friends along with three better-than-average new tracks to love. Whether you'll like this album or not really comes down to how much you like McCartney and how much patience you have for him and his mistakes. Personally, despite my occasionally harsh words throughout this book when things go badly wrong, I'll gladly put up with an over-jazzy three minutes of 'Good Day Sunshine' and an over-sung six minutes of 'Ballroom Dancing' if it means I can hear 'No More Lonely Nights' 'Eleanor's Dream'  'No Values' and the better re-recordings like 'For No One' and 'The Long and Winding Road' all in the same place on the same package. Though 'Broad Street' was clearly a bit of a mis-step in conceciving and construction, there are far more good things about it than many fans perhaps realise and while I'd never claim it as the best Paul ever did this project still has some of my very warmest fan regards. 

Denny Laine "Hometown Girls"

(President, '1985')

Cruisin'/Foggy Morning/Mistral/Stay Away/Hometown Girls//Red Sky/I Wish I Could Love/Twist Of Fate/Street/Blue Nights

"All the money in the world couldn't buy this time today"

Denny's fifth album is where the rot starts to set in and sounds pretty undistinguishable from the many albums to come. It's a record that was made in a hurry using low budget equipment and was almost made single-handed, with a few good ideas that get lost with the bad ones with the hurry with which the album was made. Admittedly all mid-1980s albums sound dated now, but this one does especially - compare it to McCarrney's similar 'Press To Play' from the following year and you'll hear the difference in both budget and age. Clearly this isn't what Denny's many fans were expecting or anticpating from him after Wings folded - but then it clearly isn't what Denny expected from himself either. As with last time, many of these songs are filled with images of frustration, betrayal and lost opportunities and there's a real sense of melancholy about this album wuich sits in such contrast to most of Wings' output. However like all Denny laine records it has many great overlooked moments: the title track is a sweet wistful ballad with the similar celtic air of parts of 'London Town', 'Foggy Morning' is a charming Wings-like pop song that veers between laidback sadness and urgent pop, 'Twist Of Fate' is an adult pop song about life not turning out the way you imagined it and seven minute epic 'Mistral' is a complex song with the same oriental vibe as 'Japanese Tears'. There's even a slight sense of the old Wings half-concept album here: the semi-autobiogrphical tale of Denny's life told through his romances, one that involves some very passionate highs and yet leaves him at the end of the record with nothing, back where he started. Unfortunately special guest Maggie Bell ruins what could have been another lovely moment with her oddly OTT vocal on the bluesy 'street' and most of the rest is anonymous and forgettable. Not bad then - but not all that good either and the album cover (a group of girls desperate to get hold of Denny while he answers a call from one of his fans) is clearly wish fulfilment rather than fact: the sad truth of the matter is the phone just wasn't ringing the way it once did and this album might have been all the better for it. 

Various Artists "The Prince's Trust 10th Anniversary Concert"

 (Prince's Trust/A&M, Recorded July 1986, Released April 1987)

Includes sets by Dire Straits, Midge Ure, Suzanne Vega, Phil Collins, Big Country, Howard Jones, Level 42, Elton John, Joan Armatrading, Tina Turner and Rod Stewart
Paul McCartney setlist: Long Tall Sally/Get Back/I Saw Her Standing There

"Get back to where you once belonged!"

Back in 1980, after John Lennon's death, McCartney declared that he might never play a live show again. His response was understandable - Lennon's death had proved how vulnerable The ex-Beatles could be and he no doubt remembered the threats made against the band on their American tours in 1965 and 1966 - and he kept his word for the next seven years, the longest gap without any concert appearances since his teenage years ('Live Aid' being more of a TV event). The concert that lured him our of semi-retirement was an unexpected one. The Prince's Trust is a charity founded by Prince Charles, which is meant to help young people by giving them 'life skills' but is really just a smokescreen for the sheer amounf of money the Dujcy of Cornwall makes as landlords for massive stretches of land in briatins' Southern lands and the fact that his Duchy Original biscuits taste foul. Macca was a big coup for the Trust and though Paul was just one of several big names on the day he was still a big enough draw to be both headliner and festival closer at the event's 10th anniversary party. However there were two problems: one Paul was a little rusty after so long away so played only a very short set, with the simplest songs he could rehearse in the shortest space of time (the Trust hadn't given him much warning, which is odd because it's not as if Prince Charles has much else to do all day). The songs he chose for this set are fast and furious and three of the 'easiest' in the McCartney canon: two old Beatle warhorses and an old Little Richard fave he knew well. The second issue was that Paul no longer had a band - a problem solved by arranging for an ad hoc 'supergroup' of many of the other performers to play behind him (including Dire Straits' John Illsley uneasily playing bass alongside his hero, Elton John on piano and Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler as twin guitarists). Tina Turner was on hand too and persuaded Paul to add 'Get Back' to his intended two song set, marking the first time he had ever performed that particular song since the 'Rooftop' gig - Tina had been doing the song in her act for years and this version turned out more of a duet (as she knew the song better than Paul by this time!) 'I saw Her Standing There' hadn't been performed in even longer (though 'Long Tall Sally' had been played by Wings as an encore at their 1972 uni shows). The result is a mess, with a clearly under-rehearsed band and an unrehearsed Paul trying to keep a mammoth band together under trying cirumstances. It is, however, rather a fun mess with Paul coming to terms with his Beatles legacy and for the first time not trying to promote a latest product alongside, in the company of a band and crowd simply pleased to have him back. The plans to start a world tour two years later pretty much start here. 

Denny Laine "Wings On My Feet"

(President, '1987')

Wings On My Feet/Kick The Ball/Portrait/Castle In The Air/Roll The Dice/Lucy Lullaby//No Sleep/Tao Princess/It's Never Too Late/Caribbean Sun/Blushing Bride/Space Train
"Anything's better than nothing to do"

The lowest point of the Denny laine solo back catalogue, this is chirpy cheery pop that's deated badly thanks to its over-reliance on period technology 9actually slightly dated technology even at the time) and which doesn't have trhe decent songs to back it up. Though the title is a clever nod of the head to Denny's old band and the fans who are the most liely to buy the album, it's noteable how little of Denny's old sound is here: full of reggae-calypso lilts and full-blown 80s pop his muysic has now lost all touch with the R and B/blues roots and love of folk-rock that made his earlier work so distinctive. Rick Wakeman provides many of the kryboards, although it doesn't sound much likle his natural style either: instead of his natural flamboyance much of the music on this album is loud and brash. Only 'Protrait' stands out, a typically Denny-style folk-rock song about missing a person who should be there (probably Jo-Jo again though it might be about Paul too) and featuring a real chance to hear Denny sing without the instruments getting in the way on one of his loveliest McCartney melodies. Almost everything is awful, though, and sounds much the same, with only the sad blues of 'Lonely Highway' going anywhere different although even then the awful fake-Elvis wobble in laine's voice renders it near-unlistenable. 

'Wings At The Speed Of Sound' (1976)

'London Town' (1978)

'Back To The Egg' (1979)

'McCartney II' (Original Double Album) (1980)

'Tug Of War' (1982)

'Pipes Of Peace' (1983)

'Press To Play' (1986)

'Flowers In The Dirt' (1989)

'Driving Rain' (2001)
'Chaos and Creation In The Back Yard' (2005)

'Memory Almost Full' (2006)

'New' (2013)

The Best Unreleased McCartney/Wings Recordings

Surviving TV and Film Footage

Live/Wings Solo/Compilations/Classical Albums Part One: 1967-1987

Live/Wings/Solo/Compilations/Classical/Unreleased Albums Part Two: 1987-1997

Live/Wings Solo/Compilations/Classical Albums Part Three: 1997-2015

Non-Album Recordings Part One 1970-1984

Non-Album Recordings Part Two 1985-2015

Essay: Not So Silly Love Songs

Key Concerts and Cover Versions