By God, did Mr McCartney love his wife…
“Wings – they’re only the band the Beatles could have been!” Ah, the immortal words of Alan Partridge. And how true these words spoken were, by the most righteous of prophets. All joking aside, there is a clear mission statement for this hastily 3AM penned article, and it is this – dear reader, by the end of it, I want you to be as convinced as I am of Wings’ musical genius. Paul and Linda McCartney’s post-Beatle brainchild has apparently long been considered, well, a bit…uncool to like. I remember a long time ago now – four score and seven years ago, to quote a certain Mr Lincoln (not as a trustworthy source as Partridge, I’m aware) when I was seeing a gentleman in a markedly romantic fashion. We had a fiery, vicious debate that genuinely ended in what I can only describe from my end as unbridled rage. And why, you ask? Because the fella in question had the gall to remark these terrible words: “Paul McCartney is a wet-wipe.” I took personal offence to this statement. To disregard some of the most romantic, catchy hooks and loving lyrics of Mr McCartney and his winged vehicle is to disregard some serious, serious tuneage. I can understand Temporary Secretary hate (and, come to think of it, a fair chunk of McCartney II disdain also). But you cross the line with Wings. There’s a myriad of reasons why I will defend Wings to the death. Here’s a few, splayed out in a lovely parade of paragraphs for you. By the end of this, if you’re not convinced of Wings’ genius, well. I don’t know what to tell you. I’ll have to banish you to the same dungeon of oblivion that said gentleman was banished to.
Wet-wipe. Wet. Wipe. Hmm. Hmm. Let’s analyse that assertion, shall we? I suppose on face value, wet-wipe just sort of means a bit soft and sensitive, but in a cringey sense. But in reality – what is cringey about being open emotionally with your lyrics, and singing about something other than the rock-n-roll cliche norm of smashing drugs and fornicating en-masse with stunning seventies maidens? Surely there’s something markedly sweet and refreshing about hearing a man sing just about how much he loves his wife, really? After all, it’s worked for Robert Smith thus far, hasn’t it. In 1976’s Silly Love Songs, Paul muses,”Some people wanna fill the world with silly love songs / and what’s wrong with that / I’d like to know?” And here, Paul demonstrates my point exactly. Paul is mocking what critics and John Lennon himself had long dismissed him as – just a songwriter who wrote solely “sentimental slush”. Check out what Paul said to Billboard of this song back in ’76:
“But over the years people have said, ‘Aw, he sings love songs, he writes love songs, he’s so soppy at times.’ I thought, Well, I know what they mean, but, people have been doing love songs forever. I like ’em, other people like ’em, and there’s a lot of people I love — I’m lucky enough to have that in my life. So the idea was that “you” may call them silly, but what’s wrong with that?
The song was, in a way, to answer people who just accuse me of being soppy. The nice payoff now is that a lot of the people I meet who are at the age where they’ve just got a couple of kids and have grown up a bit, settling down, they’ll say to me, ‘I thought you were really soppy for years, but I get it now! I see what you were doing!'”
And well…he’s right. What is wrong with ‘silly’ love songs? What is wrong with being so full to the seams of love that you can’t help but let it spill out through your vocal chords now and then? If being a romantic qualifies one to be a wet-wipe then I suppose Shakespeare was a wet-wipe? And the Brontes must have been bonafide wetties by that definition. Don’t even get me started on penguins, man. They have the same bird (no pun intended!) forever, and mate together for life. Cringe, right?! I think one really just really needs to reevaluate their cynicism towards the easy-listening group by assessing whether this ties into their opinion of love as a whole. The newly-dumpeds, the scorned and spurneds, the perpetually single of us. We may indeed be tempted to sh*t all over a band that celebrate and unabashedly love love. But even as someone who at this point is certainly disillusioned by the notion of romance, I can recognise the beauty of it flourishing in others. I acknowledge the happiness that it and sentiments of it inspire in others, especially through a variety of art-forms. Why wouldn’t I want other people to be joyful? I think not liking Wings is a you problem, frankly.
Where does this ingrained dislike of Macca come from, particularly from Beatles fans?! Well, I have a hypothesis of sorts. I really do feel that, especially post-Beatlemania, there’s a strange hyper-masculinity that has developed to idolising John Lennon in favour of shunning the more sensitive, softer songs by Paul McCartney. This isn’t a criticism of the song-writing of Lennon by any means. He was, though questionable of character, an exemplary songwriter and cool cat. However, it seems to me that the Dark Fruits-brandishing, football and Oasis-admiring, Abbey Road-worshipping side of Beatles fans seem to build themselves on Lennon in a way. Certainly, he isn’t ‘cringe’ by any means, and is arguably the ‘cooler’ character – whatever cool is. But it worries me how ingrained in misogyny a lot of his songs and his personal behaviour (in regards to both Cynthia Lennon and Yoko Ono) were. It worries me that this subtle degradation of women is something that resonates with younger male fans and has since the sixties. On Beatles records particularly there’s a stark difference in the songs that he vocalises on and McCartney’s songs – even in terms of his love songs. For example, compare a batch of McCartney vocal heavy songs: Blackbird, Hide Your Love Away, Michelle. Compare these to the experimental, brash, semi-obnoxious (but nonetheless tunes) of Lennon: Getting Better, Come Together, Yer Blues. The harshness in his voice is palpable in comparison to the gentle warble of Paul. Lennon’s lyrics – particularly in his solo foray – glorify predominantly the abuse and use of women sexually, heavy drug use and criticism of war and violence (despite having no issue inflicting this onto his own wives domestically, but I digress). As I say, this hero-worshipping of Lennon worries me in relation to its effect on his younger, impressionable listeners. Since when did being loving, sweet and respectful of women become ‘uncool’ and ‘undesirable’? So what if Lennon never would have done deeply cringe eighties ventures like McCartney’s duet with Stevie Wonder (linked below…dear God, need I say more.) I’d argue the lyrics and persona of McCartney and Wings as a whole is far more of moral depth, quality and general goodness than any project of narcissism Lennon ever churned out.
Okay, I realise that’s quite a harsh condemnation of Lennon. I do enjoy his music, honestly. I just do not enjoy the Wings slander, and I’ll argue for their case in any way possible – especially if that means critiquing the bizarre masculine paladin-ism of one John Lennon. I sincerely dislike the notion that music has to be deemed ‘cool’ to be likeable. I know plenty of cool people who like Wings, thank you – my housemates Mae and Josh are fellow ardent fans of the Band on the Run, as is my friend Mof (undeniably one of the grooviest gents I’ve ever known), who likes them a lot. Well, a real lot. Check his tattoo out, by Kurt Mitchell. Tell me that isn’t gnarly, or whatever the kids are saying these days…
On a technical level though, and in wider terms of their musicianship, how can anyone defy their talent? I normally feel music and music taste is completely subjective, but in regards to Wings (who I care for in almost a maternal, protective sense) I don’t think it is even up for discussion. They are excellent, fact. They dabble in so many genres: pop, classic rock, blues, even bordering on the operatic in tracks like Live and Let Die. The complexity and showmanship that go into each of their songs is incredibly admirable. I had the pleasure of bearing witness to McCartney live in 2018, when I went to go and see him at the O2. He did a mixture of Beatles, stuff from Ram, and Wings. I remember being so struck at the time by just how many incredible songs Wings have made that I didn’t even know were by them. I particularly enjoyed when he introduced Let ‘Em In as the ‘Postcode Lottery song’ – but also realised that this is perhaps why people don’t really find Wings very, ahem, cool.
To conclude and summarize my essay-structured argument, I’ve left below a link to one of the best compilations of all time, Wings Greatest. A man in a record shop once gave me this for free because reportedly ‘nobody was going to buy it, anyway’. I can’t understand why. From Hi, Hi, Hi to Jet, every song on this is magical in its own way. I implore you, those still remaining unconvinced, to listen to this and deny their genius in any respect. Just because living on a farm in the Mull of Kintyre, knitting jumpers and raising animals for pleasure rather than sustenance, isn’t very rock ‘n’roll, it doesn’t mean that Wings are. The fact that Paul remains unabashedly his lovely self, and the fact that oozes through these sunshine songs, makes Wings all the more likeable to me. I hope you leave this article a bonafide Wings aficionado; and if not, I want to know why not. Come on, I haven’t got all day.
(I think I’ve put more work into this than I have ever put into a piece of university work. Is that bad? Oh, well. For Paul, anything…)