Wild Life

In the studio

The rehearsals for what became Wild Life took place in the summer 1971 at Rude Studios, a basic demo studio with four-track facilities on the McCartneys' farm in Campbeltown, Scotland. A number of songs were worked on before the group relocated to EMI Studios at Abbey Road, London in August.

Paul asked for me to be present on the sessions for the album and the feeling had been very relaxed, marvellous and very enjoyable. The whole essence of the feeling was that whatever was going on, we had to get it as live as we possibly could in the studio. The whole idea was to get a live feel. The album was done over two weeks with most of the songs being done on first or second takes.
Tony Clark
Studio engineer

The spontaneous feel was in contrast to the often ornate recordings on Ram and Abbey Road, but continued a theme of simplicity and back-to-basics recording that stretched back to 1968's Lady Madonna and the following year's Let It Be sessions.

We recorded that album very quickly, it was almost like a bootleg, which may be a shame and perhaps some of the songs aren't as good as they might be. I wanted the whole album to be loose and free, so that everyone could get into it. Things like Mumbo, which scream a bit and have only 'mumbo' as lyrics may offend a few old ladies, but generally it's got something for everyone.

Several of the songs were made up on the spot in the studio, and five of the eight tracks were first takes. McCartney hoped to harness the magic that occasionally accompanies spontaneity, but inspiration was in short supply.

Wings took three days to record the basic tracks, and the rest of the two-week sessions were devoted to overdubbing and mixing. Two songs from the sessions, Tragedy and Breakfast Blues, remain unreleased.

A couple of the tracks were from the Beatles days. I'm writing with Linda now and we're writing a little... I've drawn on my influences. I could never stop drawing on my rock 'n' roll influences. I'm drawing from all my influences since my ears started functioning.
Paul McCartney

It was a brave move for an artist of McCartney's calibre, and made public the beginnings of his new group. Had Wings spent more time developing their sound they may have creating a more polished record, but Wild Life was primarily intended to be a breath of fresh air.

The first side of the album is taken up with rock numbers. We did that on purpose. It's so it can be played at parties. One side for when you want to get up and dance and the second side for the girls, when they want to smooch around.

The release

On 8 November 1971 a party to launch Wings and Wild Life was held at the Empire Ballroom in London's Leicester Square. Paul McCartney handwrote the invitations for the 800 guests, which included Elton John, Keith Moon, John Entwhistle, Jimmy Page and Ronnie Wood.

The music at the party was by Ray McVay and his Dance Band, plus a performance by the Frank and Peggy Spencer Formation Dance Team. There was also a bumper prize raffle held.

Wild Life was originally to have been titled Wings. Its release was delayed several times, but it finally came out in the UK in November 1971, and the following month in America. Part of the delay was due to the birth of the McCartneys' daughter Stella on 13 September 1971.

The album was released in the United Kingdom on 15 November 1971. It peaked at number 11 in the charts, spending a total of nine weeks on the countdown.

In the United States it was issued on 6 December. It fared slightly better than in the UK, peaking at number 10 and was certified gold.

Critics didn't like Wild Life when it came out so I started thinking like them, that it was rubbish. Then, when I heard it a couple of years later, I really liked it and found it interesting. OK, it didn't make me the biggest blockbuster around but I don't think you need them all the time. I like to have a couple of albums like that because it adds to the whole thing, really. But what made Wild Life OK for me was when I saw this fella heading for the hills in California holding a copy of Wild Life. So someone liked it.
Paul McCartney

No singles were taken from Wild Life. An edit of Love Is Strange with I Am Your Singer on the b-side was scheduled in the UK, but it was pulled after white label copies were pressed.

In Venezuela the Odeon label issued the song Wild Life as a single, split into two parts. Love Is Strange was was included on a four-song Mexican EP, which also featured I Am Your Singer, Bip Bop Link/Tomorrow, and Mumbo.

10 responses on “Wild Life

  1. Joseph Brush

    I love the impromptu feeling of this album. The lack of production and calculation after “Ram” was most welcome to me.
    The first two tracks are FUN.
    The title track and “Dear Friend”
    and especially “Tomorrow” are among my favourite all time Macca songs.

  2. Tweeze

    I admit – after 40 years I still can’t get through this collection of semi-music. I was making this kind of crap on my own already and I was still in my mid-teens. I didn’t need this from Paul, too. I can’t even get through ‘Tomorrow’ – it grates – but I think it is more likely the performance that is killing my enthusiasm than the song.

  3. Barry

    I’ve always considered WILD LIFE a solid album, from start to finish. “Some People Never Know” is my favorite track. Though it’s not as well known in the McCartney catalogue. “Mumbo” is an awesome rocking opener… I love the organ part as well as the cranked up guitars. “Tomorrow” could have been a hit single.

  4. GK

    I have defended this album since it was released ! At school, I was 13, virtually no one like it , where as Ram was loved ( by most ) eventually ! I love & still do, the rougher side to Paul. Spontaneity was fresh then & it was not supposed to sound over produced ! Had anyone heard or played reggae before ” Love Is Strange ” ? Tomorrow & Some People Never Know are classy songs ! Wild life it self is years ahead of its time ! Dear Friend was the answer to John……………………I even liked the instrumental links ! All the songs apart from I Am Your Singer maybe, are sung superbly !

  5. Brian

    WILD LIFE is neither as bad as the critics made it out to be at the time nor as good as revisionist reviewers rate it today. It is a lazy album (or 2/3 of an album). Only 8 songs. Two nonsense songs (one too many: “Mumbo” is fun, but “Bip Bop” is terrible) and a cover tune. In addition, some of the other songs (“Wild Life”, “Some Peolple Never Know”, and “Dear Friend”) aredecent 3 minute songs padded in length to 5 minutes plus to fill out the album. “Tomorrow” is the standout song here. In short, this is an OK album, but McCartney should be making albums that are much more than “OK”. Had he released this as a reduced price double EP or something it might have been charming. As a full fledged album it was a bit of an insult to the record buying public.

  6. johnnylivewire

    I love Side 2 of this album (so from “Some People Never Know” to “Dear Friend”). Side 1 is a bit hit and miss (with the exception of the song “Wild Life” itself). If you flip it and play Side 2 first and then side 1 as an album it works.

  7. Amy Godiva

    It’s always been an underrated album and an unacknowledged influence (as with Ram) on loads of later (and current) indie rock. Sure, Mumbo has no real lyrics or profound statement to make but it feels spontaneous and is powerful – great guitar breaks. Bip Bop is a great rootsy rocker with casual but humorous lyrics. Love Is Strange is a really strong, unique take on reggae as opposed to so many cod reggae songs of that and later eras. Wild Life, again, is simple but powerful and has grown on me over the years owing to the heartfelt lyrics (not always a given for Macca) and vocals. I Am Your Singer received a slagging when released, primarily for Linda’s vocals but, again, has an indie feel to it that works even better today (including LM’s vox). Some People Never Know and Tomorrow, to me, are better than anything on Red Rose Speedway, and arranged differently could have been Beatles tracks. The two “link” pieces feel like they could fit in quite well on McCartney or Ram, and Dear Friend is the true masterpiece of this album – I find it kind of shocking that it didn’t make the final cut on Ram, perhaps in place of Eat At Home or Long Haired Lady. Hey Diddle would have fit well on either this LP or Ram (though written between the two). And why weren’t Sunshine Sometime, A Love For You or Rode All Night included on Ram or Wild Life (let alone RRS)???!!!

    I might agree with a previous commenter that a couple of the songs on Wild Life were stretched out a bit longer than they needed to be but not to the point that I skip over them when listening to the album. It’s also a fair criticism that could be applied to songs like I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier or Oh Yoko on Imagine (How Do You Sleep gets a pass because it’s such a remarkable arrangement/performance despite the nasty – though clever – lyric).

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