Following the solo album McCartney and the session musician-recorded Ram, Paul McCartney was keen to work once again with a regular band. Recalling the back-to-basics days of The Beatles’ ill-fated Get Back/Let It Be project, he decided to recruit a new set of musicians, write and rehearse original material, and go back on the road to test it in front of a live audience.
McCartney was partly inspired by the swiftness with which Bob Dylan recorded his 1970 album New Morning, much of which was recorded over a five-day period.
Dylan inspired Wild Life, because we heard he had been in the studio and done an album in just a week. So we thought of doing it like that, putting down the spontaneous stuff and not being too careful. So it came out a bit like that. We wrote the tracks in the summer, Linda and I, we wrote them in Scotland in the summer while the lambs we gambolling. We spent two weeks on the Wild Life album all together. At that time, it was just when I had rung Denny Laine up a few days before and he came up to where we were to rehearse for one or two days.
McCartney enlisted drummer Denny Seiwell, who had previously played on Ram, and Denny Laine, formerly of The Moody Blues. Guitarist Hugh McCracken, who had also performed on Ram, was invited to join the new group but declined following some early rehearsals.
[Denny Laine] came round to see me and brought a guitar and we played some things together. We showed him the chords and we went straight into the studios, worked on the backing tracks and, within two days, it was finished…
I was thinking of getting another guitarist and I knew Denny and thought he was a good singer. I thought ‘Go Now’ was fabulous. He was an old school friend of mine. When we evacuated during the war, we went to Birmingham and then he was Brian Hines, which is his original name, and we went around a bit. I met him later when he was in The Moody Blues. We [The Beatles] toured with them and this cemented our friendship.
McCartney was pleased with the early sessions, and on 3 August 1971 announced the line-up of his new, as-yet unnamed, band to the press. He had considered a number of names for the group, and on 13 September decided on Wings.
We were thinking of all sorts of names. We had a new group and we had to think of a name. We had a letter from an old gentleman in Scotland, which said, ‘Dear Paul, I see you are looking for a name for your group. I’d like to suggest The Dazzlers.’ So we were nearly The Dazzlers, with the big sequinned jackets. But we thought, no, we need something a little more earthy, so we thought of Turpentine. But I wrote to the guy in Scotland and told him that and he wrote back, ‘I don’t think you’ll be calling yourselves Turpentine because that’s something used to clean paint off,’ so we thought of Wings.
The name Wings came to McCartney when Linda was giving birth to their daughter Stella. Their third daughter was born by Caesarean section, and during the operation Paul had to remain in a waiting area. While there, clad in a green apron and praying, the name Wings came to him.
I thought of the name Wings when Linda was in hospital having Mary [sic] and had persuaded the hospital to let me have a camp bed in her room to be with her. I wanted something that would become a catchphrase like The Beatles. You know, people would say things like, ‘We’ve got beetles in the kitchen,’ and there would be some crack about it being us. Anyway, I was thinking for some reason of wings of a dove, wings of angels, wings of birds, wings of a plane. So I said to Linda, ‘How about Wings?’ It was a time when most people would be thinking about a name for a child, and there we were talking about a pop group.
Wild Life featured a simple picture, taken by Barry Lategan, of the group standing in a creek. There was no band name or title on the front, although in America a yellow 4″x2″ sticker proclaiming “WINGS WILD LIFE” was added. A second blue sticker stating “Paul McCartney and Friends” was added to later editions.
The rear cover featured graphics by Gordon House and sleeve notes by Clint Harrington, the latter a pseudonym of McCartney’s. The inner sleeve housing the vinyl was plain yellow.
At the time of Wild Life’s release, McCartney was attempting to extricate himself from Apple, The Beatles’ business partnership. He was unable to do so, but the labels on the vinyl discs were the first post-1968 Beatles-related album not to feature Apple’s Granny Smith logo. Instead there was a picture of Paul taken by Linda on the a-side, and one of Linda by Paul on the b-side.