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.
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.
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.
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 spent a total of nine weeks on the UK chart, peaking at number 11.
In the United States it was issued on 6 December. It fared slightly better than in the UK, peaking at number 10 and being 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.
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’.