Ram sessions, called Denny Laine (whom he’d known from the Moody Blues), rehearsed a few weeks with Linda stuck behind a pile of keyboards, and Wild Life, credited to Wings, was the apparent result.
If this album never came out, people would be clamoring for it today as a lost jewel. Instead, it was unleashed as a bold new beginning, and landed with a dull thud. “Mumbo” kicks it off mid-jam, with Paul so excited he can’t stop yelling nonsense over both of the chords. This style had already worn out its welcome on McCartney, but it gets worse. “Bip Bop” isn’t too far removed from “That Would Be Something” in its simplicity, but these lyrics are even less deep. It’s rumored that the words were actually inspired by one of his infant children; one truly hopes that’s not the case. “Love Is Strange” is the first inoffensive track, and as it turns out, it’s a cover. (It had started out as a Wings original until someone pointed out to Paul that it sounded like the Mickey & Sylvia tune, so he did the right thing and finished it that way.) The title track starts nicely, then dwindles into an interminable dirge over three chords about the “aminals [sic] in the zoo”. This would be mentioned in later years as a signpost for their vegetarian sloganeering, but odd at the time since it decries “political nonsense in the air”.
With more of a focus on songs as opposed to jamming, side two is better, but not by much. “Some People Never Know” is actually a pretty sweet song, but stuck next to “I Am Your Singer” it’s getting tiring to hear Paul and Linda coo at each other. (You’ll note that none of George and Ringo’s wives sang on their solo albums.) There’s a brief unlisted guitar piece that would later be revealed as a snippet from “Bip Bop”, and is an improvement on the monstrosity on side one. “Tomorrow” is a hidden gem; great tune, great sound, all good. This leads nicely into “Dear Friend”, supposedly leftover from the Ram sessions, and is a regretful letter to John. It’s a haunting tune, even if he couldn’t come up with any other chords or words. But rather than end it like that, we get another snatch of melody, this time some screaming guitar from “Mumbo”.
So out of all that we have less than one side’s worth of decent McCartney music. “Tomorrow”, “Dear Friend”, “Love Is Strange” and “Some People Never Know” are the best songs here, and would have made good singles, which became a regular thing now that the band was in place. Wild Life is hardly Paul’s worst album, but it was not a promising start for his group. He would tour universities and Europe behind it in an effort to build both his confidence and his repertoire. But as for standing up next to John and George, it was looking like he’d made a big mistake going on his own.
The initial CD got points for including a few stray tracks: “Oh Woman, Oh Why” (the B-side to “Another Day”, since consigned to the Ram reissue, where it belongs); the 1972 Wings single “Mary Had A Little Lamb” (the nursery rhyme with new music by Paul, and somehow still charming); and its B-side, “Little Woman Love”, which was left over from the Ram sessions. When its time came around for the Archive Collection, the only single of the era that was included was both sides of the “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” single, making their digital debuts in America. The balance of the bonus disc was filled with various home demos recorded with Linda (and the kids), an unused edit of “Love Is Strange”, plus a couple of stragglers from Ram: the lovely but unfinished “When The Wind Is Blowing” and another mix of “The Great Cock And Seagull Race”. The only outtake featuring the band as billed would be “African Yeah Yeah”, which is worse than “Mumbo” and “Bip Bop” combined. (The Deluxe Edition offered rough mixes of the main album tracks, plus a DVD and the usual ephemera.)
Wings Wild Life (1971)—2
1989 CD reissue: same as 1971, plus 3 extra tracks
2018 Archive Collection: same as 1971, plus 17 extra tracks (Deluxe Edition adds another 8 tracks and DVD)