By Jacob Newman
Paul McCartney’s Wild Life is, to many, considered an iconic failure. By the standards of the day, it was. McCartney had just completed his run as front man for the biggest rock band in the world, and there he was with a seemingly half-baked record that did not have any clear singles. Famously, he threw the record out of his window in frustration at the launch party. Critics and fans alike symbolically did the same. It would be decades before this album even saw widespread release. In 1992, as McCartney’s entire collection made its way onto CD, so did Wild Life. It is now available on streaming services and elsewhere, but it is still commonly overlooked by Sir Paul’s more critically acclaimed records like Ram, Tug of War, and McCartney II.
It may bear the most similarity to McCartney, the record that came a year before. This too was a heavily stripped down, roots oriented record that confused critics and fans. However, it yielded “Maybe I’m Amazed”, one of Paul’s most beloved tunes. It sits in between instrumental riffs and songs like “Teddy Boy”.
After the Beatles ceased to exist, its four musical innovators were burned out and frustrated, because they felt as though they had been creatively stifled. Each came out with a record that was unapologetically their own, and made a point of doing things that they were not allowed to during their time in the supergroup. (Note John Lennon screaming ‘cookie!’ in the middle of “Hold On”)
Paul revered country-centric music that he grew up with, and many of his most noted tunes featured these themes during his run with the Beatles. However, John Lennon had little interest in these songs, and openly mocked them.
He was also anxious to make this new music as quickly as possible, perhaps with the intention of putting it out before Lennon was able to put out his own record. This led him to produce Wild Life himself under a pseudonym, resulting in the strange warped vocals that are synonymous with the album.
None of this was totally intentional, but the homegrown sound of the record was extremely innovative, and in my mind, this record has a lot of merit.
For one thing, it features some of McCartney’s best chops on the bass, and many great melodic ideas that stand apart from his later solo work. The use of the organ gives the record a totally new sound.
“I Am Your Singer” is as terrifying as it is beautiful. The warped vocals make you feel as though your computer is a broken record player, and the stoned-out lead guitar makes “Crimson and Clover” sound conventional.
You might not love this album, especially if you love other McCartney work. However, any serious Beatles fan or McCartney diehard ought to hear this, if only as a strange and fascinating piece of Fab Four history.
“Love is Strange”
“I Am Your Singer”