Linda McCartney was as important to Wings as Paul McCartney was. She provided backbone, moral support, romance, contradiction and gusto to the band some consider superior to The Beatles. Like her husband, she contributed to every Wings album and normally took a lead vocal on at least one song per record.
Linda played keyboards, showing that it was possible for a female rock star to hold a position in a rock band. Her solos were sharp, angular and pointed, creating a great sense of rhythm and responsibility in her work. But her greatest strength were her vocals, which carried her husband’s work to the higher echelons of rock.
Paul McCartney noticed her singing abilities when she effortlessly sang one of the high harmonies on ‘Let It Be’, and she continued to sing on his first album, McCartney, a lo-fi record written from their Scottish home. And her presence was instrumental in getting the former Beatle back on the road, by encouraging him to write about his current experiences in life.
But it would be unfair to say that her role was to play the good wife, while her husband took home the plaudits. Linda McCartney was a formidable musician in her own right, as is evident from the following five pieces. Enjoy.
Five essential Linda McCartney contributions:
‘Cook of The House’ – 1976
Wings At The Speed of Sound offered the other members of Wings the chance to showcase their vocal skills, and although Linda’s vocals aren’t to the same standard of Denny Laine’s, she does acquit herself nicely to this frothy, bubblegum piece. The song is as much a defence against the criticisms that the band had put up with, and Linda acquits herself nicely to the work. The song was largely written by Paul, but there’s no denying her importance, both as a vocalist and his chief muse.
One of the highlights of Wings At The Speed of Sound, the album was the best representation of the group as a functioning, breathing group. Elsewhere, Jimmy McCulloch details the alcohol addiction that ruined the careers of many rockstars, and drummer Joe English shows off his pipes on the enjoyable, albeit lightweight, ‘Must Do Something About It’.
‘Jet’ – 1973
Before there was Christine McVie, Gillian Gilbert or Natasha Schneider, the world got to see Linda McCartney on the keyboards. Rick Wakeman she wasn’t, but it didn’t necessarily serve Wings to hold those barrelling keyboard lines that were heard on Yes’ trajectory. Instead, her solos were sharp, sincere and direct, plunging directly into the listeners’ ears with a comforting welcome, as if wrapping her arms around them in the form of a great embrace and shoulder rub.
‘Jet’ might be her most infectious solo, emulating the chorus line with a synth-style workout that brings some of her own personality into the mix. She also sings the higher harmony and held a falsetto range that blew Michael Jackson away with its technical skill. She wound up singing on ‘Say, Say, Say’.
‘I Am Your Singer’ – 1971
Recalling the sessions for Wild Life in 2019, drummer Denny Seiwell gave a rational, even prescient, answer. “I’m not sure if we were playing live,” he replied, “Just a new way of showing a band that wasn’t a clean, polished record. Different to a Beatles album or even, say, how Ram was. We weren’t even a proper band then, it was just the four of us. Paul, Linda and the two Denny’s. I think some of them came out better in concert.”
There’s definitely a rugged feel to Wild Life, especially on ‘I Am Your Singer’ as husband and wife Paul and Linda duet on one of the album’s most likeable moments. There’s a lack of technical skill, sure, but that’s what made Wings more interesting than The Beatles, and there’s something punk like about this rendition of the tune, embellished by tightly coiled drumming.
‘Silly Love Songs’- 1976
How can I tell you about this love song? How can I tell you about this love song? I love it, I love it. OK, you get the joke, back to the song. ‘Silly Love Songs’ is a classic of white disco, a track that’s every bit as sincere as ‘I Love To Love’, and as bouncy as ‘Night Fever’. It also boasts the single greatest bass riff Paul has yet put to tape, undulating from all corners to create a jaunty bassline that’s concrete in its understanding of the song at hand.
The bass comes to a halt during the instrumental section, and that’s where Linda takes over, expressing a love that’s every bit as all-consuming as the affection her bass-playing, melody-writing husband has for her. Sure, there’s Denny Laine too, but the focus is on the couple at the front of the band, bringing resonance to the recording as a whole. Such is the power of the song, it wound up being re-recorded in a variety of interesting styles.
‘Live and Let Die’ – 1973
This is the big one, the best of the James Bond rockers, and one that earned Linda McCartney her first Academy Award nomination. For such a monster, it was written and recorded surprisingly quickly and contains the best vocal of Paul’s career, both within and without The Beatles. “I got the book and it’s a very fast read. On the Sunday, I sat down and thought, OK, the hardest thing to do here is to work in that title. I mean, later I really pitied who had the job of writing Quantum Of Solace. So I thought, Live And Let Die, OK, really what they mean is live and let live and there’s the switch. So I came at it from the very obvious angle. I just thought, ‘When you were younger you used to say that, but now you say this.'”
Not only does Linda sing the scintillating falsetto, but she also suggested the reggae bridge that gives the song a change in speed and tone. Reggae ended up becoming a fixture in the McCartney’s life, and the couple regularly played Trojan Records at their house parties.