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Music

How Bob Dylan inspired a classic Wings album

Aside from The Beatles, Duluth, Minnesota native Bob Dylan is perhaps the most influential artist of the past 60 years. The curly-haired troubadour has enjoyed a career like no other, starting in obscurity amongst the folk boom of the early ’60s before quickly rising to become of the era’s most lauded figures, with a musical aptitude like no other and an acerbic wit. 

A hero of the protest song in his early years, famously, he then ditched the acoustic guitar and adopted the instrument du jour, the electric guitar on Bringing It All Back Home in 1965, which showed everybody who wasn’t already aware that Dylan was a non-conformist, an iconoclast who would do whatever he pleased in order to achieve the ultimate goal of artistic enlightenment. Across the rest of his career, Dylan then expanded his sonic palette, utilising jazz, gospel, and world music.

Whilst the list of iconic acts that Bob Dylan has influenced is genuinely endless, the most famous has to be Liverpool’s favourite sons: The Beatles. The Fab Four, who were known for their own form of sharp humour, were totally enamoured by the work of Dylan and their 1965 record, Rubber Soul, which features cuts such as ‘Norweigian Wood’, is coloured by the influence of Dylan’s early, more folk-leaning days.

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The Beatles and Dylan would become great friends, and it is well known that it was Paul McCartney who first introduced the band to his music and was the first of the four to own one of his records. In Flip Magazine in 1966, McCartney explained: “Dylan is a fantastic composer. At first, I didn’t understand. I used to lose his songs in the middle but then I realised it didn’t matter. You can get hung up on just two words of a Dylan lyric. ‘Jealous monk ‘or ‘magic swirling ship ‘are examples of the fantastic word combinations he uses. I could never write like that and I envy him. He is a poet.”

The influence of Bob Dylan on Paul McCartney would carry him through the entirety of his career, not just in The Beatles. It would come to the fore again after he formed Wings in 1971, but with the unintended outcome. The stakes were high for McCartney, as for his ever-expanding fanbase, he needed to produce their first album with quality and quickly or risk the slow fade into obscurity.

Requiring inspiration, he looked to his old friend Dylan and thought that if the ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ mastermind could record albums so quickly, then so could he. Ironically, the first Wings album, Wild Life, became a failure critically and commercially when released, but you cannot fault McCartney for trying to emulate the heights of Dylan.

Celebrating the album’s 50th anniversary in December 2021, on his website, Paul revisited a conversation he’d had about it back in 2018, and it was here that he revealed that he wanted to record it as fast as Bob Dylan. He said, “Well, I wanted to make an album just like that! [Clicks his fingers.] And Bob Dylan had just done an album in a few days, kind of thing. So I thought, ‘Yeah,’ you know. ‘That’d be good. Give it a freshness.’ That was the approach for putting Wild Life together.”

Although Wild Life was a failure and McCartney does not look back on it fondly, the experience was a vital one for him and the band. As the ’70s wore on, they’d take time honing their craft, and this patience set them on their long path to recording the 1973 masterpiece, Band on the Run.

Listen to Wild Life in full below.

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