Back in 1970, when Paul McCartney announced the breakup of the Beatles, it didn’t take him very long to move on and start a new band called Wings with his friend Denny Laine. But Wings ended kind of abruptly, so are Denny Laine and Paul McCartney friends?
Denny Laine and Paul McCartney are not close friends. Publicly, both Laine and McCartney speak respectfully about one another. But behind the public facade, there is an undercurrent of anger and resentment stemming from Laine feeling he was underpaid for his contributions to Wings’ success.
The band Wings was officially formed in 1971.
Having met years before in the burgeoning British music scene of the early 60s, Paul McCartney and Denny Laine had a friendship that went way back.
Denny Laine became part of the creative hub of the Wings, and they would go on to have multiple number-one hits. McCartney, of course sang lead vocals, played bass, piano, and guitar. Laine became lead guitarist, although he would often play bass if McCartney were playing guitar or piano.
It all came to an end in 1981 after Paul McCartney’s infamous arrest in Japan for possession of marijuana and an indefinite halt to touring. McCartney put out a solo album (McCartney II), and so Laine decided to release a solo album also called Japanese Tears; no doubt a nod to McCartney’s arrest and the end of the band.
What started off as a collaboration between friends ended in a frustrated breakup. Denny Laine went his way, and Paul McCartney never looked back.
But the animosity didn’t start right away.
Fast-forward to today, and we have the legendary Paul McCartney still making headlines. And Denny Laine? Mr. Laine is still around, having kept a low profile after the relative commercial success he enjoyed with Wings.
I wanted to learn more about Denny Laine and Paul McCartney’s friendship. This was what I was able to find.
How Did Paul McCartney Meet Denny Laine?
Denny Laine became friends with Paul McCartney at the height of Beatlemania as Laine was living in London and was neighbors with George Harrison. Laine was a successful musician as well at the time as a member of The Moody Blues.
In 1964 guitarist Denny Laine burst onto the British music scene as a cofounding member of the Moody Blues. They had a big hit under Laine with Go Now, which hit #1.
That same year, the Beatles were riding the charts with I Wanna Hold Your Hand and exploding on the US music scene after their legendary performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Paul McCartney’s singing was already entering the realm of legend by then.
If you’re curious, check out this article I wrote about whether Paul McCartney has perfect pitch by clicking here. The cute Beatle was wowing the world with his natural songwriting and musicianship. But did the notes come effortlessly or did he struggle?
Just click that link to read that on my site.
The Moody Blues were just getting started by the time the Beatles enjoyed rock god status, but that didn’t stop them from becoming friends and tour partners. In December 1965, the Beatles undertook a record-setting UK tour, and The Moody Blues opened for them.
Denny Laine, when talking about how he met Paul McCartney, explains it like this:
“So, I had pretty much a friendship with him because I was in London at the time. And that’s how I got to know him. George Harrison was also our neighbor when I was in The Moody Blues… We were both fans of each other… We all started out together as kids, really”
In another interview, he explains,
“I became friends with Paul who had seen me performing as an opening act for Jimi Hendrix… He was impressed with seeing me trying to do something different onstage with my Electric String Band.”
Shortly before joining Wings, Laine was playing in Ginger Baker’s Air Force, a supergroup of sorts led by former Cream and Blind Faith drummer Ginger Baker. Laine was the first guitar player Baker worked with following his years with Eric Clapton.
#PaulMcCartney with Denny Laine in studio circa 1978#Wings pic.twitter.com/rmo02s4mbw
— Laurent The Walrus (@SgtPepper1710) June 26, 2021
What Happened to Denny Laine Since Wings Broke Up?
When Wings broke up, Denny Laine and Paul McCartney were on friendly terms, and Laine continued to collaborate with him on two of his solo albums and even co-wrote the b-side to McCartney’s hit Ebony and Ivory. He formed the Denny Laine Band and released solo albums throughout the 80s and 90s.
He also started revisiting Wings material, putting out an album called Wings at the Sound of Denny Laine in 1996.
When Denny Laine officially left Wings in 1981, it seemed that he could easily be replaced as just another rotating member of “Paul McCartney’s backup band”.
But that wasn’t the case.
His departure heralded the official disbanding of the group, and unfortunately, an unofficial end to his status of ‘rock star’. His time with Wings was the pinnacle of his commercial success.
Paul McCartney had always kept tight control over the financial matters of the Wings and was doing just fine. Plus, he had the royalties from his work with the Beatles.
The former Beatle didn’t want for anything. (If you’re curious to know whether the Beatles still receive royalties, you can read this article I wrote about just that by clicking here.) Just click that link to read it on my site.
Denny, on the other hand, didn’t enjoy such economic stability.
Envy is an ugly bedfellow, and eventually, he grew resentful of McCartney. Denny publicly complained about the lost income from the canceled world tour and started telling the tabloids that McCartney was a cheapskate and paid his bandmates poorly.
His personal life took a nosedive: he got divorced and eventually had to declare bankruptcy.
Between 97 and ’02, he toured with a group called World Classic Rockers. In 2008 he released another solo album. At some point, he realized he should just build off his past successes and spend the years before the global COVID-19 pandemic actively touring with a project called the Moody Wing Band.
In an interview discussing his most recent project, he stated,
“I want to emphasize that we are not a tribute band and don’t play these songs note for note. It’s a new style approach, very similar but with a different attitude.”
The classic Wings trio, consisting of (from left to right) Linda McCartney, Paul McCartney, and Denny Laine, (1978) pic.twitter.com/3FK5A4PzIe
— Vano Klertiashvili (@VanoKlertiashvi) September 24, 2021
Did Denny Laine Attend Linda McCartney’s Funeral?
Denny Laine did not attend Linda McCartney’s funeral despite having been a founding member of the band Wings with her and Paul McCartney. At the time, there was still a great deal of animosity between Laine and Paul McCartney over Laine’s belief he had been under-compensated for his contributions to Wings.
I recently did an article about Linda McCartney’s unfortunate battle with breast cancer, which she ultimately lost. You can read about whether she knew she was dying or not by clicking here.
When Lady McCartney passed away in 1998, the whole world mourned with Paul McCartney and their family.
George Harrison and Ringo Starr famously attended the funeral, together with George Martin, creating a de facto Beatles reunion. But certain people were notably not invited, amongst them, Yoko Ono and apparently Denny Laine.
I have scoured the internet looking for proof that Denny Laine attended Linda McCartney’s funeral, and I couldn’t find any.
It seems like he should have been invited, considering the 10 years they shared as bandmates. But it was well known there were “cultural differences” between the McCartneys and the Laine, which caused something of a rift between the two families.
#Wings #RedRoseSpeedway line-up: Paul McCartney, Denny Laine, Henry McCullough, Linda McCartney & Denny Seiwell. pic.twitter.com/QnJ5y2PEuA
— Daniel Beatle 🎲 (@flamingpie33) April 2, 2019
What Happened to the Band Members of Wings?
Wings were notorious for its constantly evolving lineup. Denny Laine, Paul, and Linda were the primary members of the band, but there were other musicians that came and went.
What happened to the other band members of Wings after leaving the group or when the band finally broke up?
- Denny Seiwell: A founding member of Wings, Seiwell played drums on Wild Life, Red Rose Symphony, and the iconic song, Live and Let Die. He left the band in 1973. After Wings, he dedicated himself to being a studio musician or ‘session man’ in Los Angeles, CA. He currently performs with his group, The Denny Siewell Jazz Trio, touring jazz clubs around the country.
- Geoff Britton: joining Wings as their drummer for a brief stint from 1974 to 1975, Britton played on the Venus and Mars album. After Wings, he played in Manfred Mann’s Earth Band, then later in the group Rough Diamond. He then went on to play in the Keys. Then he basically just dropped off the face of the earth. It took a man named Dan Ealy four years to track him down in Spain and convince him to come to a Junior’s Farm 45th Anniversary performance in rural Tennessee.
- Henry McCullough: Having joined the band in 1972 as a guitarist, he eventually left two years later. He released a solo album in 1975 and then worked actively as a session musician until he had a severe heart attack in 2012. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 72.
- Joe English: Joining Wings in 1975, English played drums on Venus and Mars, Wings at the Speed of Sound, and Wings Over America. He left the band in 1977 while recording the album London Town. He later became a prominent figure in the Christian music movement and toured the world with the Joe English Band and later the Compassion All-Star Band. As of 2020, he is an active member of his church band in North Carolina.
- Jimmy McCulloch: A member of Wings from 1974 to 1977, he played guitar and bass. After leaving the band, he played on the side project White Line with his brother and joined the group Small Faces. He later played with the group Wild Horses and then The Dukes. He passed away in 1979 from an apparent drug overdose.
- Steve Holley: Taking over the drum kit in 1978, he played with the band until it broke up. He later played on Julian Lennon’s album Valotte and then joined the band Reckless Sleepers. He has worked extensively as a studio musician, and as of 2020, was a member of the band Mott the Hoople.
- Laurence Juber: Having joined Wings in 1978, Juber played guitar with the group until 1981. When the band broke up, he returned to his previous career as an in-demand studio musician. He released multiple solo albums and is regarded as one of the best fingerstyle guitarists in the industry.
On August 3rd 1971, Paul McCartney, announced the formation of his new band Wings, with formal member of The Moody Blues guitarist Denny Laine. pic.twitter.com/WkZyFA1Q8M
— Legends Of Classic Rock (@lofcr1) August 3, 2018
Has there been a Denny Laine and Paul McCartney Reunion?
Denny Laine and Paul McCartney have not had a musical reunion since they last worked together in the early 1980s. However, Laine has performed a few “Wings reunion” shows with other former Wings members, but McCartney has not participated in those.
But there have been a few collaborations. In 2013, Denny Laine announced that Paul McCartney was working with him on a book project.
They also famously crossed paths back in 2007 at a UB40 concert. But a “buddy-buddy, let’s play those old hits together” type of reunion isn’t going to happen.
What are the most famous songs McCartney and Laine wrote together?
Paul McCartney and Denny Laine were the driving force behind Wings. Many of the other band members, Linda McCartney aside, came and went. So Laine served as McCartney’s right-hand man for a decade; roughly the same length of the time The Beatles enjoyed.
That being said, Laine was not credited with much songwriting during his time with Wings. McCartney mostly wrote his own songs, although many are credited to Paul and wife Linda together.
However, one of Wings’ greatest songs, Mull of Kintyre, is credited to both Paul McCartney and Denny Laine.
Wings, of course, had lots of hits and were incredibly popular. But in concert, they were also known for playing Beatles songs too, much to the delight of a lot of people. Remember that for most of The Beatles’ history, they did not tour, so many fans never got to see The Beatles in concert.
So, are Denny Laine and Paul McCartney friends?
After all my digging around, I think it’s safe to say they most likely regard each other with respectful affection for the time they worked together.
Friends? Not exactly.
But I don’t think it would be fair to call them enemies either. It appears that if they are in the same room, they talk, but I’m guessing they aren’t seeking each other out for an impromptu jam session.
But Laine is a great musician who helped McCartney launch and execute a band that in many ways at the time, was just as successful as The Beatles had been. Laine deserves a lot of credit for that.
Photos that require attribution:
Image by Darkmoon_Art from Pixabay and Chiller Theatre Expo, Parsippany, NJ, 4/27/13 by Rob DiCaterino is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, merged and had a text overlay added.