Wings – ‘Back To The Egg’ revisited

❉ In 1979, McCartney’s second band came to an end… Eoghan Lyng spins it on.

Despite the title suggesting a rebirth, Wings’ Back To The Egg sounded as derivative and as atypical an album as any was likely to get in 1979. At a time when ’70s stadium monsters The Who and Led Zeppelin moved further from guitar music to the softer sound of the keyboard (neither band to great results), so too did Wings move further towards a pop-oriented direction. With Laurence Juber and Steve Holley in toe, Wings put together a set no-one could foretell was Wings’ last.

John Shaw – cover photo. Hipgnosis – design

And it shouldn’t have been their last, but for the actions of two major incidents. The first, Paul McCartney’s arrest in January 1980 for smuggling eight ounces of marijuana to Japan, brought their first Japanese tour to an unexpected halt. The second, the murder of McCartney’s songwriting partner John Lennon, caused McCartney and wife Linda to shirk themselves from the attention of the world’s clawing fandom.

And so it’s a whimper of a last record, uninterestingly bland, sandwiched between the worthier peaks of the low-key brilliance of London Town and the eccentric and esoteric McCartney II. Too old hat for new wave, too safe for Beatlelites and simply too plodding for any interested buyers beside completists. It’s not the weakest of Wings’ catalogue (It has one or two moments, Wild Life arguably had none), but it’s definitely no champion either.

Positivity has always been one of McCartney’s outstanding features (he called one of his more recent albums New, for God’s sake!), so let’s start with the positives. There are four: Goodnight Tonight, if a bit throwaway, has an incredible flamenco crescendo and one of McCartney’s jumpiest and most erratic bass lines (John Lennon, who disliked the song, loved the bass.) Denny Laine’ s Again and Again and Again was the one of his finest Wings ballads, second only to Deliver Your Children.

Arrow Through Me dives at the listener in R&B stilletos. Daytime Nighttime Suffering, released as the flip to Goodnight Tonight, had lyrical gravitas to it, above the pop-seasoned keyboard riff, one of McCartney’s strongest post Beatles songs, an early example of proto-feminista hit-placing (much better than Lennon’s underwhelming Woman Is The —— of The World). That said, the fact that one of the positives found on this record, wasn’t initially released on the record is an indicator of the otherwise weak material found here.

Seventies rock extravaganza Rockestra played more as a who’s who of rock than a good track, the white powder reeking through the track. Featuring Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, Kenney Jones, Gary Brooker and Zeppelin duo John Paul Jones and John Bonham among the mayhem (Keith Moon was slated to play on the record, but he died weeks before the recording), it proved one of rock’s greatest indulgences and one of the greatest justifications of punk rock.

Old Siam, Sir was offensive even for 1979. Spin It On had a catchy title but nothing else (doubtless any listener spun it on a second time!) Reception, The Broadcast and We’re Open Tonight (each less than a minute and a half long) proved a petty attempts to appear arty. Closing track Baby’s Request sounded as asinine as any drivel any late seventies radio station would play.

And with that, McCartney’s second band came to an end, returning to work on his first true solo record in ten years. If Wings taught McCartney anything, it was that he was best when working alone – it is telling that Band On The Run and London Town remain their best records, both recorded when reduced to the bare bone trio of Paul, Linda and Denny. Henceforth, McCartney went to work on a triple collection of killer albums (the criminally overlooked McCartney II, the pop genius of Tug of War, the eighties Beatle zenith Pipes of Peace), his days as the frontman of a band behind him.

❉ ‘Back to the Egg’  by Paul McCartney and Wings, released 24 May 1979 on Columbia Records in America, and on Parlophone in the UK. ‘Back to the Egg’ was reissued in 1993, with bonus tracks, and in 2007 for iTunes, with the addition of Wings‘ 1979 non-album single ‘Goodnight Tonight’ in its extended form. 

  A regular contributor to We Are Cult, Eoghan Lyng’s writing has also appeared in New Sounds, Record Collector, CultureSonar, Punk Noir Magazine, DMovies, Phacemag and other titles. Follow him on TwitterVisit his homepage. 

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  1. Funnily enough, I think London Town and McCartney II are terrible records. Back to the Egg, I find, is not as bad as it’s reputation would suggest. ‘So Glad to See You Here’ is fun and always overshadowed by the instrumental Rockestra Theme. In my view, the best songs are ‘Love Awake, ‘Sping It On’, ‘Again and Again and Again’, ‘Old Siam, Sir’ and ‘Arrow Through Me. So that’s basically the whole first side.

    • Quite a few people love this record. I can’t quite see it. The biggest failing is the lack of direction. It’s neither seventies hard rock or eighties new wave, but an uncomfortable mixture of both. At least on London Town, Paul and Denny went all the way with the folk direction, and he went all the way with II’s electro sound. I can hear snippets of II on Egg alright.

      • The biggest compliment I can give this, is that Dr Feelgood’s ‘Milk and Alcohol’ would have fit into the theme

        I don’t think it matters what the ‘direction’ was (or ever is and thank goodness 40 years later this labelling of where an album must fit is long dead). It was no less relevant than what The Cars, Cheap Trick or Dr Feelgood were doing

        It’s in my McCartney Top 10 of all times albums

        Highlights for me are the classic ‘Old Siam Sir’, which I used to play at school (to remind people who the most creative Beatle was!!)’So Glad to See You Here’, ‘Getting Closer’ and ‘Too You’ and ‘We’re Open Tonight’

        Ironically, this is the album everyone wanted him to do around 1971. Paul, been brilliantly ‘up yours’ in terms of doing whatever he wanted to do – left their must Beatles like album (not that it’s that similar) until the end

  2. 😆 what a review. There’s not a bad track on the LP and it’s miles ahead of its immediate predecessor as well as successor. Lots of engaging pop/rock tracks and never a dull moment. This is another one the critics will eventually be hailing as great 50 years too late. Like they now do with McCartney and Ram. Carry on and try to catch up.

  3. Absolutely love this album and always did as well as all of its associated singles mentioned. It’s considered a cult album by some I now read and is more in the vein of super tramp and other such late seventies musical styles while the great synth McCartney II and its singles are truly early synth new wave. The problem with egg is so many incredible albums and new groups emerged at that time and he had a new label Columbia that didn’t promote egg well though egg album did go gold and platinum in Canada. Love Macca’s raspy vocals on egg.

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