- - Thursday, January 19, 2017

It came as no surprise when former Beatle Paul McCartney tapped guitarist and Moody Blues founder Denny Laine to be his right-hand man in his classic band Wings. Mr. Laine, Mr. McCartney and wife Linda McCartney created some of the greatest rock of the ‘70s including “Band on the Run,” considered by many to be Mr. McCartney’s greatest work away from John, George and Ringo.

At the recent Hollywood Show in L.A., Mr. Laine stepped away from meeting his fans to talk with me about how he came to work with “Sir Paul” and how he is paying tribute to the tunes he created in his past while continuing to make vital music for the future.

Question: What do fans say when they meet you?

Answer: They say, “How huch?!” [laughs] No. A lot of people say, “Thanks for the music.”

I get a kick out of doing these things, purely because there are so many fans that appreciate it. Fans say, “I saw you in 1976 at [a particular venue]. That was a pretty big tour. A lot of these people I meet all come with nothing but compliments about that tour. They remember it so well. It makes me feel good.

Q: Do you have any favorite many memories about your time in Wings?

A: “Band on the Run” was pretty significant for me because two of the guys didn’t turn up to record it. It was just me and Paul. The two of us had to go into the studio and make that album ourselves. With Linda of course. That was a big challenge. We got through it, and it turned out to be one of the best albums we ever made.

Q: What was the collaborative process like between you and Paul McCartney on “Band on the Run”?

A: Like I said, since we [were missing] two members in the band, we had to change things up a bit. We had rehearsed with those two guys, and we now didn’t have them. So we had to redo every track with Paul playing drums. I would play guitar or whatever [and] keyboard, just to get the initial tracks down. That gave it the feel I guess.

Then we would overdub everything else. But then it meant Paul had to play drums.

Q: How was Paul McCartney as a drummer?

A: He did OK. He had played drums on his own stuff before then. He played drums on some Beatles stuff too. He’s got a good feel. He doesn’t fashion himself as a drummer. He’s a musician who can play drums. I’m the same.

Q: How did you two get on?

A: Great. Me and him had worked so much together anyway. We had known each other before Wings. We grew up on the same music, had the same backgrounds of the people that we liked. We were both fans of the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly and Elvis. It came pretty easily.

Q: You knew each other before Wings, but how did you go from that to being in a band together?

A: When I was in The Moody Blues, we did their second British tour with The Beatles. But I had met him before that too. When we finally got out of our management and went with Brian Epstein, The Beatles asked him to put us on their tour. Because we were already friends.

With Wings, what I think happened was I was doing my own thing called Electric String Band. Paul and John and Peter Asher from Apple and Peter & Gordon [all] played at the theater. [Jimi] Hendrix was at the top of the bill. They saw me doing this new thing, you see. I think that what Paul was getting at.

He didn’t want to go out there and be a tribute band to The Beatles. I certainly wasn’t doing Moody Blues stuff. I was doing something completely new, and he knew that he needed something like that for Wings.

After that, the phone rings, and it was Paul. He asked me if I wanted to put a band together. I said, “Yeah. No problem.” There was no way I would have joined him to do a band if he was playing Beatles stuff.

Q: How are you marking the anniversary of “Band on the Run”?

A: I’ve started to do the “Band on the Run” show, where I play the album because of the anniversary. It’s not a copy like a tribute band. I’m not good at that. I’ve never remembered solos and stuff like that note for note. We mix it up a little bit so it doesn’t sound like a tribute band. Tribute bands do it better. Every little nuance is there.

I play the songs the way I play now. Colin Blunstone did a cover of one of my songs, and the reason I liked it was he changed it completely from my version. Same when Joe Cocker did [The Beatles’] “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

Q: Do you prefer making new music over nostalgia?

A: Oh, yeah. Nostalgia is one thing. It’s great to go and play the old songs. People know them and appreciate them. You got to give them what they want to hear. I did a lot of my own stuff on Wings albums, so I do that too. I’m still writing and still doing new stuff. I’ve got an album about to come out. I’ve got a musical I’m working on. I like to move forward.

You can’t get tied into your past. It’s not fun for me. You can’t just keep doing the same material forever. Some people just play the hits, and it’s the same show every night. They’re happy to do that. I personally am not.

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