Denny Laine: McCartney’s Wingman is Still Flying (Part Two)

Continued from Part One

I started buying Wings albums when Band on the Run came out. I was 10. And as I followed the band, I began–even as a young kid, I began to get the sense that you were kind of a foil to Paul in that your presence in the group tended to push him in a more rocking direction and that that sort of encouraged him creatively. Was that the dynamic in Wings from your point of view?

I wouldn’t say I was rocking. Paul and the Beatles were big fans of the Moody Blues. We were good friends way before we ever started Wings, and we toured with the Beatles too. We were on their second British tour. So, Paul and I were friends, and we would go and see shows and people would come in from America. Like Jimi Hendrix, Dylan and whoever was in town—Dylan. We would kind of hang out together in the clubs and talk a lot every day. A lot of the bands hung around the clubs in London. So, I already knew Paul very well. And without going into too much detail, it was an easy transition for me to be in Wings because of that.

So, what happened was I was doing the Moody Blues thing, and Paul was influenced by that; very much so. We were different. We had a piano. We were different to the Beatles. Although influenced by everyone at the time, we had our own sound. And Paul liked that. So, I brought that to him and he brought his Beatles stuff influence to me. So, when you’re working with someone all the time, you become almost equals when it comes to that. You kind of banter off each other so much, and that’s how come we got on so well. We got so much work done because we didn’t have any problems with the egos or getting to know each other and all that.

I did bring a certain element of my style in, yes, but I wouldn’t say it was a rock thing. Because I mean, the Beatles are more rock than the Moody Blues. The Moody Blues are more R&B. To start with, the Moody Blues was a blues band. I wouldn’t have joined them if they didn’t agree to do blues, because I didn’t want to just do pop music. So I brought that into Paul. And he encouraged me to write again, because I was writing in the Moody Blues originally, but not much. In the String Band I wrote quite a lot.

And then [Paul] got me into writing with him, and also playing lots of different instruments as well in the studio. He brought that out of me too. It was a lot of that encouragement from him for me. And as I say, we wrote “Mull of Kintyre” as a result of that. He had a bit of a song, and I said, “That could be a huge song,” and we went off and finished it. That’s how we worked together. We had a very productive attitude. I mean, we were all about trying to be better than the bands we [had been] in. I mean, it’s a very hard act to follow, the Beatles and the Moody Blues. We just wanted to do something different, and that’s really what we were focusing on. So we brought that out in each other.

I think that “No Words” from Band on the Run was the first thing the two of you wrote together, and that’s just about my favorite deep album cut.

Oh, thank you. Well, let me tell you. That was two of my songs that became one song, and it was Paul’s suggestion. I had two songs which weren’t finished. I had two riffs, in other words. I had a verse, a chorus, and then I had another section. And then, he said, “Why don’t you join them all together into one song?” Which is what we did. Then he helped me with the last verse and a couple of ideas, really. So it was more my song than his.

But it was the same … in a lot of ways, he’ll come to me with a song and I’ll help him finish. But it was a sign of a collaboration that worked. I know that he and John used to do that, and I know that’s how me and Pinder used to do it. Somebody would come up with the initial idea and the other person would help finish it. That’s the way it usually worked. And it was a lot of fun.

Other than live performance, do you have any other musical projects in the can or simmering?

Yeah. I’ve had a musical lying around for years. It’s called Arctic Song, and it’s all about the Arctic and saving the planet, basically. It’s an environmental piece. I’ve performed that with kids, universities, various places. I just did it last year at SUNY, which is the university up there in Buffalo. And I’m about to get involved with that again. It takes up a lot of time, these sort of side things. And it’s a lot of work. But we’re going to continue with that, trying to do it in a bigger way next year.

So I do have that, and I do have an album in the can that I haven’t released yet. But other than that, I’m just concentrating on doing as much live work as possible. That’s what I haven’t done for a while. And of course, [induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame] helps that. That’s brought my name back out. I’m out there working live again, which is what I really love to do. I much prefer live than I do studio. Studio’s fun as well; yeah, it’s experimental, but there’s nothing like an audience to get you going.