It was 44 years ago today — May 24th, 1979 — that Paul McCartney released his final album with Wings and the first as part of his five-album, multi-million dollar deal with Columbia Records — Back To The Egg. The album featured the last lineup of the band, including co-founders Linda McCartney and Denny Laine — as well as its newest members, Laurence Juber on guitar and Steve Holly on drums. The album was co-produced by McCartney and Chris Thomas.
The Back To The Egg sessions spawned three hit singles, the 1979 Top Five hit “Goodnight Tonight” — which was not included on the album; “Getting Closer,” which hit Number 20; and “Arrow Through Me,” which peaked at Number 28. Back To The Egg hit Number Seven on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and spent five weeks in the Top 10. The album has since been certified platinum.
The album featured a pair of songs by Rockestra — the largest group of rock legends to record together up to that date. The cream of the rock elite joined Wings to record two tracks at London’s Abbey Road Studios for the instrumental “Rockestra Theme” and “So Glad To See You Here.” Rockestra consisted of the Who‘s Pete Townshend and Kenney Jones, Pink Floyd‘s David Gilmour, Procol Harum‘s Gary Brooker, the Faces‘ Ronnie Lane, the Attractions‘ Bruce Thomas, and Led Zeppelin‘s John Paul Jones and John Bonham, among others.
Among those invited that couldn’t make the session were Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck. Keith Moon had been asked to participate but had died less than a month before.
Paul McCartney explained that despite rock becoming more compartmentalized in the 1970’s, variety was still the key element to his music: “Y’know, I’m not kind of into that, ‘this is what I do — one specific kind of thing.’ Sometimes I sort of think, ‘Well, maybe I should kind of get it all together into one kind of music form, so we come on and play one kind of thing.’ But I’m not like — that’s not me, y’know? It never ends up like that with me. It always ends up a touch of this, a touch of that, ‘touch of that, c’mon, let’s have a laugh, get y’hands together, and we’ll have a touch of that.”
Wings’ final guitarist Laurence Juber played with McCartney from 1978 to 1981. He’s always referred to his tenure in Wings as if he was attending “McCartney University”: “The biggest things that I took away from working with Paul — It’s very difficult to look at Paul McCartney and not think ‘Beatle,’ because that’s ingrained. But, I worked with Paul McCartney artist, and what I learned from that experience is to follow my muse and be my own kind of artist. And Paul has proven, he has a proven track record of being an independent thinking artist. Y’know, he doesn’t try to retread ‘Beatleisms.’”
McCartney biographer Christopher Sanford feels that Denny Laine played an integral part in McCartney’s first decade without John Lennon: “Well, Denny Laine was vital, obviously. I mean, in ’71 when Paul decided after Ram that he was gonna put a band together, he could’ve hired anyone in the world more or less — and it’s significant that he went for Denny. I mean, it wasn’t done, y’know, completely on a whim. And obviously they were compatible and they’d trodden the boards together. Y’know, I wouldn’t overlook the experience of the British flea pit vaudeville theater circuit. It’s significant that Denny was the only guy that hung on the entire nine or ten years in Wings.”
A syndicated TV special, also called Back To The Egg, aired in November and December featuring videos for seven tracks from the album — along with “Goodnight Tonight.”
“Rockestra Theme” went on to earn McCartney the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.