Some people will always consider Denny Laine the guy in Wings who wasn't Paul McCartney. But that ignores Laine's earlier contributions to the Moody Blues (like their first hit "Go Now," which he'd sing at Wings concerts), a bunch of good songs that never made it onto Wings albums and his own sporadic solo records. We've scoured his entire career for our list of the Top 10 Denny Laine Songs.
"Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)"From: 'Band on the Run' (1973)
Laine begins this popular Wings song with a straight face, offering a stoic lyric – "The grand old painter died last night" – only to see it dissolve into a raucous funeral party: "Drink to me, drink to my health / You know I can't drink anymore." "Picasso's Last Words" also features a reunion of sorts with Ginger Baker, who supplies the song with shaker percussion and with whom Laine worked in 1970 as part of the former Cream drummer's Air Force.
"Spirits of Ancient Egypt"From: 'Venus and Mars' (1975)
Even though McCartney provides the counterpoint vocal on this mid-'70s middle-of-the-road Wings rocker, he doesn't do much with the lyrics. The band is in fine musical form throughout Band on the Run's follow-up, but this song found new life as a muscled prog rocker on the live Wings Over America LP and the Rockshow concert movie.
"I Lie Around"From: 'Live and Let Die' Single (1973)
Anyone who bothered to flip over McCartney's 007 theme song found a nifty little gift: a fun cut about doing absolutely nothing (maybe McCartney wrote it in the quiet aftermath of the Beatles' breakup). "I Lie Around" was the first released Wings song to feature someone other than McCartney singing lead.
"I Would Only Smile"From: 'Japanese Tears' (1980)
Influenced by Rubber Soul-era Beatles, this country-pop tune from Laine's first post-Wings solo album is infused with John Lennon-style melancholy. All of Wings' Red Rose Speedway-period members play on the song, since it's actually an outtake from the album's sessions: McCartney plays bass, Henry McCullough plays guitar, Denny Seiwell plays drums and Linda's there too. It's the only solo cut to make our list of the Top 10 Denny Laine Songs.
"No Words"From: 'Band on the Run' (1973)
The first official songwriting collaboration between Laine and McCartney, "No Words" – an uplifting meditation on wordlessly loving someone – was an unfinished tune by Laine that he brought along to Wings' Band on the Run sessions and completed by the trio. It's an often neglected gem that rightfully belongs on our list of the Top 10 Denny Laine Songs.
"The Note You Never Wrote"From: 'Wings at the Speed of Sound' (1976)
This first-rate mid-tempo McCartney number, featuring a thoughtful guitar solo by Jimmy McCulloch, may be the best song on a very uneven Wings album. It certainly couldn't have been better sequenced, coming in second in the album's track listing, right after the LP's hit single "Let 'Em In." It's a way better song too.
"Mull of Kintyre"From: 1977 Single
Long the biggest-selling non-charity song in U.K. chart history, Wings' Celtic-tinged "Mull of Kintyre" combines McCartney's love of Scotland (where he's owned a farm since the Beatles' heyday) with Laine's underrated gift of songcraft. Recorded during a break from the sessions for 1978's London Town, "Mull of Kintyre" became the first song to ever sell two million copies in the U.K., even though it stiffed in the U.S.
"Again and Again and Again"From: 'Back to the Egg' (1979)
This desperate retort from Wings' final album is all about a man losing control of a relationship – and apparently it's not the first time, judging by the song's title. "Again and Again and Again" was recorded with help from McCartney and the unheralded Wings lineup that included Lawrence Juber and Steve Holly. Combined with producer Chris Thomas, who worked with the Sex Pistols, the group brings a punk-style edge to the track.
"Go Now"From: 'The Magnificent Moodies' (1965)
Laine sang "Go Now" at almost every single Wings concert in the '70s. But the original version – which he recorded with the Moody Blues a decade earlier – is the definitive one. The song underscores the Moody Blues' gritty R&B elements that would disappear once Justin Hayward arrived and took the band in a different direction.
"Time to Hide"From: 'Wings at the Speed of Sound' (1976)
Laine's most propulsive contribution to Wings, and a highlight of the 2013 remaster of the Rockshow concert movie, "Time to Hide" is marked by a heavy blues interplay of guitar and a walking bass line performed by McCartney. That combo gives "Time to Hide" a Beatles-meets-Cream feeling. But Laine's vocal, as searing as it is insistent, remains the center point. It's also, quite possibly, his all-time best.