Some simply considered Denny Laine the guy in Wings who wasn't Paul McCartney. He was much more. Laine made important earlier contributions to the Moody Blues (like their first hit "Go Now," which he'd sing at Wings concerts), then recorded a bunch of too-often-overlooked songs with Wings (including some that never made it onto their albums) and issued his own sporadic solo records along the way. We 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 began 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 featured a reunion of sorts with Ginger Baker, who supplied the song with shaker percussion. Laine worked with him in 1970 as part of the former Cream drummer's Air Force.
"Spirits of Ancient Egypt"From: 'Venus and Mars' (1975)
McCartney offered a great counterpoint vocal, and the band was in fine musical form throughout the follow-up to Band on the Run. Still, "Spirits of Ancient Egypt" almost came off as a middle-of-the-road Wings throwaway until finally springing to 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: this 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 was infused with John Lennon-style melancholy. All of Wings' Red Rose Speedway-period members appeared on the song, since it was actually an outtake from those album sessions: McCartney brought his bass, Henry McCullough played guitar, Denny Seiwell was on drums and Linda was 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" was an uplifting meditation on wordlessly loving someone. It grew out of an unfinished tune by Laine that he brought along to Wings' Band on the Run sessions for completion by the trio.
"The Note You Never Wrote"From: 'Wings at the Speed of Sound' (1976)
A first-rate mid-tempo McCartney number with a thoughtful guitar solo by Jimmy McCulloch, "The Note You Never Wrote" may be the best song on a very uneven Wings album. It certainly couldn't have been better sequenced, coming second in the album's track listing, right after the LP's hit single "Let 'Em In." This is a much better song, though.
"Mull of Kintyre"From: 1977 Single
Long the biggest-selling non-charity song in U.K. chart history, Wings' Celtic-tinged "Mull of Kintyre" combined McCartney's love of Scotland (where he's owned a farm since the Beatles' heyday) with Laine's underrated gift of songcraft. "Mull of Kintyre" was recorded during a break from the sessions for 1978's London Town, and 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 was all about a man losing control of a relationship – and judging by the song's title, it's apparently not the first time. "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 brought a punk-style edge to this 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 recorded with the Moody Blues a decade earlier was the definitive take. This song underscored the gritty R&B elements that would disappear once Justin Hayward arrived and took the Moody Blues 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 Rockshow concert movie, "Time to Hide" was marked by a heavy blues interplay of guitar and a walking bass line from McCartney. That combo gave "Time to Hide" a Beatles-meets-Cream feeling. But Laine's vocal, as searing as it is insistent, remained the center point. It's quite possibly his all-time best.