[Review] Wings: London Town (1978)

An understated and probably underrated album featuring a lot of good ideas (many from Denny), acoustic guitars and electronic keyboards.

Kronomyth 8.0: Wings at the speed of slowing down.

There was always something about London Town that that felt grounded, both in the sense of being sensible and earthbound. Maybe it was the understated arrangements on its biggest hits, “With A Little Luck” and “London Town.” Maybe it was the presence of so many acoustic songs (“Deliver Your Children,” “Children Children,” “Don’t Let It Bring You Down”). Maybe it was the diminished presence of the electric guitar in favor of softer keyboard sounds. Or maybe it was just the gray album cover.

By the time the album was released, Jimmy McCulloch and Joe English had both left Wings. Neither leave much of an imprint on London Town, which is likely to happen when you’re not around for the final mix. I can’t recall a single electric guitar solo on the album, and English was never a flashy drummer. Their absence is opportunity for Denny Laine, who cowrites much of the material this time and takes lead vocals on both “Deliver Your Children” (a far prettier turn than “Richard Cory”) and “Children Children,” a song that would have felt right at home on a Moody Blues record (and not simply because of its title). If Paul McCartney shines on this album, Laine shines right along with him.

London Town ends up being a very different record than their last studio effort, Wings at the Speed of Sound. Where Speed had two perfectly polished hits, the hits on London Town are understated. Speed could have used a few more good ideas; London Town almost has too many. “Girlfriend,” “I’m Carrying” and especially “Backwards Traveller” would have benefited from more attention. Michael Jackson seems to have understood the potential of “Girlfriend” better than McCartney, delivering a great version on Off The Wall. Instead, Capitol released “I’ve Had Enough” as the third single, which is a great song in the tradition of “Helen Wheels” but, again, a bit underdone considering how awesome it should have been (and how desperately the henpecked need an anthem other than “Take The Long Way Home”).

In its surfeit of good ideas and casual production, London Town points back to the earliest McCartney albums while taking advantage of modern studio techniques (electronic keyboards, improved multitracking) to achieve a sort of Beatles lite effect. In fact, more than a few of these songs reminded me of Paul’s contributions to his former band (“Café on the Left Bank,” “Famous Groupies”). I’m not saying it’s as good as all that; rather, it’s a welcome reminder that Paul McCartney could still be counted on for an album’s worth of good ideas with at least a handful of winning melodies. Together with Back to the Egg and Tug of War, London Town finds a workable formula for Paul’s ideas that carried him strongly through the early 80s.

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Original elpee version

A1.London Town (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) (3:10)
A2. Café on the Left Bank (Paul McCartney) (3:25)
A3. I’m Carrying (Paul McCartney) (2:44)
A4. Backwards Traveller (Paul McCartney) (1:07)
A5. Cuff Link (Paul McCartney) (2:03)
A6. Children Children (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) (2:20)
A7. Girlfriend (Paul McCartney) (4:31)
A8. I’ve Had Enough (Paul McCartney) (3:02)
B1. With A Little Luck (Paul McCartney) (5:45)
B2. Famous Groupies (Paul McCartney) (3:34)
B3. Deliver Your Children (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) (4:17)
B4. Name And Address (Paul McCartney) (3:07)
B5. Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) (4:34)
B6. Morse Moose And The Grey Goose (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) (6:27)

CD reissue bonus tracks
15. Girls School
16. Mull of Kintyre

The Players

Paul McCartney (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, percussion, violin, flageolet, recorder), Joe English (vocal, drums, percussion, harmonica), Denny Laine (vocal, guitar, bass, flageolet, recorder, percussion), Linda McCartney (vocal, keyboards, percussion), Jimmy McCulloch (guitar, percussion). Produced by Paul McCartney; engineered by Geoff Emerick.

The Pictures

Cover design and photography by Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney and Denny Laine. Cover coordination by Aubrey Powell and George Hardie. Additional photographs by Henry Diltz and Graham Hughes.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on March 31, 1978 in the UK, Australia and India (Parlophone, PAS/TC-PAS 10012), the US (Capitol, SW/4XW/8XW-11777), Brazil (EMI, 1C 066 60521), Canada (Capitol, SWX/4XWX/8ZWX-11777), France (EMI, 2C 068 60521), Germany (EMI, 1C 064 60521), Italy (EMI, 3C 064 60521), Japan (EMI Toshiba, EPS-81000), the Netherlands (EMI, 5C 062 60521), Venezuela (EMI, EMIs – 7553) and Yugoslavia (Jugoton, LSCAP 70811) with lyrics innersleeve and poster; reached #4 on the UK charts and #2 on the US charts (RIAA-certified platinum record). 8-track features different track order.

  1. Re-issued on cassette in Italy (Parlophone, 54 1605214) {w. barcode}.
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 1989 in the US (Capitol, CDP 7 48198 2) with one bonus track (#15).
  3. Re-issued on expanded compact disc on November 8, 1995 in Japan (EMI Odeon, TOCP-3131) with 2 bonus tracks.
  4. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 1993 in the UK, Argentina and the Netherlands (EMI, CDP 7 89265) with 2 bonus tracks.
  5. Re-issued on January 26, 2000 in Japan (Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-65510).
  6. Re-packaged with Venus And Mars and Back To The Egg on expanded, remastered 3CD in 2000 in the UK (EMI, 5 28667 2).

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