Paul McCartney & Wings’ ‘London Town’ Turns 45!!!
It was 45 years ago today (March 31st, 1978) that Paul McCartney & Wings released London Town. By the time of the album’s completion, Wings was pared back down to a trio, with just Paul, Linda McCartney, and the ever-faithful Denny Laine. Over the course of the album’s sessions, guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Joe English had quit, leaving the trio to complete the set, which was McCartney’s first since the band’s massive 1976 Wings Over America tour and subsequent chart-topping live album.
Preceding the release of the album in November 1977 was the stand-alone single “Mull Of Kintyre” backed with “Girl’s School.” While the rest of the globe went mad for the acoustic Scottish waltz, its B-side, “Girls School,” was chosen for the U.S. market and stalled at Number 33. Driven by the success of the London Town’s Number One hit lead single, “With A Little Luck,” the album spent 10 weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 albums chart — with the album stuck at Number Two for six of those weeks — unable to displace the then-massive Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
Three singles were pulled from the set — “With A Little Luck” (#1), “I’ve Had Enough” (#25), and “London Town” (#39). The album featured the song “Girlfriend,” which Paul McCartney had offered Michael Jackson back in 1975 and eventually went on to become one of the highlights of Jackson’s 1979 Off The Wall album. London Town was notable for being the only Wings set to feature a total of five co-writes with Wings co-founder Denny Laine.
Upon hitting the road in 1979, only “I’ve Had Enough” was included in the setlists for Wings’ final tour — although the band had rehearsed “With A Little Luck.”
Shortly after London Town’s release, Paul McCartney recalled recording on various boats docked in the Virgin Islands: “We were on the boat in (the) Virgin Islands and they just set up a studio for us and we were in some little lagoon, called Watermelon Bay and we were playing there. But, we couldn’t play too late in the evening ’cause there were rules against amplified music. So, what had happened was they’d set up the studio and we thought we’d be going in just to, kind of, test it out, really, the first day. But we went in and right away we put down ‘Cafe On The Left Bank’ — we did most of it and we did the backing tracks. So, we’re dead lucky that the studio ever worked, ’cause it’s notorious. Y’know, if you get a new studio, you’ve got to spend at least a week ironing out wrinkles.”
The Beatles’ legendary late-engineer Geoff Emerick was McCartney’s first choice to run the boards for 1978’s London Town, which was recorded mainly at sea: “It was pretty good. No, we did it in the Caribbean. And I got the Record Plant’s mobile (unit) from L.A. shipped out and installed on the back of the boat and I just built this control room out of plywood, y’know?”
Paul McCartney often chose off the beaten path spots for Wings to record in — most notably Lagos for Band On The Run, New Orleans for Venus And Mars, the Caribbean for London Town, and an English castle for Back To The Egg. We asked Denny Laine which of the many McCartney recording sojourns was his favorite: “I suppose the Band On The Run thing because it was different, and the London Town thing, ’cause it was all on boats — which was my suggestion. I never really liked working in London and all those studios, because I like to be out in the open air.” SOUNDCUE