Back in high school, I had a little routine of playing “Winter Rose” (followed by Aerosmith’s “Seasons of Wither”) on the first snow day of every year. There was just something so special about hearing this short little tune while walking the street and seeing everything covered in white – it’s a song that’s both melancholic and hopeful and this kind of sums up my feelings about the season in general. What’s interesting is that within its album, “Winter Rose” is not even developed beyond one verse and a two-minute length, and it is paired with “Love Awake” in a medley-type fashion. It feels thrown there as just another little McCartney experiment in a series of many, and that is a constant characteristic of his solo work: often it’s all about the little moments. A chorus that’ll stick in your head, a melody that feels just so inventive, a mood that’ll resonate with you, an intriguing instrumental touch.
Two new members joined Paul, Linda and Denny Laine for this one last Wings album – Steve Holley on drums and Laurence Juber credited with guitars. Released in 1979, Back to the Egg is said to be the band’s response to the rise of the Punk and New Wave scenes, and indeed, there is some truth to that. Take for example a song like “Spin It On” – it is played at a breakneck speed, faster than anything they’d ever attempted before.
Or “Old Siam, Sir,” where they inject a certain dose of rawness and grittiness and come out with one of their most convincing rockers ever – the words may be completely meaningless, but those guitar breaks steal the show all by themselves. And “Arrow Through Me” definitely should’ve been a bigger hit, with that wonderful coat of current synths and echo added to an already memorable pop melody.
However, to label the whole album as strictly Punk or New Wave is to completely misjudge it. In typical Wings fashion, this is another eclectic bag of styles and forms, with unpredictability as the only constant. Perhaps another artist would’ve stretched the whole concept idea to more than just a couple of interludes, reprises and naming of album sides (Side A is named “Sunny Side Up” and Side B “Over Easy”). And another artist could’ve used having big names such as David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones in the studio to create something more relevant than a bunch of rocking jams (“Rockestra Theme” and “So Glad to See You Here”). And one could’ve fleshed out the gorgeous, gentle acoustic strumming of “We’re Open Tonight” and the passionate longing of “After the Ball” into fully developed songs. But once you realize that perfection over the course of an album was never really Wings’ goal, pretty much everything here will start making sense in a quirky, fun, charming way.
Few other albums of that time could so easily transition from a hard-hitting rocker to a full-on jazz number as the album does at its very end with the “So Glad to See You Here” – “Baby’s Request” sequence. Chaos becomes late-night smoothness and the finale seems just perfect for the Wings’ whole career. In two years the group would already be disbanded after the Japan tour disrupted by McCartney’s infamous drug bust, but not without leaving a fine 7-album legacy behind. Back to the Egg may not necessarily reach the heights of Band on the Run and Venus & Mars, but it is still an important part of that legacy and an album where every fan of McCartney’s solo work will find something to like.
Photo: Getty Images
PS. You may also enjoy our posts Paul McCartney’s “Ram” Reconsidered and “Give My Regards to Broad Street” Sure Has Aged Well.
I love this one.
I enjoyed the article! And the record. Brings back memories. I listened to your many recordings on Ram, Revolver, etc. but can’t seem to find them now. can you leave a link?
Where does the album’s only hit, “Getting Closer,” fit in?
“Getting Closer” is a great example of power pop, even though structurally it’s akin to “Junior’s Farm,” with the upbeat main body of the song leading to a semi-chaotic, not particularly similar ending that feels like it was lying around in his musical box of odds and ends.
There was Arrow Through Me that was played on the radio
I worked at Thrifty Drug Store in 79……I remember the store selling it on a discount table along with other overstock albums….No appreciation for Paul at that time. A few months later John was murdered and Paul was HOT STUFF again…..WAR and PIPES of PEACE were top of the charts.
Hopefully, they’ll add this album collection to be remastered and remixed with extra tracks and packaging. Its worth the trouble and wait for any Paul McCartney and Wings fan to have. Now where did i put that 8 track way back when??? Would love to have this back in my collection of all things McCartney for sure.
I’m apparently an odd duck–I think London Town was a good album.
I think that is the magic of a McCartney album. They usually are cohesive works of melody sprinkled with Macca magic but most of the magic comes from what was going on in Paul’s life at the time and how it synced up with your own life. Certainly there’s charm in all of them. Ram wasn’t a hit at the time of release with ctitics but look at nowadays. But to say that Back to the Egg isn’t as strong as BOTR or London Town is lesser than Venus & Mars is to misunderstand Paul McCartney as a composer and even The Beatles as his foundation. They didn’t want to do the same thing twice in a row and often expanded on themes, experimentation and styles. Embrace the albums that move you.
I love Back To the Egg! It is worth huntung down an early version of the album where the track order is messed with, a couple tunes are longer and (Sadly)’ Baby’s Request is cut. Happily it is cut for a cool quirky number called “Cage.”
I always LOVED this CD, which came out the year I graduated high school. So many memories. i agree with previous comments: McCartney has always tried to do something new. Critics HATED Back to the Egg, but to them if it wasn’t Sgt Pepper or Band on the Run it wasn’t worth hearing. To my ears Back to the Egg rocks out harder than McCartney had in years (certainly harder than London Town!), with “Spin It On” perhaps his hardest ever.
I still follow Paul in wherever direction he takes and Egypt Station is a fantastic album as well!