Greatest "Greatest Hits" Albums: WINGS GREATEST [1978]

Greatest Hits compilations are released for a variety of reasons, among the more common ones are contractual obligation (the artist owes the label an album or two), death of an artist (consumers suddenly realize they need to own at least one album by the late so and so), artist changing labels (often tied into contractual obligation though sometimes the artist or more often the label wants one last golden egg before losing the goose) and Holiday cash grab (most greatest hits albums are released in October and November for obviou$ rea$on$) .
Wings Greatest was released in November 1978 as McCartney left his longtime US label Capitol for a stint with Columbia just in time for a Holiday cash grab.  While McCartney or Capitol could have easily compiled a double wide album of hits from his eight year post-Beatles output which amounted to twenty-four Top 40 singles in total, the decision was made to keep it a single record with a dozen songs.
Often times, to entice even the most die hard fans who have bought every album and single by their favorite artist along the way, bonus material will be included on a Greatest Hits album such as previously unreleased material, newly recorded material, live versions and remixed or remastered versions.  Sometimes there is a little bait and switch where the bonus material is advertised as never before available on album or never before available in your country of choice but the true believers do indeed already have it.  Such is the case with Wings Greatest as some vinyl pressings had a hype sticker attached to the front cover that read
Contains 4 recordings never before on an album.
The four songs had been released as non-album singles but had never been included on a slab of twelve inch vinyl so while they were not lying, they were kind of messing with their biggest fans like me, though technically I only had these two 45s of songs that were on the album:
I got this album as an early Christmas 1978 present for reasons I don't recall.  All my gripes aside, I love this album. It was about twenty seven minutes per side and fit on both a 60 minute 8 track tape I recorded on my Soundesign all in one stereo as well as one of my earliest cassette dubs (via stereo cable to my little Panasonic radio/tape player) which was most definitely on the cheapest blank tape that Gibson's/Pamida sold probably like 3 for $1.  I greatly appreciated that the times were written on the album labels.
If I recall correctly Wings Greatest was only my second or third greatest hits album - I know I had Best of The Doobies and maybe another one and the following Christmas 1979 was a greatest hits album windfall, including Donna Summer and Bee Gees double wides.  There were three songs that were new to me and wouldn't you know it, they were three of the four "never before" songs but all three quickly grew on me even though I don't recall ever hearing them on the radio until much later.  ("Another Day" was played quite a bit so it was only one of the four I knew before the album.)  My four favorite McCartney/Wings songs at the time were probably "Silly Love Songs", "Live And Let Die", "Band On The Run" and "Listen To What The Man Said" which, despite being Number One in 1975, failed to make the cut for Wings Greatest.  I had the 45 of that song but it never occurred to me back then to add it onto a dubbed cassette - HERC's M!X was still just a gleam in my blue eyes.
The back cover of the Wings Greatest album is adorned with the album covers the singles came from or the picture sleeves of the four singles that were new to the album format.  The artwork was changed for the eventual CD issue due to lack of space, a casualty of the CD's limited canvas. Pretty sure mine came in a longbox like the one pictured at the top of this post though I may very well be wrong.  I picked it up circa 1988 or 1989 - I can't read my own writing.  I later picked up the original Japan pressing (supposedly the best sounding version though I never could tell any difference) and then the remastered 1993 Paul McCartney Collection version with the awful tiny artwork, each time trading my previous disc in for credit towards the next one though I eventually dumped that last disc and currently do not own Wings Greatest on compact disc.
Nine years after the initial release of Wings Greatest, it was superseded by Paul McCartney's All The Best which is available as a double wide vinyl or single CD though the tracklisting differs on each based on the country of origin.   My friend Mark is a huge McCartney fan and reviewed All The Best on his site The CD Project back in 2011.  Somehow, his parents acquired the UK version of the CD for him though he points out the US version is the better buy.  Read his complete CD review HERE.  I picked up the US double wide vinyl because as I remember it was cheaper than the compact disc. (Did you ever make a CD vs vinyl purchase decision based on how much cash you had?  I had to do that a lot while starting a family.)  The 17 song All The Best (US version) had all but two of the songs from Wings Greatest; "Mull Of Kintyre" and "Hi Hi Hi" were missing but the way I looked at it was I was getting seven more songs to make mixtapes with though by 1987, I had a few McCartney/Wings albums in my collection including Venus and Mars, Wings Over America and Band On The Run.  However, of those seven songs, only two really appealed to me: the disco romp "Goodnight Tonight" and my previously mentioned favorite "Listen To What The Man Said" in a mixtape friendly single edit.  I acquired a used copy of All The Best on compact disc in the late Nineties for like $5 which was a phenomenal value compared to my original vinyl purchase.
Then in 2001, All The Best itself was rendered all but obsolete by Wingspan: Hits and History, a two disc set containing 40 songs, including every song from Wings Greatest though both "Junior's Farm" and "With A Little Luck" appear in DJ radio edits.  I am most grateful for the latter 3:10 edit (which also appears on All The Best) as the original 5:55 album version of the song just seems to overstay its welcome, losing the emotional appeal.  Mark reviewed Wingspan in 2013, going even further than he did on All The Best in his analysis but don't take my word for it - read the whole enchilada HERE.  Picked this one up at a great price at Costco at the time of its release - don't remember if it came in one of their plain white longboxes but I think it just might have.  I remember secretly hoping and wishing that the version of "Goodnight Tonight" would be the twelve inch version that I had yet to find on compact disc but it was not.
Still have the Wingspan CD in the Archives and my original vinyl copy of Wings Greatest on the Vinyl Wall but my preferred go-to McCartney and Wings singles collection was the comprehensive bootleg made to look official Paul McCartney UK Singles Collection 1971-2007, featuring both the seven inch and twelve inch singles released in chronological order across seven volumes and thirteen discs for when I absotively posilutely have to have those four versions of "Spies Like Us" or the five versions of "No More Lonely Nights".
That collection has since been replaced by the fan-made, much more comprehensive Paul McCartney Singles Collection which, though it lacks the cover appeal of the prior set, ups the ante with promo mono/stereo edits and promo mono/stereo mixes, providing the most complete singles collection out there, including all eight pointless versions of "No More Lonely Nights".  

1 comment:

  1. WINGS GREATEST is an album that has followed me forever, metaphorically speaking of course. I borrowed it from the Honolulu Library in the 4th or 5th grade, then I saw a copy at Music Box Records in downtown Honolulu. Within this period, I started getting more into The Beatles so I had to have all John this, all Paul that, a lot of George, and maybe some Ringo. In truth, WINGS GREATEST was a bit of perfection despite the fact it didn't have all of the hits (i.e. no "Sally G", no "Mary Had A Little Lamb", no "Give Ireland Back To The Irish") but that's what made it great. When I hear "Another Day" on the radio, I automatically hope "Silly Love Songs" will follow, then "Live And Let Die" will follow that.

    A need to have other McCartney comps is necessary, especially if you want "My Brave Face", "So Bad", "Coming Up", and "Take It Away" but that would take away all the necessary album tracks: "Here Today", "Get It", "Temporary Secretary", and... well, a bit of everything. But WINGS GREATEST holds up incredibly well as in.

    As for "No More Lonely Nights", the David Gilmour solo almost saves the song and while the extended version goes on a bit too long, I always liked the funky part due to how close it is to the Art Of Noise. Of course, that's not as close as the remix of "Spies Like Us", credited to being by Art Of Noise but really engineer Gary Langan, the man who was the rhythm in the Art (and the man who contributed the beats in "Beat Box" and Yes' "Owner Of A Lonely Heart").

    Of course, I'm nitpikcing. I could talk about a comp of nothing but McCartney B-sides but that'll last forever. This article does motivate me to want to assemble another McCartney comp again, or a custom deluxe edition of WINGS GREATEST.

    For example, it didn't have "Oh Woman, Oh Why".