Famed British guitarist, songwriter and singer Denny Laine is coming to Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor for an evening of intimate music-making and storytelling. This solo show on March 2 marks Laine’s Bay Street debut, but it certainly doesn’t mark his first time in the Hamptons. In fact, Laine’s introduction to the East End came quite some time ago through another Brit—the rather obscure Liverpool musician name of McCartney.
“It was back in the Wings days,” says Laine about his first trip to the East End, referring to Wings, the band Laine formed in 1971 with ex-Beatle Paul McCartney and Paul’s wife Linda. “It was my introduction to the family,” Laine recalls. Linda McCartney’s extended family summered in East Hampton going way back, and though Laine remembers a warm reception from the family, he admits to some fogginess. “I don’t remember much about it, actually.”
That shouldn’t be surprising—there was a lot going on in Laine’s life during the ’60s and ’70s heyday of rock music. Laine first found fame before he reached the age of 20 with The Moody Blues, singing the band’s career-launching single “Go Now” in 1964 and singing, writing songs and playing guitar for their debut album The Magnificent Moodies. “It’s like you’re getting pushed along in a big snowball,” says Laine. “A lot of stuff goes down, and you can’t remember a lot of it.”
While riding that snowball early on, Laine and his Moody Blues bandmates often came into contact with four famous lads from Liverpool. “The Moodies used to hang out with The Beatles,” says Laine. “We were part of the same scene, and Paul and I got to be friends way before Wings.”
When The Moody Blues’ success seemed to stall, Laine left the band in 1966, played with a few side projects (including the Electric String Band and Ginger Baker’s Air Force), and was in the midst of launching a solo career when he joined Paul and Linda in the fledgling Wings. The band lasted from 1971 until 1981, and threw a lot of lasting hits onto the charts, some co-written by Denny Laine. Interestingly, besides Paul and Linda McCartney, Laine was the only member of Wings to stay with the band for the duration.
“A lot of people came and went from Wings—I think it had to do with the workload,” says Laine. “When some people reach a level of success, they want to take it easy. I wanted to keep the ball rolling.” In fact, Wings’ most successful album, 1973’s Band On the Run, was largely recorded by Laine and Paul McCartney working alone—all of the other band members had recently quit, except for Linda McCartney, and Linda wasn’t really a studio-worthy instrumentalist. Laine feels he saw eye to eye with Paul because they shared a kind of perfectionism. “We both wanted it to be at a certain level,” he says.
Oddly, Laine and McCartney’s biggest-selling collaboration is on a song that’s a little obscure in the U.S. The beautiful, anthemic “Mull of Kintyre” was released as a single in 1977 and became the biggest-selling single in British history to that point, and a hit throughout most of the English-speaking world, and yet failed to chart in the U.S. “Paul came to me with the chorus and I helped him finish it,” recalls Laine. “It’s like a folk song—we wanted it to be as authentic as possible.” Perhaps the song’s specificity to the British Isles has kept it from becoming a big sing-along number in America.
Still, Laine performs “Mull of Kintyre” in his shows—and he says enough Americans do know it. And he tells stories—he remembers the important ones—and sings songs from across his 60-year career. Now’s your chance to catch this rock legend in an up close and intimate venue, right here in the Hamptons.
See Denny Laine perform at Bay Street Theater, 1 Bay Street, Sag Harbor, on March 2. For tickets and more information, call 631-725-9500 and visit baystreet.org.