Denny Laine, of Wings and Moody Blues fame, recently presented a solo acoustic show at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club in Asbury Park — a nice change of pace from the electric world he’s been such a huge part of, for the majority of his musical journey.
“You know it’s kind of become popular lately; a lot of people are doing it,” said Laine, who will also present a solo show at The Vault at Victor Records in Berlin (Camden County), June 8. “They are doing it, telling their stories. I think it started with the ‘Unplugged’ thing; in between sets I would do some acoustic songs on stage anyway, even with the band. Then it got to the point where the band that I’m using now, which we call The Moody Wing Band, they have other jobs, they go off and do other things. So that I can keep working, I decided to do some solo shows and it’s going very well. People like the stories and it’s a completely different approach for me, I have more freedom and I can make things up as I go along (laughs).
“I can pick and choose. The audience may even come up with a suggestion for a song and I’ll do that, whereas a band ties it down to a strict thing or a set. With the band I do the first Moody Blues album or I’ll do (Paul McCartney & Wings’) Band on the Run and then a few other songs and that’s kind of a set thing. With the acoustic thing … I do a lot of songs from my solo albums … I can pick and choose as I go, and that’s the big difference.”
Laine, 74, was in The Moody Blues from 1964 to 1966, and with Wings from 1971 to 1981. McCartney, he says, was “just a mate” to him.
“I mean, obviously, we can’t get away from the fact of how big The Beatles were,” he said. “We toured with him with The Moody Blues so I knew him very well and he was like a big brother to me in some ways. People ask me all the time, ‘What was it like working with Paul McCartney?’ I say, ‘Well, what’s it like working with anybody?’ You either get on with each other or you don’t. He and I had a close-knit friendship from the beginning, even before I was working with him, so it was easy, really. That’s the only word I can use there. It was easy.”
Laine was actually in another band prior to The Moody Blues.
“The Diplomats we were called, and a friend of mine, Bev Bevan, was on drums,” he said. “He went on to be in ELO. I mean, it’s who you know. Two of The Moody Blues came back from Germany and tried to put a band together to go back there to work, and I ended up going with them because I wanted to turn professional and my band didn’t want to turn professional. So one thing led to another and then The Moody Blues after a period of time were just going out and gigging every night and I wanted to go back in the studio so I went out and did my own thing. Then Paul McCartney saw me doing that and I joined up with him. So it was kind of a progression.
“You don’t go looking for this stuff. It sort of comes to you — do you know what I mean? That’s the way it’s been, and then the Moody Blues went on to be huge and even more so, and then the same with Wings becoming a whole other thing after The Beatles. So it’s who you know. I knew Paul from the Moody Blues days; I actually met him when I was in The Diplomats. What happens is, if you come from a crowd of people who all know each other and you work together on the road doing different gigs and different things … we would double with different bands like The Who or The Yardbirds or bands like that and you become friendly with them. So if somebody needs a sub or another guy to join the band, they’ll just pick their friends. That’s what happened with Ronnie Wood and The Stones.”
Laine also was a member of Ginger Baker’s Air Force. What was it like spending time with the eccentric drummer?
“Depends on how you approach him,” he said, with a chuckle. “Ginger was like a lot of people. If you’re talking about something interesting, he’s the best person in the world. But if you start asking him how old he is, then, well … He was a good guy, he had a good heart and he was a great bandleader. He knows how to put it all together.”
Laine has played both the role of leader and “Wing” man. So which does he prefer?
“I like to be in charge,” he said. “With my own band, I might be in charge but I’ve still got other people. Everybody contributes equally, but because it’s my name up there, I have to have the final say. When I was working with Paul, I was more like the sideman. I had a lot of influence but I do prefer to run my own thing, which is why I went solo again. I was the guitar player and lead singer in The Moody Blues, and I wasn’t that in Wings. So eventually it got around to the point where I wanted to do my own thing again, and always when I’m in control is when I’m the happiest. I think that’s pretty natural, really, but I’m still quite a good team member if I have to be.”
With the recent release of a Wings 1971-73 box set, a whole new generation of fans is being exposed to some of the greatest rock music ever created.
“That’s just the normal progression for Paul, isn’t it?” said Laine. “That’s what he was doing for years with The Beatles and Wings, is re-releasing. I mean, who knew that we were going to be continually successful to the point where young kids are coming to the gigs these days? I was doing a gig recently at Beatlefest and there were all young people down in front … They want to hear this music again … So we decided to remaster it and do another version of what we did already, and it’s good because we get to learn the songs again and you forget what was on there. … we did it with the (1965) Moody Blues album and they put all that stuff in a box set and put that out. You don’t even realize how good it was at the time until you listen to it years later, but that’s what it’s all about, and Paul has pretty much more or less done everything except for maybe four albums. That’s just the way of the world now, everybody’s doing it.”
Solo or full band, Laine is a workhorse who likes to keep busy. What does he have planned for the future?
“I have got an album in the can; I’ve had it in the can for a while but I am going to start going back in the studio again, just to balance things out. I don’t like living in the past too much. … I’m pretty busy at the moment. I don’t have much time to go in the studio just yet, but I am planning on it.”
Laine’s Facebook page is at facebook.com/pg/DBFLaine.
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