Rams Head in Annapolis welcomes Hall of Famer of Moody Blues, McCartney’s Wings

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Denny Laine at Rams Head in Annapolis (Part 1)

He cofounded two iconic bands with The Moody Blues and Paul McCartney’s Wings.

Next week, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Denny Laine plays an intimate solo acoustic concert at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis, Maryland, on Sunday, Feb. 5.

“I’m not doing a Wings tribute or a Moody Blues tribute,” Laine told WTOP. But he said he will do “Go Now” and a few others Moody Blues tunes, as well as “No Words” from Wings’ “Band on the Run” album and “Mull of Kintyre.”

He added, “The audience might shout out a couple of titles that I might have a go at.”

Born in Birmingham, England, in 1944, he formed his first band at age 12 called Denny Laine and The Diplomats, featuring Bev Bevan, future drummer of Electric Light Orchestra.

“Bev didn’t join the Moodys, but he was the only one in The Diplomats that would have been prepared to turn professional — that’s the reason I packed that band up, because they didn’t want to go to London; you had to get to London in those days,” Laine said.

In 1964, Laine joined Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas to form The M&B 5, which would soon become The Moody Blues for their debut album “The Magnificent Moodies.” Laine sang lead vocals on the group’s first No. 1 British hit, “Go Now.” He claims that it inspired The Beatles’ hit “Penny Lane,” which sounds like “Denny Laine.” Coincidence? I think not.

“I’m pretty sure Paul thought of me when he was writing it,” Laine said. “The bass line of ‘Penny Lane’ is the same bass line as ‘Go Now.’ Paul used to stand at the side of the stage and watch us doing ‘Go Now’ every night we toured with The Beatles’ second British tour.”

While the Moodys blew up on their next album “Days of Future Passed” (1967) with Justin Hayward’s “Nights in White Satin,” Laine left to form the Electric String Band, while also penning solo hits like “Say You Don’t Mind” for Colin Blunstone of The Zombies.

“I wanted to do my own thing for a while,” Laine said. “I started being a songwriter more on my own, so I decided to go in and record some of my own stuff.”

Of his exit from The Moody Blues, Laine said, “I didn’t really leave; I just kind of drifted away. I was still friendly and staying with a couple of them. I said, ‘You might as well try to get somebody else and see what happens.'”

In 1971, Laine reunited with his old pal Paul McCartney to form Wings, but their first album “Wild Life” (1971) got mixed reviews, suffering unfair comparisons to The Beatles.

“Paul didn’t want to be around people that treated him like a superstar, so he picked me,” Laine said. “I knew all of The Beatles, I wasn’t intimidated by their fame. It was all about doing something new. … He wanted to do a band, but what do you do after The Beatles? What do you do after The Moody Blues? It had to be a new approach of original stuff.”

Their second album, “Red Rose Speedway” (1973), fared much better with the ballad “My Love,” released the same year as their James Bond track “Live and Let Die” (1973).

It seemed like everybody was a Bond fan and a lot of artists were doing the themes, Laine recalled.

“Paul got approached, then the next thing I know I’m playing bass on a live recording! … It was great because it was live with a big orchestra. … Of course, with a James Bond theme, they start off like a story, then they turn into crash, bang, excitement.”

Wings followed up with their iconic album “Band on the Run” (1973), featuring such hits as “Jet,” which clearly inspired the “woo woo” backing vocals of Kenny Chesney’s “Young,” not to mention the beautifully complex title track with multiple gear shifts throughout.

“We were all into this fusion stuff; you’d do a song that wouldn’t be just one song, it would be like three songs joined together,” Laine said. “That one was something that we already knew because we rehearsed it before we went. Paul got the tapes of our demos, I played a bit of guitar and he played drums, that’s the way we put that album together.”

Other hits followed with “Silly Love Songs,” “Let ‘Em In,” “Mull of Kintyre,” “With a Little Luck,” and a live version of Paul’s solo hit “Maybe I’m Amazed.” Despite such pop-culture impact, Laine doubts that Wings will enter the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame since McCartney is already inducted twice as a member of The Beatles (1988) and as a solo artist (1999).

Still, after years of solo work, Laine was inducted with The Moody Blues in 2018. He was honored to be included as a key founding member, despite leaving the band early on.

“‘Go Now’ got us there. Remember that,” he said. “You can’t get into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame unless you’ve got a No. 1 hit, and that was the only No. 1 hit the Moodys ever had. That got us there.”

You can hear all of these behind-the-scenes stories and more live at the Rams Head in Annapolis, but whatever you do, when you meet Denny Laine, don’t call him “Penny Lane.”

“I kill people who call me Penny Lane,” he joked.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Denny Laine at Rams Head in Annapolis (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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