When the phone rang and Paul McCartney was on the other end, Denny Laine wasn’t surprised.
They were friends, after all, tightly connected through the British music scene — as founding members of the Beatles and the Moody Blues, respectively — and shared stages together, around the world, before their groups dissolved.
So when the Beatle asked the Moody Blue to hop on a flight to Scotland and start a new band with him and his wife, Linda McCartney, Laine wasted no time, he recalled during a telephone interview last week from Miami, taking off a few days to soak in the sun before returning to his “Songs and Stories” tour, which will bring him to Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor on Saturday night.
“Paul saw me at a show I did with Jimi Hendrix with this new band I had, and not long after that, he asked me to join and I just jumped on that plane,” Laine said. “Of course, it was up in Scotland, so it was away from the press. It was very private and we had plenty of time without any pressure to put it together. It was a gradual process and we eventually went out on the road, and built it as a band. It took a while. It always takes a while when you’re coming from something established and doing something new.”
In 1971, they co-founded Wings. Three years later, their album “Band on the Run” went triple platinum, its Grammy-winning title track spending seven weeks at #1 on the UK’s Guinness Charts of British Hits Singles.
“We definitely made a decision that we weren’t going to be the Moody Blues or the Beatles. You can’t do that, especially at that time,” Laine said. “Paul goes out now and does all his Beatles stuff, but you couldn’t have done it then. I would not have done that, either. The whole point was to be a songwriting situation, where you do your new show. It’s the same as when I left the Moody Blues — they were forced, in a way, to do their own thing and write their own material and go their own direction. We all were.”
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the original Moody Blues, Laine struck out on his own in 1966 to pursue his own songwriting. The guitarist and lead singer formed the Electric String Orchestra — the band McCartney saw open for Hendrix in London — among other stints before his decade in Wings.
“It definitely has quite fond memories; we were like a family. But it was work, too,” Laine said of Wings. “We weren’t here to mess around. We were here to work, and it was always a very positive work attitude. That’s really what carries us through. The Beatles never had a day off; the Moody Blues never had a day off. We were always working and because it’s a 24/7 job, that’s really what drove us through it.
“We were doing all new material and working on putting a new band together,” he continued. “It’s very hard to be good when you’re just starting, it takes a while for a band to get good, especially for live. Playing live in front of an audience, you’ve got to be very tight. A lot of that took work. That’s really what the whole feeling was. Even up in Scotland, we were away from the press and the world, really. We were working hard to get it right.”
And they did — until McCartney was arrested in Japan for marijuana possession, landing himself in jail for nine days. It ground their tour to a complete halt, Laine recalled. He left the band shortly thereafter, releasing a dozen solo albums in the nearly 40 years since.
“Songwriting, for me, you’re following what’s going on in the world and you just write about your thoughts on everything,” he said. “And that’s all songwriting is, it’s not necessarily personal. It’s part personal, but it’s partly doing everything else around you. You hear other people’s stories and you write about them, or you write about anything that you have a public opinion about. Any ideas you can share, or advice, or personal problems, everything. That’s what songwriting is.”
Denny Laine will play a concert on Saturday, March 2, at 8 p.m. at Bay Street Theater, located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Advance tickets are $35 or $45 at the door. For more information, call (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org