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Freeport rocks: Former Wings, Hollies members to perform Saturday

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Freeport rocks: Former Wings, Hollies members to perform Saturday

FREEPORT — One worked side-by-side with Paul McCartney for 10 years. The other will be inducted with his band into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Monday.

And both will be performing Saturday night at the Venue Music Bar at 5 Depot St.

Denny Laine, who co-founded Wings in 1971 and remained with the band until its 1981 demise, will take the stage with Terry Sylvester, who replaced Graham Nash in The Hollies in 1968 and stayed until 1981.

Their show, “Memories of Abbey Road,” includes the entirety of The Beatles’ "Abbey Road" album, along with other songs recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London by Badfinger, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Peter and Gordon, Manfred Mann and others. Laine and Sylvester will also play hits from their former bands.

Although born in Birmingham, England, 65-year-old Laine is no stranger to New England. His first wife, Jo Jo, came from Boston.

“I do know Maine … and I like it a lot,” Laine said in a telephone interview.

He was born Brian Frederick Hines and played with Denny and the Diplomats and The Moody Blues before Wings. He sang lead on The Moody Blues’ 1964 hit “Go Now,” leaving in 1966 to form The Electric String Band, which once shared a bill with Jimi Hendrix. In 1971 Laine got a call from his old friend McCartney. The Beatles had officially split the previous year, and McCartney was looking to start a new band.

“He just called me out of the blue,” Laine said. “I was just sitting around, waiting for something to happen.”

Something did happen, on a huge scale. Nine albums, many hit singles, a world tour, a collaboration with one of modern music’s most acclaimed songwriters.

“I wouldn’t have done it with anyone else (but McCartney),” Laine said. “I wouldn’t have been involved in a band where someone else was running it. Because I was doing my own thing, and I liked it that way. … But with Paul, obviously him being as famous as he was, it was going to be him. … It’ll always be ‘Paul McCartney and Wings’ as far as I’m concerned.”

While McCartney wrote most of the band’s songs, Laine co-wrote “No Words” from "Band on the Run"; his own compositions, like “Time to Hide,” made it onto Wings albums. Laine performed “Time to Hide” and “Go Now” during the band’s 1976 Wings Over America tour, which he considers a Wings highlight.

Another highlight was traveling to locales like Lagos, Nigeria, and the Virgin Islands to make music (in the latter, the band recorded on a boat).

Wings was something of a turnstile with changing lineups, but Laine remained a core member along with McCartney, and McCartney’s wife Linda. Laine noted, though, that he had known McCartney well before the other members came along.

“We were on a mission, in a way,” he said. “We didn’t expect people who were not used to doing it on that level to be around for too long. Because it was a 24-hour job; it was a lot of pressure on everyone.”

The year 1980 was tough for both McCartney and Wings, bookended by McCartney’s January marijuana bust in Japan as the band arrived for a tour, and by the December murder of John Lennon. Although the first incident foreshadowed the end of Wings, Laine continued to work with McCartney throughout the year and was with him in the studio the day after Lennon died.

“(McCartney) went into work purely because he’d have probably gone to pieces if he’d stayed at home,” Laine said. “… He said something to the affect of, ‘I wish we could have spent more time together.’ It’s just like you do about people who have passed on.”

Laine said he most recently saw McCartney about two years ago at a UB40 concert in London. “We bumped into each other in the dressing room, basically,” he explained. “And then we went and watched the whole thing from the sound desk, and we had a few laughs, and that was that.”

Laine’s new Web site, dennylaine.com, is coming soon, and in the meantime he is finishing his first album in more than 10 years, which has a working title of "Valley of Dreams."

“It’s about making it in America and ending up in California … where everybody goes to make it,” Laine said of the concept.

Sylvester, who performed in The Escorts and The Swinging Blue Jeans prior to joining The Hollies, also shares a McCartney connection, growing up about 100 yards from the man in Allerton, Liverpool, England. When Nash left The Hollies to join Crosby, Stills & Nash, Sylvester took over the missing harmony role, adding his touch to such songs as “He Ain’t Heavy … He’s My Brother.”

“To join a huge hit-making machine like The Hollies was fantastic,” Sylvester, 63, said of the band that released other chart-storming songs like “Bus Stop,” “Carrie-Anne,” and “The Air That I Breathe.”

After traveling to Maine, Sylvester will be off to New York City to attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“It’s absolutely incredible; I’m just very proud,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a higher honor for a musician.”

Tickets for the 8 p.m. Venue show are $30. Log onto venuemusicbar.com or call 865-1780 for more information.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.

Wings, c. 1976

Wings, c. 1976
Photo: Contributed photo

A 1976 promotional photo for Paul McCartney and Wings. Denny Laine is at right.