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Q – Do you think personality weighed into the selection process for Paul McCartney’s musicians?
A – Absolutely. We had a lot of fun during the interview process. I made him laugh a couple of times. We both seemed really comfortable with each other and he just liked my playing and my attitude. When he first hired me, he hired three drummers to do the “Ram” album and he booked each guy for a week. After the first couple of days, I was the first guy in the studio. After the first couple of days, he called the two other guys and just canceled them. He said “I’m going to use this Denny guy for the rest of the record.” We hit it off right off the bat and had a great time making that record. It was one of the highlights of my life. It is the best record that I’ve ever made of all the records I did make. “Ram” is by far the best recording.
Q – Before making that record with Paul, were you a Beatles fan?
A – Well, sure. Who isn’t? I wasn’t a rabid Beatles fan. (laughs) I couldn’t tell you or quote lines from songs, but I knew their music. I really appreciated what they had done. I just went in there pretending to be Ringo. I think that’s how I got the job. Whenever Paul would play a song for me, I’d think, “What would Ringo do on this?” (laughs). I kind of put my own twist on something that had a lot of Ringo in it.
Q – Was it an intimidating experience to be in the studio with an ex-Beatle?
A – Not at all. He was just another guy. We are musicians. A week before that, I might’ve been working with Roy Orbison or Carl Perkins. Every week you’re working with somebody of that quality. Paul was a little bit more. James Brown one day and then Paul McCartney the next. This is the kind of stuff we were used to. That might have been one of the reasons he hired me, because I wasn’t awestruck by his personality or who he was in the world. I was respectful of course, but not awestruck. You want to have people that you have peers with, so you can make that kind of music. And we did. We had a very, very… We didn’t have to talk to express ideas. We could do it musically with just looks and what we would play and how we would treat a song or a passage from a song. It was great. We had a great communication.
Q – And after “Ram” you went out on the road with Paul?
A – He called me three or four months after “Ram” was out and said “C’mon over. Let’s have a little vacation.” I took my wife and went up to the farm in Scotland. When we got to Scotland, he said “Let’s put a band together.” I said “Yeah. That sounds like a good idea.” So, we went back to New York and packed everything up and moved to England and formed the band Wings with Paul. Then we toured. We did the British university tour. We did a huge tour of Europe, then another proper British theater tour. So, I’ve done three tours with Paul.
Q – During that time did any of the other Beatles come backstage to say hello?
A – No. We didn’t play any Beatle songs. We didn’t talk about the Beatles. We were busy forming a new band. The same with “Ram”. There was no talk of any of that stuff. There was a time when you knew Paul was really hurting from having to sue the other three Beatles to prove that there was something immensely wrong in their organization. That just devastated him. He was really, really sad for a little bit of time there, for a long period of time, but he never brought it into work with him. But we sensed what was going on.
Q – At the end of the night, after a gig, would he ever tell stories of for example what it was like to come over to the states in 1964?
A – Oh, he’d tell stories like that occasionally. I remember out at L Street we were filming the James Paul McCartney TV special and we had a lot of time while they’re setting up shots. We’re just hanging out in the dressing rooms. Every once in a while he talked about some of the old days with the Beatles, but it wasn’t very often, and we spent a lot of time together. It was like a family. That band in the beginning, we were in the trenches with him, the university tour. He drove that damn band. We had wives, kids and dogs in the van. We set out trying to find a place to play. We didn’t have a gig booked. We didn’t have hotel reservations. And he was driving that damn van. We had a lot of time for that stuff. If we were all talking about our past experiences, he’d throw in a Beatles story just to top us. But it really wasn’t the topic of conversation at any point. If he brought it up, great. We really didn’t care. I think Denny Laine knew all the other lads. He was close with John. He probably initiated more than anybody simply because he was part of that whole time period.
Q – Looking back on it, his days in Hamburg, Germany would probably have been the most interesting.
A – Yeah.
Q – You were on three albums with Paul.
A – Right.
Q – That translates into three or four years with him?
A – Yeah, approximately.
Q – Then you left.
A – I left because of financial matters. Henry (McCullough) had just left. Henry left when we were up in Scotland. Here we were getting ready to go to Lagos and cut “Band On The Run” and we still had no agreement in writing. We had a verbal agreement that didn’t hold any water. I’d already made “Wildlife” and “Red Rose Speedway” with that agreement in mind, but I never received a dime from that. It became a financial matter at that point and the fact that we weren’t getting that document, letter of agreement, that never came. I said “you know what? This is not good. My interests are not being looked after here.” I should have sat him down and talked to him and said “look, I won’t do this anymore!” But instead I was infuriated by a couple of things that happened and I just called him up and said “I’m leaving. I’m done here.” So that was the only regret that I have.