“Mull of Kintyre” is a song by the British-American rock band Wings written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine. The song was written in tribute to the picturesque Kintyre peninsula in Scotland and its headland, the Mull of Kintyre, where McCartney has owned High Park Farm since 1966. The song was Wings’s biggest hit in Britain where it became the 1977 Christmas number one, and was the first single to sell over two million copies nationwide.
The lyrics of the first verse, also used as the repeating chorus, are an ode to the area’s natural beauty and sense of home:
Mull of Kintyre
Oh mist rolling in from the sea,
Is always to be here
Oh Mull of Kintyre
McCartney explained how the song came into being:
I certainly loved Scotland enough, so I came up with a song about where we were living: an area called Mull of Kintyre. It was a love song really, about how I enjoyed being there and imagining I was travelling away and wanting to get back there.
“Mull of Kintyre” was recorded on 9 August 1977 at Spirit of Ranachan Studio at High Park Farm in Scotland, during a break in recording the London Town album caused by Linda McCartney’s advanced pregnancy. The song featured bagpipes played by the Campbeltown Pipe Band from nearby Campbeltown. Paul’s vocals and acoustic guitar were recorded outdoors. “Mull of Kintyre” and “Girls’ School” (a rocker that had been previously recorded for London Town) were released as a double A-sided single on 11 November 1977, independently of the album. It was included on the Wings compilation Wings Greatest in 1978, the UK/Canada version of McCartney’s 1987 compilation album All the Best!, the 2001 compilation Wingspan: Hits and History and the 2016 compilation Pure McCartney.
The song’s broad appeal was maximised by its pre-Christmas release and it became a Christmas number one single in the UK, spending nine weeks at the top of the charts. It also became an international hit, charting high in Australia and many other countries over the holiday period. It went on to become the first single to sell over two million copies in the UK and became the UK’s best-selling single of all-time (eclipsing the Beatles’ own “She Loves You”) until overtaken by Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in 1984 (which also featured McCartney on the B-side). The song remains the UK’s best-selling completely non-charity single, having sold 2.08 million copies. (Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” has sold more in its two releases, but the profits of the 1991 release went to charity.)
The millionth copy of the disc sold in the UK included a special certificate. It was sold to David Ackroyd, who was presented with a gold disc of the single by Laine.
Despite its international appeal, the song was not a major hit in North America, where the flipside “Girls’ School” received more airplay and reached #33 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #34 on the Canadian RPM charts. “Mull of Kintyre” was not a pop hit at all in the US, but did manage to reach #45 on the Easy Listening chart.
Meanwhile, in Canada, “Girls’ School”/”Mull of Kintyre” was initially tracked as a double A-side, and reached #44 on the pop charts before “Mull of Kintyre” was dropped from the chart listings as of 21 January 1978. “Girls’ School” continued its chart climb for a few more weeks, reaching #34 in Canada. After the single fell out of the top 40, it was once again tracked as a double A-side (with “Mull of Kintyre” getting first billing) for one week in April, but it did not better its previous #44 chart peak. “Mull of Kintyre” alone (without “Girls’ School”) did reach #30 on Canada’s Adult Contemporary chart.
McCartney has played “Mull of Kintyre” only occasionally in concert since Wings’ 1979 British tour, and, significantly, has never played it in the United States, Asia, or South America. Performances include 23 June 1990 in Glasgow, Scotland. He played it in Australia and New Zealand and also Canada in 1993, 2002, 2005, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017. He began playing the song again in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. On 11 July 2009, at a concert at the Halifax Common, he played the song accompanied by the 78th Highlanders (Halifax Citadel) Pipe Band. He played the song at the O2 Arena in London on 22 December 2009, accompanied by the 18-piece Balmoral Highlanders Pipe Band.
The following year, on 20 June 2010 McCartney performed “Mull of Kintyre” at Hampden Park in Glasgow accompanied by the Pipes and Drums of Loretto School. He played the song at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, on the 8 and 9 August 2010 with the Paris Port Dover Pipe Band. On 20 December 2011, Loretto School played with him again in the final concert of his On The Run tour at the Echo Arena in Liverpool. On 25 November 2012 performed “Mull of Kintyre” at the On The Run Tour in Vancouver, British Columbia with the Delta Police Pipe Band, and in Edmonton, Alberta with the Edmonton Police Service Pipes and Drums on 28–29 November. On 7 July 2013, McCartney performed “Mull of Kintyre” on his “Out There” tour to a sell-out crowd at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa, Canada accompanied by the Ottawa Police Service Pipe Band. On 19 and 20 April 2016, he performed “Mull of Kintyre” during the One on One tour in the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, again, with the Delta Police Pipe Band. As part of that same tour, on 2 December 2017 he played the song in Perth, Western Australia with the Western Australian Police Force Pipe Band, in Melbourne Victoria 5-6 December 2017 with the Scotch College pipe band,in Brisbane Queensland on the 9th of December 2017 with the Brisbane Combined Pipe Band, in Sydney on the 11th and 12th December with the Governor Macquarie Memorial Pipe Band and in Auckland New Zealand on the 16th of December 2017 with the Auckland and Districts Pipe Band.
Glen Campbell covered the song on his 1982 album Old Home Town. In concert Campbell would play the bagpipes himself.
Cheyenne Kimball covered the song on the album “Let Us In” Nashville – A Tribute to Linda McCartney, consisting of country-themed covers of Sir Paul McCartney songs by various artists, released on 21 November 2011, a benefit album for The Women and Cancer Fund.
Wings band member Denny Laine covered “Mull of Kintyre” in 2007 on his album Performs the Hits of Wings.
Irish singing group and stage show Celtic Thunder originally performed the song in their first concert DVD “Celtic Thunder: The Show.” It and the companion CD “Celtic Thunder” were released on 18 March 2008. Their CD “Act Two,” on which “Mull of Kintyre” appears, was released on 16 September that same year.
Charlie Gracie and the group Clutch Cargo covered the song as a benefit single in 2012 to help raise funds for the Philadelphia Police and Fire, Pipes & Drums Band. Their version of the single also featured the R&B vocal group The Orlons on backing vocals.
French arranger & composer Franck Pourcel recorded an orchestral version of this song in 1977, which included a vocal chorus backing. It received airplay on easy listening radio stations.
Susan Boyle performed the song to welcome The Queen to the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on 23 July 2014.
Paul McCartney – lead vocal, acoustic bass guitar, acoustic guitar
Linda McCartney – backing vocal, percussion
Denny Laine – backing vocal, acoustic and electric guitars
Campbeltown Pipe Band – bagpipes and drums