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Music Review: Wings – Band On The Run

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Thirty five years ago the final touches were being made to the latest Wings album. By 1973, and since becoming an ex-Beatle, Paul McCartney had already released four albums.

First there was McCartney in 1970. This was followed by Ram the following year. 1971 also saw Wings make their debut with Wild Life. Red Rose Speedway followed giving Paul his second post Beatle UK album to hit number one on the charts.

Band On The Run was however destined to become his, and Wings, most successful album. In fact, there was a time when you couldn’t go round for dinner at someone’s house without Tubular Bells, Breakfast In America, or yes, you’ve guessed it, Band On The Run making an appearance.

For this album a trimmed down Wings would consist of just Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine. Recording commenced at the EMI studio in Lagos, Nigeria with former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick being drafted in. It wasn’t until everyone returned to the more familiar surroundings of London that Band On The Run was finished, complete with orchestral arrangements.

Released on Apple/EMI in the UK it became the best selling album of 1974 reaching number one on both sides of the Atlantic. In America, Capitol released the album having included the single “Helen Wheels” in the running order.

The album’s cover depicted the Band On The Run consisting of contemporary celebrities Clement Freud, James Coburn, Michael Parkinson, Christopher Lee, boxer John Conteh, and Kenny Lynch, dressed as convicts who have just been picked out by a searchlight.

Opening with the two strong singles from the album, the title track, and the deceptively intricate “Jet”, the album flows smoothly. As a result of this and some excellent McCartney songs it has an extraordinarily positive, and uplifting feeling to it. “Jet” was apparently Paul and Linda’s dog, who unknowingly was following in dear old Martha’s paw prints.

Paul and Linda combine well on “Bluebird”, a song that contains a warm sax solo. This gives way to the fun that is “Mrs. Vandebilt”, one of those songs that just stays in your mind with its hint of Lagos rhythms. “Let Me Roll It” has Paul sounding a lot like John.

The lovely, uplifting, “Mamunia” which means ‘safe haven’ in Moroccan, opened side two.
“No Words”, co-written with Denny Laine who had apparently started the song, maintains the high quality.

The background behind the next track “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)” has been told many times. Hopefully it is true as it makes for a nice story. When Picasso died his last words had been reported in the news. Actor Dustin Hoffman brought this to the attention of Paul. Hoffman then sat back in wonder as Paul put the words to music, writing the song on the spot. Several sections cleverly blend to make the whole, it was a typical act of McCartney genius.

“Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five” ends the album with a full-on orchestra before briefly reprising the title track. In doing so it brings it all nicely full circle whilst reminding you of the tracks that have gone before. It made for a quick return for the needle back to the beginning again.

Band On The Run represented a conclusive return to form for Paul McCartney. The songs contained are well chosen, remarkably catchy, and even now, thirty five years on, are still memorable. It was exactly the right album for Paul at exactly the right time, both silencing any doubters, and satisfying his many admirers.

To celebrate the passing of thirty five years, why not go off and play the album. You’ll find it next to Tubular Bells.

Visit Sir Paul on his official website.

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About Jeff Perkins

  • I agree, Jeff–definitely Paul’s best solo album, closely followed (in my opinion) by 1982’s Tug of War.

  • Hersal

    One the best ex-Beatles solo albums.In fact the best ex beatles solo album.Let me roll it is another song about Pauls love of the herb.Great songs , Great singing , Great bass playin, Great guitar playing and drumming. A truly underrated classic by Mr Mccartney. Still sounds fresh almost 40 year since it was recorded..