Band On The Run (1973)
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After the release of Red Rose Speedway in April 1973 which is followed by an English tour in May and July, Paul needs to breathe new air and decides to record his new album under sunny skies. He makes up his mind to travel to Lagos, Nigeria, where EMI owns some recording studios (former Cream member Ginger Baker too owns some studios there which will be used).
A few days before departure, Henry McCullough decides to leave Wings after a disagreement with Paul (Henry didn't want to play something Paul asked him to). One hour before taking off, Denny Seiwell resigns in his turn, without giving any reason. Paul, Linda and Denny Laine finally take off to Lagos: they now form the third Wings' constitution. The three pals will have to play all instruments by themselves. Paul will especially handle the drums, what he already did in solo on McCartney or even before with the Beatles.
No sunny skies in Lagos, just tropical storms...and a lot of troubles for Wings who have to work in a studio which is still under construction. It is a daily fight in order to record this new album.
Paul has already written most of the songs before coming to Lagos. He likes African rhythms and he would probably like to add a few of them on his album. But unfortunetaly the Nigerian star Fela Ransome-Kuti accuses Paul of stealing African music and prevents him from playing with local bands.
Paul and Linda in 1973.
All these difficulties won't prevent Paul to realize a wonderful album which is considered by most of the critics and fans to be his best solo album ever.
Even John Lennon, who was very hard on Paul's music since the Beatles' break up, will declare that Band On The Run is a great album thanks to Paul songwriting.
People will qualify this work as a concept album, probably because all the songs have an equal musical quality, but probably also because the album cover reminds us of the one from Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band . The cover gathers Paul, Linda, Denny Laine and some celebrities, like James Coburn or Christopher Lee, dressed like prisoners escaping under the lights of a watch-tower.
Band On The Run is recorded in September and released in November in the US and on December 5th in Europe. More than 6 million of copies will be sold all over the world. It will remain 3 years in the US charts and, one more time, Paul McCartney will be rewarded with a Golden Record.
Paul will also get 2 Grammy Awards for Band On The Run : one for the best recording and another one for the best vocal harmonies.
Wings rewarded for Band On The Run.
The album opens with an enthusiastic rock song, Band On The Run , mixing acoustic and electric guitar lines.
This first song and the following one, Jet , are perfect titles to be played on stage. In fact, they will be often performed by Wings (and by Paul in solo) to start up live concerts. Jet is a very catchy tune built on a smashing tempo, with an intelligent use of a Moog synthesizor and a perfect bass playing.
Wings' latest album, Red Rose Speedway, had already exhibited Paul's complete talent for bass playing and bass writing. Band On The Run does it far better with Bluebird , Mrs Vandebilt and Let Me Roll It , three songs built around tremendous bass lines.
Bluebird is really a jewel featuring a nice acoustic ballad with some Nigerian percussions and a beautiful melody sung by Paul whose voice is clear as crystal.
Mrs Vandebilt is a very catchy pop song enhanced by a solid bass, a good drum tempo and by some nice sax and guitar solos.
Like Jet , Let Me Roll It is a standard song which will be played on stage many times by Wings as a very efficient intro for the concert. This title is often considered as a parody of Lennon's way of singing. Paul will never agree on this point of view, but Let Me Roll It definitely has a kind of production that is very similar to what John used to do with the Plastic Ono Band. This feeling of similarity probably comes from the huge echo that is put on Paul's voice during the recording. Anyway, Let Me Roll It is a very good work from Paul.
Next comes Mamunia , another acoustic ballad based upon ecological lyrics.
No Words follows up as a love song with some good electric guitar lines in it. It was written two years ago for a radio show in New York and it is a McCartney/Laine composition.
The following title, Picasso's Last Words (Drink To Me) , is one of the best songs on this album.
A lot of instruments are skilfully used on this song, and the whole work is strenghtened by some fine orchestral instrumentation and some amazing ruptures in the rhythm. It's really a patchwork of little musical jewels.
The story about this songwriting is that Paul meets Dustin Hoffman during his vacations in Jama´ca. Dustin is telling he thinks it is an incredible gift to be able to write a song about something. He reads some lines out of Time Magazine about Picasso's last words and asks Paul if he could write something to that. Paul just takes his guitar which he happens to have with him, strumms a couple of chords he knows he can't go wrong on and starts singing on theses Picasso's last words. That's how the whole writing begins...
Then comes the fantastic Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five , some dark and tragic song played by Paul who knows how to make a piano rock. The whole song is strengthened by a good drumming and an efficient bass line. The song's final includes an nice sax solo, all the instruments progressively gathering in an end-of-the-world melody.
Paul McCartney and Dustin Hoffman some years later...
The US release of Band On The Run includes a bonus song, Helen Wheels , which has been released as a single on October 26th before the album's issue.
Band On The Run will be remastered twice as a CD. The second release in 1993 (Europe) will include the single Helen Wheels / Country Dreamer as bonus tracks. Country Dreamer can also be found as a bonus track on the Red Rose Speedway CD release.
After the BOR recording sessions in September, Paul travels to Paris with Linda, Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch who gets taken on by Paul as a new Wings' guitarist. Jimmy is a former guitarist from Stone The Crows and he also played with John Mayall.
In Paris they record Wide Prairie , a song written by Linda, and B-Side To Seaside , a song written by Paul which will be used as the B-side of Seaside Woman, a reggae song written by Linda and recorded in early 1972. The Seaside Woman / B-Side To Seaside single will be released on May 1977 under the name of Suzy And The Red Stripes. It's a very rare collectible today.
Paul and Linda at the George V hotel in Paris, November 1973.
Wide Prairie will only be released 25 years later on the album of the same name just after Linda's death. This album will also include Seaside Woman and B-Side To Seaside .
The last title that is recorded in Paris is Bridge Over The River Suite, a song composed by Paul and Linda.
In early 1974 are issued four singles taken from Band On The Run :
Jet / Mamunia (January / US).
Jet / Let Me Roll It (January and February / US, UK, FR). It will reach #7 in the US charts.
Band On The Run / Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five (April / US, FR). It will stay at #1 in the US charts for thirteen weeks.
Band On The Run / Zoo Gang (June / UK). Zoo Gang is a TV series musical theme.
In late 1974, Paul enrols Geoff Britton, former Wild Angels member. Now Wings have a drummer again. They travel to Nashville and record some songs in June and July.
First they record an old melody that was composed by Paul's father, Jim McCartney. It's called Walking In The Park With Elo´se . Paul is joined by Chet Atkins for the studio sessions and the resulting single Walking In The Park With Elo´se / Bridge Over The River Suite will be released under the pseudonym of the Country Hams in October 1974.
Two other songs are recorded by Wings in Nashville at that time and the resulting single,
Junior's Farm / Sally G, is finally issued in October 1974. Junior's Farm is an attractive rock song which will reach #3 in the US charts. Sally G is a well-done western/country composition.
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