PAUL McCARTNEY & WINGS Band On The Run
1 Band On The Run 5:13 (UK single, #3)
2 Jet 4:09 (UK, single, #7)
3 Bluebird 3:25
4 Mrs Vandebilt 4:41
5 Let Me Roll It 4:51
6 Mamunia 4:50
7 No Words 2:38
8 Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me) 5:51
9 Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five 5:28
It’s late 1973 and almost four years since the Beatles officially split up. So what of the solo careers thus far?
In that time, John Lennon gave the world “Imagine” and some hippy anthems with his Plastic Ono Band, George Harrison served up “My Sweet Lord” and got himself served with legal papers, while Ringo Starr had a string a Top 5 smashes in America, a few of which did well over here too.
And Paul McCartney? He hit #2 first time out with the Another Day 45, and the RAM album made #1 despite not having any singles to speak of. Yet other than that, for the man with the golden commercial touch – the most likely member of the Fab Four to write crowd-pleasing, hummable tunes for the millions – there had only been the slow-burning ballad My Love and most recently, a James Bond theme for Live & Let Die.
His most notable achievements seem to be falling foul of the BBC with a succession of singles that got banned for one reason or another (drug references, supposed IRA sympathies).
Band On The Run, recorded in the Caribbean where the McCartneys almost got killed at gunpoint one night by local criminals, was the umpteenth attempt by Macca to fashion a new creative existence free of the Beatles’ significant shadow. After the lukewarm receptions given to Wings Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway, Band On The Run hit paydirt in spectacular fashion. It topped the charts (spending more than two years on the listings), picked up a plethora of awards in the process, and most importantly proved McCartney could still cut it.
This was one of the only complete albums I knew until the age of about 12 (Abbey Road and Innervisions were the others, though I hardly recall the former); we always had the cassette playing on car journeys to the coast when I was still very small. I associate it with motorways and travelling. The 4 year old me had no idea what an album was, nor why these particular songs were on a plastic cartridge in the dashboard or what it meant. I just loved the opening songs, and the one which went “Ho, Hey Ho”. McCartney’s simple style was so appealing to a kid, the tunes and choruses were easy to pick up on and the sound wasn’t too heavy or flashy.
Macca may have spent the latter half of his career playing up to the “very twee, very me, have a cup of English tea” persona and all the forefather of Britpop nonsense, but on this album he had developed a brilliant Transatlantic brand of pop/rock that didn’t waste any time on the 60s or his previous band’s history.
Band On The Run also had two gigantic hits, in the shape of Jet and the title track. Neither made #1 in Britain, but they had the impact that nothing he’d released since 1970 had managed. They gave the album a commercial momentum that, once started, refused to slow down.
McCartney’s album output is notoriously patchy, with only Tug Of War, Flaming Pie and maybe Flowers In The Dirt really doing justice to his talents across an entire record in the years since. But, for me, Band On The Run remains his imperious peak.