1973 will always be remembered as the year The Beatles returned after a 4-year absence. Abbey Road had looked like the band’s swansong, with tensions between McCartney, Lennon, Harrison and Starr reaching unbearable levels during the ill-fated sessions for a planned follow-up album early in 1970.
Two of the tracks from that aborted project, Get Back and The Long & Winding Road, remained in the vaults for several years until a Greatest Hits collection was finally issued by EMI to mark the band’s 15th anniversary in 1977. Beat1e5 quickly became the fastest-selling album of the decade, eclipsing both Eagles’ Greatest Hits 1971-75 and Rumours.
Of course, history could have turned out very differently. It was Ringo Starr, struggling to make much headway in the studio with his intended solo set simply titled Ringo, who called upon some of his former band mates in desperation. Harrison, always his closest ally in those troubled final months of 1969, came along to the sessions and between them, Sunshine Life For Me (Sail Away Raymond) was born. Although they weren’t to know it yet, The Beatles really were getting back.
When word of the collaboration reached Lennon, his curiosity was piqued. I’m The Greatest became his initial contribution, until McCartney’s belated involvement upped the ante and John decided to bring along some the material he’d been working on alone at his Ascot retreat. Mind Games and the poignant Jealous Guy were the two which, after some fine-tuning courtesy of his erstwhile sparring partner, made the final cut.
The first genuinely collaborative result of this unlikely reunion was the powerhouse pop of “Jet”. Inspired by a typically barbed Lennon ad lib in the studio (the song’s working title was “Git”), it had no trouble in knocking Slade from the top spot in Britain, also becoming the first-ever single to debut at #1 in the process. Paul McCartney’s brief foray into a moderately successful solo career had allowed him a creative outlet during the intervening years, but rekindling the Lennon-McCartney partnership brought out his best work since the late ’60s.
Likewise for Lennon, whose acrimonious split from Yoko Ono in 1970 sent him into artistic meltdown and a bout of writers’ block which lasted throughout 1971 and 1972. Back together again, they wrote Bluebird, a sequel to The White Album’s Blackbird, and the epic medley Oh My/My Love/Oh My Love which formed the centrepiece of a typically ambitious Side 2. Meanwhile, Band On The Run, after which the album was named, bore all the trademarks of a whimsical McCartney concept offset by Lennon’s “we’ll never get out of here”.
George Harrison, meanwhile, had been the catalyst for the unexpected Beatles comeback when he asked the other members to join him onstage at the Concert For Bangladesh. Until then, none of them had been on speaking terms for over two years. The Quiet One’s main solo contribution to the new album was “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)”, which did get to be an A-side in the US but lost out in their homeland to the James Bond Theme which they’d also recorded during the album sessions, “Live And Let Die”. The film starred McCartney’s wife Jane Asher, with whom he’d finally tied the knot in 1970 when his relationship with Linda Eastman had ended shortly after Abbey Road‘s release.
The intial plan was to make Band On The Run a two-record set, but EMI weren’t keen on the idea after suffering heavy losses with Pink Floyd’s infamous Equinox debacle, so the lengthy running order was trimmed down to 13 tracks.
A special 30th Anniversary edition released in late 2003 contained the full double album’s worth of material, in its intended sequence. “We’d been avoiding each other for years after the bloody Let It Be nonsense,” a now Sixty-something Lennon said in an interview with Q Magazine to promote the reissued Band On The Run 30, “…and then you couldn’t get us out of the f***ing studio in the end! I mean, yeah the record label got burned by what happened to Floyd, they didn’t want another of their prize assets messing it up, so they said sorry lads, it’s gonna be a single album. I think they were dead right, all this we-wanna-express-ourselves rubbish should have gone out with the bleedin’ 60s, you know? Band On The Run’s a top album. Some great stuff. At first I was talking the mickey a bit with me Ringo song, but soon as Paul came in, I knew it was time to get serious and stop fannying about. I’m glad I didn’t waste any more time tryin’ to move to the States permanently, they’d had enough of me by then and the feelin’ was mutual.”
THE BEATLES Band On The Run (Apple/Parlophone)
- I’M THE GREATEST (Lennon/McCartney)
- JET (Lennon/McCartney)
- MIND GAMES (Lennon/McCartney)
- PHOTOGRAPH (Lennon/McCartney)
- BLUEBIRD (Lennon/McCartney)
- GIVE ME LOVE (GIVE ME PEACE ON EARTH) (Harrison)
- JEALOUS GUY (Lennon/McCartney)
- BAND ON THE RUN (Lennon/McCartney)
- SIX O’CLOCK (Lennon/McCartney)
- YOU AND ME (BABE) (Harrison)
- OH MY / MY LOVE / OH MY LOVE (Lennon/McCartney)
- UNCLE ALBERT/ADMIRAL HALSEY (Lennon/McCartney)
- SUNSHINE LIFE FOR ME (SAIL AWAY RAYMOND) (Harrison/Starkey)