Sunday, February 14, 2010



Over the course of a scant three years, it was beginning to look like there might be something to that whole "Paul is Dead" myth after all. James Paul MacCartney, whose creative fire burned so brightly in the previous decade was gone, replaced by an android look-alike that was programmed to take fewer artistic chances than Lawrence Welk.

Maybe those freaks that Lennon was singing about were right.

Competitive spirit awakened, Paul came roaring back with the ultimate "Fuck You!": Band on the Run.

All of the elements that had infused his best work in the past were still there, waiting to be unlocked again. Reconnected with his muse, McCartney did not waste an inch of tape in the process.

Paul: “When we got back, people said ‘Ah, out of adversity has been born a fine album.’ I hate that theory. I hate the idea that you have to sweat and suffer to produce something good. It may be true as well.”

Because there's a great story behind this album, it's only right to get it straight from the source. Advance the video to 1:26 to start.

So your band has imploded, you are in another country in an unfinished studio and the locals aren't exactly thrilled that you bothered to make the trip in the first place.

What do you do?

Working in almost the same manner as he did when making the McCartney LP, Paul played drums, bass, guitar and keyboards with contributions from Denny and Linda on various instruments and backing vocals. The power of the multi-part title cut followed by "Jet" sets the tone as the underlying theme of the record deals with flight and escape. You can take that any way you like, though the theme involving "leaving the ground" continues with the cocktail lounge jazz of Bluebird. Everything clicks on the first side, which closes out with a nice tribute to Lennon's Plastic Ono Band sound on "Let Me Roll It". Heavy reverb on the vocals, the guitar tone and a little primal whimper thrown in toward the fade all ice the cake. It's a very civilized way of ending the "john vs. Paul" sniping that played out on their records and in the press.

Confident in every possible way, the melodies and structures found here are exceptional, with a consistency that was entirely missing from the first four records He and Denny find a great vocal blend, especially with "No Words" and there is a touch of experimental sound collage found in "Picasso's Last Words". This last one, written on the spot with actor Dustin Hoffman present, was the result of a friendly challenge. Hoffman asked him about the song writing process, specifically what subject matter inspired him to pick up an instrument and invent a new tune. When he went a step further and showed McCartney a Time magazine article about the recent death of Pablo Picasso, which mentioned his dying words ("Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can't drink anymore") he then posed the question "Could you write a song about this?"

Within minutes, he had something.

Again, with something to prove, he delivered in grand style.

For the finale, he pulls out all of the stops and goes all the way back to Sgt Pepper with a cool flashback. Just as "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" builds to an orchestrated climax, you get a quick reprise of the chorus of Band On the Run before the needle goes skidding off into the run-out grooves.

Unquestionably standing as one of the top five solo records that he or his former colleagues ever made, Band On the Run stayed on the charts for 116 weeks, hit number one twice and repaired a lot of damage to his artistic credibility. Wings would soldier on through the remainder of the 70s, with various lineups, and sell millions of discs, though McCartney would not come close to the quality found here.

What's the use of worrying? No use


Dan said...

I really like this album. We use to have drinking game to "drink to me, drink to my health". Every time he sang those words we would take a swig. Didnt take long to feel the effects of that.
I especially like Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five. Far and away much better than the last couple albums.

drewzepmeister said...

My personal favorite from Sir Paul! I'm always singing "Band on the Run"!