“Band On The Run”

PAUL McCARTNEY and WINGS – “Band On The Run” (Apple PAS 100070 December 1973

Well here it is! The first ever Paul McCartney record I’ve bought since he left the Beatles, not that I was old enough to buy records when the Beatles were making historic music. But, at fifty seven years of age, my first Macca record! What will I make of it?

I’ve educated myself because apart from the odd single here and there I’ve got no idea what he’s been up to since 1970. I know he married a one-legged bimbo who fleeced him, and I know that he’s now looking more like my Auntie Florrie when she was alive in the ’70s.

I didn’t even realise that this album was actually by Paul McCartney and Wings, I thought that they only ever went by the name of Wings! The things I learn every day about the music scene.

This was another one of my £2 finds from the local Scope charity shop last week. I must report back and tell you all that the vinyl is in excellent condition. Whoever owned it before me took very good care of it, it appears to have been played a couple of times. The inner sleeve with the lyrics is in amazing condition too. It’s also got a fold-out poster, full of Linda McCartney’s Polaroid photos taken during the recording sessions of the album.

About the record:

On 8th June in 1974, Wings started a seven-week run at No.1 on the UK album chart with Band On The Run. The album went on to become one of McCartney’s best sellers spending 124 weeks on the UK chart.

But on the run-up to and during recording – McCartney and his band were well and truly ‘on the run’.

The former Beatle was on a roll, his last album Red Rose Speedway had topped the U.S. charts and at last, after a shaky post Beatle start, the future looked good for McCartney and his new group Wings.

Armed with a batch of new songs written at his farm in Scotland, Paul contacted EMI to book the familiar surroundings of Abbey Road studios – only to be informed they were fully booked for the time McCartney had requested.

He asked EMI to send him a list of their international recording studios, resulting in the singer choosing between Rio de Janeiro and Lagos in Nigeria. Paul and Linda fancied a few weeks in Africa, so Lagos it was. The singer later stated the idea of lying on the beach all day and recording in the evening seemed like a great way to make a new album.

Then the problems started.

In late August 73, five days before departing for Africa – Wings’ guitarist Henry McCullough phoned Paul to announce he was quitting the group. Not so much of a problem as Paul can handle a few licks himself. But worst news was yet to come – on the day they were leaving and just three hours before the plane was due to take off – drummer Denny Seiwell also quit the band.

This left just the core of the band – Paul, Linda and Denny Laine – to venture to Lagos, along with former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick.

Upon arriving in Lagos, the band discovered a country, which was run by a military government, with corruption and disease running rampant. The studio, in the dangerous suburb of Apapa, was ramshackle and under-equipped.

The control desk was faulty and there was only one tape machine. Undeterred the trio started the sessions, working from late afternoons into the night. Paul would play the drums and lead guitar parts with Denny playing rhythm guitar and Linda adding keyboards.

Just as they thought nothing else could go wrong – taking a late night walk, Paul and Linda were robbed at knife-point. The assailants made away with all of their valuables and stole a bag containing a notebook full of handwritten lyrics and songs, and cassettes containing demos for songs to be recorded. They were lucky not to be physically attacked.

A few nights later as McCartney was laying down a vocal track he began gasping for air. Feeling unwell, he went outside for some fresh air – but once he was exposed to the blazing heat he fainted and collapsed to the ground. He was rushed to see a doctor – who informed Paul he had suffered a bronchial spasm brought on by too much smoking.

McCartney recovered and the sessions were completed over the following weeks. When released Band on the Run was met with glowing reviews and saw the album gradually inching its way up the charts.

By the spring of 1974, bolstered by the hits “Helen Wheels”, (named after the McCartney’s Land Rover, which they nicknamed “Hell on Wheels”), “Jet” and the title track “Band on the Run”, it reached #1 in the U.S. on three separate occasions.

Band On The Run contains some of McCartney’s best solo efforts. So let’s finish on a lighter note.

More recently Paul told the tale of how he came to write the song “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink to Me)”. Paul and Linda were holidaying in Montego Bay, Jamaica where he met Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen who were working on the film Papillon.

After a dinner with Hoffman, with McCartney playing around on guitar, Hoffman didn’t believe that McCartney could write a song “about anything”, so Hoffman pulled out a magazine where they saw the story of the death of Pablo Picasso and his famous last words, “Drink to me, drink to my health. You know I can’t drink anymore.” Paul rose to the challenge and wrote the song on the spot.

About the LP cover:

Now, depicting the actual band on the run, there were nine famous people, in prison uniform, breaking out of jail and intending to go – yes! – on the run. About to scale a wall to complete the breakout, however, the nine were framed in the harsh glare of a guard’s searchlight.

Three of these nine comprised the aforementioned Wings trio, the other six were celebrities, certainly recognisable to the British observer, two or three of them known also beyond the UK’s shores.

Sleeve wise, left to right, the Band trying to Run numbered:
Michael Parkinson (the journalist best known for his Saturday-night TV chat show)
Kenny Lynch (the singer, friend, occasional actor and TV joker) – died 18/12/19
James Coburn (the American actor – he happened to be in Britain at the time filming The Internecine Project) – died 18/11/02
Clement Freud (the gourmet, raconteur and wit who later went into politics) – died15/04/09
Christopher Lee (the actor best known for his Dracula movie roles) – died 07/06/15
John Conteh (the boxer from Liverpool who went on to become Light-Heavyweight champion of the World).

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