Band On The Run
Band on the Run is the third studio album by the British–American rock band Paul McCartney and Wings, released in December 1973.
5 December 1973 (US)
7 December 1973 (UK)
It was McCartney's fifth album after leaving the Beatles in April 1970. Although sales were modest initially, its commercial performance was aided by two hit singles – "Jet" and "Band on the Run" – such that it became the top-selling studio album of 1974 in the United Kingdom and Australia, in addition to revitalising McCartney's critical standing. It remains McCartney's most successful album and the most celebrated of his post-Beatles works.
The album was mostly recorded at EMI's studio in Lagos, Nigeria, as McCartney wanted to make an album in an exotic location. Shortly before departing for Lagos, drummer Denny Seiwell and guitarist Henry McCullough left the group. With no time to recruit replacements, McCartney went into the studio with just his wife Linda and Denny Laine. McCartney therefore played bass, drums, percussion and most of the lead guitar parts. The studio was poor quality and conditions in Nigeria were tense and difficult; the McCartneys were robbed at knifepoint, losing a bag of song lyrics and demo tapes. After the band's return to England, final overdubs and further recording were carried out in London, mostly at AIR Studios.
In 2000, Q magazine placed Band on the Run at number 75 in its list of the "100 Greatest British Albums Ever". In 2012, it was listed at 418 on Rolling Stone's revised list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". A contemporary review by Jon Landau in Rolling Stone described the album as being "with the possible exception of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band, the finest record yet released by any of the four musicians who were once called the Beatles". It was McCartney's last album issued on the Apple record label. In 2013, Band on the Run was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
According to Bruce Spizer:
- Paul McCartney – lead and backing vocals; bass, acoustic and electric guitars; piano, keyboards; drums, percussion
- Linda McCartney – harmony and backing vocals; organ, keyboards; percussion
- Denny Laine – harmony and backing vocals; co-lead vocals ("No Words" and "Picasso's Last Words"); acoustic and electric guitars; percussion
- Howie Casey – saxophone on "Jet", "Bluebird" and "Mrs. Vandebilt"
- Ginger Baker – percussion on "Picasso's Last Words"
- Remi Kabaka – percussion on "Bluebird"
- Ian Horne, Trevor Jones (two of Wings' roadies) – backing vocals on "No Words"
- 3 uncredited session musicians – saxophones on "Jet"
- Tony Visconti – orchestrations
- Geoff Emerick – sound engineer
Paul thought, 'I've got to do it, either I give up and cut my throat or [I] get my magic back.'
– Linda McCartney to Sounds magazine
By 1973, three years after the break-up of the Beatles, Paul McCartney had yet to regain his artistic credibility or find favour with music critics for his post-Beatles work. After completing a successful UK tour with his band Wings, in July 1973, he planned their third album as a means to re-establish himself after the mixed reception given to Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway.
Keen to record outside the United Kingdom, McCartney asked EMI to send him a list of all their international recording studios. He selected Lagos in Nigeria and was attracted to the idea of recording in Africa. In August, the band – consisting of McCartney and his wife Linda, ex-Moody Blues guitarist and pianist Denny Laine, Henry McCullough on lead guitar, and Denny Seiwell on drums – started rehearsals for the new album at the McCartneys' Scottish farm. During one rehearsal session, McCullough and McCartney argued, and McCullough quit. Seiwell left a week later, the night before the band flew out to Nigeria. This left just McCartney, Linda and Laine to record in Lagos, assisted by former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. McCartney had chosen Lagos, as he felt it would be a glamorous location where he and the band could sun on the beach during the day and record at night; the reality, however, was that after the end of a civil war in 1970, Nigeria was run by a military government, with corruption and disease commonplace.
The band and their entourage arrived in Lagos on 9 August 1973. EMI's studio, located on Wharf Road in the suburb of Apapa, was ramshackle and under-equipped. The control desk was faulty and there was only one tape machine, a Studer 8-track. The band rented houses near the airport in Ikeja, an hour away from the studio. McCartney, Linda and their three children stayed in one, while Laine, his wife JoJo, Emerick, and Wings' two roadies stayed in another.
The group established a routine of recording during the week and playing tourist on the weekends. McCartney temporarily joined a local country club, where he would spend most mornings. The band would be driven to the studio in the early afternoon where recording would last into the late evening and sometimes early morning. To make up for the departed band members, McCartney would play drums and lead guitar parts, in addition to his contributions on bass guitar, with Laine playing rhythm guitar and Linda adding keyboards. The first track they recorded at Apapa was "Mamunia", the title for which McCartney appropriated from the name of a hotel in Marrakesh where Wings had stayed in April 1973.
It's a collection of songs and the basic idea about the band on the run is a kind of prison escape. At the beginning of the album, the guy is stuck inside four walls and breaks out. There is a thread, but not a concept.
– Paul McCartney
Several of the songs on Band on the Run reflect themes of escape and freedom, while the structure of the album recalled the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road. The song "Band on the Run" was partly inspired by a remark George Harrison had made during one of the many business meetings the Beatles attended in 1969, in an effort to address the problems afflicting their Apple Corps enterprise. Four years later, the album's creation coincided with what author Peter Doggett terms McCartney's "moral victory in the debate over Allen Klein", as Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr now became embroiled in litigation against Klein – the business manager they had appointed to run Apple in 1969, despite strong opposition from McCartney. Doggett writes that McCartney was perhaps liberated creatively by this recent development, resulting in Band on the Run bearing "a frothy self-confidence that was reminiscent of the Beatles at their most productive".
Aside from the challenges presented by the substandard studio, various incidents plagued Wings' Lagos stay. While out walking one night against advice, McCartney and Linda were robbed at knifepoint. The assailants made away with all of their valuables and even stole a bag containing a notebook full of handwritten lyrics and songs, and cassettes containing demos for songs to be recorded. On another occasion, McCartney was overdubbing a vocal track when he began gasping for air. According to Emerick: "Within seconds, [McCartney] turned as white as a sheet, explaining to us in a croaking voice that he couldn't catch his breath. We decided to take him outside for some fresh air ... [but] once he was exposed to the blazing heat he felt even worse and began keeling over, finally fainting dead away at our feet. Linda began screaming hysterically; she was convinced that he was having a heart attack ... The official diagnosis was that he had suffered a bronchial spasm brought on by too much smoking." Another incident was the confrontation with local Afrobeat pioneer and political activist Fela Kuti, who publicly accused the band of being in Africa to exploit and steal African music after their visit to his club. Kuti went to the studio to confront McCartney, who played their songs for him to show that they contained no local influence. Later on, drummer and former Cream member Ginger Baker invited Wings to record their entire album at his ARC Studio in Ikeja. McCartney agreed to go there for one day. The song "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" was recorded at ARC, with Baker contributing a percussive tin of gravel.
[Paul and I] made the album as though we weren't in a band, as though we were just two producers/musicians.
– Denny Laine
Recording for the majority of the album's basic tracks, together with initial overdubbing, was completed after six weeks in Nigeria. After hosting a beach barbecue to celebrate the end of recording, Wings flew back to England on 23 September 1973 where they were met by fans and journalists. Upon returning to London, the McCartneys received a letter from EMI dated before the band had left England warning them to not go to Lagos by any means due to an outbreak of cholera.
In October, two weeks after the band's return to London, work began at George Martin's AIR Studios on transferring many of the eight-track recordings to sixteen-track. "Jet", named after one of the McCartneys' Labrador puppies, was recorded in its entirety at AIR. McCartney, Laine and Linda carried out further overdubs on the Lagos recordings during this period; all the orchestral arrangements for the album were taped at AIR in a single day, conducted by Tony Visconti. Visconti was given three days to write the arrangements, including the 60-piece orchestra for the title track. Visconti said that the arrangements were collaborations with McCartney, and was surprised he was not correctly credited for his work until the 25th anniversary reissue. Another contributor was saxophonist Howie Casey, who overdubbed solos on "Bluebird", "Mrs. Vanderbilt" and "Jet", and would go on to become Wings' regular horn player. Final mixing on the album was completed over three days at London's Kingsway Studios in early November.
"Helen Wheels" was released as a non-album single in late October, and became a top 10 hit in America the following January. For commercial reasons, Capitol Records, the US distributor for Apple Records, asked to include "Helen Wheels" on the album. McCartney agreed, although it was never his intention to include the track. While "Helen Wheels" is not included on UK versions of the Band on the Run CD (except as a bonus cut on the 1993 "The Paul McCartney Collection" edition of the CD), it has always appeared on US editions of the CD starting with the initial Columbia Records release in 1984. Early versions of the Capitol release fail to list "Helen Wheels" on the label or the CD insert, making the song a "hidden track".
The album cover photograph was taken at Osterley Park, west London, on 28 October 1973 by photographer Clive Arrowsmith. It depicts McCartney, Linda and Laine plus six other well-known people dressed as convicts caught in the spotlight of a prison searchlight. They are Michael Parkinson, Kenny Lynch, James Coburn, Clement Freud, Christopher Lee and John Conteh. Arrowsmith detailed that the eventual cover was one of the four he found acceptable in the 24 attempts he took. The spotlight's low potency meant everyone had to stand still for two seconds for proper exposure, which was made difficult by the photographer and subjects reportedly being in a "substance haze" following a party held by McCartney, making it harder for them to hold the pose. The golden hue of the picture is due to Arrowsmith using a regular daytime film instead of a Tungsten film, which would be better suited for night-time photographs.
Apple Records issued Band on the Run on 5 December 1973 in America (as Apple SO 3415), with the UK release following two days later (as Apple PAS 10007). Rather than the band promote the album on radio and television or with a tour, McCartney undertook a series of magazine interviews, most notably with Paul Gambaccini for Rolling Stone. The conversations with Gambaccini took place at various locations from September 1973 onwards and combined to form, in the words of authors Chip Madinger and Mark Easter, "a remarkably forthcoming interview in comparison to the 'thumbs-aloft' profiles usually allowed by [McCartney]".
Sources: wikipedia.org, timenote.info
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