Thursday, December 5, 2013

40 Year Itch : Stuck Inside These Four Walls

On December 5, 1973 Paul McCartney and Wings released their top selling and most critically acclaimed album Band on the Run

    Those who've wisely purchased the two disc remastered Band on the Run will know the entire story. The short version is after Red Rose Speedway and the "Live and Let Die" single did so well, McCartney wanted to shake things up. He found a list of EMI studios around the world and picked the one in Lagos, Nigeria. Just before the band flew down to Africa, both lead guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Danny Seiwell balked. So it was the McCartneys, their kids, Denny Laine, two roadies and engineer Geoff Emerick

   They ran into all kinds of trouble in Nigeria. The 8 track studio was a ramshackle affair. The McCartneys got robbed at knife point. McCartney had  a medical scare when he couldn't catch his breath one night in the studio. And to top it off Fela Kuti accused the band of stealing African rhythms . ( That would be a different Paul a full decade later)

  Somehow they recorded the masters, with Paul playing drums and lead guitar parts.

After six or seven weeks, McCartney and the rest of his team returned to England for overdubs and mastering. The first single would be "Helen Wheels", named after the land rover the McCartneys drove around their Scottish estate.

Upon its release, Band on the Run received all kinds of positive reviews. From Rolling Stone's Jon Landau:

   Band on the Run is closer to the Beatles' style than Ringo, which, though it utilized all the members of the group, is more Richard Perry than Ringo Starr. With the possible exception of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band (Band on the Run) the finest record yet released by any of the four musicians who were once called the Beatles.

From Creem's Janis Schacht:

It's been such a long time since anyone of the mighty foursome has given us something to really scream about. I mean, sure, by comparison with most of the stuff that comes out of John, Paul, George and Ringo have been excellent, but, compared to their united efforts of yesteryear, they've been nothing. Now, Paul fans, you may scream, screech, and yes, rejoice. Band On The Run is absolutely brilliant. From the first strains of the title track there is an obvious difference. Suddenly all the subtleties of McCartney melody lines are back. And the vocals? Not since Abbey Road has Paul delivered such clear and satisfying performances.

Here's an interesting idea lifted from a Beatles fan: Had Band on the Run not been a critical success, The Beatles might have gotten back together. Both Lennon ( with Mind Games) and Harrison ( with Living in the Material World) were floundering. Both had made their critically acclaimed solo albums ( with Plastic Ono Band and All Things Must Pass respectively). Ringo is Ringo even with Ringo's success.  With another Red Rose Speedway, the former Beatles would have met in the studio as equals. 


Instead, Band on the Run , a triple Platinum mega hit, gave Paul the upper hand.

Even John Lennon had to agree, calling it "a great album --you can call them Wings but it's Paul McCartney music. And it's great stuff." 

No comments:

Post a Comment