Band on the Run
Band on the Run is the third studio album by Paul McCartney and Wings, released in December 1973. 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.
|Band on the Run|
|Studio album by|
|Released||5 December 1973 (US)|
7 December 1973 (UK)
|Studio||EMI Studios and ARC Studio, Lagos, Nigeria; AIR Studios and Kingsway Recorders, London|
|Length||41:08 (UK version)|
44:17 (US version)
|Paul McCartney and Wings chronology|
|Singles from Band on the Run|
The majority of Band on the Run was recorded at EMI's studio in Lagos, Nigeria, as McCartney wanted to make an album in an exotic locale. Shortly before departing for Lagos, however, 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. In addition to playing bass, McCartney also played drums, percussion and most of the lead guitar parts himself. On arriving, it was discovered that the studio was below standard, and conditions in Nigeria were tense and difficult; the McCartneys were robbed at knifepoint, during which a bag containing unfinished song lyrics and demo tapes was taken. 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 it at number 75 in its list of the "100 Greatest British Albums Ever". In 2012, Band on the Run was voted 418th 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 "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.
– Linda McCartney to Sounds magazine
By 1973, following the break-up of the Beatles three years before, 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 taken with 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 the core of the band – Paul, Linda and Denny 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 underequipped. 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. Paul, 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. Paul 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, Paul would play drums and lead guitar parts with Denny 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.
– 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 suggests 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 primitive studio, various incidents plagued Wings' Lagos stay. While out walking one night against advice, Paul 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, Paul was laying down a vocal track when he began gasping for air. According to Emerick: "Within seconds, [Paul] 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 even went to the studio to confront McCartney, who played their songs for him proving that they contained no local influence whatsoever. Later on, drummer and former Cream member Ginger Baker invited Wings to record their entire album at his place, ARC Studio in Ikeja. Though not wanting the invitation, Paul 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.
– 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. The song "Jet", named after one of the McCartneys' Labrador puppies, was recorded in its entirety at AIR. Paul, 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 arrangements for the whole album, including the 60-person orchestra for the title track. Visconti said that the arrangements were collaborations with McCartney, and was surprised he was not correctly credited with his work until the 25th anniversary reissue. Another contributor was saxophonist Howie Casey, who overdubbed solos on "Bluebird" and "Mrs. Vanderbilt", 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 would go on to become 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 Paul, Linda and Denny 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 photographed reportedly being in a "substance haze" following a party held by Paul, 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]".
|Christgau's Record Guide||C+|
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
Upon release, Band on the Run received mostly favourable reviews. Author Robert Rodriguez writes that, after the disappointment of McCartney's previous work since the Beatles, "It was exactly the record fans and critics had long hoped he would make …"
In a combined review for Starr's concurrently released Ringo album, Charles Shaar Murray of the NME wrote: "The ex-Beatle least likely to re-establish his credibility and lead the field has pulled it off with a positive master-stroke of an album entitled Band On The Run." In addition to praising McCartney for using synthesizer "like an instrument, and not like an electric whoopee cushion", Shaar Murray concluded: "Band On The Run is a great album. If anybody ever puts down McCartney in your presence, bust him in the snoot and play him this. He will thank you for it afterwards."
Writing in The New York Times, Loraine Alterman considered the album to be "bursting with a great deal of compelling music even if the lyrics at times make as much sense as that cover photo" and admired the "fascinating range of sounds" offered in the title track, as well as the "lovely, romantic aura" of "Bluebird". While noting the importance of studio production on the overall effect, Alterman wrote: "McCartney has managed to make the complexities of multi-track recording sound as natural and fresh as tomorrow." Jon Landau of Rolling Stone described the album as "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".
Not all critics were as impressed. Village Voice critic Robert Christgau wrote: "I originally underrated what many consider McCartney's definitive post-Beatles statement, but not as much as its admirers overrate it. Pop masterpiece? This? Sure it's a relief after the vagaries of Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway." He did however praise the title track and the "Afro-soul" introduction to "Mamunia", calling them "the high points." Christgau ultimately awarded the album a C+ rating, indicating "a not disreputable performance, most likely a failed experiment or a pleasant piece of hackwork."
The commercial reception was unspectacular initially, with the record-buying public wary after Wings' preceding releases. On the UK Albums Chart, Band on the Run climbed to number 9 on 22 December, remaining there for a second week before dropping to number 13. On America's Billboard Top LPs & Tape chart, it peaked at number 7 on 2 February 1974 and then spent the next six weeks in the lower reaches of the top ten. The album went on to achieve considerable success, however, thanks to the popularity of the two singles culled from it – "Jet" and the title track. Writing in 1981, Bob Woffinden described Band on the Run as the first Beatles-related release to be "planned with a marketing strategy", as Capitol Records now assumed a fully active role in promoting the album following the removal of Klein's ABKCO Industries as managers of Apple. Although McCartney had been reluctant to issue album tracks as singles, the public's apparent disinterest in Band on the Run led to him ceding to the recommendations of Capitol's head of marketing, Al Coury, who had similarly pushed for the inclusion of "Helen Wheels". McCartney therefore authorised single edits for the two new A-sides.
"Jet" was issued on 28 January in America, with "Mamunia" as the B-side for the single's initial pressings, although this was soon replaced by "Let Me Roll It", which was the B-side for the UK release, on 15 February. The single's success provided new impetus for the album, which hit number 2 in the UK at the end of March and topped Billboard's listings on 13 April. Apple issued "Band on the Run" on 8 April in America, backed by "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five"; the UK release followed on 28 June, with the non-album instrumental "Zoo Gang" as the B-side. Due to the popularity of "Band on the Run", the album returned to number 1 on Billboard on 8 June, when the single simultaneously topped the Hot 100. In Britain, the album finally hit number 1 on 27 July, for the first of seven consecutive weeks at the top. On the alternative UK listings compiled by Melody Maker, Band on the Run remained in the top ten from 26 January through to 23 November 1974. During that time, its chart performance similarly reflected the popularity of the two singles, with the album spending three weeks at number 2 in April, and six weeks at number 1 throughout August and the first week of September.
The album topped the Billboard chart on three separate occasions during 1974, and was the top selling album of that year in Australia and Canada. In Britain, it came second in the year-end standings, behind the compilation The Singles: 1969–1973 by the Carpenters. Through this success with Wings, McCartney established himself as the most commercially successful of the four former Beatles. Rodriguez views the album's arrival at number 1 on Billboard, in April 1974, as the moment when McCartney usurped George Harrison as the "ex-Beatle Most Likely to Succeed", so beginning a period of public acclaim that reached its zenith with the Wings Over America Tour in 1976.
Band on the Run was eventually certified triple platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America; it would go on to sell 6 million copies worldwide and become EMI's top selling album of the 1970s in the UK. Its continued success through 1974 was also beneficial in allowing Wings to recruit a new guitarist and drummer, and to integrate them into the band before beginning new recordings.
The album continues to be mainly regarded positively. Though in Erlwine's retrospective AllMusic review he feels that while some songs are excellent and the album overall is enjoyable, it is more showmanship than content. The Rolling Stone reviewer of the 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition feels that "the real action still lies in the original LP's revved-up pleasures". Writing for Mojo magazine in 2011, John Harris included Band on the Run among "the trilogy of truly essential post-Beatles solo albums", along with Harrison's All Things Must Pass and Lennon's Plastic Ono Band.
In 2000 Q magazine placed it at number 75 in its list of the "100 Greatest British Albums Ever". In 2012, Band on the Run was voted 418th on Rolling Stone's revised list of "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
As with all albums released contemporaneously by the EMI/Capitol empire, Band on the Run was released, in addition to the vinyl LP, on cassette and 8-Track cartridge in all territories in which they operated.
The US 8-track tape version of this album is one of the few 8-tracks that is arranged just like the vinyl album, albeit with the song "Bluebird" divided into two parts. The UK 8-track however, as was usually the case, had a re-arranged running order. This did at least enable the UK edition to avoid dividing any tracks. Band on the Run was also released in quadrophonic in both the US and UK.
In 1993, Band on the Run was remastered and reissued on CD as part of the Paul McCartney Collection series with "Helen Wheels" and its B-side, "Country Dreamer", as bonus tracks. In 1996, it was released on 5.1 Music Disc. In May 2007, the album was made available through the iTunes Store.
Band on the Run: 25th Anniversary Edition, a special extended edition of the album, was released in 1999 to coincide with twenty-five years after the album began to take off in March 1974 after a slow start. On this version, "Helen Wheels" appeared as track 8, between "No Words" and "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)", as it had been positioned on the original US release. The package includes an extra disc of live renditions of songs throughout the years, as well as brief new renditions by McCartney. Spoken testimonials are also included from McCartney himself, late wife Linda (to whom this retrospective release is dedicated), Laine, Dustin Hoffman (the inspiration behind "Picasso's Last Words"), and the celebrity faces on the cover, including James Coburn, who was in Britain at the time filming The Internecine Project, and Christopher Lee.
- A single CD featuring the original UK version of the album
- A 2-CD/1-DVD Special Edition which includes a CD and a DVD of bonus material in addition to the original album
- A 2-CD/2-DVD Special Edition sold only at Best Buy which includes a CD and two DVDs of bonus material in addition to the original album
- A 3-CD/1-DVD Deluxe Edition which has the aforementioned material as well as an audio documentary originally produced for the album's 25th Anniversary release. It comes with a 120-page hardbound containing photos by Linda McCartney and Clive Arrowsmith, a history of the album and additional material
- A 2-Disc Vinyl Edition containing the same audio material as the Special Edition
- A (Record Store Day 2010 exclusive) vinyl single of "Band On The Run" and "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty-Five" 
- High Resolution 24bit 96 kHz with no dynamic range compression limited and unlimited audio versions of all 18 songs on the remastered album and bonus audio disc.
1973 original releaseEdit
- "Band on the Run" – 5:12
- "Jet" – 4:09
- "Bluebird" – 3:23
- "Mrs. Vandebilt" – 4:40
- "Let Me Roll It" – 4:51
- "Mamunia" – 4:51
- "No Words" – 2:35
- "Helen Wheels" – 3:44 (additional track only on the US release)
- "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" – 5:49
- "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" – 5:28
1993 The Paul McCartney Collection reissueEdit
- "Band on the Run" – 5:12
- "Jet" – 4:09
- "Bluebird" – 3:23
- "Mrs. Vandebilt" – 4:40
- "Let Me Roll It" – 4:51
- "Mamunia" – 4:51
- "No Words" – 2:35
- "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" – 5:49
- "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" – 5:28
- "Helen Wheels" – 3:44 (additional track to the original UK release)
- "Country Dreamer" – 3:07 (additional track to the original UK release)
1999 25th Anniversary Edition reissueEdit
Tracks 1–10 per the original US release.
|Disc 2 bonus material|
|1.||"Paul McCartney (Dialogue Intro)/Band on the Run (Nicely Toasted Mix)"||1:12|
|2.||"Band on the Run (Original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 1)"||2:17|
|3.||"Band on the Run (Barn Rehearsal – 21 July 1989)"||4:59|
|4.||"Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 2)/Mamunia (Original)/Denny Laine (Dialogue)/Mamunia (Original)/Linda McCartney (Dialogue)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 3)"||4:23|
|5.||"Bluebird (Live version – Australia 1975)"||0:55|
|6.||"Bluebird (Original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 4)"||0:23|
|7.||"Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 5)/No Words (Original)/Geoff Emerick (Dialogue)"||1:24|
|8.||"No Words (Original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 6)/Tony Visconti (Dialogue)/Band on the Run (original)/Tony Visconti (Dialogue)"||1:47|
|9.||"Jet (Original from Picasso's Last Words)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue Link 7)/Jet (Original from Picasso's Last Words)/Al Coury (Dialogue)"||2:55|
|10.||"Jet (Berlin Soundcheck – 3 September 1993)"||3:52|
|11.||"Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 8)/Clive Arrowsmith (Dialogue)"||1:44|
|12.||"Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five (Original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 9)/James Coburn (Dialogue)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 10)/John Conteh (Dialogue)"||3:24|
|13.||"Mrs. Vandebilt (original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 11)/Kenny Lynch (Dialogue)"||2:10|
|14.||"Let Me Roll It (Cardington Rehearsal – 5 February 1993)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 12)"||3:52|
|15.||"Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 13)/Mrs. Vandebilt (Background)/Michael Parkinson (Dialogue)/Linda McCartney (Band on the Run Photo Shoot) (Dialogue)/Michael Parkinson (Dialogue)"||2:25|
|16.||"Helen Wheels (Crazed)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 14)/Christopher Lee (Dialogue)"||5:32|
|17.||"Band on the Run (Strum Bit)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 15)/Clement Freud (Dialogue)"||1:01|
|18.||"Picasso's Last Words (Original)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue link 16)/Dustin Hoffman (Dialogue)"||4:22|
|19.||"Picasso's Last Words (Drink To Me) (Acoustic version)"||1:11|
|20.||"Band on the Run (Nicely Toasted Mix)/Paul McCartney (Dialogue Link 17)"||0:42|
|21.||"Band on the Run (Northern Comic Version)"||0:37|
2010 Paul McCartney Archive Collection reissueEdit
Tracks 1–9 per the original UK release.
- 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. Vanderbilt"
- Ginger Baker – percussion on "Picasso's Last Words"
- Remi Kabaka – percussion on "Bluebird"
- Ian Horne, Trevor Jones – backing vocals on "No Words"
- 3 uncredited session musicians – saxophones on "Jet"
- Tony Visconti – orchestrations
- Geoff Emerick – sound engineer
|Year||Nominee / work||Award||Result|
|1975||Paul McCartney and Wings / Band on the Run||Album of the Year||Nominated|
|Geoff Emerick / Band on the Run||Best Engineered Non-Classical Album||Won|
|2012||Paul McCartney, Sam Okell, Steve Rooke / Band on the Run (Paul McCartney Archive Collection – Deluxe Edition)||Best Historical Album||Won|
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