Thursday, December 5, 2013

band on the run

Paul McCartney & Wings defied death and dissolution in Africa to produce the ecstatic escapism of this enduring classic.  Unsatisfied with the critical response to 'Wild Life' and 'Red Rose Speedway'McCartney decided he wanted to change things up and record in a more exotic location than London.  After looking over a list of international studios from EMI, he was taken with the idea of going to Lagos in Nigeria Not all of the members of Wings were as keen on the idea.  Paul says:   "A couple of the guys [lead guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Denny Seiwell] left the band the night before we went to Lagos to make the record. That was like a bombshell. You can imagine me getting off that phone call: it was like, ‘Ah. Okay. Try and hold your nerve; try and keep it together. What do we do now? Sod it, we’re going’. And at that moment it was one of those, ‘I’ll show you. I will make the best album I’ve ever made now. I will put so much effort into it because I wanna just prove that we didn’t need you guys’...I don’t think the actual record is that angry. The first week of the record I felt pretty angry. You know what though? The truth is I get over things like that quite quickly. I mean, that night it was like, ‘Shit’. It was bad - two of your band has just left, and the drummer as well; he was fairly central. But Denny can play guitar - that wasn’t too bad - and then I just thought, ‘Well, I’ve done ‘McCartney’; I can drum, I can do this and that, and we’ll just completely rethink the whole thing’. But it was full of difficulties...We hadn’t actually rehearsed everything up with the band yet - we were gonna arrange them there - but I had it all planned in my head. And yeah, we did just have to think... particularly the recording method: that had to be different. We would just get the three of us - me, Linda and Denny - to do a track and get the basis of the song, and then I would do back in and add the missing parts. You did have to rethink what you were doing. I think the songs themselves were the same - it was the instrumentation and the arrangements that [changed]. But in a way I found that to be quite a good thing, because stripping things back is never the worst idea."

There were numerous challenges for the trio.  The country was run by a corrupt military dictatorship that did nothing to improve the standard of living in the country despite the enormous profits being made through oil production.  The studio on Wharf Road in the suburb of Apapa had a faulty control desk and only one Studer 8-track tape machine.  One night, Paul and Linda were mugged at knifepoint while out walking and a bag with demo tapes and a notebook full of lyrics was taken along with their other valuables.  On another occasion, Paul fainted from exhaustion and stress.  Nigerian Afrobeat star Fela Kuti accused the group of trying to steal African music and showed up at the studio where they played the tapes for him to prove to him that it was not the case.   Ginger Baker invited them to record at his ARC Studio in Ikeja, where the band was staying, and they went there for one day, recording one song.  When the album was done, they returned to London to do orchestral overdubs at Abbey Road Studios.  

'Band on the Run' features Paul McCartney on vocals, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, piano, keyboards, drums, and percussion; Linda McCartney on keyboards and vocals; and Denny Laine on vocals;  acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, and percussion;    with Howie Casey on saxophone;  Ginger Baker and Remi Kabaka on percussion; Tony Visconti on orchestrations; Ian and Trevor on backing vocals; and Geoff Emerick as producer and sound engineer.  The album was an enormous success, going to number eighteen in Italy; fifteen in Germany; eleven in Japan; eight in Sweden; five in the Netherlands; four in Belgium; and number one in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, the UK, and the US.   The iconic album cover features Paul, Linda, and Denny;  with Michael Parkinson, Kenny Lynch, James Coburn, Clement Freud, Christopher Lee, and John Conteh.

McCartney interview:

"Band on the Run" was a number one hit in Canada, New Zealand, and the US.  Paul says it harkens back to the Beatles:   "It was symbolic: 'If we ever get out of here... All I need is a pint a day'. It was feeling like that, the whole thing. Because we’d been...if you think about it, we’d started off as just kids really, who loved our music and wanted to earn a bob or two so we could get a guitar and get a nice car. It was very simple ambitions at first. But then, you know, as it went on it became business meetings and all of that, and eventually it was really not fun. You’d have to go into these meetings. So there was a feeling of ‘if we ever get out of here’, yeah. And I did."

Stuck inside these four walls, sent inside forever,
Never seeing no one nice again like you,
Mama you, mama you.
If I ever get out of here,
Thought of giving it all away
To a registered charity.
All I need is a pint a day
If I ever get out of here.
Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell into the sun,
And the first one said to the second one there I hope you're having fun.
Band on the run, band on the run.
And the jailer man and sailor Sam were searching every one
For the band on the run, band on the run, band on the run, band on the run
Well, the undertaker drew a heavy sigh seeing no one else had come,
And a bell was ringing in the village square for the rabbits on the run.
Band on the run, band on the run.
And the jailer man and sailor Sam, were searching every one
For the band on the run, band on the run,band on the run, band on the run
Well, the night was falling as the desert world began to settle down.
In the town they're searching for us every where, but we never will be found.
Band on the run, band on the run
And the county judge, who held a grudge
Will search for evermore
For the band on the run, band on the run, band on the run, band on the run

Paul says: "Jet was a pony in Scotland and then it morphed into a girl with marital troubles."  The song made it to the top ten on charts around the world.

"Mrs Vandebilt"

"Let Me Roll It" 
Paul says:    "‘Let Me Roll It’ wasn’t to John, it was just in the style that we did with The Beatles that John was particularly known for. It was really actually the use of the echo. It was one of those: ‘You’re not going to use echo just cos John used it?’ I don’t think so. To tell you the truth, that was more [about] rolling a joint. That was the double meaning there: 'let me roll it to you'. That was more at the back of mind than anything else."


"Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" was inspired by a challenge from Dustin Hoffman.  It was the only song on the album recorded at Ginger Baker's studio in Ikeja.

"Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five"

'Helen Wheels' was released as a single before the album came out.  It did not appear on the UK release; but was included on the US version.  It went to number ten in the US and four in Canada.

full album:

All songs written by Paul and Linda McCartney, except "No Words" by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine.

Side one
"Band on the Run" – 5:10
"Jet" – 4:06
"Bluebird" – 3:22
"Mrs. Vandebilt" – 4:38
"Let Me Roll It" – 4:47
Side two
"Mamunia" – 4:50
"No Words" – 2:33
"Helen Wheels" – 3:34 (US release)
"Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" – 5:50

"Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" – 5:27

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