Paul Fitzpatrick: December 2022
Three and a bit years after the final Beatles studio album, Let It Be, Paul McCartney released Band on the Run and there was a collective sigh of relief – the commercial one from the Beatles hadn’t lost his mojo, after all.
Not that he’d been twiddling his thumbs since leaving the fab four, far from it – five albums and ten singles in the space of three years is hardly putting your feet up.
The concern for some, was that Macca’s solo output pre Band on the Run, had been a bit patchy – the early albums despite having the odd gem like – “Maybe I’m Amazed or “Another Day’ weren’t that commercial and if there was one thing we expected from McCartney, it was a catchy pop song.
Conscious of this perhaps, he released a series of singles that probably went too far the other way – “C Moon”, “Hi, Hi, Hi” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, were all a bit too commercial.
By this point McCartney had decided to form a group (Wings), but it would take a couple of years for the band to find its feet.
The first positive sign was the single “My Love” which featured a great solo by guitarist Henry McCullough this was followed by the theme song to the new James Bond movie, “Live and Let Die”.
Just as things were looking up for Wings, drummer Danny Seiwell, and McCullough left the band, reportedly because Macca was a tight git plus they weren’t over-impressed with Linda McCartney’s musical chops or vocal range (or pitch, or tone).
Suddenly the quintet was a trio and Paul, Linda & Denny Laine all headed off to sunny Lagos in Nigeria to record Wings new album – Band on the Run.
As well as restoring his musical credibility the album turned out to be McCartney’s most successful non-Beatles project.
The critics hailed it as a return to form for the former mop-top and the record went to number one on both sides of the Atlantic.
Two singles were released from the album- “Jet” and the title track but there were three or four other tracks such as “Let Me Roll It” and “Bluebird” that could easily have been as successful.
The album cover featured the band and six celebrities all caught in the spotlight of a prison searchlight. Imagery to support the albums theme of freedom and escape, given the recent parting of the ways with Beatles manager Allen Klein.
The photographer Hugh Arrowsmith would later claim that he struggled to capture a shot he was happy with, due to the fact that the subjects had been partying hard the night before and were all the worse for wear…
Band on the Run kickstarted Wings and they would go on to release a few decent albums in the mid 70s until ‘corny Paul’ kicked back in with “Mull of Kintyre”.
Moving in to the 80s things started getting pretty patchy again, not helped by cheesy MTV-inspired collaborations with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder…. until the ultimate nadir that was “We All Stand Together” (frogs chorus).
It’s hard to stay mad at Macca for long though as he’s written and performed so many classic songs that are part of our lives.
Take “Band on the Run“, – every time I hear that song, it takes me back to the daily school, bus run in 1974.
It was always being played on one of the resident transistor radios, either from Noel Edmunds breakfast show or from “Diddy” David Hamilton’s afternoon show, as we travelled home.
We took it for granted back then that the guy who’d written “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be” would just keep producing fantastic pop music, and Band on the Run was certainly that.