Saturday, October 15, 2011

NUMBER 1 ALBUMS: PAUL McCARTNEY & WINGS - BAND ON THE RUN

Band On The Run
Artist: Paul McCartney & Wings
Title: Band On The Run
Year: 1974
Weeks #1: Four
Label: Apple
Producer: Paul McCartney
Track listing: Band on the Run / Jet / Bluebird / Mrs. Vandebilt / Let Me Roll It / Mamunia / No Words / Helen Wheels / Picasso's Last Words Drink to Me) / Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five.


With two albums under their belt -- 1971's Wild Life and 1973's Red Rose Speedway — Paul McCartney must have felt that he had hit his stride with his post-Beatles combo Wings. The band had just scored a number two hit with "Live and Let Die," the theme to a James Bond film. Then something went wrong. Denny Seiwell and Henry McCullough opted to leave the group on the eve of the band's trip to Nigeria to record a new album.

"It was going to be a normal Wings album, but then our drummer and guitarist never showed up — left us in the lurch at the last minute," McCartney told Vic Garbarini in Musician. "It was literally an hour before we were getting into the plane to go on this trip to Africa ... so we ended just the three of us in Lagos, and I played a lot of the stuff myself."

Singing, handling bass, drums, some guitars, and producing was no problem for McCartney, as he had already proven on his self-titled solo effort, yet the Band on the Run sessions, held at Ginger Baker's studio in Lagos, would offer other challenges. McCartney and his wife were held up at knife-point. And to add insult to injury, McCartney was accused by local musicians of attempting to rip off their music. But in spite of this adversity, McCartney and his group somehow managed to produce what many call his finest post-Beatles effort.

Paul McCartney & Wings
For inspiration, McCartney turned to some of his ex-bandmates and acquaintances. The line, "If we ever get out of here" in "Band on the Run," for example, was inspired by George Harrison, who used the phrase out of frustration during an Apple Records board of directors meeting. "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" was the result of a dinner McCartney had in Jamaica with Dustin Hoffman. The actor, who was in the middle of filming Papillon, asked McCartney how he wrote songs and proceeded to hand him a copy of Time magazine with Picasso's obituary. Hoffman watched in amazement as McCartney crafted a song about the late artist.

Some of the sounds were also inspired ired by McCartney's former mates. The track "Let Me Roll It" was reminiscent of John Lennon's Plastic Ono Band. "My use of tape echo did sound more like John than me," McCartney admitted in his fan newsletter Club Sandwich. "But tape echo was not John's territory exclusively! And you have to remember that, despite the myth, there was a lot of commonality between us in the way that we thought and the way that we worked."

Two other songs, "Jet" and "Helen Wheels," were written about subjects closer to home. "Helen Wheels," which was a top 10 hit in January 1974, was named after the singer's Land Rover, which he affectionately referred to as"hell on wheels." Another top 10 hit, "Jet," was named after the McCartney's black Labrador puppy.

Band on the Run, aided by the one- two punch of "Helen Wheels" and "Jet," strode to the pole position in its 17th week on the chart, becoming McCartney's third post-Beatles Number One solo album. Less than two months later, the title track topped the Hot 100.

Perhaps more importantly to McCartney, the album got the thumbs-up from one of his harshest critics. Lennon told Rolling Stone that "Band on the Run is a great album. Wings is almost as conceptual a group as Plastic Ono Band is. Wings keeps changing all the time. I mean the backup men for Paul. It doesn't matter who's playing, you can call them Wings, but it's Paul McCartney music. And it's good stuff."
 
THE TOP FIVE
Week of April 13, 1974
1. Band on the Run, Paul McCartney & Wings
2. Greatest Hits, John Denver
3. Tubular Bells, Mike Oldfield
4. Court and Spark, Joni Mitchell
5. Love Is the Message, MFSB

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