Dave Amitri on Band On The Run
Earlier this week I watched a clip of Paul McCartney during the recent Get Back film. He was working on The Long and Winding Road. Not only does he look amazing, beard and hair just perfect, he looks in complete control. For a moment it’s not The Beatles it’s just McCartney. There’s a look on Ringo’s face of pure wonder as Paul brings that melody and vocal together almost effortlessly. I began listening to Band On The Run after this with renewed vigour, seeing McCartney as maybe others do. Was it a mistake to take on McCartney before really investigating The Beatles? This I’ve been assured is Wings finest moment and it escapes Macca’s whimsy blight ( ©️ @H-P-Saucecraft ) so it was all set up perfectly for what came next. Less Macca more McCartney is what I’m after and with only Wildlife really hitting the spot so far I needed a big album free from whimsy blight.
Band On The Run is a big song, it’s a monster. Of course, I knew it before this but I’ve only properly listened now. I’ve really learned to love it. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of a song. There’s lots of parts sewn together to make one great noise that I assume in 1973 after the slightly damp Red Rose Speedway put McCartney back into the record buying public’s hearts. From it’s My Love style opening through to the guitar solo, keyboard section that reminds me of a hundred things. Then into the huge orchestral section that brings you to the main song where there’s hints of You’re So Vain (1972) in the songs structure. Finally, I get an American Pie (1971) vibe when I hear its storytelling. All these are good things. It’s a great opener. Did McCartney take some influence from his contemporaries? Who knows? If he did it worked.
Jet next gave me a feeling of Live and Let Die which should really be on this album in my opinion. Maybe there’s a good reason why it isn’t. Jet is great too. I’ve heard it often but during this it’s taken on new layers and is another huge step away from the safety net of Red Rose Speedway. It rocks but is softened with some really rich harmonies. I had hoped I would discover it was about Emmeline Pankhurst but turns out it’s about a dog, or a horse. Never mind. Two hits. Two great tunes right up my street. A great start.
Bluebird is fascinating to me. It’s beautiful and I love it let’s be clear about that. It’s the sort of song ripe for Macca’s whimsy blight, it’s there for the taking but it’s pitched perfectly to my ears. About 15 years ago I picked up America’s greatest hits because of Horse With No Name and Ventura Highway. I ended up adoring those lilting, melodic, dreamy songs like Sister Golden Hair, Muskrat Love and Sandman. Bluebird gives me same feel of being wrapped in a blanket round a campfire on a cool desert evening. Apparently liking America isn’t cool. I don’t care, I can’t get enough of songs like this. McCartney if flying here and another nod to Linda and those angelic harmonies.
Mrs Vanderbilt doesn’t quite keep the standard as high but it’s a good album track and I’m sure the Ho, hey ho’s have been sampled elsewhere. The random sax comes from nowhere but lifts it as does another great guitar solo (Denny Laine?). I’ve tried to find something in the lyrics but nope, let’s move on quickly….
Let Me Roll It gets things back on track. Moody, and atmospheric with a McCartney vocal that puts me in mind of John Lennon. Deliberate or not it works perfectly. Lyrically it’s typical McCartney in its simplicity “My heart is like a wheel, let me roll it to you”. It makes its point without stretching the listener too far. Overall though it’s grown-up McCartney making a grown-up song and hats off again to the guitarist and Linda.
Mamunia means safe haven in Arabic apparently and it definitely gives you that feel. Lyrically lightweight again but that’s ok. It’s something about rain and in a sense the song does wash over you like a summer shower. It’s that West Coast / America feel again which I love.
No Words sounds like a Beatles song to me, perhaps someone can let me know which one I’m hearing here. It also puts me in mind of my Dad’s England Dan and John Ford Coley album. It fits the whole feel of the album perfectly and it’s hard not to repeat myself with the guitar and harmonies but they are prefect once again.
Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me) starts nicely enough following the overall relaxed fireside feel of the album after the two hits. It plods a bit and there’s a hint of whimsy blight in the annoying oompah, spoken word section. The unnecessary insertion of a clip from Jet is just weird, I guess sometimes he just can’t help himself but he’s got so much credit in the bank at this point it’s all good. It all goes on a bit too long but I think he’s trying to purvey a sense of a late night drinking session but it could have been another really good three and a half minute song.
Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five closes things and the pace is picked up with a stomping piano sound and a great McCartney rasp vocal. I’m not sure if it’s meant to be a dystopian view of the future like Bowie’s Diamond Dogs, the lyrics don’t really fill you in on much detail. (I doubt he was expecting he’d be doing Spies Like Us in 1985.)There’s a bit of drama and electronica in a fabulous outro spoiled slightly by going back again to a Band On the Run fade but maybe he was encouraging people to turn the album over and play it again.
To be fair that’s exactly what I’ve been doing, playing it again and again. I know I’m weird but it doesn’t quite match Wildlife for me but it’s damn close. I can’t explain fully why the slower songs here work so much better than on Red Rose Speedway. I said on the Red Rose Speedway review that it was an album for the likes of my mum and Radio 2, nice, over nice. This feels like a proper album aimed at an audience that loved The Beatles but have grown up, moved on but still have a connection with McCartney. This is my 5th McCartney / Wings album all released between 1970 and 1973. Like Bowie, Elton and others the demand in the 70s for quantity is obviously going to affect the quality. I feel like Band On the Run is where McCartney and Wings become a real band, a collective. Maybe McCartney felt the pressure was off and he could trust others to bring something to the party. I noted that the omnipresent Tony Visconti was involved here too. It all helps subdue the whimsy blight and produce an album of a rare quality with a couple of massive hits backed up by a selection of songs in that America style that perfectly suits McCartney and Wings in 1973. It’s two years before Venus and Mars comes out so I’m looking forward to hearing what that brings. These first five have been worth it for Wildlife and now Band On The Run where it feels McCartney is clearly starting to get back to where he once belonged.