Paul McCartney and Wings
Band on the Run [50th Anniversary Edition]
It took Paul McCartney five albums after The Beatles had disintegrated to make something that gelled (and excelled) in a unified group fashion not unlike the Fab Four. And though the dream of recreating the ramshackle dynamic of his Liverpool youth lived only in spirit (save for with his wife, the novice musician Linda McCartney), the principal goal of furthering their clear-and-present leader’s want for earworm melodicism was greatly rewarded once Wings hit Lagos’ EMI Studios in 1973 and knocked out Band on the Run.
Make no mistake: the success of the group’s third album in delivering vibrant energy with a tight feel only came through a series of accidents and consequences. Two Wings split prior to the African night flight, paring the ensemble down to a trio. Meanwhile, McCartney and longtime engineer Geoff Emmerick chose a technically challenged studio a continent away from Great Britain. Once in Nigeria, the team had to convince Afrobeat hero Fela Kuti that Wings weren’t there to steal Indigenous music. Then, the married musicians and fellow Wing Denny Laine got mugged and lost the original demos, meaning the trio had to hastily record anew, so as not to forget what they just finished. Perhaps it was the heat of haste, the weirdness of memory, the panic of theft, and the impromptu riffing that gave Band on the Run its rush. Even Tony Visconti’s pugnacious orchestral arrangements for the title track and “Jet” came together quickly, and sound as ferocious as they do grandly windswept.
If McCartney was looking for the thrill of a new band’s misadventures, he came to the right place on this album. Surrounding his lyrics of excitement and liberation with the au courant gushiness of Bowie-like glam (“Helen Wheels”), lolling psych blues (“Let Me Roll It”), utter chirpiness (“Mrs. Vandebilt”), and cinematic pre-punk spunkiness (“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”), Band on the Run is an apt title for a man looking to outpace his immediate past while borrowing from its glories. As for the additional “underdubbed” version of the LP included in this new 50th anniversary package, Emmerick’s rough mix allows the ornately arranged “Band on the Run” and “Jet” a rough-hewn cuttingness and out-and-out weirdness when you hear Linda’s early takes on the synthesizer. And tracks such as “No Words”—one-time Moody Blues man Laine’s first writing credit with McCartney—prove that the guitarist-vocalist wasn’t just along for the Winged flight, but rather an essential cog in the McCartneys’ machine.
Save for its follow-up, 1975’s Venus & Mars, McCartney’s Band on the Run is the finest show of fellowship since The Beatles, and proof that he could outrun his ghosts by a melodic mile.