MUSIC REVIEW | Wings – Band on the Run (1973)

Poor old Paul McCartney.  He’s a victim of his own longevity.  Because he was unfortunately killed, John Lennon has an automatic legitimacy and street cred that will never fade.  Because he was the quiet achiever of The Beatles, everyone was hoping for greatness from a solo George Harrison, and he delivered.  Ringo’s always been more of a novelty than a musician and no one expected much.

But Paul, he was seen as one of the best song writers of all time before he was 30.  He was responsible for some of The Beatles biggest hits.  He was on par with Lennon in expectations of what was to come post-Beatles.  Now, it’s more than 40 years later, he’s worked nonstop, releasing music and touring for most of that time, and is unfairly written off as bit of a past his prime hack or sell out.  This may all be true, I have no idea, because I’m the kind of casual Beatles fan who only knows his hits.  And his hits are undeniably awesome.

I don’t know when his reputation started to slip amongst music rock snobs and music elitists, but I can’t imagine it had anything to do with Band on the Run, the first album from McCartney’s post Beatles band, Wings.  Sure, putting your not-so-talented wife in your band is an understandable warning sign to fans that you might be starting a bit of a vanity project, but Paul was smart enough to do all the heavy lifting himself, playing every instrument on the album himself, while leaving Linda McCartney’s mediocre keyboard skills for the live stage.

The opening, title track is the only one I was aware of before listening to the entire album.  I’ve never been a big fan of the intro, but it’s almost worth sitting through, so the awesomeness of the hook and sing-along chorus stands out even more and hits even harder when it does kick in.

Jet sounds like it was written specifically to be played in massive stadiums, in front of 70,000 people.  And I’m sure it works, it would be pretty hard to resist joining in with the “woo-ooh woo” bits if I was hearing it live.  Things immediately slowdown with Bluebird, an almost samba-like chill out.  Along with Mamunia, these represent the kind of dreamy McCartney jams I’m a not a big fan of.

But they’re made up for straight away with Mrs Vanderbilt, the playful kind of McCartney jam that I always appreciate.  Its chanted chorus and bouncing bass line make it a nice little jaunt that reminds me that despite some late Beatles musical indulgences (or in the case of Band on the Run, all his worst pretentions are front and centre in Picasso’s Last Words), writing a catchy hook was always second nature to McCartney.

This is proven again with the excellent closer.  This album definitely got a bit shakey for me in the second half.  But Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five is a great way to close it out and make sure I remember it for songs like this, Band on the Run, Jet and Mrs Vanderbilt.

Band on the Run hasn’t all of a sudden become a classic to me that I’ll listen to regularly, but it’s definitely an album worth having in your collection.  The high points are really high, and even most of the low points still work in the flow of the album as a whole.  I don’t want to shock anyone or say anything outlandish, but Paul McCartney is pretty good at songs and stuff.


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