Not Forgotten: Paul McCartney & Wings – Band on the Run

A superior musician and with a deeper understanding of melody than his former writing partner, it seems that no one will ever forgive Paul McCartney for having the nerve to actually form another band after he had left The Beatles. Sure, there were a couple of solo albums in the interim, but in Wings McCartney found a way of avoiding the pitfalls of a solo career that his former bandmates had already already begun to experience by late ’73, and Band on the Run legitimised the existence of his new band, even if he did temporarily have to put his name in front of it.

The downside with McCartney is that he was so prolific, yet seemed to lack a comprehensive ability to sift out the great tunes from the mediocre. When McCartney was good he was pretty much peerless, but when he was rubbish he was almost unbearable. Arguably the best known and one of the most consistent albums that Paul McCartney put his name to after The Beatles split, Band On The Run is probably the best album to be released by Wings. In the title track and “Jet”, it’s home to two of their finest rock tunes, though as these are the two opening tracks, it’s an exceptionally front-loaded album, and there’s a notable drop in quality as the album progresses. “Bluebird”, while nicely melodic, also suffers from tooth-rottingly sweet lyrics, and while there’s a thread of gentle humour woven through the album, it’s not enough to tie the whole thing together and the fact that both “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)” and “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” are both two minutes longer than they need to be indicates that while Band On The Run isn’t a bad album, McCartney struggled to pin point what was actually needed to make the album work. That said, Band On The Run is also home to a number of overlooked classics, such as the fun “Mrs Vandebilt”, and the slow rock of “Let Me Roll It”.

While it’s no stone cold classic, Band On The Run has a quality to it that underlines why McCartney had the most consistent Post-Beatles career. While George Harrison started well, there’s always the impression that he was never confident enough to take advantage of his huge talents and that he would never escape being an ex-Beatle. John Lennon on the other hand was perhaps too arrogant and spent too much of his career making ‘statements’ rather than recording good music, thus creating a back catalogue studded with gems, but with albums that could lurch between genius and dribble. Ringo bless him, realised early that he could never compete with his ex-bandmates when it came to musical talent, but managed to carve out a niche as the affable ex-Beatle. No, of the four of them, it was McCartney that managed to forge the most personally satisfying post-Beatles career. While he occasionally struggled to write great lyrics, he was a great musician and even though Band On The Run is patchy, it has enough happening in its tunes for most fans of rock and pop to be satisfied by it over 45 years later.

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