Band on the Run is the third studio album by Paul McCartney and Wings, released in December 1973. It marked the fifth album by Paul McCartney since his departure from the Beatles in April 1970. Although sales were modest initially, its commercial performance was aided by two hit singles – “Jet” and “Band on the Run” – such that it became the top-selling studio album of 1974 in the United Kingdom and Australia, in addition to revitalizing McCartney’s critical standing. It remains McCartney’s most successful album and the most celebrated of his post-Beatles works.
The majority of Band on the Run was recorded at EMI’s studio in Lagos, Nigeria, as McCartney wanted to make an album in an exotic locale. Shortly before departing for Lagos, however, drummer Denny Seiwell and guitarist Henry McCullough left the group; with no time to recruit replacements, McCartney went into the studio with just his wife Linda and Denny Laine, doubling on drums, percussion and most of the lead guitar parts himself as well as bass. On arriving, it was discovered that the studio was below standard, and conditions in Nigeria were tense and difficult; the McCartneys were robbed at knifepoint, during which a bag containing unfinished song lyrics and demo tapes was taken. After the band’s return to England, final overdubs and further recording were carried out in London, mostly at AIR Studios.
In 2000, Q magazine placed it at number 75 in its list of the “100 Greatest British Albums Ever”. In 2012, Band on the Run was voted 418th on Rolling Stone’s revised list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. A contemporary review by Jon Landau in Rolling Stone described the album as “with the possible exception of John Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band, the finest record yet released by any of the four musicians who were once called the Beatles”. It was McCartney’s last album issued on the Apple record label.
By 1973, following the break-up of the Beatles three years before, Paul McCartney had yet to regain his artistic credibility or find favor with music critics for his post-Beatles work. After completing a successful UK tour with his band Wings, in July 1973, he planned their third album as a means to re-establish himself after the mixed reception given to Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway.
Keen to record outside the United Kingdom, McCartney asked EMI to send him a list of all their international recording studios. He selected Lagos in Nigeriaand was taken with the idea of recording in Africa. In August, the band – consisting of McCartney and his wife Linda, ex-Moody Blues guitarist and pianist Denny Laine, Henry McCullough on lead guitar, and Denny Seiwell on drums – started rehearsals for the new album at the McCartneys’ Scottish farm. During one rehearsal session, McCullough and McCartney argued, and McCullough quit. Seiwell left a week later, the night before the band flew out to Nigeria. This left just the core of the band – Paul, Linda, and Denny Laine – to record in Lagos, assisted by former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick. McCartney had chosen Lagos, as he felt it would be a glamorous location where he and the band could sun on the beach during the day and record at night; the reality, however, was that after the end of a civil war in 1970 Nigeria was run by a military government, with corruption and disease commonplace.
The album cover photograph was taken at Osterley Park, west London, on 28 October 1973 by photographer Clive Arrowsmith. It depicts Paul, Linda, and Denny plus six other well-known people dressed as convicts caught in the spotlight of a prison searchlight. They are Michael Parkinson, Kenny Lynch, James Coburn, Clement Freud, Christopher Lee, and John Conteh. Arrowsmith detailed that the eventual cover was one of the four he found acceptable in the 24 attempts he took. The spotlight’s low potency meant everyone had to stand still for two seconds for proper exposure, which was made difficult by the photographed reportedly being in a “substance haze” following a party held by Paul, making it harder for them to hold the pose. The golden hue of the picture is due to Arrowsmith using a regular daytime film instead of a Tungsten film, which would be better suited for night-time photographs.
Apple Records issued Band on the Run on 5 December 1973 in America (as Apple SO 3415), with the UK release following two days later (as Apple PAS 10007). Rather than the band promote the album on radio and television or with a tour, McCartney undertook a series of magazine interviews, most notably with Paul Gambaccini for Rolling Stone. The conversations with Gambaccini took place at various locations from September 1973 onwards and combined to form, in the words of authors Chip Madinger and Mark Easter, “a remarkably forthcoming interview in comparison to the ‘thumbs-aloft’ profiles usually allowed by [McCartney]”.
The album continues to be mainly regarded positively. Though in Erlwine’s retrospective AllMusic review he feels that while some songs are excellent and the album overall is enjoyable, it is more showmanship than content. The Rolling Stone reviewer of the 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition feels that “the real action still lies in the original LP’s revved-up pleasures”. Writing for Mojo magazine in 2011, John Harris included Band on the Run among “the trilogy of truly essential post-Beatles solo albums”, along with Harrison’s All Things Must Pass and Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band.
In 2000 Q magazine placed it at number 75 in its list of the “100 Greatest British Albums Ever”. In 2012, Band on the Run was voted 418th on Rolling Stone’s revised list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
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