Ram

Ram album artwork - Paul and Linda McCartneyRecorded: October 1970 - April 1971
Producer: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney

Released: 21 May 1971 (UK), 17 May 1971 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, guitar, bass guitar, piano, keyboards, ukulele
Linda McCartney: vocals
Dave Spinoza: guitar
Hugh McCracken: guitar
Denny Seiwell: drums
Marvin Stamm: flugelhorn
New York Philharmonic Orchestra



Tracklisting:
Too Many People
3 Legs
Ram On
Dear Boy
Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey
Smile Away
Heart Of The Country
Monkberry Moon Delight
Eat At Home
Long Haired Lady
Ram On
The Back Seat Of My Car

Released in 1971, Ram was the only album credited to Paul and Linda McCartney.

It was Paul McCartney's second post-Beatles album, and was intended to contrast the homemade feel of his debut album, McCartney. Recorded in New York and Los Angeles, it featured a range of session musicians including future Wings drummer Denny Seiwell.

I remember driving up to Liverpool at some point and deciding that Ram would be a good title for the album, then the picture came, and you can “ram” a door down, and a “ram” is a male, like a stag. It just seemed like a good word.
Paul McCartney
Mojo magazine, July 2001

Critical and public reactions to the McCartney album had been mixed, with many being disappointed that, after the sumptuous glories of Abbey Road, it had an unfinished, makeshift feel. Ever mindful of his public perception, McCartney decided to raise the ante and deliver a set of carefully crafted songs.

More than 30 songs were written ahead of the sessions. Of the ones chosen for Ram, six - Dear Boy, Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, Heart Of The Country, Monkberry Moon Delight, Eat At Home and Long Haired Lady - were collaborations with Linda.

Linda was responsible for lifting Paul's spirits during the break-up of The Beatles and the subsequent legal action to dissolve their partnership. McCartney later spoke of suffering physical and mental exhaustion.

I was going through a bad time, what I suspect was almost a nervous breakdown. I remember lying awake at nights shaking, which has not happened to me since. I had so much in me that I couldn't express, and it was just very nervy times, very difficult.
Paul McCartney

As so often in his life, McCartney found solace in the familiar: his Scottish farmhouse, family life and songwriting. Several of the songs written for Ram documented - in often oblique terms - the feelings held against his former musical partners, most notably John Lennon.

Lennon and McCartney had been conducting a rather public feud in 1970 and 1971, with interviews and letters in the British music press making it clear that their personal and creative relationships were no more. Unsurprisingly, both turned to songwriting to express their mutual antagonism, with Ram carrying the opening salvos.

The album opens with the words "Piss off," which McCartney later admitted was aimed at Lennon. "Yeah. Piss off, cake. Like, a piece of cake becomes piss off cake, and it's nothing, it's so harmless really, just little digs." Indeed, the whole song Too Many People was written about Lennon and Yoko Ono.

I remember there was one little reference to John in the whole thing. He'd been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit. I wrote 'Too many people preaching practices' I think is the line. I mean, that was a little dig at John and Yoko. There wasn't anything else on it that was about them. Oh, there was 'Yoko took your lucky break and broke it in two.'
Paul McCartney

Although McCartney altered the reference to Ono, the "little dig" didn't go unnoticed. Lennon also felt 3 Legs and Smile Away were about The Beatles and Apple, that Dear Boy was written about him, and the closing lines of The Back Seat Of My Car - "We believe that we can't be wrong" - amounted to pointed criticism of him and Ono. A further blow came with a symbolic back cover photograph of two beetles mating.

It amounted to a bold move on McCartney's part, and Lennon responded with typical fervour. The Imagine album contained How Do You Sleep, a vitriolic attack on the McCartneys, and the album came with a postcard parodying the photograph of Paul on the cover of Ram.

Oh hells, bells ... listen to Ram folks! The lyrics weren't printed, just listen to it. I'm answering Ram. When I heard Ram, I immediately sat down and wrote my song which is an answer to Ram. It's as simple as that. It's also a moment's anger. But it was written down on paper and when I sang, it wasn't quite as angry as when I sang it in the studio, because it was four weeks later and we were all writing it, you know. It was like a joke. 'Let's write this down.' We didn't take it that seriously.
John Lennon

The recording

In October 1970 the McCartneys flew to New York City to begin work on the album. The guitarists were auditioned over three days in a 45th Street loft; the chosen performer was 21-year-old David Spinozza, who had been invited to audition by Linda. Spinozza was hired for four weeks, but when the Ram sessions proved sporadic he took some other work. The McCartneys drafted in Hugh McCracken to replace him.

The auditions then moved to a basement club, where Denny Seiwell was one of nine drummers to have been tried out. Spinozza was subsequently replaced by Hugh McCracken when he was unable to work on the sessions.

A lot of the boys were really put out at being asked to audition. Paul just asked me to play, he didn't have a guitar, so I just sat and played. He had a certain look in his eyes ... he was looking for more than a drummer, he was looking for a certain attitude too. I just played ... I always say that if you can't get it on by yourself you can't get it on with anyone.
Denny Seiwell

Recording of the album's basic tracks took place in New York at Columbia Studios' Studio B in October and November 1970, before the McCartneys returned to their Mull of Kintyre farm for the Christmas period. Work resumed in the second week of January and through to 25 February at Studio B and A&R Recording Studios, also in New York City.

The album was completed with more overdubs, added in March and April 1971 at Sound Recorders Studios in Los Angeles, where Ram was also mixed.

A total of 21 songs were recorded during the sessions, although only 12 appeared on Ram. Two songs - Another Day and Oh Woman, Oh Why? - were issued as a standalone single in February 1971, while two others - Get On The Right Thing and Little Lamb Dragonfly - were held over for Wings' 1973 album Red Rose Speedway. The unreleased songs were Little Woman Love, Sunshine Sometime, Rode All Night, A Love For You and Hey Diddle.

27 responses on “Ram

  1. Tweeze

    This is like a secret shame. I like this album. Indeed, Paul ‘carefully crafted’ these songs. He needed to do something after ‘McCartney’ to get his credibility back. Yes, it’s goofy, frequently indulgent and there are some remnants of slop buried in the mix. And yet the sheer strength of committment to the melody is all here. The production values, even in moments of pure-plain-corn, are very slick. And those harmonies….There are touches of ‘You Know My Name…’ and ‘Because’ throughout. If I listen to a McCartney album, it is usually this one. He’s had better songs, but never one as consistently elegant as this one. And he sounds like he is actaully having fun (putting aside the Lennon slams)

  2. MacFan

    Rubbish! It’s a great album. You’re just repeating the cliche nonsense everybody repeats. His first solo was pretty good though. The roughness, the garage-band feel was intentional. It was an album of self-discovery, trying to craft a new sound, something different from the Beatles and I frankly miss the emotional openness of it in his later work but the sound started in McCartney is there all through his Wings stuff in the70′s. It’s the typical Lennon zealot reaction: if John did it, it’s raw, stripped down, etc If Paul does it it’s sloppy. The interesting thing is that they both took a more direct and stripped down direction. What it does show is that they were a lot close to each other than the others. John was more direct in his lyrics and politics and Paul was usually more indirect and obviously less political. Just compare Imagine with Let it Be, two master works and both really anthems and it shows the different personalities.

  3. Michael K

    There aren’t too many albums that been covered in their entirety but several of them feature Paul McCartney and ‘RAM’ is probably the most recent -at least three or four cover versions by younger musicians in the past five or six years. That alone speaks volumes of the disparity between its critical response and reputation on release and its actual long-term value to listeners, the latter already apparent in the 70′s by very strong sales and, since, remarkable in that those from recent generations discovering it must surely be doing so via something approaching word-of-mouth in the absence of a critical standing.

  4. Stan

    Poor John. He could never in a lifetime have come up with a record as musically inventive as Ram. Instead, John seemed to spin his wheels creatively — which is why his albums today sound so dated and tired, and Ram sounds fresh and modern.

    The fact is: John, Ringo, and many 1971 critics were hearing something entirely new and they just didn’t understand it. And they pressured Paul to feel badly about his music for reasons that had nothing to do with the music and entirely to do with boring Beatles internal politics.

    Ram is Paul’s masterpiece. And as Pitchfork’s recent review described the album so well in its spot-on review recently, Ram is an album that is the grandfather of indie pop.

  5. Joseph Brush

    Pitchfork still doesn’t rate Paul’s “masterpiece” Ram in the 100 Best Albums of the 1970′s but it does list the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album as an essetial album of the 1970′s.
    As a matter of fact, as far as Pitchfork is concerned, there are no McCartney albums that are listed in the 100 Best albums of any decade.
    Poor Paul.
    How about those apples? No pun intended.

        1. Brett

          It’s on my list, so there. Pitchfork gave it an outstanding review upon its re-release. Maybe they should put out a new ’70s list. Or not, because who cares?

  6. Dan Shreffler

    In retrospect, the public sniping between the Beatles at the end was the lowest point in their saga. Fans didn’t want to know about this. How disillusioning this must have been to fans since ’64. Disillusionment taken to extremes in 1980.

    1. Joe Post author

      And comments like that aren’t useful if they don’t indicate why the recording dates are wrong. Do you have better information? If so I’d always like to hear it.

      Sources: John Blaney, Keith Badman, maybe others (I wrote this article a while ago). I don’t provide citations for every fact on this website; most writers don’t either. I don’t make stuff up – I research details carefully before publishing. If you don’t think the website is reliable that’s fine – it’s up to you to find (or found) a better one.

      1. Luca

        Dear Joe, I din’t intend to criticize this work. And I did not definitely say that this site (that I like very much)is not reliable: I said that “IF” you (or anyone else, for instance) does not tell us sources, wrong things could be taken as right things. On the other side, even if “most writers don’t (provide citations)” I don’t think it’s a good reason to do the same.
        It’s only a suggestion. Anyway, RAM recording dates are: from October (likely the first session was ANOTHER DAY on Oct, 12th) to April 1971. Sources: EIGHT ARMS TO HOLD YOU (Madinger-Eastman) or Paul himself, in the RAM booklet (2012 version).

        1. Joe Post author

          Thanks. I should have mentioned Eight Arms as another (excellent) source. I’ll change the dates now, on this and all the song articles. Unfortunately I don’t have the deluxe copy of the Ram reissue, just the special edition, so I don’t have Paul’s notes.

          Incidentally, Eight Arms To Hold You has the sessions as beginning in November 1970, not October. Does the Ram reissue say October?

          As for citations, I’ve dealt with this elsewhere, but I provide sources for quotations when I can find out when they were first published (eg Anthology). I don’t feel the need to back up every fact with written references – it would hugely delay me from researching and writing new articles. Some websites do offer citations, notably Wikipedia, and that’s fine. But when reliable authors (eg Lewisohn, Doggett) don’t do the same you can still trust that they’ve done the groundwork to establish the facts. That’s the principle I deploy here.

          This website isn’t perfect – I’m sure some mistakes slip through now and then, but when people point them out I make corrections provided they can be substantiated. And please be assured that I spend many hours poring over books, magazines, newspapers and other sources to try and provide an accurate picture of what actually happened. Whenever new evidence emerges I update the site accordingly.

          1. Luca

            Yes, Ram recordings started in October. It was not clear until the RAM remaster had this dates printed on the book.
            Eight Arms… is a fantastic book; obviously, new things have been discovered since 2000.

  7. Barry Smith

    Most of the RAM album was recorded from October-November 1970, then a few other sessions in early 1971. Here are the recording dates according to the new box set:
    Too Many People: 11th November 1970
    Three Legs: 16th October 1970
    Ram On: 22nd February 1971
    Dear Boy: 1st March 1971
    Uncle Albert: 6th November 1970
    Smile Away: 16th November 1970
    Heart of the Country: 16th November 1970
    Monkberry Moon Delight: 5th November 1970
    Eat At Home: 16th October 1970
    Long Haired Lady: 27th October 1970
    Back Seat of My Car: 22nd October 1970
    (A few other songs:)
    Another Day: 8th February 1971
    Oh Woman Oh Why: 2rd November 1970
    Little Woman Love: 13th November 1970
    I really don’t know why the Beatles Bible says that the album was started on 10th January 1971, because almost the entire album was done by then.

    1. Joe Post author

      You’re right – I screwed up that part of the article and missed out some important information. It’s redone now, and I’ll check the individual song articles when I have a chance. Thanks for pointing this out.

    2. Albert Cunning

      Another Day was recorded on 12th October 1970 at CBS, New York, being the first track recorded at the sessions. David Spinozza only contributed guitar to Another Day, 3 Legs and Eat At Home. Oh, *and* Get On The Right Thing, ending up on Red Rose Speedway.
      Hugh McCracken replaced him on 22th October, starting out with The Back Seat Of My Car.

    1. Ian

      Ram didn’t really carry ‘opening’ salvos. Lennon had already gone on record saying Paul’s first solo album, ‘McCartney I’ was ‘rubbish’. McCartney’s responses were very non-specific and minor compared to the attacks that had already been launched on his work.

      Lennon won, if you think behaving in a way that will make people think you were an immature, vindictive bully is a victory.

      There were no winners, least of all the fans. The politics of the music environment of the time saw RAM absolutely slammed and McCartney, always susceptible to a need for approval, turned away from the kind of work and the rich vein of creativity that RAM represented.

      It was a really sad chapter in music history.

  8. dennis

    Its seen as uncool to like McCartney whereas cool to like Lennon;This album is great, brimming with creativity and its eclectic and its maybe his best post Beatles work. The production is superb several of the tracks are Brian Wilson influenced and it is an improvement on his 1970 effort “Mc Cartney”. John had described McCartney as rubbish and Paul responded with a few disguised digs back in Too Many People , Dear Boy and Back Seat ( we believe that we cant be wrong) John responded with How do you sleep? a far more direct viscious assault on Paul which I wonder whether he ever regretted. He was allegedly egged on by others in the studio with Ringo acting as a restraining force and there was some even more nasty stuff left off that track.

        1. robert

          I would imagine that true to Paul’s word Dear Boy was written about Linda’s first husband, however, I also suspect that even in Paul’s own mind it also turned to thoughts of John. So it’s both.

    1. Keith

      I’ve only in recent years gotten into the Beatles solo works… And like you said it was always presented to me that Lennon ruled and McCartney sucked. As a result I put off getting much of McCartney’s work, especially Ram as most of what I’ve read slammed it. One night I’m at the store looking to add to my Beatles solo collection and the only thing they had was Ram, so I reluctantly bought it. Man was I pleasantly surprised, Ram is amazing. I can’t get enough of it! I don’t get all the hate for it, I think people got too wrapped up choosing between Lennon and McCartney and lost focus of what mattered, the music. They both wrote great stuff, they both had blah moments, enjoy both people! I learned not to let others reviews influence me, so often they have some form of bias in them. As the Beatles said, think for yourself! Now then, I’m gonna Ram On!

  9. Cam

    Paul McCartneys best solo album ever. Monkberry Moon Delight is one of the most entertaining songs I’ve ever heard and Heart of the country is beautiful.
    One of my favorite vinyl records to play.

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