Ram

Linda McCartney played a key role in shaping the sound of the album, and her husband proved a hard taskmaster during the sessions.



God, I tell you I worked her on the album. Because she hadn’t done a lot, so it was a little bit out of tune. I was not too pleasant to live with, I suppose, then. She was all right; she took it. She understood that it had to be good and you couldn’t let any shit through. I gave her a hard time, I must say, but we were pleased with the results; it just meant we really forced it. [We] worked on all the harmonies even if they were hard harmonies – just stuck on it. Elton John later said somewhere that he thought it was the best harmonies he’d heard in a long while.
Paul McCartney

While McCartney was grateful for his wife’s contributions, and gave her equal billing on the album, there were some murmurings of dissent. Sir Lew Grade, who had recently bought Northern Songs, claimed that the co-credits were a way hive off a disproportionate amount of the publishing revenue back to the McCartneys.

Linda and I have been writing songs together – and my publishers are suing because they don’t believe she wrote them with me. You know: suddenly she marries him and suddenly she’s writing songs. ‘Oh sure (wink wink). Oh, sure, she’s writing songs.’
Paul McCartney

Another negative note was struck by The Beatles’ producer George Martin. Talking after the release of the McCartney album, Martin told Melody Maker:

It was nice enough, but very much a home-made affair, and very much a little family affair. I don’t think he ever really rated it as being as important as the stuff he’d done before. I don’t think Linda is a substitute for John Lennon, any more than Yoko is a substitute for Paul McCartney.
George Martin
Melody Maker

Brung To Ewe By

While working on Ram, the McCartneys recorded 15 versions of a radio jingle, Now Hear This Song Of Mine, which also featured the sound of sheep bleating. Twelve of the recordings lasted for 30 seconds, and three for a full minute.

With hundreds of radio stations broadcasting across America, it would have been impossible for the couple to visit enough to create a substantial promotional campaign. As a result, MPL’s New York office released the jingles as a one-sided 12″ record, titled Brung To Ewe By, which had the catalogue number Apple SPRO-6210.

One thousand copies of Brung To Ewe were pressed. It was issued either in the conventional Ram cover or in a plain white sleeve, and was accompanied by two letters: one by the production company, and another from Paul and Linda explaining the purpose of the disc.

Dear DJ, here are some introductions you might like to use before Ram album tracks. We made them while we were doing Ram and they’re designed to play straight into an album track, or out of it for that matter. Anyway, if you’d enjoy using them, we’d enjoy having you. Ram On!

Thrillington

From June 15-17 1971, Paul McCartney re-recorded Ram in its entirety at EMI Studios, Abbey Road. It was an instrumental arrangement with a full orchestra conducted by Richard Hewson.

The resulting album remained unreleased until 1977 when it was issued as Thrillington, under the pseudonym Percy ‘Thrills’ Thrillington. Despite some cryptic advertising and press releases, the venture was a commercial failure, and remains one of the more intriguing and bizarre moves by any of the former Beatles.

The release

Ram was released in May 1971. Different mono mixes were made and sent to radio stations, and subsequently became highly sought-after by McCartney collectors.

The album had a mixed critical reception, with reviews in Rolling Stone and Playboy being particularly hostile. Over time, however, attitudes softened and it has since become regarded as one McCartney’s best post-Beatles works.

The other Beatles, too, were circumspect in their appraisals. Ringo Starr, interviewed by Melody Maker while filming Blindman in Spain, said:

I feel sad with Paul’s albums because I believe he’s a great artist, incredibly creative, incredibly clever but he disappoints me on his albums. I don’t think there’s one tune on the last one Ram… I just feel he’s wasted his time, it’s just the way I feel… he seems to be going strange.

John Lennon, not surprisingly, was more forthright in his objections.

I thought itwas awful! McCartney was better because at least there were some tunes on it, like Junk. I liked the beginning of Ram On, the beginning of Uncle Albert and I liked some of My Dog’s Got Three Legs. I liked the little bit about ‘Hands across the water’, but it just tripped off all the time. I didn’t like that a bit! That’s what he was getting into on the back of Abbey Road. I never went into that opera bit. I like three-minute records like adverts. And there were all the bits at the beginning of Ram like ‘Too many people going underground’. Well that was us, Yoko and me. And ‘You took your lucky break’, that was considering we had a lucky break to be with him.
John Lennon

The public, however, lapped it up, and it reached number one in the UK. In the US it peaked at number two, held off by Carole King’s Tapestry, although it spent five months in the top 10 and was certified platinum.

In the UK the song The Back Seat Of My Car was released as a single in August 1971, but only reached number 39 in the charts. The US single Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey proved more successful, becoming McCartney’s first post-Beatles number one single.

Eat At Home was issued in several countries, among them Norway, Japan, Germany and Ireland, with Smile Away on the b-side. It was a moderate hit but failed to top any charts.

26 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.

  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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