Written by: McCartney
Recorded: August-November 1973
Producer: Paul McCartney
Released: 30 November 1973 (UK), 3 December 1973 (US)
Band On The Run
The title track of Paul McCartney’s fifth post-Beatles album was a three-part song, inspired in part by a remark about the business meetings at Apple in 1969.
It’s just a good flow of words. I really don’t analyze stuff, and if I do I kind of remember what it meant about three months later, just lying in bed one night.
It started off with ‘If I ever get out of here.’ That came from a remark George made at one of the Apple meetings. He was saving that we were all prisoners in some way, some kind of remark like that. ‘If we ever get out of here,’ the prison bit, and I thought that would be a nice way to start an album. A million reasons, really. I can never lay them all down. It’s a million things, I don’t like to analyze them, all put together. Band on the run – escaping, freedom, criminals. You name it, it’s there.
Paul McCartney In His Own Words, Paul Gambaccini
The Beatles had often combined half-finished song fragments together, in works such as A Day In The Life, She Said She Said and I’ve Got A Feeling, and the celebrated Abbey Road medley. John Lennon, in particular, often combined three unrelated ideas in one song, a technique used on I Am The Walrus, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, God and (Just Like) Starting Over.
On Band On The Run, McCartney used the same technique, although unlike Lennon, the different parts stood in marked contrast from one another. The song begins with the band’s incarceration, “stuck inside these four walls”, in a gently melodic passage which gives way to thoughts of escape.
Part two uses Harrison’s quotation, ‘If we ever get out of here’, as its central theme. This is the briefest section of the song, lasting less than a minute.
The third and final section is the longest, and sees the band escaping prison and defiantly fleeing from authority figures: the jailor (representing the law), a sailor (the armed forces), an undertaker (death) and a county judge, as a bell rings in the village to alert residents of the jailbreak.
In the studio
The Band On The Run album was recorded at EMI Studios in Lagos, Nigeria, and partly at Ginger Baker’s ARC Studios in Ikeja. Wings spent six weeks in Nigeria, with McCartney producing and Geoff Emerick engineering the sessions.
Work continued at George Martin‘s AIR Studios in London, where the eight-track tapes were transferred to 16-track. Vocals and orchestral instruments, the latter arranged by Tony Visconti, were overdubbed there.
In 1975 Band On The Run was issued with a quadraphonic mix, made by Emerick and Alan O’Duffy.
Paul McCartney initially wanted no singles to be taken from Band On The Run, but later relented. Jet was the first, followed by the title track.
Band On The Run had its single release in the United States on 8 April 1974, with Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five as its b-side. It topped the charts and was certified gold by the RIAA.
In the United Kingdom the single was issued on 28 June 1974, with a new song, Zoo Gang, on the b-side. Although also certified gold, the single fared less well, peaking at number three in the charts.
Although the album and single versions were identical, a radio edit was created which cut the song in three places. It cut the original length from 5’13 down to 3’57. The edits were from 0’26 to 0’37, 2’52 to 3’38, and 3’48 to 4’07.
Two separate promotional singles were issued in the US. The first contained a mono mix of the edited song, together with the full-length version in stereo. The second single had the edit in both mono and stereo.