The photograph on the cover of Band On The Run was taken by Clive Arrowsmith, a Welsh photographer who had known The Beatles since their Quarrymen days in Liverpool.
Years later, Linda McCartney spotted Arrowsmith’s pictures in Vogue magazine and invited him to shoot the cover of Wings’ album. The shoot took place on 28 October 1973 against a wall of the stable block in Osterley Park, Hounslow, London.
There had been a few different ideas banging around when Paul came up with concept of a jailbreak scene, with each of the escaping prisoners caught in the glare of a guard’s spotlight. I remember shooting it against a wall of a 16th century Tudor mansion in west London and I hired an old post van and put an theatre light on top of it.
The only problem was that the light wasn’t that powerful which affected the exposure and meant every one had to strike a pose and hold it for a moment.
Linda McCartney came up with the concept for the cover shoot, which featured the members of Wings alongside talk show host Michael Parkinson, singer Kenny Lynch, actors James Coburn and Christopher Lee, boxer John Conteh, and Member of Parliament Clement Freud. Each of the cast were dressed as convicts, in keeping with the album’s title track.
Prior to the shoot, the McCartneys had thrown a party for the guests, and Arrowsmith had to stay sober in order to maintain decorum.
I was the only there who wasn’t wasted, I was too scared. This was my first really big job and the responsibility was way too great to join in the fun.
I really didn’t know what I was doing and used the wrong film, so all the pictures all came out yellow. On top of that only about three of the shots weren’t blurry from everyone moving about, so when it came to showing Paul I was freaking out too much to say anything – I just held my breath.
Arrowsmith convinced Paul McCartney that the yellow photographs were intentional. The photo shoot was also filmed on 16mm by Bary Chattington, and the 26 minutes of footage were later edited to eight minutes. The edit, made by Storm Thorgerson and Gordon House, was used as a backdrop during Wings’ 1975-76 world tour.
Helen Wheels was released as a standalone single a month ahead of Band On The Run, and was a worldwide top 10 hit. Capitol Records executive Al Coury persuaded McCartney to include it on the second side of the US album release, in between No Words and Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me), to ensure an even 10 tracks and improve its chances of being a hit.
Band On The Run proved a slow burner following its 3 December 1973 release, but reached number one in the US in early 1974 following the single release of Jet.
Although sales declined after the single peaked, the album returned to number one several months later after the title track was released. In all, Band On The Run had three spells at the top of the US album chart, and was eventually certified triple platinum. In early 1975 Wings were also given the Grammy award for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus.
In the United Kingdom the album was issued on 30 November 1973. Again its success was slow, and it took eight months before it topped the album chart on 27 July 1974. It spent seven weeks at the top, was on the charts for a total of 124 weeks, and became the UK’s biggest-selling album of 1974.
By the end of 1974 Band On The Run had sold more than six million copies worldwide, making it Wings’ most-successful album. The slow climb up the charts and continued high placing allowed McCartney to reconsider the direction of Wings and to recruit a new guitarist and drummer prior to more recordings and world tours.
In 1975 a quadrophonic mix of Band On The Run was issued on eight-track cartridge. The mix was created by Geoff Emerick and Alan O’Duffy, and was the first quadrophonic release by Wings.
Band On The Run was first issued on CD in February 1985, and a remastered version appeared in 1993. This included the bonus tracks Helen Wheels and Country Dreamer. The quadrophonic version was reissued on compact disc in 1996.
A 25th anniversary edition was released in March 1999, with a bonus disc titled The Story Of Band On The Run. This was essentially a continuation of the McCartney-sanctioned Oobu Joobu US radio series of outtakes and rarities, and featured rehearsals, television performances, alternative mixes and different takes of the Band On The Run songs. The 1999 release also included Helen Wheels as part of the main album.
The anniversary edition was housed in a cardboard sleeve, and contained a 24-page booklet, and a smaller version of the poster of Polaroid snapshots that came with the original album. It also carried the dedication: “This anniversary edition of Band On The Run is dedicated to my beautiful Linda and her indomitable spirit – Paul McCartney”
In November 2010 four separate editions of Band On The Run were issued, as the opening salvo in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection reissue campaign. In addition to the remastered CD and a vinyl pressing, there were two additional versions with extra DVD and audio recordings.
The 2010 Special Edition contained two CDs and a DVD. The first CD featured the remastered album, while the second contained bonus audio tracks: Helen Wheels, Country Dreamer and Zoo Gang, plus six performances from the One Hand Clapping documentary – Bluebird, Jet, Let Me Roll It, Band On The Run, Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five and Country Dreamer. The Special Edition also had lyrics, photographs from the recording sessions in Lagos, liner notes by Paul Gambaccini, and a DVD of bonus footage.
The DVD included the promotional videos for Band On The Run, Mamumia and Helen Wheels; an album promo featuring the title track, Mrs Vandebilt, Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five and Bluebird; Wings In Lagos and the Osterley Park photoshoot footage; and the complete One Hand Clapping documentary. This was recorded over four days at Abbey Road’s Studio Two in August 1974, and captured Wings rehearsing new and old songs for their forthcoming live appearances. The 55-minute documentary was completed in 1975 but was rarely seen prior to 2010.
Most lavish of the 2010 reissues was the Deluxe Edition. This contained the same material as the Special Edition, contained within a 120-page hardback book containing photographs by Linda McCartney and Clive Arrowsmith, as well as a history of the album, album and single artwork, a new interview with McCartney, and extensive track-by-track information for each disc. It also included an extra CD containing the same material as the 1999 bonus disc, The Story Of Band On The Run.