Ram 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.
Mojo, 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.
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.’
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.