The recording

In October 1970 Paul and Linda McCartney flew to New York City to begin work on Ram.

They auditioned guitarists 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.

Because of the lifestyle we were living, it was very free. The Beatles had been great, and I’d loved it, but I couldn’t say it was free, personally. I couldn’t exactly go to Scotland for a few months. If you were in The Beatles, you had to make records and work. But when we went to Scotland, we had a very free, sort of hippie lifestyle. It meant I could sit around in the kitchen in the little farmhouse we lived in, with the kids running around and me just with my guitar, making up anything I fancied. ‘Three Legs’ for instance was me jamming around with a blues idea, and then with no particular relevance I sang ‘my dog, he got three legs, but he can run’, meaning that everything doesn’t have to be perfect, it can still work. And then I added the lyric ‘a fly flies in’, and I’m sure that happened, with the window open in Scotland! I’m sure a fly actually flew in and I went ‘okay – you’re in the song! Fly flies in, fly flies out’. So yeah, it was a very free period and I think that found its way into the record.

I always think that the way we were living then was the way a lot of young people would like to live. We were escaping the constrictions of society. It’s why people move out to the country, or do a lot of gardening, all of those sort of things. It’s a great opportunity in your life to do something different.

Paul McCartney
paulmccartney.com

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.

We knew we would be travelling around, and because Linda was a photographer she was as able to move around as I was. We went out to New York and it was great finding people we could work with like Denny Seiwell, Hugh McCracken, and Dave Spinozza. I spent a little bit of time there auditioning musicians, and then went into the studios in CBS, and then went into A&R Studios with Phil Ramone. And then after that we went out to LA, and I did some work with another great producer Jim Guercio who had done Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. So, I knew it was taking time, but I wasn’t in a hurry. I was enjoying myself! We actually did the cover in LA, me just sitting around in the sunshine doing little drawings and things.
Paul McCartney
paulmccartney.com

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’.

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 to 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

McCartney always maintained that Linda had worked hard to earn her place on the album.

Well, we worked at it. Because that’s what you do when you work on a record, you want it to sound right. Linda told me that she used to be a member of a glee club in America, when she was in college. Like the TV series Glee! I’d never heard of a glee club before, because in Britain we didn’t have that, and she explained that they would sing together and they used to go to a bell tower at the school because it had a good acoustics. She knew certain things about it, so when it came to writing and recording, she would naturally just sing a harmony or I would suggest one and we’d harmonise at home. Then when we would get into the studio, we’d work a little bit harder to try and get it right.

Looking back at the records we made together, I think our harmonies were a really individual sound, and a very special sound. Probably because she wasn’t a professional singer, that gave her an innocence to her tone that comes through on the records. I’d be singing ‘hands across the water’ and she’d echo ‘water, water’ and do this funny little American accent, and we’d put it in! We were having fun.

Paul McCartney
paulmccartney.com

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