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.
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.’
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.
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!
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.
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 it [Ram] was 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.
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.