Cover artworkLinda McCartney took the cover photography for Ram. Her images were decorated by Paul McCartney.
The cover photo was Linda’s and the surrounding border was something I did. It was all very homemade and quirky, but I think that added to the charm of it. I remember when we were doing the layout for the gatefold, we put a little piece of grass from the garden and stuck it on. There were all sorts of little things that just came from our lifestyle at that moment.
Ram was released at a time of disharmony between the four former Beatles. Some observers interpreted the photograph of two mating beetles inside the gatefold to be a commentary on McCartney’s former band.
Linda took a photograph of two beetles copulating, or ‘havin’ it off!’ Of course, this got totally misconstrued, because for us it was just an amazing wildlife picture. How often do you see beetles, and very colourful little iridescent beetles too? Linda just took it as a photo and we liked it, so we put it in. Of course, then people said ‘oh, The Beatles are screwing each other – what’s this mean?’, and all sorts of hidden meanings got attached to things. But yeah, all in all it made it quite a long record to make, because we had the time and weren’t in a hurry.
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.
I thought it was a good one, and enjoyed making it, and felt like I’d made a good album. What ruined it for me was that it was not well received critically, and that kinda put me off. Which is weird, it’s sort of weak of me to be put off by a review, but these things happen. The adverse reviews made me think ‘oh, maybe it wasn’t such a good album, I better try and make another one’.
But the saving grace in all of this is that years later people would tell me RAM was their favourite album, and that made me go back and listen to it and think again. The critics put me off it, and the fans put me on it! I remember my nephew Jay said to me ‘oh, my favourite album of yours is RAM‘, and that was especially nice to hear because he grew up with it. Whenever I had a new album I’d want to play it for my family, so the kids got to hear it, which means he’s probably got nice memories of listening to it at home.
The other former 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.