Run Devil Run, Paul McCartney’s 11th solo album, was a collection of rock ‘n’ roll oldies and three original compositions.
The album was McCartney’s first solo project after the death of his first wife Linda in April 1998, although the second album by The Fireman – his side project with producer Youth – had been issued in September 1998.
Following a year of mourning, McCartney wanted to come back with a fresh project. His aim was to work quickly, booking time at Abbey Road Studios with producer Chris Thomas.
The mix of old and new songs proved the perfect way for McCartney to renew his creative energies. The intention was for the sessions to be relaxed and low-pressured, with a live feel and no post-production allowed. The bulk of the album was recorded in a single week, with further sessions taking place in April and May.
He wasn’t thinking it was going to be the next big record. He was just free to enjoy himself.
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McCartney had been planning an album of rock ‘n’ roll cover versions for several years. He recruited a set of established musicians including Pink Floyd’s guitarist David Gilmour, drummers Ian Paice and Dave Mattacks, and guitarist Mick Green, formerly of Billy J Kramer and The Dakotas. McCartney mainly played bass guitar, with some electric guitar added to a handful of songs.
The week before, Ian asked co-producer Chris Thomas ‘Any idea what songs we’re going to do, just so I can do a bit of homework?’ I said no: ‘No homework on this project. I really wanted this to be fresh – like it was at the Cavern.’
I had a big manila envelope with all the lyrics, and I’d flick through them on a Monday morning … Ricky Nelson, mm … ‘Searchin” … and then I’d think that’s it, that’s the spirit I want, and I’d pull it out.
Run Devil Run sleeve notes
The album contains songs written or popularised by artists including Gene Vincent, Larry Williams, Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and skiffle group The Vipers.
The title track was a McCartney original, as were ‘Try Not To Cry’ and ‘What It Is’. The latter song was written a few months prior to Linda McCartney’s death. Each of the new songs were written in the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly style of the rest of the album.
The album title was inspired by Miller’s Rexall Drugs, a drugstore in Atlanta, Georgia which sold products under that name. It appealed to McCartney, who thought it would make a good name for a rock ‘n’ roll song.
On 14 December 1999 McCartney performed at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, accompanied by musicians from the album: Gilmour, Green, Paice, Pete Wingfield, and Chris Hall. Of the 13 songs performed, the majority were from Run Devil Run, plus versions of the b-side ‘Fabulous’, Eddie Cochran’s ‘Twenty Flight Rock’, and The Beatles’ ‘I Saw Her Standing There’. The show was filmed and released on DVD as Live At The Cavern Club.
In the studio
Run Devil Run was recorded over seven days at Abbey Road Studios in London. Five of the days were in March 1999, with the remaining two in May.
I’d say to the guys ‘Anybody know ‘She Said Yeah’?’ They’d say no, because they were slightly obscure choices, I’d say okay, this is how it goes. We’d take five or 10 minutes – and that’s how we did it in The Beatles – because how many times can you go through a song without everyone getting bored?
We’d spend 15, 20 minutes top whack, and everyone’d go yeah, got it. Then we’d go to our instruments, I’d go to bass and singing, and we’d just try it. It’s a bit ropey at first; second take it gets better. We’d do a couple of takes and say okay, that’s it. Then we’d leave it, not even listen to it. Yeah, right; next song … and I’d go back to my envelope. ‘Anyone know ‘No Other Baby’?’ No, right, here’s how it goes … and as we were doing it, I thought God, I haven’t done this since I was 14. And I got the same feeling back.
Run Devil Run sleeve notes
Run Devil Run was released in the UK on 4 October 1999, where it reached number 12 on the albums chart.
In the USA it came out on 5 October 1999, and peaked at number 27 on the charts.
The CD was accompanied by a 28-page booklet with historic information, recording information and reminiscences from McCartney, along with archive and session photographs and illustrations by Klaus Voormann and Aleen Toroyan.
‘No Other Baby’ was released as a 7″ single in the UK, with two b-sides: ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ and a non-album cover of the Charlie Gracie song ‘Fabulous’. The three songs were also released on two different CD singles, one in mono and the other in stereo.
Two special editions of Run Devil Run, exclusive to certain retailers, were released with bonus CDs. One, sold only at Best Buy in the US, included an interview conducted by Laura Gross. Another, available at Musicland and Sam Goody stores, included an EP with original recordings of four songs: ‘Blue Jean Bop’ (Gene Vincent & His Blue Caps), ‘Lonesome Town’ (Ricky Nelson), ‘Coquette’ (Fats Domino), and ‘Let’s Have A Party’ (Wanda Jackson).
In the UK a limited edition Collector’s Box, designed in the style of a 1950s record case, was released as a set of eight 7″ singles.
The Run Devil Run Limited Edition Collector’s Box, designed in the style of a 1950s record case, was released in the UK on 25 December 1999. It featured the 15 songs from the album, plus ‘Fabulous’, as a set of eight 7″ singles.
In 2007, when Run Devil Run was re-released on the iTunes Store, ‘Fabulous’ was included as a bonus track.