The song which closed the first side of Wings’ 1973 album Band On The Run, ‘Let Me Roll It’ was interpreted by many as an echo of the stripped-down production of the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album and Lennon’s single ‘Cold Turkey’.
I still don’t think it sounds like him [John Lennon], but that’s your opinion. I can dig it if it sounds that way to you.
Paul McCartney In His Own Words, Paul Gambaccini
By 2021 McCartney was more willing to admit the similarities to his former bandmate.
Bog echo. We always called it bog echo because it’s like the echo in a toilet, known to us as a ‘bog’. We’d shout up to the control room, ‘Can we have the bog echo, please?’ And they would ask, ‘Do you want it at 7.5 inches per second or 15 inches per second?’ We would say, ‘We don’t know. Play them both.’ The echo was on tape in those days. Short bog echo, long bog echo. It was very Gene Vincent. Very Elvis.
John loved this tape echo and used it more than any of us, so it became a signature sound on his solo records. I’m acknowledging that by using it here. I remember first singing ‘Let Me Roll It’ and thinking, ‘Yeah, this is very like a John song.’ It’s in John’s area of vocalisation, needless to say, but the most Lennon-esque thing is the echo.
The single most significant element in this song is not the echo, though. It’s not the vocalisation. It’s not the lyrics. It’s the guitar roff. The word that comes to mind is ‘searing’. It’s a searing little thing. We can talk about lyrics till the cows come home, but a good riff is a rare beauty. This one is so dramatic that people in the audience gasp when they hear it. Because it stops so abruptly, it feels like everything freezes. Time freezes.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
The titular phrase was, like the central refrain of the song ‘Band On The Run’, inspired by a quotation of George Harrison. “Let me roll it to you” was a line in I’d Have You Anytime, the opening track on his 1970 album All Things Must Pass.
‘Let Me Roll It’ was written by McCartney at High Park Farm in Scotland. Although the song’s similarities to Lennon’s debut solo album were said to be coincidental, the use of echo, heavy bass and stinging lead guitar made such comparisons inevitable.
‘Let Me Roll It’ was not really a Lennon pastiche, although my use of tape echo did sound more like John than me. But tape echo was not John’s exclusive territory! And you have to remember that, despite the myth, there was a lot of commonality between us in the way that we thought and the way that we worked.
A song like ‘Let Me Roll It’ came about by playing around with a little riff; if I’m lucky the rest of the song just comes to me.
‘Let Me Roll It’ was the b-side of the ‘Jet’ single in early 1974. The release was a huge success on both sides of the Atlantic.
The song was regularly performed live by Wings in their 1975-76 concerts, and was included on the 1976 album Wings Over America.
‘Let Me Roll It’ returned to McCartney’s setlist from his 1993 world tour onwards. It has frequently appeared in concert recordings, and on the albums Paul Is Live, Back In The US, Back In The World, and Good Evening New York City.
I think it’s fair to say that to ‘roll it’ has to do with rolling a joint. I don’t think that’s going to come as a surprise to anyone. There was a lot of post-smoking in an audience, back in the day when smoking was still allowed in venues. When I play now, I sometimes wonder whether the audience isn’t a bit prudish. Then I smell marijuana and I think, ‘Well, that’s alright. That smells good.’ That probably happens more at festivals, though. It’s probably easier not to get caught by security.
‘Let Me Roll It’ is a love song at its heart. The other, erotic, sense of rolling that is part and parcel of rock and roll is very much part of it. The image of ‘My heart is like a wheel’ so ‘Let me roll it to you’ is one that anyone can connect with. Anyone can understand how exposed you feel when you offer your heart to, or reveal your affections for, another person. It’s very difficult
The hesitation we feel in that situation – of wanting to reach out but being reluctant to be completely open – is made physical in the abrupt starting and stopping of the riff. The constant cutting short of the momentum of the song mimes the subject matter. We all relate to that situation.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present