I’m kind of an odd-job man in this group. I look on Band On The Run as definitely their album. We’re not a group anymore. I’m one of the three or I’m an individual. If it was Wings, I’d feel more a part of it. But it’s not my songs and I’d like to feel more involved and contribute as much as they do. I did write one of the songs on the album and Paul helped me out with it. I’d like to do more like that.
The basic track was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, and was completed in September 1973 following Wings’ return to England. The orchestral arrangements were by Tony Visconti, and were recorded at George Martin’s AIR Studios in London.
In search of a new direction, and possibly to give an injection of something different, Paul and Linda, along with Denny Laine, had gone to Lagos in Nigeria to make their next album. In late September, shortly after they returned we got a phone call at our home from Macca. After he talked briefly to Mary she handed me the phone.
‘Hi Tony, I love the strings on T.Rex records, did you write them?’
‘Yes,’ I replied.
‘Can you really read and write music?’
‘Oh right, in that case will you write strings for the album I’ve just finished?’
The next day, a Sunday afternoon, Mary, our ten-month-old son and I made the short trip over to the McCartneys’ home in St John’s Wood. Mary and Linda sat in the living room with the McCartney children making a fuss over our little Morgan. In the same room Paul sat at the piano with me sitting next to him and played me snippets of songs on a portable cassette player, while on a second one he recorded his comments and his piano doodlings for string ideas. Some ideas he wanted me to strictly adhere to and some were just sketches that I was asked to improve upon. For a song called ‘Drink To Me (The Picasso song)’ [sic] he said, ‘Just do your thing, but in the style of Motown strings.’
I was thrilled to be doing this for one of my idols but not so thrilled when he told me he needed all seven arrangements by Wednesday.
I hardly slept for two days. I also had to book and strategize the session, starting with the sixty musicians needed for the title track, ‘Band on the Run’, down to the string quartet for ‘No Words’. When I arrived at AIR Studios I’m sure I looked bedraggled, I definitely felt it. I was greeted by Paul, Linda and Denny along with their great engineer Geoff Emerick. The sixty musicians are already there and I braced myself to begin the tedious arm waving (my bad style of conducting) and note correcting. The very first thing we did was the interlude between the first and second parts of ‘Band On The Run’; it proved to be very difficult because the first section is in an entirely different tempo from the next. We just kept doing take after take until we got the transition to work smoothly. Only some of the sixty musicians were wearing headphones, so it was a genuine job of conducting to bring them in and to keep them together. The rest of the day went a lot smoother. For the most part Paul acted the jovial perfectionist, which made it all seem like fun.
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy
‘No Words’ featured two of Wings’ road crew, Ian Horne and Trevor Jones, on backing vocals, although their contributions are buried in the mix.
The song was performed by Wings during their final tour in 1979.