Lyrically and musically simple, ‘Ram On’ appeared in two forms on Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album Ram.
Give your heart to somebody soon
Right away, right away
Give your heart to somebody soon
Right away, right away
Now we were truly professional [in 1960], we could do something we had been toying with for a long time, which was to change our names to real showbiz names. I became Paul Ramon, which I thought was suitably exotic. I remember the Scottish girls saying, ‘Is that his real name? That’s great.’ It’s French, Ramon. Ra-mon, that’s how you pronounce it. Stuart became Stuart de Staël after the painter. George became Carl Harrison after Carl Perkins (our big idol, who had written ‘Blue Suede Shoes’). John was Long John. People have since said, ‘Ah, John didn’t change his name, that was very suave.’ Let me tell you: he was Long John. There was none of that ‘he didn’t change his name’: we all changed our names.
The Steve Miller recording came about in the dying days of The Beatles. A mixing session ended in acrimony when John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr attempted to persuade Paul McCartney to sign a contract to officially appoint Allen Klein as Apple’s financial manager. McCartney wanted to hold out, and the session ended when all but he walked out.
Steve Miller happened to be there recording, late at night, and he just breezed in. ‘Hey, what’s happening, man? Can I use the studio?’ ‘Yeah!’ I said. ‘Can I drum for you? I just had a fucking unholy argument with the guys there.’ I explained it to him, took ten minutes to get it off my chest. So I did a track, he and I stayed that night and did a track of his called ‘My Dark Hour’. I thrashed everything out on the drums. There’s a surfeit of aggressive drum fills, that’s all I can say about that. We stayed up until late. I played bass, guitar and drums and sang backing vocals. It’s actually a pretty good track.
It was a very strange time in my life and I swear I got my first grey hairs that month. I saw them appearing. I looked in the mirror, I thought, I can see you. You’re all coming now. Welcome.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
McCartney’s use of the pseudonym Paul Ramon is intriguing. Was he – possibly subconsciously – attempting to turn back the clock to a more harmonious time for The Beatles, when they were on the cusp of success and happy to work together as a tight unit?
It is tempting, then, to wonder if McCartney wrote ‘Ram On’ about himself. Certainly a number of his songs in 1970-71 were about The Beatles’ break-up, the peace he found away from the city, and his love of family life with Linda. In this context, “Ram on, give your heart to somebody soon” may well have been McCartney telling himself (Ramon) not to waste his time or hold back in his post-Beatles life.
Although ‘Ram On’s song’s introduction contains a flourish of piano and electric piano, at the heart of the song is a simply strummed ukulele. It was the first time McCartney had played the instrument on a recording.
‘Ram On’ is a cute little thing on a ukulele, ’cause I used to carry one around with me in the back of New York taxis just to always have music with me. They thought I was freak, those taxi drivers.
On Abbey Road, McCartney had experimented with using recurring musical themes and motifs across an album. ‘Ram On’ saw him adapt this by fading the song on side one, then reintroducing it during the second half. This gave an effect of continuity across the song cycle, although the song would echo much further into his career.
The closing lines of ‘Ram On’ – “Who’s that coming round that corner?/Who’s that coming round that bend?” were later revived and re-recorded by McCartney for the first stanza of ‘Big Barn Bed’, the opening song on Wings’ 1973 album Red Rose Speedway.
Additionally, the opening piano was used 22 years after it was recorded, for the music accompanying the film that opened his 1993 New World Tour concerts.
McCartney performed ‘Ram On’ occasionally during his 2011-12 On The Run tour, in response to audience requests.
Despite expressing antipathy towards Ram, John Lennon expressed a liking for ‘Ram On’, among other moments on the album.
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!
On the 1977 album Thrillington, which reimagined Ram with an orchestral arrangement, the main melody for ‘Ram On’ was performed on an oboe.
In the studio
‘Ram On’, and its reprise later on in the album, was recorded on 22 February 1971 at A&R Recording in New York. It was McCartney’s first new song recorded since November 1970.
I put a mic on each of his feet, and a vocal mic, and two on his ukulele, and that was it. I just hit the record button, and he came out with ‘Ram On’. It was kind of a magic moment, so personal. And the beauty of it was, it was take one!
The McCartney Legacy – Volume 1: 1969-73, Allan Kozinn, Adrian Sinclair
McCartney also added a second ukulele part, and overdubbed a rhythm on a tom tom, then he and Linda McCartney overdubbed backing vocals.
Studio engineer Dixon Van Winkle had previously compiled the best takes from McCartney’s masters of the New York Ram sessions. He then added ‘Ram On’ to one of the four tapes, using some discarded tape as leader. By chance, the tape reel had previously contained some piano music, not played by McCartney, which duly became the intro of the song.
‘Ram On’ was completed on 18 March 1971 at Sound Recorders Studio in Hollywood, with the McCartneys first recording backing vocals.
During the mixing session, Eirik Wangberg suggested splitting the song in two – the first lasting up to 2:28, and the second fading in at 2:21 and ending with a few bars of what was then called ‘Sleeping On A Big Barn Bed’. Both parts were titled ‘Ram On’ on the album.