The final song on side one of Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album Ram was an up-tempo rocker with nonsense lyrics.

There are so many artists that influence anything I do. ‘Three Legs’ would have been influenced by blues artists, and ‘Smile Away’ would have been influenced by people like Jerry Lee Lewis. The vocals are always influenced by someone, that’s just the way it is.
Paul McCartney

The words of ‘Smile Away’ have been interpreted by some as a commentary on the other Beatles and Allen Klein. And while it is tempting to dismiss the song as meaningless nonsense, there could indeed be a degree of autobiography in the words.

I was walking down the street the other day
Who did I meet?
I met a friend of mine and he did say
Man I can smell your feet a mile away

Smile away, smile away, smile away
Yeah smile away
Smile away, smile away, smile away
Yeah smile away

‘Smile Away’

Paul McCartney was known to be depressed following the break-up of The Beatles, and found solace in music and the love of Linda. The chorus – a repetition of the title – was McCartney with his head held high, finding positivity in spite of the insults of his various friends.

Musically, ‘Smile Away’ harked back to the rock ‘n’ roll years of the late 1950s and early 60s, featuring a swing beat, overdriven guitars and harmony vocals. Ram was intended to be a step away from the underproduced homemade sound of 1970’s McCartney, yet ‘Smile Away’ was a live-sounding ensemble performance, a step away from the intricate production elsewhere on the album.

In some European countries and in Japan the Ram song ‘Eat At Home’ was issued as a single, with ‘Smile Away’ as its b-side. The introduction was slightly edited to remove the crossfade from ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’.

In the studio

The recording of ‘Smile Away’ began at CBS Studios in New York on 16 November 1970. The basic track featured McCartney and Hugh McCracken on electric guitars, and Denny Seiwell on drums. McCartney also sang a guide vocal during the takes.

Seiwell double-tracked his drums during the first session, and McCartney added a third guitar part.

The bass guitar was overdubbed on 17 and 18 November. Unusually, it involved a large number of parts.

To tell you the truth, there were eight bass tracks recorded for this song! When we started to record ‘Smile Away’, I thought the bass track didn’t sound good at all. Then I told Paul: ‘Should it really be like this?’ He answered ‘Can you give me more of it?’ We then both did our best to distort the heck out of the sound by different means, but the sound had to be ‘streamlined’. In the mix I push them like crazy.

This is the first time since ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ that Paul inserted the 1, 2, 3, 4 counting into a song. Of course, I left the bit in, and it’s so great to hear that kind of thing, I must admit.

Eirik Wangberg, engineer, January 2005

‘Smile Away’ was completed at A&R Recording in New York on 29 January 1971. The final overdubs included a new electric guitar solo and three vocal tracks.

Previous song: ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’
Next song: ‘Heart Of The Country’
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