The finale of Paul and Linda McCartney’s 1971 album Ram, ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ was originally offered to The Beatles.
‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ was a homage to the teenage dreams sung about by American acts such as The Beach Boys. McCartney’s grand production featured Brian Wilson-style vocal harmonies, and a multi-part mini-epic featuring lush instrumentation including an orchestral backing.
‘Back Seat Of My Car’ is very romantic: ‘We can make it to Mexico City.’ That’s a really teenage song, with the stereotypical parent who doesn’t agree, and the two lovers are going to take on the world: ‘We believe that we can’t be wrong.’ I always like the underdog.
Mojo, July 2001
‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ was issued as a single in the United Kingdom on 13 August 1971, as Apple R5914, with ‘Heart Of The Country’ on the b-side. It was not a commercial success, peaking at number 39 in the charts.
‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ is the ultimate teenage song, and even though it was a long time since I was aa teenager and had to go to a girl’s dad and explain myself, it’s that kind of meet-the-parents song. It’s a good old driving song. And obviously ‘back seat’ is snogging, making love.
Like several of the songs on Ram, John Lennon interpreted it as an attack on him and Yoko Ono, most notably in the refrain “We believe that we can’t be wrong”. “Well,” he responded, “I believe that you could just be wrong.”
In the studio
The first recording session for ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ took place on 20 October 1970 at CBS Studios at 49 East 52nd Street, New York
It was largely unsuccessful, and McCartney agreed to return to it at a later date. This was also the final session with guitarist David Spinozza, who parrted company from the McCartneys over his availability as an in-demand session musician.
McCartney returned to the song on 22 October. He and drummer Denny Seiwell were joined by guitarist Hugh McCracken, who thought he was there for an audition. Asked by McCartney to work on the Ram project for the next month, McCracken agreed.
‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ was recorded with McCartney on the studio’s Steinway grand piano, McCracken on his Gibson ES-335 electric guitar, and Seiwell on drums. They worked until 2pm, after which time McCartney and Seiwell jammed on ‘Rode All Night’.
McCartney was unhappy with the first attempts at recording the song. The trio started afresh on 23 October, finally nailing the backing track.
Aside from a bass guitar overdub session in November, recording resumed on 6-11 December. This time the sessions took place at CBS Studios’ Studio D on 30th Street, and saw McCartney record his lead vocals.
George Martin wrote an orchestral score for ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’, and the same for ‘Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey’ and ‘Long Haired Lady’. Martin’s contributions to Ram were not credited on the album, and were unknown by the general public for nearly 30 years.
The overdub for ‘The Back Seat Of My Car’ was recorded on 27 January 1971 at A&R Recording in New York. McCartney conducted the musicians, who took a handful of takes to complete the work.
The song was completed on 22 March 1971 at Sound Recorders Studio in Hollywood. McCartney decided the song needed additional vocals. The trouble was, all of the 16 available multitracks had been filled.
McCartney and engineer Eirik Wangberg chose not to create a reduction mix, which would have meant a slight loss in audio fidelity as well as less flexibility in the final mix.
Wangberg instead noted spaces in the existing tracks that were not in continuous use, and punched in and out so McCartney could overdub onto them. The task involved high levels of skill and concentration.
He would say to me, ‘Eirik, you have to be faster!’ I said, ‘God, I must be as skilled as the world’s fastest and most perfect surgeon to succed in getting the short phrases into the narrow spots I have available!’ And then we both laughed.
The McCartney Legacy – Volume 1: 1969-73, Allan Kozinn, Adrian Sinclair