Long Player: Tough time helps restore Macca's reputation

In the age of the digital download, Jeff Harford rediscovers the album ...

Paul McCartney was always going to come out bloody-nosed from the Lennon-McCartney wars of the post-Beatles years. Painting him as a lightweight, McCartney's detractors took unnatural delight in unfavourably comparing his chirpier ditties with Lennon's bowel-purging confessionals and world-weary ruminations.

But before we feel too sorry for the man, let's remember he gave as good as he got in those skirmishes. And besides, he had some really cool mates. Look, they're there on the cover of Paul McCartney and Wings' 1973 album Band On The Run - Lee Marvin, Christopher Lee, Parky.

I mean ... Parky!

The critical hammering that McCartney's Wings took before that album's release was arguably justified. Wild Life (1971) and Red Rose Speedway (1973) were patchy at best, and when lead guitarist Henry McCulloch and drummer Denny Seiwell jumped ship just as the band was preparing to depart for Lagos to record its third album, the portents were for further storms ahead.

But smooth seas do not a skilful sailor make, and the tough conditions that met remaining members McCartney, wife Linda and guitarist-pianist Denny Laine on their arrival surely galvanised their effort. In the face of primitive recording conditions, illness, oppressive heat and even muggings (Paul and Linda were robbed at knife-point), the trio tracked a surprisingly engaging album that would go on to earn the band a Grammy and do much to restore McCartney's reputation.

McCartney's strengths in melody and arrangement are to the fore on the album's more memorable songs - Jet, Bluebird and the multi-dimensional opening title track. His mimicry of Lennon's recording style on Let Me Roll It, intended or otherwise, lends proceedings a rockier edge that might otherwise have been missing, and Picasso's Last Words (Drink To Me) cleverly mixes the spontaneous with the surreal as some fun is had in the editing room.

Fans loved it; critics sheathed their daggers but remained poised. It was a points-win to Macca.




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