Friday, April 12, 2024

Happy 50th Anniversary to “Band on the Run,” The Paul McCartney Album That Pushed the Ex Beatle into High Gear


Paul McCartney and Wings released “Band on the Run” 50 years ago today. This means I am 166 years old!

“Band on the Run” is probably most McCartney fans’ favorite “solo” or non Beatles album. It is mine, despite my love for “Ram” and “Flowers in the Dirt.”

When “BOTR” arrived McCartney had had some scattershot singles hits with “Uncle Albert” and “My Love.” His first “McCartney” album was clutched to fans’ breasts because it was the first record after the Beatles broke up, and had several beloved tracks like “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Every Night.”

But BOTR was leaps and bounds past all the previous solo efforts. It was McCartney’s favorite thing– a concept album. It had a beginning, middle, and end. It also had massive hits including the title track, “Jet,” and the single “Helen Wheels” which wasn’t supposed to be on the album but was added because it was a rocker and a previous chart hit. The final track, “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” — then a dozen years away — ended with a refrain of the title song. How cool!

The story was about a literal band on the run, on tour, escaping fans, breaking out of “jail” so to speak. It’s so consistently good you can listen to it straight through without skipping a track. The deep tracks, “Like Me Roll It” and “No Words” — are gems. The Beatles’ engineer, Geoff Emerick, produced it with McCartney, giving the album a lush feel underpinning even the rock tracks. When McCartney’s live audiences heard the intros to “Band” and “Jet,” a roar went up in stadiums. It’s still echoing through time.

There was a very good 40th anniversary box set of BOTR, but you know there has to be a 50th. So it will come on February 2, 2024 in various formats with extras– the unmixed demos of the songs. They will also be streaming which, at this point, is fine for me. But fanatics will want them.

SiriusXM 18, the Beatles’ channel, plays an excellent live version of the album’s tracks, as well.

BOTR is the linchpin of the whole McCartney solo career. A lot of terrific things came afterward, but this is high water mark. McCartney could have stopped right there, that’s how good it is, a masterwork by an already established master of popular music.
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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