When it happened, the breakup of the Beatles felt like a tragedy. Shortly, though, the negative bloomed into a positive. The legacy is lot of durable music.
Fact is, by the time the Beatles left their matching-suit-mop-haircut phase and stepped into their Sgt. Pepper uniforms, you could pretty much tell a Paul McCartney Beatles song from a John Lennon Beatles song. Still, the convention of attaching a Lennon-McCartney songwriting credit to either man’s work for the band continued. And depending on which interview or Beatles historian you listen to, collaboration still happened; it was just a matter of magnitude. Instead of whole songs hammered out together, one might help the other get through the middle eight bars or work out a transition.
By the time their solo careers were in full flight, though, Lennon’s and McCartney’s songwriting styles had staked out their own wide open spaces. It was fun to hear a lyric of chord progression and think, “That sounds a little like “Glass Onion,” or “Oh, I heard that in “I Will.”
That’s one of the things that makes Band on the Run such a bunch of fun. But it’s far from all. Sir Paul’s style was always more whimsical, but he never abandoned the need to rock from time to time. So you have the airily pretty “Bluebird” on the same side with the organ-bass heavy “Let Me Roll It to You,” two very different, very effective treatments of desire.
The title track is a major-key storytelling jaunt about escape and freedom — and linked up with the next track, “Jet,” the two make a failsafe musical fountain of youth. Stranger and more challenging is “Picasso’s Last Words,” with its abrupt style changes promoting the very idea that an iconic artist — maybe the most iconic — could seriously be the subject of a pop/rock song.
Two members of Wings quit just before McCartney, his late wife Linda, and guitarist Denny Laine left for Lagos, Nigeria to record. Undaunted, McCartney played a lot of the instruments himself. (There were a couple of key guest appearances, including Cream’s Ginger Baker on percussion.) Still, the musical quality of the album never suffers. Indeed, for 1973, the recording quality is outstanding (it was remastered in 2010 as well). It’s good enough to pick out the excellent acoustic guitar playing note for note — and an hour spent leafing through the separate and combined sounds on this record is very good reading for your ears.
© 2013 Adam Barr except album art and music links