13: A Song That Is A Guilty Pleasure.
Band On The Run, Paul McCartney & Wings (Band On The Run, Apple; 1973)
There’s no good reason that this song should fall into the “guilty pleasure” category. It’s a great song. It was a commercial and critical success at the time of its release, it has aged remarkably well.
Paul McCartney gets an undue amount of stick for his post-Beatles career. Mainly because he’s alive. He’s not the gentle soul of George Harrison. He’s not the politicised artist of John Lennon. He’s not even laughable enough to be Ringo. Unfortunately for Paul McCartney, he’s just the one who kept writing good songs, didn’t die, didn’t marry an avant garde Japanese artist or voice a tank engine.
John Lennon’s solo output is almost unlistenable, self-reflective, arrogant bullshit masquerading as art. George Harrison’s solo stuff is fine, but really went too far down the Hare Krishna route.
No matter. The words “Paul McCartney and Wings” just inspire dread, revulsion and possibly flashes of Alan Partridge when heard. I find that sad. “Oh, I hate Mull of Kintyre." Despite widely held prejudices, everyone loves Live And Let Die. That is almost the best post-Beatles song, but it’s not.
Band On The Run is.
Band On The Run is so deceptively amazing as to confuse people into thinking it’s terrible. Most people think they know the song because they can belt out the title-chorus at the end. Think about how it starts, though. That’s odd. Intertwined, shimmering guitars, a lovely synthesizer, great simple bassline. Slightly nasal McCartney trademark melodies drop in. Wonderful.
Ninety seconds in, all the instruments become harder. The bass is more powerful. The rhythm guitar picks up more of a riff, lead guitar plays some pretty obtuse stuff and the synth is right up front. Darker melodies. Barely forty seconds later and there’s another brilliant section: a grand semi-orchestral break, a shift to upbeat acoustic song belting out Band On The Run.
There are three distinct, cleanly connected sections in the song. It’s a real journey, they all hang together perfectly. There’s no showing off, bleating about being avant-garde, but this is a masterful, odd song that should not be considered guilty.
LISTEN: Album recording. [Soundcloud link]
WATCH: Live, Seattle, 1976.