Jacob Mendez
Jacob Mendez

“My nightmare, exotic vacation”. The rock classic was created in agony

Let’s start with the fact that the early 1970s were a period of mourning for Beatles fans. The most beloved group, idols of the whole world, and each of the Big Four went their separate ways. But what to do next? “They definitely won’t be able to cope solo” – many thought. “It’s just a matter of time until they get together” – others thought and – spoiler alert, for those who didn’t follow their career very closely – they didn’t get back together. However, each member of the band knew since 1970 that parting was the only way to further artistic development. John Lennon had Yoko Onoa Paul McCartney to create an album “RAM” (1971) he also invited his wife, Linda. In retrospect, their collaboration is considered unique in McCartney’s solo achievements, but it is also clear that Paul did not like to let others decide.

Creating a team Wings (in which, apart from the McCartney couple, the only permanent member was the deceased in December Denny Laine) was supposed to give him a taste of the group playing he knew and liked from the Beatles times. Route “Wings”, which took place at English universities, also gave him some wind. McCartney felt that with the new project he had a chance to achieve new artistic successes. After the albums’ rather poor critical reception “Wild Life” (1971) i “Red Rose Speedway” (1973) knew that now he had to do something that would silence everyone who said that McCartney was no longer powerful without Lennon.

Shortly after the end of the Wings tour, Macca began planning how to get some of the gift that had allowed him to write unforgettable hits throughout the 1960s. He came up with a seemingly perfect idea – since the inspiration is fading in London, I have to leave the city. He asked EMI to indicate the places, the most exotic places in the world, where they had a studio. It was the capital of Nigeria – Lagos. Before the departure of Wings, in which they were still playing Henry McCullough and Denny Seiwell, began rehearsals at McCartney’s Scottish farm. The former clashed heavily with the former Beatle and left the group. A week later, Seiwell left, but the others had no intention of giving up on their plans.

On August 30, 1973, apart from the McCartneys, there was another person on board the plane Geoff Emerick, a sound engineer and previously one of the producers of The Beatles albums. Macca expected Nigeria to be a place of rest for him – he planned to record at night and lounge on the beach during the day. However, he did not know that the country was ruled by a military dictatorship, and the paradise location could quickly turn into a real hell.

The three musicians met in a rather makeshift studio. Let’s be honest, the conditions were spartan, and some tracks couldn’t be recorded separately in one room, so they had to build acoustic screens themselves. Amid the African heat and humidity, in pain and in palpable sweat, an album was created that became one of the most important in the artist’s entire achievements. Work almost stopped completely several times, including when Macca fainted during the session – everyone thought it was a heart attack, but after being exposed to fresh, although still hot air, the musician woke up. He overdid smoking, which he gave up for a while. Moreover, when the locals found out that some “famous Briton” is recording in Africa, they immediately thought that he was planning to steal their African identity and share it with the outside world. Even a legend dropped into the studio Fela Kuti, who wanted the musicians to stop working. When he heard the first cuts of the songs, he realized that no one intended to copy local folklore.

While the songs were pre-recorded, Paul and Linda were attacked. The natives robbed them of everything – including notes and tapes with already recorded games. McCartney thought it was over, but after a moment of breakdown they decided to go back into the studio. After more than three weeks of stormy sessions, they returned to the UK on September 23, where they met with fans and journalists. McCartney must have been greatly surprised when he came across a letter from EMI in which the label warned them before their departure not to go to Lagos – a cholera epidemic was starting there. And yet they came back safe and sound!

A project that was unlikely to succeed ended in success. “Band on the Run” – although created by three people – was very much a reflection of how McCartney felt after leaving the Beatles. The best may have been behind him, but he was still too young to clip the coupons. He dreamed of further successes, but he still believed that he was doing something reproductive. The album talks about artists like McCartney and their escape from their own framework, which is assumed by society or themselves. “It’s a collection of songs and the main idea was a group on the run, but in a prison break kind of way. At first the guy says he’s stuck between four walls, but he eventually gets out. It wasn’t about the plot, but the concept itself” – said McCartney, quoted by Bruce Spizer In “The Beatles Solo on Apple Records”.

On “Band On The Run” consists of nine songs, including the title, epic and downright symphonic ones “Band on the Run”a love ballad “Bluebird”or inspired by Picasso’s farewell to the world, “Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)”. The whole thing ends with an extremely dynamic ending “Nineteen Hundred Eighty Five” with an unforgettable keyboard riff. And although only three musicians and a sound engineer took part in the sessions in Nigeria, post-production was supported by them Tony Visconti (T-Rex, David Bowie) added extremely appetizing orchestration parts, as well as a meaty brass section. The cover featured a real collection of unique personalities, including: band members and next to them Christopher Lee, Kenny Lynch, Clement Freud Whether Michael Parkinson – all caught by a pinpoint beam of light while escaping from prison. The iconic image has become part of rock history, and younger fans may recognize its parody from the animation poster “Madagascar” – yes, you didn’t know who The Beatles were back then, but you were already close. “Band on the Run” – a complete work mixing styles and at the same time being the essence of Paul McCartney’s creative skills for 50 years.

As you might expect, the album was a huge success in the UK. It has sold 6 million copies worldwide, and among McCartney’s albums it is one of the most thoughtful of his entire oeuvre. Recently, the album was released again – in a special, anniversary version. On it we can hear not only versions of songs that have been known for years in a remastered version in half-speed format, but also on an additional disc containing songs in versions “underdubbed”, i.e. before the final mix. In this way, listeners can be closest to the wild, exotic atmosphere that must have prevailed when the album was recorded.