Can you believe it’s been five decades since Band on the Run – Wings’ third and arguably most celebrated album – was released? The record that gave us timeless hits such as ‘Jet’, ‘Let Me Roll It’, ‘Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five’ and of course the title track, Band on the Run was first released in December 1973. Time flies when you ‘hope you’re having fun’!
To celebrate this landmark birthday, a 50th Anniversary Edition of Band on the Run will arrive in record stores and online on 2nd February! This special edition includes an ‘underdubbed’ version of the album, a termed newly coined by Paul, which describes these previously unheard mixes. In Paul’s own words: “You’re going to hear Band on the Run in a way you’ve never heard before.”
We spoke to Paul about how he came up with the ‘underdubbed’ term, what his memories are from recording the album, and what exactly a ‘Moog’ is…
PaulMcCartney.com: As part of the 50th Anniversary edition, an album of ‘underdubbed’ Band on the Run mixes will be released. Can you explain what ‘underdubbed’ means? Where does that term come from?
Paul: Well, you always talk about the ‘overdubs’ when you're making a song. When you put an extra guitar on over the top of what you’ve recorded, for example, that's an overdub. So, we thought that these versions sounded like ‘underdubs’, as they are heard without those overdubs on top.
PM.com: You coined a new word, we love that – we'll let the dictionary people know! Did you know when you wrote the song ‘Band on the Run’ that it would also end up becoming the album title?
Paul: I don't think so, no. Those kinds of things – album titles and artwork – normally come later on in the process. I just wrote a bunch of songs, which luckily I remembered, because the demos got stolen! ‘Band on the Run’ was always going to be the big, epic track on the album, but I didn't necessarily know it was going to be the title. But it eventually comes to the surface, and I thought, “Well, that's an obvious title. That's the one.”
PM.com: The title and cover are now so iconic, we can’t even imagine another title for that record! We’d love to talk to you about the arrangement of the overdubs. With the underdubbed version of ‘Jet’, for example, it features you blocking up the brass at the end. There are recordings of you doing this in The Beatles too. Is this because you have such a strong idea about what you want to go in that section when you start recording the song?
Paul: Yeah, I think so. When you write a song, it's really just a bunch of ideas of how you think it should go. And then when you come to arrange the song, it's the same process again. You want to give an idea to whoever's collaborating on it later of what you want it to sound like.
PM.com: It’s funny to hear you say that because we've been listening to your McCartney: A Life in Lyrics podcast and in the ‘Penny Lane’ episode you describe how that happened for the trumpet solo.
Paul: Well, because I don't read or write music, I sing it out. On ‘Penny Lane’ we had this guy Dave Mason, who was one of one of the great trumpet players of his day, and I’d just discovered the piccolo trumpet which has a very high range. I just remember being at the session with David and George Martin, and I started singing the tune I’d made up. Then they wrote it down and David played it back very accurately. The only thing was, I'd sung something that was off the top of the range of his instrument! Dave looked at me slyly and said, “This is off the instrument’s range!” I said, “Yeah, but you can play it...?” And he did!
PM.com: This next question is about ‘No Words’, which was co-written with Denny Laine. How did that process work in Wings? Was it writing it together from scratch, or finishing off a song draft like you did with John Lennon?
Paul: I only really have one process. If I'm writing with someone, we sit together and kick the ideas around, and Denny was good at that. We were ping-ponging, like I used to do with John. So yeah, that's my method.
PM.com: That method definitely works well! Talking about collaborations, when Band on the Run was recorded, Linda had been in the band for two years. You can hear a lot of an instrument called the Moog on this record, which you can see Linda playing in the video for ‘Helen Wheels’ and the film One Hand Clapping. Was there a reason why this instrument was used in this era?
Paul: The Moog is a great instrument, and it was of the first synthesizers available. Originally when we used it in The Beatles it had just been invented by a guy called Robert Moog, so it was seen as the latest thing. I first used it all on ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ and it was very big, like computers in the old days were. Then they brought out a thing called a mini-Moog, which was much more manageable. And that is the instrument that we used in Wings, and that Linda enjoyed playing. It's just got such a great sound, and because it was new at the time nobody had really used it, so we loved trying it out.
BRB, we are off to buy a groovy-sounding Moog! Band on the Run 50th Anniversary Edition is now available to pre-order – get your copy here. The album has also been mixed in Dolby ATMOS for the first time and will be available on supporting platforms on 2nd February.
While you wait to hear this exciting underdubbed audio, check out the recently remastered music video for ‘Mamunia’ here. And keep your eyes peeled for more HD remastered Band on the Run-era music videos, coming soon!