Paul McCartney & Wings

Band on the Run

Composed by Linda McCartney / Paul McCartney

Song Review by

This applies to the entirety of the Band on the Run album as well, but its leadoff title track sounds like an "Oh, yeah? Watch THIS!" from Paul McCartney to the critics who had been slagging him off since the days of the Beatles' dissolution. Far from the lightweight and sloppy work he was regularly accused of -- a characterization that, to be fair, was quite often entirely justified -- "Band on the Run" is classic McCartney, a song that manages to be experimental in form yet so deliciously melodic that its structural oddities largely go unnoticed. One of McCartney's most effective experiments in medley form (see also "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," "Back Seat of My Car," and side two of Abbey Road, not to mention "A Day in the Life"), "Band on the Run" features a full two minutes' worth of intro before the song proper starts. First comes a setting for slide guitar and synthesizer that sounds a bit like an outtake from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, over which McCartney mournfully bemoans his lot, in character as a lonely prisoner. This quickly switches over to a funky interlude with a much harsher, snickering vocal delivery that culminates in the bitterly tossed-off line "If we ever get out of here." (McCartney later revealed that this line was cribbed from a remark George Harrison had made during an Apple board meeting in the Beatles' acrimonious final days, furthering the widely held reading of the song as a metaphor for McCartney's creative rebirth outside of his former band.) This section is suddenly cut short by a triumphant guitar fanfare backed by a full-on orchestral climax that -- at last -- leads into the body of the song proper. (Capitol serviced radio stations with a promotional AM edit of the song that simply fades in at about 2:02 of the original song and runs through to the end; most stations chose to play the full five-minute version, wisely.) At that point, the song becomes an effortless mélange of acoustic rhythm guitars, country-ish slide fills, and three-part harmonies on the chorus, a distinctly McCartney-esque take on the kind of slick California rock the Eagles were perfecting around the same time, but without their po-faced humorlessness. In fact, if anything, this soaring song is one of the most good-humored tunes in the Wings catalog, the sound of a man who knows he's creating something that only his most reflexively hostile critics could deny.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Band on the Run 1973 Capitol 5:12
No Image 1974
Various Artists
Hallmark Recordings
The Ultimate Rock Collection Gold and Platinum, Vol. 3: 1974-1979 1997
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 5:13
The Ultimate Grammy Box: From the Recording Academy's Collection 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 5:13
Wingspan: Hits and History 2001 Capitol / EMI Records 5:13
Capitol Records 1942-2002 [Deluxe Box Set] 2002
Various Artists
Capitol 5:14
Legends Informercial Set 2007
Various Artists
Time / Life Music 5:13
Boyhood [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]
Original Soundtrack
Nonesuch