The Beatles weren’t just a great outfit; they were comprised of four incredibly impressive songwriters who, after the band’s split in 1970, would make good on that notion and go on to enjoy esteemed and successful solo careers. Within a few short years, it was clear that whether it was John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison or Ringo Starr, good songs were always likely to follow The Beatles, even as they diverged their paths.
A one might expect when dealing with a global brand and one of the most successful musical acts of all time, the band’s break-up was fraught with tension. Not only was there legal issues to worry about, of which there were many, but the band members were also clearly affected by their rise to fame and how much it had impacted their friendship. It left the years following The Beatles split littered with tabloid headlines and inter-song insults. The disputes did a lot to shatter any hopes of a reunion; however, the Beatles were still inspiring one another underneath it all.
Across a myriad of different songs, some pointed others applauding, Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr all shared their feelings on being in The Beatles. Usually quite deliberate in their meaning, the tracks provide a fairly accurate depiction of life after the Fab Four, but one song from Paul McCartney was secretly inspired by George Harrison and John Lennon.
‘Band on the Run’ is a song that will go down in Paul McCartney’s iconography as one moment in which he eclipsed his work with The Beatles. The title track from his fifth post-Beatles studio album, it’s a three-part song that saw Macca hit his songwriting stride. It also happens to be inspired by a Beatles business meeting and George Harrison’s scything silver tongue. “It’s just a good flow of words. I really don’t analyse stuff, and, if I do, I kind of remember what it meant about three months later, just lying in bed one night,” McCartney is noted as saying in Paul McCartney In His Own Words by Paul Gambaccini.
“It started off with ‘If I ever get out of here.’ That came from a remark George made at one of the Apple meetings,” recalled McCartney, noting the song’s inception in 1969, four years before its release. “He was saying that we were all prisoners in some way, some kind of remark like that. ‘If we ever get out of here,’ the prison bit, and I thought that would be a nice way to start an album. A million reasons, really. I can never lay them all down. It’s a million things; I don’t like to analyse them, all put together. Band on the run – escaping, freedom, criminals. You name it; it’s there.”
Speaking to Clash magazine in 2010, McCartney confirmed the nuances of the track: “It was symbolic: ‘If we ever get out of here … All I need is a pint a day’ … [In the Beatles] we’d started off as just kids really, who loved our music and wanted to earn a bob or two so we could get a guitar and get a nice car. It was very simple ambitions at first. But then, you know, as it went on it became business meetings and all of that … So there was a feeling of ‘if we ever get out of here’, yeah. And I did.”
Another moment of inspiration from McCartney’s past came when he decided to marry three fragments of songs he already had and sew them together to make one piece. It was a technique The Beatles had employed on many songs, including ‘A Day in The Life’, ‘She Said, She Said‘ and, perhaps most notably, within John Lennon’s archetypal track ‘I Am The Walrus’. In fact, it would be a technique that the bespectacled Beatle would use long into his solo career with ‘God’ and ‘(Just Like) Starting Over’, both benefitting from his tapestry style.
McCartney uses the same approach for ‘Band on the Run’ but, instead of making the parts blend harmoniously, he chooses to stand them up on their own as individual movements. The first part of the song sees the band’s incarceration, while the second part uses Harrison’s quote as the core theme, and the final act sees the band escaping from prison and fleeing from the authority figures mentioned.
The song was also inspired by the numerous run-ins with the law that McCartney and his contemporaries had suffered. Ironically, the song was also involved in a crime after the original demos of the track were stolen at knifepoint when travelling through Nigeria, “It was stuff that would be worth a bit on eBay these days, you know?” recalled McCartney. “But no, we figured the guys who mugged us wouldn’t even be remotely interested. If they’d have known, they could have just held on to them and made themselves a little fortune. But they didn’t know, and we reckoned they’d probably record over them.”
It would be tough for McCartney to cut off all of the songwriting techniques he used with The Beatles. After all, as one of the principal songwriters of the group and undoubtedly the most musical, Macca was often left in charge of finessing studio methodology, meaning that The Beatles style and his own were inextricably linked. But, there is certainly a feeling of this track being wholly inspired by the Fab Four.