When Paul McCartney started his latest band Wings with his wife at the time, Linda, it was like he was learning how to ‘fly’ again, so to speak. “I knew how to be in The Beatles, but I didn’t know how to be in a band after The Beatles,” McCartney said in an interview with Dermot O’Leary for ITV. McCartney, the same way he was trying to push The Beatles in their last days, simply wanted to go and play gigs — stand in front of an audience and deliver his work.
So Macca put his family, his dogs and his band into a couple of vans and headed on a University tour. This wasn’t a heavily orchestrated affair, Wings would just knock on the door and ask to play. There was a kind of innocence to it, but it was very ingenious; he redefined what it meant to be in a band. McCartney added “it was in the spirit of adventure and wildness, and ‘why not?'”
It seems that there was a lot of ‘motion’ behind Paul McCartney and Wings’ third album, Band on the Run, released in 1973. “The basic idea about the band on the run is a kind of prison escape. At the beginning of the album the guy is stuck inside four walls and eventually breaks out,” McCartney said.
The title track, ‘Band on the Run’ is about this concept, but also very much inspired by what bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and others dealt with in the ’60s. Namely, drug busts. “We just would rather do this than hit the booze – which had been a traditional way to do it. We felt that this was a better move,” recalled the singer. The leaders of rock n’ roll during the decade, such as Macca, were never left alone by the police. The establishment was very much against rock n’ roll, which only added to the youthful rebellion of being a musician.
Macca decided to record the album in Lagos, Nigeria. His wife, Linda and guitarist Denny Laine joined him. McCartney had a strong desire to make this record really count and perhaps prove to himself that he could make something exceptional outside of his work with The Beatles. “I was on drums and guitar a lot,” the singer shared, “mainly because the drummer decided to leave the group the night before and one of the guitar players decided not to come! So we got that solo element into an otherwise ‘produced’ album.” Band on the Run would prove to be what McCartney considers his best record after The Beatles.
The craziest part of the story behind the making of the album and the title track is that while Macca was in Nigeria, he and his wife got mugged, and all the demo tapes for the album were stolen. One night after Macca and Linda got done in the studio they were walking home when a car pulled up beside them and asked if they needed a lift.
After repeatedly telling the group of men no, McCartney grabbed one of them and shoved them against the car. The six men then got out of the car and one of them held a knife. The former Beatle lost the demo tapes to them, a camera and a bunch of cash. Macca recalls that night after they got home, a letter was waiting for them. “It was funny because, when we got home, there was a letter from EMI that said, ‘Dear Paul, under no circumstances go to Lagos. There’s been an outbreak of cholera.’” When it rains it pours.
Despite losing his demo tapes, McCartney was able to remember all the songs including the title track, ‘Band On The Run’, as he had just recently written the tracks.
McCartney has repeatedly stated that, despite all the troubles he experienced during the making of the song, he does not attribute the problems to have fuelled any creative breakthrough, however.
‘Band On The Run’ remains one of McCartney’s best songs, and to this day he still includes it in his setlist. Listen to the track below: