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Frank Zappa Documentary
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‘Band On The Run’: Wings Beat The Odds With 1973 Milestone

Paul McCartney’s band endured all manner of challenges in the making of ‘Band On The Run,’ making its success all the sweeter.

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Wings Band On The Run album

Paul McCartney had already enjoyed a decade of American chart-toppers, as a Beatle, with wife Linda, and with Wings, when the band climbed to No.1 there with Band On The Run on April 13, 1974. But the extremely trying circumstances behind the making of the LP — with last-minute personnel changes, technical difficulties, theft, illness and more — made the result all the sweeter.

Listen to Band On The Run right now.

Wings were down to the three-piece core of Paul, Linda and Denny Laine when they set about making the album in Lagos, Nigeria. Both Henry McCullough and Denny Seiwell departed unexpectedly just before recording was due to commence. The trio survived studio snafus, a robbery at knifepoint and any number of other challenges to make what would become, for many, the high point of the entire Wings catalogue.

Band On The Run entered the US chart just before Christmas 1973, and was propelled not just by approving reviews, but by the huge success of the “Jet” single. Then came the release — by popular demand, as the press advertising said — of the title track. With its five-minute duration and tempo changes, it was perhaps an unlikely contender to be a 45. But radio stations lapped it up, and so did consumers. The single topped the Hot 100 and sold a million copies in America alone.

Seven months to make No. 1

You might assume that the 1973 release was an immediate UK chart-topper. Released on December 5, not only did it enter at a very modest No.45 just before Christmas, it didn’t reach the summit until its 32nd week, in July 1974. Then Band On The Run made up for lost time with a seven-week run until September 13, 1974, the day before it ceded the No. 1 berth to the Mike Oldfield album Hergest Ridge.

The Wings LP enjoyed another ten weeks in the UK Top 10, and went on to complete an extraordinary unbroken run of almost two years on the British charts. It remained there until November 1975.

Two years on the US charts

The album’s US chart debut was at a relatively lowly No.33, but it continued to build during the opening months of 1974. On April 13, with the title song newly unveiled as a single, Band On The Run took over from John Denver’s Greatest Hits as America’s favourite album. It spent four non-consecutive weeks at the summit, and went on to amass more than two years — 116 weeks — on the bestsellers, by far the longest run of any post-Beatles McCartney recording.

“Paul’s Grooves Will Grab You,” said the New York Times’ headline for Loraine Alterman’s review. “Obviously Band On The Run is a carefully produced album,” she wrote. “Yet McCartney has managed to make the complexities of multi-track recording sound as natural and fresh as tomorrow.” Rolling Stone’s Jon Landau admired the lyrical sharpness of the album. Paul’s “distinctive British sensibility now touches on things without belabouring them,” he noted.

Band On The Run can be bought here.

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