Tuesday, October 26, 2021

In 1971, Paul McCartney had his first solo No. 1 single with “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey,” from the Ram LP. The track alluded to the Beatles montage of Abbey Road, a format that emerged again with “Band on the Run,” an ingenious ploy to effectively string together bits of incomplete songs. It was on Ram that he collaborated with (a reluctant) Linda and American drummer Denny Seiwell. The remainder of the instrumentation was by session musicians and the industry’s best, including bassists Ron Carter and Richard Davis. Famous session musician Richard Spinozza was recruited by Linda despite what was, at the time, the exorbitant session fees required by Spinozza - $1500.00 per session (when the going rate was $90.00). When Linda made the phone call to Spinoza, he didn’t even know who she was (reportedly saying “Who?”), nor the fact that Linda was married to one of the world’s most iconic musicians. He said, “Like I was supposed to know that Paul McCartney was calling my house.” While it seemed like McCartney would go the route of the Beach Boys utilizing the industry’s top session musicians, in the summer that year, ex-Moodie guitarist Denny Laine joined Linda and Denny Seiwell to form the band Wings. McCartney said of the venture, “Wings were always a difficult idea … any group having to follow the Beatles’ success would have a hard job … I found myself in that very position.”

That said, and with McCartney (and Wings) rising to the top, it was tough for Paul to simply move on. Linda said at the time, “He’s talking about money now. That’s one of his pet points. He’ll never stop. Denny and Denny are protesting, but there’s nothing I can do.” It’s funny that we look toward Paul and Linda as rock’s perfect couple, dismissing that even the most loving relationships have their rocky roads. “Please get him on to talking about Wings,” she said. “That’s why we are here after all. The others can’t join in talking about The Beatles. I wish he wouldn’t go on like he does. There’s really no stopping him.”
While Linda was a reluctant participant in the Ram sessions, the album features Paul and Linda’s harmonies. Linda, while possibly not the best singer, oddly complimented Paul to create a sound unique to the band that would become Wings. John and Ringo noted an oblique dislike for the LP, particularly John who retaliated for songs like “Dear Boy” and “Too Many People” with his scathing “How Do You Sleep.” (I’m so glad that at 12 years old, I didn’t know any of this.) While George had no comment on the album, George Martin said, “I don’t think Linda is any substitute for John Lennon,” in retrospect a bit na├»ve.
One of the projects that may have refocused Paul on moving forward was Thrillington, an unusual concept piece for its time. Thrillington is the orchestral version of Ram and one that many McCartney fans aren’t aware exists. The sessions for the instrumental album were June 15, 16, and 17 at Abbey Road, just two weeks after the release of Ram. The directive came for the studio to hire the country’s best classical musicians, with Tony Clark and Alan Parsons (Engineer and Assistant) questioning what Paul would be doing. Interestingly, Paul didn’t sing on the LP or play a single note, acting solely as the LPs producer. It was the kind of focus that Paul had had with the Beatles, particularly on Sgt. Pepper, but served better as a delineation of Beatles and Wings. McCartney isn’t credited with Production on the liner notes; instead, he’s listed as Percy “Thrills” Thrillington.
It’s fun to note that of the Beatles in 1971, up to the release of (and possibly including Ram), Paul was the least successful of the solo acts. John had the critical acclaim of Plastic Ono Band and the commercial success of Imagine, George had the phenomenal All Things Must Pass and Ringo had one of the year’s great pop songs with “It Don’t Come Easy.” Paul’s McCartney was critically panned and the concert staple “Maybe I’m Amazed” would not initially be popular. Paul, of course, would become the most successful Beatle in both the 70s and 80s, but subsequently said of early 1971, “I felt like I didn’t have a use anymore. I’d been a bass player, and I’d been a co-writer with John, and suddenly, all of that was taken away. And I just thought, “Am I any good on my own?” Wow, huh? All of that, of course, would change for Paul after Ram and Thrillington, when McCartney found himself a new foursome in Wings.

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