"Tentative shavings from things we already own": Why the 50th anniversary edition of Band On The Run isn't essential, even if the original album is

Paul McCartney's mega-selling third post-Beatles album Band On The Run gets thoroughly de-belled and de-whistled

Paul McCartney & Wings: Band On The Run cover art
(Image: © Capitol)

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Released on vinyl and in Dolby Atmos, with the usual interference from Giles Martin, the most famous Wings album is also available unharmed for the cognoscenti, and for the curious, with an “underdubbed” disc. 

“This is Band On The Run in a way you’ve never heard before,” says Paul, accurately. And it’s true that nobody at the time thought, you know what would be good? We should take all those extra bits and those orchestral overdubs off this album we’ve spent months making so it sounds like a load of demos, and we should put it out like that.

But these are the end times, when even records with all the Beatles on can be fiddled about and tinkered with until the wheels come off, and even though there’s tonnes of stuff in the vaults that would be welcomed by billions of fans, we just get tentative shavings from things we already own. Although the instrumental version (ie backing track) of 1985 is nice.

Not that this is a disaster, particularly: this is a Paul McCartney (“& Wings”) album, one of his best, and the ten songs here are always worth hearing, even if they were wearing eyepatches and a trouser suit. Band On The Run is often touted as Macca’s best solo record, because it is tuneful, confident and coherent, something his previous 1970s releases had often failed to do.

That title is always up for debate (aka Memory Almost Full is the best one) but Band On The Run is an album full of high points, including the beautifully assembled title track, the incredible glam rush of Jet, and the fantastic it’s-about-John-or-is-it Lennonesque screamer Let Me Roll It. The rest is mostly quite nice, but Paul McCartney’s “quite nice” is most people’s “completely astonishing".

Add to all that the backstory – half the band leaving, a trip to Lagos, mugging, Fela Kuti ranting, victory in the face of adversity – and you have a classic album, with all that entails. 50 years later, mix it nicely, do a few different formats, and take the orchestra off all the songs, and you have a Special Edition. Is it essential? No. Would it be better with some proper rarities and surprises? Yes. Are EMI going to do this with every McCartney album? Hope not. Is it a good package? Yes.

David Quantick

David Quantick is an English novelist, comedy writer and critic, who has worked as a journalist and screenwriter. A former staff writer for the music magazine NME, his writing credits have included On the HourBlue JamTV Burp and Veep; for the latter of these he won an Emmy in 2015.