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Band on the Run

Band on the Run is an album by Paul McCartney & Wings, released in 1973. It was McCartney's fifth album since the breakup of The Beatles, and Wings' third album. It became Wings' most successful album and remains the most celebrated of McCartney's post-Beatles albums. It was 1974's top-selling studio album in the UK, and revitalised McCartney's critical standing.

In 2000 Q magazine placed Band on the Run at number 75 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 418 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. 1 November 2003. Retrieved 10 December 2009. A contemporary review by Jon Landau in Rolling Stone (issue #153) described the album as "the finest record yet released by any of the four musicians who were once called The Beatles".


After the success of Red Rose Speedway and "Live and Let Die" — the title music for the then-current James Bond movie — Wings began contemplating its next album. Paul and Linda McCartney, bored with recording in the UK, wanted to go to an exotic locale. After asking EMI to send him a listing of all their international recording studios, Paul happened upon Lagos in Nigeria and was instantly taken with the idea of recording in Africa. Alongside the McCartneys, guitarist and pianist Denny Laine, lead guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Denny Seiwell also were set to go. However, a few weeks before departing in late August, McCullough quit Wings in Scotland; Seiwell followed suit the night before the departure. This left just the core of the band — Paul, Linda and Denny Laine — to venture to Lagos, along with former Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, who was needed to record the basic tracks due to the primitive state of the Lagos studios, which Wings had failed to realise prior to planning the trip. According to the book Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013), recordings commenced on September 1st.[citation needed]

In October, after the band's return to London, final overdubs and orchestral tracks were added and the album was finished. "Helen Wheels" was released as a non-album single at the end of the month, becoming a worldwide Top 10 by the end of the year. As Band On The Run was being prepared for release, Capitol Records, which distributed the Apple Records label in the United States, slotted "Helen Wheels" into the album—although it was never McCartney's intention to do so. Although "Helen Wheels" is not included on British versions of the Band on the Run CD (except as a bonus cut on the 1993 "The Paul McCartney Collection" edition of the CD), it has always been included on American editions of the CD (starting with the initial Columbia Records release in 1984). Early versions of the Capitol release of the American CD fail to mention "Helen Wheels" on the label or CD insert, making the song a "hidden track".

Release and reception[]

Band on the Run was issued to glowing reviews. The commercial reaction was slow, with the album gradually inching its way up the charts, but by the spring of 1974, bolstered by the hits "Jet" and the title track "Band on the Run", Band On The Run was a major success. It reached #1 in the US on three separate occasions, and eventually went triple platinum. In the UK, it spent seven weeks at the summit that summer, becoming the top selling British album of 1974. Its lingering success was also beneficial in allowing Wings the time to locate a new guitarist and drummer, and to integrate them into the band before beginning new recordings.

In early 1975, Paul McCartney & Wings won the Grammy award for "Best Pop Vocal Performance By a Duo, Group or Chorus" for Band on the Run. In 1993, Band on the Run was remastered and reissued on CD as part of "The Paul McCartney Collection" series with "Helen Wheels" and its b-side "Country Dreamer" as bonus tracks. In 1999, a special 25th Anniversary Edition was released. On this version, "Helen Wheels" was track 8, between "No Words" and "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)". In May 2007, the album was made available through the iTunes Store.

The 8-track tape version of this album has the distinction of being one of the few 8-tracks that is arranged just like the record album. The song "Bluebird" is divided in two parts, but the rest of the songs are complete.


The cover photo was taken on 28 October 1973 against a garden wall in Osterley Park, Brentford. It depicts the now well-known shot of Paul, Linda, and Denny plus six other celebrities dressed as convicts caught in the spotlight of a prison searchlight. They are:

  • Michael Parkinson (Chat-show host and journalist)
  • Kenny Lynch (Actor, comedian and singer)
  • James Coburn (Actor)
  • Clement Freud (Columnist, gourmet, raconteur, Member of Parliament, Just a Minute panellist and grandson of Sigmund)
  • Christopher Lee (Actor, then best known for roles, particularly as Dracula, in Hammer Horror films and Bond-villain Francesco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun)
  • John Conteh (Liverpool boxer who later became World Light-Heavyweight champion)

References to the cover were to be made later by McCartney himself (in the video for "Spies Like Us", along with Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd) as well as others (such as the movie poster for the Dreamworks' animated film Madagascar, which depicts the main characters standing against a wall in a pose similar to the original "Band on the Run" photo).

Track listing[]

All tracks written by Paul and Linda McCartney, except "Let Me Roll It" by Paul McCartney and "No Words" by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine

    Side one
    1. Band on the Run, 5:10
    2. Jet, 4:06
    3. Bluebird, 3:22
    4. Mrs Vandebilt, 4:38
    5. Let Me Roll It, 4:47
    Side two
    1. Mamunia, 4:50
    2. No Words, 2:33
    3. Helen Wheels, 3:34 (US and international only; not UK)
    4. Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me), 5:50
    5. Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five, 5:27
    The Paul McCartney Collection's 1993 reissue bonus track
  1. Country Dreamer, 3:08


Additional personnel[]

  • Howie Casey – saxophone
  • Ginger Baker – percussion
  • Remi Kabaka – percussion
  • Tony Visconti – orchestrations
  • Ian and Trevor – backing vocals
  • Geoff Emerick – Producer and Sound Engineer

Chart positions[]


Year Chart Position
1974 Billboard Pop Albums 1
1974 UK Albums Chart 1
1974 Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart 1


Year Single Chart Position
1974 "Helen Wheels" Billboard Hot 100 10
1974 "Jet" Billboard Hot 100 7
1974 "Band on the Run" Billboard Hot 100 1


Organization Level Date
RIAA – USA Gold December 7, 1973
BPI – UK Gold January 1, 1974
BPI – UK Platinum May 1, 1975
RIAA – USA Platinum November 27, 1991
RIAA – USA Triple Platinum November 27, 1991


Band on the Run: 25th Anniversary Edition is a special extended edition of the 1973 landmark album, which was released in 1999.

Released to coincide exactly twenty-five years after the album began to take off in March 1974 after a slow start, the package includes an extra disc of live renditions of songs throughout the years, as well as brief new renditions by McCartney. Spoken testimonials are also included from such luminaries as McCartney himself, late wife Linda (to whom this retrospective release is dedicated), Denny Laine, Dustin Hoffman (the inspiration behind "Picasso's Last Words (Drink To Me)"), and some of the celebrity faces on the cover, namely, Christopher Lee and James Coburn.

For this one occasion, McCartney released the package according to the original US release, with "Helen Wheels" in the line-up. It was left out of most editions of Band on the Run.

Upon its release, Band on the Run: 25th Anniversary Edition reached the summit of Billboard's Top Pop Catalog chart, while reaching #69 in the UK.

Track listing[]

All tracks composed by Paul and Linda McCartney except track 7 "No Words" composed by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine.

Disc 1[]

The first disc features the original US version of the album.
  1. "Band on the Run" - 5:11
  2. "Jet" - 4:07
  3. "Bluebird" - 3:21
  4. "Mrs. Vandebilt" - 4:39
  5. "Let Me Roll It" - 4:47
  6. "Mamunia" - 4:50
    • An Arabic word for "safe haven" which McCartney happened upon while on holiday in Marrakesh
  7. "No Words" (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) - 2:33
  8. "Helen Wheels" - 3:44
    • "Helen Wheels" was included on only the US edition of Band on the Run in 1973
  9. "Picasso's Last Words (Drink to Me)" - 5:46
    • Inspired by actor Dustin Hoffman's suggestion to McCartney to compose a song on Pablo Picasso's then-recent passing
    • Features Ginger Baker on shakers
  10. "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five" - 5:29

Disc 2: Bonus Materials[]

  1. "PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue Intro) /Band On The Run (Nicely Toasted Mix)" - 1:12
  2. "Band On The Run (Original)/PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 1) - 2:17
  3. "Band On The Run (Barn Rehearsal - 21 July 1989)" - 4:59
  4. "PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 2) /Mamunia (Original)/DENNY LAINE (Dialogue)/Mamunia (Original)/LINDA McCARTNEY (Dialogue)/PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 3)" - 4:23
  5. "Bluebird (Live version - Australia 1975)" - 0:55
  6. "Bluebird (Original)/PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 4)" - 0:23
  7. "PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 5) /NO WORDS (Original)/GEOFF EMERICK (Dialogue)" (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) - 1:24
  8. "No Words (Original)/PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 6) /TONY VISCONTI (Dialogue)/Band On The Run (original)/TONY VISCONTI (Dialogue)" (Paul McCartney/Denny Laine) / (Paul and Linda McCartney) - 1:47
  9. "Jet (Original from Picasso's Last Words) /PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue Link 7) /Jet (Original from Picasso's Last Words) /AL COURY (Dialogue)" - 2:55
  10. "Jet (Berlin Soundcheck - 3 September 1993)" - 3:52
  11. "PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 8) /CLIVE ARROWSMITH (Dialogue)" - 1:44
  12. "Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five (Original)/PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 9) /JAMES COBURN (Dialogue)/PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 10) /JOHN CONTEH (Dialogue)" - 3:24
  13. "Mrs. Vandebilt (original) / PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 11) / KENNY LYNCH (Dialogue)" - 2:10
  14. "Let Me Roll It (Cardington Rehearsal - 5 February 1993)"/PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 12)" - 3:52
  15. "PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 13) /Mrs. Vandebilt (Background)/MICHAEL PARKINSON (Dialogue)/LINDA McCARTNEY (Band On The Run Photo Shoot) (Dialogue)/MICHAEL PARKINSON (Dialogue)" - 2:25
  16. "Helen Wheels (Crazed)/PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 14) /CHRISTOPHER LEE (Dialogue)" - 5:32
  17. "Band On The Run (Strum Bit) /PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 15) /CLEMENT FREUD (Dialogue)" - 1:01
  18. "Picasso's Last Words (Original)/PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue link 16) /DUSTIN HOFFMAN (Dialogue)" - 4:22
  19. "Picasso's Last Words (Drink To Me) (Acoustic version)" - 1:11
  20. "Band On The Run (Nicely Toasted Mix) /PAUL McCARTNEY (Dialogue Link 17)" - 0:42
  21. "Band On The Run (Northern Comic Version)" - 0:37

This album is in the Paul McCartney Project at this page.