Old Music Tuesday: Paul McCartney's 'Ram'
Shortly after The Beatles broke up and the ugly personal and legal feuds began, Paul and Linda McCartney fled "to the heart of the country." They headed to a farm on the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland. Days were spent shearing sheep, riding horses, drinking whiskey and being a family. They were also creative times — out of this escape, Paul's second post-Beatles album was born. Ram is pure McCartney; there were simple tunes like the "Heart of the Country" and "Ram On" and then those little pocket symphonies like "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" and "Back Seat of My Car."
I think it's a brilliant record. Right now I'm listening to the remastered edition released last week for the album's 40th anniversary. It has me singing in my head and getting swept away in the best way pop music can. Each song is a small, transporting vacation.
Oh, I think there are flaws: "Eat At Home" feels like a toss away and "Long Haired Lady" is a bigger production than the lyrics call for. But those things happen when any artist works alone. (There's strength in partnership, and though Linda McCartney was a clear collaborator, for her first record she's not a foil, just a friend along for the ride.)
Speaking of partnerships, there are a few jabs at former band-mates. There's the photo of two beetles copulating in the album art. According to the Beatles' friend and business mate, Peter Brown, those two bugs on the record were an expression of how Paul felt the other Beatles were treating him. There's also a jab a John and Yoko in the lyrics to the opening track, "Too Many People." The line goes, "Too many people preaching practices."
And then there was the fallout, Lennon's tit for tat: Not only did Lennon clearly aim his wit at McCartney on the searing "How Do You Sleep," but there was this brilliant bit of humor, a postcard contained in the early pressing of Imagine with a clear spoof of the Ram album art. I even think some of the not-so-positive reviews of Ram at the time had a bit to do with journalists taking sides, choosing favorites after the break up. John and George were certainly more well loved in writing circles. I loved them all, though as every Beatles fan had their Beatle, Paul was mine.
Bitterness aside, this is a sweet album, steeped in storybook tunes of love and whimsy, written in Scotland and recorded in New York with a new band of musicians. I hope it will find some traction with those who may have passed on Ram based on reviews at the time or hearing some of the lesser McCartney work that would to follow in the late '70s. Ram on!