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"Band on the Run"
File:Paul McCartney - Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five.jpg
French single sleeve
Song by Paul McCartney and Wings
from the album Band on the Run
B-side"Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five" (US)
"Zoo Gang" (UK)
Released8 April 1974 (US)
28 June 1974 (UK)
RecordedSeptember 1973
Length5:09 (album version)
3:50 (radio edit)
Songwriter(s)Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney
Producer(s)Paul McCartney
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Alternative cover
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"Band on the Run" is the title song of Paul McCartney and Wings' 1973 album Band on the Run. The song was released as a single in 1974, following the success of "Jet", and became an international chart success. The song topped the charts in the United States, also reaching number 3 in the United Kingdom.[3][4] The single sold over one million copies in 1974 in America.[3] It has since become one of the band's most famous songs.

A medley of song fragments that vary in style from folk rock to funk, "Band on the Run" is one of McCartney's longest singles at 5:09. The song was partly inspired by a comment that George Harrison had made during a meeting of the Beatles' Apple record label. The song-wide theme is one of freedom and escape, and its creation coincided with Harrison, John Lennon and Ringo Starr having parted with manager Allen Klein in March 1973, leading to improved relations between McCartney and his fellow ex-Beatles. The original demos for this and other tracks on Band on the Run were stolen shortly after Wings arrived in Lagos, Nigeria, to begin recording the album. With the band reduced to a trio consisting of McCartney, his wife Linda, and Denny Laine, "Band on the Run" was recorded at EMI's Lagos studio and completed at AIR Studios in London.


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It was symbolic: "If we ever get out of here … All I need is a pint a day" … [In the Beatles] we'd started off as just kids really, who loved our music and wanted to earn a bob or two so we could get a guitar and get a nice car. It was very simple ambitions at first. But then, you know, as it went on it became business meetings and all of that … So there was a feeling of "if we ever get out of here", yeah. And I did.

– Paul McCartney, to Clash Music in 2010[5]

In a 1973 interview with Paul Gambaccini, McCartney stated that the lyric "if we ever get out of here" was inspired by a remark made by George Harrison during one of the Beatles' many business meetings. McCartney recalled: "He was saying that we were all prisoners in some way [due to the ongoing problems with their company Apple] … I thought it would be a nice way to start an album."[nb 1] McCartney added, referring to his inspiration for "Band on the Run": "It's a million things … all put together. Band on the run – escaping, freedom, criminals. You name it, it's there."[6]

In a 1988 interview with Musician magazine, McCartney noted the drug busts musicians of the late 1960s and early 1970s experienced as an inspiration for the "Band on the Run", also referencing the "desperado" image he attributed to bands like the Byrds and the Eagles as an influence. McCartney, who had been having legal trouble involving pot possession, said, "We were being outlawed for pot ... And our argument on ['Band on the Run'] was 'Don't put us on the wrong side ... We're not criminals, we don't want to be. So I just made up a story about people breaking out of prison.'"[7]

According to Mojo contributor Tom Doyle, the song's lyrics, recalled through memory following the robbery of the band's demo tapes for the Band on the Run album, were altered to reflect on the band's then-current status, "stuck inside the four walls of the small, cell-like studio, faced with grim uncertainty."[8]

"Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five", the closing track of the Band on the Run album, concludes with a brief excerpt of the chorus.[9]


"Band on the Run" is a three-part medley, with the first section being a slow ballad, the second featuring a funk rock style,[10] and the final a country-esque section.[10] The lyrics of the entire song, however, are related, with all being based around a general theme of freedom and escape.[11][12]


The original demo recording for "Band on the Run", as well as multiple other tracks from the album, was stolen from the McCartneys by a group of thugs while Paul McCartney and Wings were recording in Lagos, Nigeria.[5] Robbed at knife-point, they relinquished the demos, only recovering the songs through memory.[8] Paul McCartney later remarked, "It was stuff that would be worth a bit on eBay these days, you know? But no, we figured the guys who mugged us wouldn’t even be remotely interested. If they’d have known, they could have just held on to them and made themselves a little fortune. But they didn’t know, and we reckoned they’d probably record over them."[5]

The song was recorded in two parts, in different sessions. The first two were taped in Lagos while the third section was recorded in October 1973 at AIR Studios in London.[13]


Originally, Paul McCartney planned not to release any singles from Band on the Run, a strategy he compared to that used by The Beatles.[14] However, he was convinced by Capitol Records promotion man Al Coury to release singles from the album, resulting in the single release of "Jet" and "Band on the Run".[15]

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Al [Coury, promotion man for Capitol Records] released 'Jet,' which I wasn't even thinking of releasing as a single, and 'Band on the Run' too. He single-handedly turned [Band on the Run] around.[15]

Paul McCartney

"Band on the Run", backed with "Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five", was released in America on 8 April 1974 as the follow-up single to Paul McCartney and Wings' top-ten hit "Jet". The song was a smash hit for the band, becoming McCartney's third solo American chart-topping single and Wings' second.[3] The single was later released in Britain (instead backed with "Zoo Gang", the theme song to the television show of the same name), reaching number 3 on the British charts.[4] The song was also a top 40 single in multiple European countries, such as the Netherlands (number 7),[16] Belgium (number 21),[17] and Germany (number 22).[18]

The US radio edit was 3:50 in length. The difference was largely caused by the removal of the middle or the second part of the song, as well as the verse that starts with "Well, the undertaker drew a heavy sigh …"[19]

The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies.[20] It was the second of five number-one singles for the band on the Billboard Hot 100.[3] In 1974, Billboard ranked it number 22 on its Top Pop Singles year-end chart.[21] Billboard also listed the song as Paul McCartney's sixth most successful chart hit of all time, excluding Beatles releases.[22]

"Band on the Run" has also been featured on numerous McCartney/Wings compilation albums, including Wings Greatest,[23] All the Best!,[24] and Wingspan: Hits and History.[25] The song is also performed in many of McCartney's live shows, with a live version being included on the 1976 live album Wings over America.[26]


An independent film produced by Michael Coulson while he was a college student in the mid 1970s was later included in The McCartney Years video compilation as well as the 2010 re-issue of the album Band on the Run. It served mostly as a tribute to the Beatles, featuring montages of still pictures from their career. Wings were not shown. The video ends with a collage of Beatles pictures much like the album cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[27]

In 2014, a new video for "Band on the Run" was created. The video was designed by Ben Ib, an artist who created tour visuals for Paul McCartney (as well as Roger Waters and The Smashing Pumpkins) and the cover for Paul McCartney's 2013 solo album New.[28] In the video, all of the objects, including the "band on the run" itself, are made up of words.[29]


The song was praised by former bandmate and songwriting partner, John Lennon, who considered it "a great song and a great album".[30] In 2014, Billboard praised "Band on the Run" for having "three distinct parts that don't depend on a chorus yet still manage to feel anthemic."[22] AllMusic critic Stewart Mason called the track "classic McCartney", lauding the song for "manag[ing] to be experimental in form yet so deliciously melodic that its structural oddities largely go unnoticed."[10]

Paul McCartney and Wings won the Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus for "Band on the Run" at the 17th Annual Grammy Awards.[31] NME ranked the song as the tenth best song of the 1970s, as well as the fifteenth best solo song by an ex-Beatle.[32][33] In 2010, AOL Radio listeners voted "Band on the Run" the best song of Paul McCartney's solo career, achieving a better ranking than "Maybe I'm Amazed" and "Silly Love Songs".[34] In 2012, Rolling Stone readers ranked the song as McCartney's fourth best song of all time, behind "Maybe I'm Amazed", "Hey Jude", and "Yesterday".[35] Rolling Stone readers also ranked the song the fifth best solo song by ex-members of The Beatles.[36]


Chart performance[]

Other appearances[]

  • The song is featured on Guitar Hero World Tour on the main set list.[43] Both the master recording and a live version were added to the Rock Band series as downloadable content.
  • "Band on the Run" appeared in the 2014 film Boyhood.
  • "Band on the Run" appears as diegetic music during the execution of a Khmer Rouge rebel in the 1984 film The Killing Fields.

Cover versions[]

  • Former Wings member Denny Laine covered "Band on the Run" on his 1996 album Wings at the Sound of Denny Laine.[44]
  • A cover version by Owsley was included on the 2001 tribute album Listen to What the Man Said.
  • A cover version was recorded in 2007 by Foo Fighters as their contribution to the Radio 1 Established 1967 album.
  • A cover version by Heart was included on the 2014 tribute album The Art of McCartney.


  1. Speaking to Clash Music in 2010, however, he said: "I don’t remember that being a George line. I don’t know about that."[5]



  1. "RIAA Gold and Platinum". RIAA. Retrieved 12 October 2012.
  2. "Certified Awards Search". BPI. Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-12. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 "Paul McCartney Charts and Awards". allmusic. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Official Charts: Paul McCartney". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Harper 2010.
  6. Gambaccini 1976.
  7. McGee 2003, pp. 223–224.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Doyle 2014, pp. 92.
  9. Jackson 2012, pp. 122.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Mason, Stewart. "Band on the Run (song) review". AllMusic.
  11. Rodriguez 2010, pp. 160.
  12. Jackson 2012, pp. 108–109.
  13. Perasi 2013, pp. 103.
  14. Badman 2009.
  15. 15.0 15.1 McGee 2003, pp. 59–60.
  16. 16.0 16.1 " Paul McCartney discography". Hung Medien. MegaCharts. Retrieved 2 August 2011.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Belgian Chart". Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  18. 18.0 18.1 "". GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  19. Wiener 1994, pp. 396.
  20. [1][dead link]
  21. "Top Pop Singles" Billboard December 26, 1974: TA-8
  22. 22.0 22.1 "Paul McCartney's Top 10 Billboard Hits". Billboard.
  23. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Wings Greatest". allmusic.
  24. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "All the Best". allmusic. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  25. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Wingspan: Hits and History". allmusic. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  26. Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Wings Over America". allmusic. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  27. "Wings - Band On The Run (Original Video)". Youtube. Retrieved 6 April 2013.
  28. "New Lyric Video: 'Band on the Run'". Paul McCartney. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  29. Wilkening, Matthew. "Paul McCartney, 'Band on the Run' Lyric Video – Exclusive Premiere". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 7 April 2015.
  30. Doyle 2014, pp. 100.
  31. "Paul McCartney - Awards". Grammy Awards.
  32. "100 Best Tracks of the Seventies". New Musical Express.
  33. Beaumont, Mark. "The Best Of The Post-Beatles". New Musical Express. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  34. Rae Votta, "10 Best Paul McCartney Songs", AOL Radio, April 2010 (retrieved 25 June 2012).
  35. "Readers' Poll: What Is the Best Paul McCartney Song of All Time?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  36. "Readers' Poll: The 10 Greatest Solo Beatle Songs". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  37. "Canadian Chart". Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  38. "Japanese Chart". Retrieved 17 November 2014.
  39. "flavour of new zealand - search listener". Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  40. "The Top 200 Singles of '74". RPM. 28 December 1974. Retrieved 6 December 2010.
  41. "Top Selling Singles for 1974". Music Week. London, England: Spotlight Publications: 20. 4 January 1975.
  42. "Billboard Top 100 - 1974". Archived from the original on 25 November 2010. Retrieved 2011-01-03. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  43. "Activision Unveils Full Guitar Hero(R) World Tour Set List". 26 October 2008. Archived from the original on 9 August 2010. Retrieved 9 July 2011. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)
  44. "Performs the Hits of Wings". Allmusic. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  45. "Paul McCartney watched by Yoko Ono in Liverpool as Dave Grohl helps out". New Musical Express. Archived from the original on 12 February 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2009. Unknown parameter |deadurl= ignored (|url-status= suggested) (help)


  • Badman, Keith (2009). The Beatles: Off The Record 2 - The Dream is Over: Off the Record. Omnibus Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Doyle, Tom (2014). Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s. Ballantine Books. ISBN 978-0804179140.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Gambaccini, Paul (1976). Paul McCartney: In His Own Words. Music Sales Corp. ISBN 978-0966264951.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Harper, Simon (2010). "The Making Of Paul McCartney". Clash Music. Retrieved 14 March 2015.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Jackson, A.G. (2012). Still the Greatest: The Essential Solo Beatles Songs. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810882225.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • McGee, Garry (2003). Band on the Run: A History of Paul McCartney and Wings. Taylor Trade Publishing.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Perasi (2013). Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013). L.I.L.Y. Publishing. ISBN 978-88-909122-1-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Rodriguez, Robert (2010). Fab Four FAQ 2.0: The Beatles' Solo Years, 1970-1980. Backbeat Books. ISBN 0879309687.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Spizer, Bruce (2005). The Beatles Solo on Apple Records. 498 Productions. ISBN 0-9662649-5-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wiener, Allen J. (1994). The Beatles: The Ultimate Recording Guide. Bob Adams Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[]

  • Template:MetroLyrics song
Preceded by
"The Streak" by Ray Stevens
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
8 June 1974
Succeeded by
"Billy Don't Be a Hero" by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods
Canadian RPM Singles Chart number-one single
8 June 1974
Succeeded by
"Sundown" by Gordon Lightfoot

Template:Wings Template:Paul McCartney