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The Film That Reminds Paul McCartney of the Concept Behind ‘Band on the Run’

By Hannah Wigandt,


A classic film reminds Paul McCartney of the concept behind his 1973 song, “Band on the Run.” The word “band” in the name means a couple of different things.
Paul McCartney | Michael Putland/Getty Images

Paul McCartney said his song ‘Band on the Run’ reminds him of a certain film

In The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, Paul wrote that the concept of his song, “Band on the Run,” and its album remind him of a particular classic film and even a children’s cartoon.

“Certain aspects of it remind me of ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,'” Paul wrote. “The undertaker is ringing a bell because he’s upset he has so few customers. Sailor Sam’s a character out of ‘Rupert Bear,’ the comic strip by Mary Tourtel. But he fitted in somehow.”

Sailor Sam pops up in “Band on the Run” in the lyric, “And the jailer man and sailor Sam/ Were searching every one/ For the band on the run.”

The cartoon and the 1969 classic western starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford weren’t Paul’s only inspiration for the hit song.

Paul on what the word ‘band’ in ‘Band on the Run’ means

In The Lyrics, Paul wrote that the word “band” in “Band on the Run” “refers mostly to the idea of a group of people who’ve escaped prison. A band of desperadoes.”

Shortly after The Beatles split in 1970, Paul watched Johnny Cash and his band perform on TV. Their performance inspired Paul to start a new band, Wings. With only 11 songs, Paul and Wings toured universities around the U.K., charging only 50p, just to get a following.

“And if you start a new group, what do you do? You play small gigs around the country,” Paul told the Independent. “This time, it was a bit more difficult because people knew who I was, but something told us we had to do it that way. We were paying our dues.”

Wings’ first couple of albums were bumpy. However, when they entered the recording studio for Band on the Run, Paul wanted it to be unlike anything they’d ever done before.

In Wings, Paul felt as if he was breaking away from the norm and becoming a band of desperadoes. They even ran away to an exotic place to record the album. A change of scenery would breathe some fresh air into the band.

“I wanted to find something that turned me on, rather than just getting that ‘Here we go again’ feeling,” Paul said. “I was imagining sunny skies, uplifting African visions, and encasing my songs in that atmosphere. It wasn’t quite like that.”

In the end, Paul and Wings recorded Band on the Run in Lagos, Nigeria, which wasn’t the best idea. A band of thugs mugged Paul and his wife, Linda, one night.

The former Beatle said the song is about freedom

Paul thinks of a gang of outlaws and a band of desperadoes freshly out of prison when he listens to “Band on the Run.” However, all those groups, and pretty much everyone, want the same thing: freedom. That’s what the song is really about.

“The main thing is it’s a story song,” Paul wrote in The Lyrics. “A song about freedom. A lot of us at that time felt free from the strictures of civilisation. That’s one of the great things about rock and roll: it does allow you to break rules. One rule often broken is that a piece of music has to be highly complex to be any good.”

Paul felt he was breaking the rules when he formed Wings and recorded Band on the Run. He wanted to be free of the person everyone saw when they looked at him: Paul McCartney, the Beatle. So, in a way, Paul was a desperado, free of prison.

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