After Mind Games, which had some successful singles but was generally regarded as a little, well, weird, Paul took the reins and told the lads that it was time to go corporate, write some more accessible tunes, do a whirlwind world tour with flashing lights, and bring back the whole running-from-screaming-teenage-girls thing. But not sacrifice artistic integrity, of course. John and George reluctantly agreed that there could be worse things, and of course Ringo embraced the idea wholeheartedly.
So the “extra feature” this time is a sample Beatles live set list from 1974. You heard it here first.
Band On the Run
What Is Life
Give Me Some Truth
I Saw Her Standing There
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Let It Be
I Want You (Can’t you just see it with the sudden ending, lights going black? Love it.)
Maybe I’m Amazed
I Should’ve Known Better
All I can say is… man, I’d like to be at that show! Here’s the multi-million-selling album that whirlwind tour supported, the one post-1970 album that everyone would have.
“Band on the Run” – Only fitting Paul gets to open this album. At least half of the real album from which this hails suffers from overplaydom, of course, but before you go “ho-hum” and skip over both this and “Jet,” think back to the first time you heard them, whenever that was. It blew you away, did it not? And the video is pretty cool too. Is the “stuck inside these four walls” part referring to a feeling of imprisonment within a certain band with four members? Perhaps, but it’s cryptic enough that it can still be here. You can’t really leave it out.
“Whatever Gets You Through the Night” – John probably wrote this song in less time than it takes to sing it, but that’s part of its charm. A groove that’s pure 1974, and you can either pretend Elton was invited to provide backing vocals on the Beatles album (not an unprecedented move, there were a couple ‘guest stars’ even on real Beatles albums later on) or pretend that’s Paul doing falsetto. I love that I had to click “ignore” for the grammatical inconsistency of the title before being able to add a hyperlink.
“Jet” – The third of the upbeat ‘70s classics that kick off this album with a bang. See comment for “Band On the Run.” Totally cryptic lyrics that still baffle me – is it about John? Is it about David Bowie? Is it about Paul’s dog? Who really knows?
“#9 Dream” – I recently learned that the woman who whispers “John… John… John…” is not Yoko Ono but in fact May Pang (pictured with John in our last installment), the woman who John had an 18-month relationship with during his separation from Yoko. Did I mention I love ‘70s videos? Though call me crazy, but at about 1:50 our genius friend seems to be mining his olefactory region for mineral resources, if you get the picture…
“Dark Horse” – The album with the same name gets a bad rap, and indeed it’s got its embarrassments, but at least they’re memorable embarrassments, whereas many of the songs on George’s prior and following records are just plain hard to remember in my opinion. And you can’t argue with this track, so intelligently crafted I can almost forgive the flute.
“Bluebird” – A guilty pleasure. This was an obvious attempt by Paul to recapture a little Beatledom, both in the music and the title, so of course it fits in well.
“What You Got” – I can see John going “all right, we’ll do a mainstream record, but you’ve got to let me rock out at least once. I’ll do it in a funky way.” I don’t know why I never really noticed this track until recently; it’s pretty amazing.
“No No Song” – Another tough choice, what to include from Ringo’s Goodnight Vienna album. I thought it was about time he got another somewhat-silly song, a la “Octopus’s Garden,” as part of the whole “Give the people what they want” feel of this record. This still cracks me up.
“So Sad” – the other reason not to dismiss Dark Horse entirely, one of George’s many delicate, sweeping ballads of the ‘70s with his signature brand of guitar-weeping. The guitar on this one almost sounds new-wave-ish.
“Junior’s Farm” – Lest you think Wings were just Paul and a few other guys with no talent, Jimmy McCullough’s guitar on this one is killer. But George could’ve handled it too. In my opinion, if this had been the penultimate song on Band on the Run as opposed to the tedious “Picasso’s Last Words,” that album would be deserving of the ‘masterpiece’ tag it often gets. As it is, I think it’s a notch below that, but of course still a must for any rock and roll disciple.
“Nobody Loves You (When You’re Down And Out)” – John gets soulful again and provides some contrast to the slickness of the most of this album. I originally thought this wouldn’t fit well, but somehow it works here, setting the stage for…
“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” – it had to be done, just like in Band on the Run, since it reprises the title track, and builds to a climax that can’t really be followed. This really was disco before the term was in common usage, and because it was so different than most of what was out there at the time, the Beatles would’ve gone for it, I think.
Band on the Run b/w Simply Shady, #1, 1974
Whatever Gets You Through the Night, b/w No Words, #2, 1974 (kept out of the #1 slot by Paul Anka’s “You’re Having My Baby,” much to the disgust of Beatle fans across America)
Dark Horse b/w Meat City, #6, 1974 (would’ve been bigger with the Beatle brand name)
Junior’s Farm b/w Husbands And Wives, #1, 1974 (why not? It rocks.)
WELL-KNOWN SONGS THAT DIDN’T QUITE MAKE IT
“Let Me Roll It” – tough to omit, but the guitar riff does kind of annoy me after two non-stop minutes of it, so it got the axe (no pun intended).
“Goodnight Vienna” – I just prefer “No No” to this.
“Ding Dong Ding Dong” – The B-side to a holiday release of “Merry Xmas (War Is Over)” is about all I’ll concede for this one. Sorry George, we love you dearly, but…
Not much else. The famous stuff all either made it or will make it next time on Part 5 (1975), where the Beatles take a Mystery Tour-esque left turn!