05 December, 2010

The Bonus Discs - Band on the Run

Bloody hell! How many bloody times do I have to buy the same bloody album to get all the bloody extras they add to it?

That’s a fair question, but since this is a review of the bonus DVD that comes with the special edition (if you need me to tell you what a great album Band on the Run is, then there’s not much I can do for you), let’s look at it a different way. Imagine the near-mythical Wings film One Hand Clapping was finally released after 35 years in the vaults and was available from Amazon or your local for under $30. Most McCartney enthusiasts would definitely be interested in that. Now imagine it came with the free copy of Band on the Run and a bonus CD of selections of the film. Bargain, right? So let’s approach it from that angle before discussing if it’s any good.

The film is mostly fly-on-the-wall footage of Wings rehearsing at Abbey Road studios. It introduces the second 5-piece line-up of Wings – adding Jimmy McCulloch, who looks barely out of puberty here, and Geoff Britton, who lasted less than a year in the band. This may have had something to do with the film being shelved. The context of what’s happening is hard to glean. There are clearly rehearsals but there are also recordings going on as we hear the band discussing which take is best. There also seem to be overdubs happening for the Band on the Run album and an orchestral session for Live and Let Die which is odd because that song was already out when this film was made. They might have spliced footage from the original session in with the rehearsals we see here. Did they really make the orchestra dress up in their dinner jackets and bow ties for a recording session, or was that just because it was being filmed?

We hear interviews with every band member but these are not to camera. Instead, they are mostly played over the documentary footage and often over the music. Grrr!

A bit over half-way through, the film switches gears and we see Paul solo at the piano talking about his fondness for cabaret. He makes mention of the song Suicide (written for Sinatra but rejected) but doesn’t play it. He does play I’ll Give You a Ring which was eventually released on the B-side of Take It Away, and two songs unreleased elsewhere – Let’s Love and All of You. Although Paul feigns some embarrassment and self deprecation during this section, you can tell he’s a total ham and he’s loving it.

It’s this enthusiasm that shines through, especially when he is directing other musicians. He may be a show-off but we see how Paul will do anything to get a great performance from his players. This is especially noticable when he does a live vocal during the orchestral overdubs for Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five just to get the maximum energy in the performance. And the audio mix pushes the bass. Win!

One the downside, the film has not been restored in any way so visually, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a made-for-television film from 1975. Also, the entire disc is formatted for 16:9 which means that if you still have a 4:3 television, as many still do, you’ll get black bars on every side of the screen. It might just be my player, but I had that happen even when I set it to pan & scan.

Having said all that, it’s possible that One Hand Clapping is intended merely as the bonus feature of the DVD, but I think to any long-term McCartney fan, it’s going to be the main attraction. Other features of the disc include the videos for Band on the Run, Mamunia and Helen Wheel plus a promotional film for the album. Since all of these have already been released on The McCartney Years, it’s reasonable to assume that anyone considering this release already has them. There’s also fifteen minutes of behind-the-scenes footage from the cover shot (half as much would have been plenty) and Wings in Lagos which is some short home movies soundtracked by a longer version of Band on the Run (A Different Perspective) which was originally done for a BBC promo.

While it may be a drag that Paul is still presenting his work according to what the conventional wisdom says is good, rather than rehabilitating some underrated greats, there’s still more than enough on this disc to make it a worthwhile purchase for anyone with more than a passing interest in Paul McCartney and/or Wings. Here’s hoping they put the James Paul McCartney television special on one of the other upcoming reissues.

Feature: * * ½
Extras: * *
Audio: LPCM Stereo
Worth paying extra for? Yes, and worth buying the album again if you’ve always wanted One Hand Clapping.

And for anyone who’s interested, here’s a visual comparison of the three different Band on the Run remasters,

Band on the Run - original CD release

Band on the Run - 25th Anniversary edition remaster

Band on the Run - 2010 remaster


  1. Bill ~ Great review. I wasn't going to buy the newly released Band On the Run, but the bonus CD sounds interesting enough to want to buy it. I love watching the Beatles in studio composing their music.

    Hey Jude

  2. Thanks Jude.

    I think if One Hand Clapping were released on its own, a lot of long-term fans would be interested in it but because it comes bundled with Band on the Run, there's a backlash. It's understandable and equally, Paul is a good businessman and knows more people will see the film if it's sold with the album than if it had a standalone release.

    By the way, if you're considering buying it from Amazon, could you consider clicking on the cover photo above? If you use that link, I might get a few cents kickback for the referral. ;) It's on special at the moment too. Kerching!