Happiness

Classic Album covers : Band On The Run - Wings

Band on the Run by Paul McCartney & Wings, was released in the UK on December 7 1973. It was Wings’ third album

The date is Sunday 28 October 1973. Macca and his band have just endured a harrowing six weeks in Lagos, Nigeria, including the defections of guitarist Henry McCullough and drummer Denny Seiwell, a suspected hert attack for Paul which turned out to be a bronchial spasm, Paul and Linda being robbed at knifepoint and accusations by a local Afro-beat star and political activist that McCartney was coming to Lagos to “exploit and steal” African music!

Two days earlier, Wings, mightily productive, had released “Helen Wheels” as their new single; now they were going to create the sleeve for their second album of the year.The idea for the cover echoed ever so slightly another record with which Mr McCartney was strongly associated: Sgt Pepper

For that sleeve, back in 1967, four real people had posed among cardboard cut-outs and wax effigies that combined to make up a crowd of famous faces. Now, to depict a band on the run, there were nine famous people, in prison uniform, breaking out of jail. About to scale a wall to complete the breakout, however, the escapees are framed in the harsh glare of a guard’s searchlight

Three of these nine comprised Paul, Linda and fellow Wings bandmate Denny Laine, the other six were celebrities certainly recognisable to the British observer, two or three of them known also beyond the UK’s shores. Sleevewise, left to right, those trying to Run numbered Michael Parkinson, Kenny Lynch, Paul, James Coburn (who happened to be in Britain at the time filming The Internecine Project), Linda, Clement Freud’, Christopher Lee, Denny Laine, and John Conteh

All six celebrities had been summoned to Osterley Park in West London, a mere vapour trail away from Heathrow Airport - where - in the lake-dotted grounds of the 16th-century Osterley House - a brick wall adjacent to a gravel path had been selected as the prime location for the cover photo

One by one the Band wishing to Run arrived from their luncheon rendezvous, to be met not only by the McCartneys chosen photographer Clive Arrowsmith, but also a film crew under the direction of Barry Chattington, exposing the events on to 16mm

Handily, or perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence, Sunday 28 October was the first day of the 1973 British winter time, Britons having turned back their clocks by one hour just the night before. This meant that the darkness necessary for the session fell quickly, late in the afternoon, shortly after the prisoners-to-be had made their way to a locker room inside Osterley House, where they changed into the garb they would wear for the shoot

While Linda moved around the room taking Polaroids, Paul chatted comfortably with Conteh and Parkinson, jested with Parkinson’s children, who had come along to watch the fun, and prompted a brief “Misery” duet with Kenny Lynch that turned back the calendar ten years - Lynch had been the first artist to record a cover version of a Beatles song when, in March 1963, he released the Please Please Me track as a single simultaneous with the Fab Four’s own version. Linda then grouped together half a dozen of the nine for an informal shot that prompted Paul to joke “This is the cover. Forget the prison outfits!”

If this easy-going atmosphere conveys a sense of confidence in what was to follow, then it ought not, for it seems that none of the six celebrity invitees knew precisely what was in store for them. So it was on a need-to-know basis that Clement Freud sidled up to Paul and asked him, blankly, “What do you have in mind?”.

“Prison,” Paul replied, in a single word

“A mixed prison?”

“No”

“No women ?”

“No. Well, there is one,” Paul responded, pointing to his partner, “but we”re going to have to do her over”

Suitably “done over” - her face paled and long-hair tucked under the prison uniform - Linda looked of a kind among the eight males as they took up their positions in front of the brick wall. Clive Arrowsmith ran the show from here on, perched up a ladder and bawling instructions at his famous convicts by way of a megaphone

“Get those children off the wall”

“Are they stuck up there?”

“OK, everyone, react as if you”ve just all been caught by the light”

“You really must stay very still for that one second, please”

“Yes, that’s good, now FREEZE !”

As one might expect, the perfect shot was not the first to be taken, and a good roll or two of film was exposed so that the best image could be selected later

Although the light was limited - had Chattington’s film crew added extra lighting it would have spoiled Arrowsmith’s rig - the wisdom in having the event shot too on to 16mm was proven on the 1975-76 Wings world tour, when what appeared to be the Band On The Run image, back-projected during performances of the song, most effectively began to move

By this time, record-store tills around the world had long been ringing the sound of success for Wings third album … with millions of copies of the sleeve being appreciated alongside the music

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December 12, 2012

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