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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wings "Band On The Run" Isolated Bass and Drums

There's nothing like listening to the isolated bass and drums of a track to really feel its essence. The essence of Wings' "Band On The Run" (from the album of the same name) is totally Paul McCartney, as he played both bass and drums on the track.

Most of the album was recorded at the EMI studios in Lagos, Nigeria after Sir Paul decided he wanted to try recording in a more exotic place than England. Just prior to departing for Nigeria, both lead guitarist Henry McCollough and drummer Denny Seiwell left the band. Paul and band members Linda McCartney and Denny Laine decided to carry on anyway, with Paul now taking on drum and lead guitar duties as well as bass. Here are some things to listen for.

1. The drums are amazingly solid for someone who doesn't spend most of his time playing drums. Listen especially to the ride cymbal work in the first part of the song, which is like a metronome.

2. While Paul can lay down a drum beat, he has a little trouble with fills. Listen to the one at 3:08 and at 4:50, both of which are a bit lazy and late.

3. Paul's bass playing is mostly behind the beat and sometimes even flams with the drums. This happens throughout the song, but especially in the first section of the song. Today this all would have been fixed if not during the recording, then in editing afterward.

4. He is one of the most innovative bass players ever though. McCartney is noted for coming up with melodic parts that most other bass players or arrangers would never think of. Listen to the bass part of the last section (the "Band on the run" part). Few players would come up with something similar.

5. The recording is great, even though it was done on an 8 track machine in less than ideal conditions. Geoff Emerick provides one of his best engineering jobs.



Larry Menshek said...

Hey Bob! I'm unable to listen at the moment, but I saw your remarks about McCartney's bass playing and how we would "fix" it if he recorded it today. I suppose given modern technology somebody would indeed have tried to repair Paul's awkward playing, but considering that this is one of the finest efforts of one of our hardest-working composer/musicians, perhaps his most consistent and emotionally satisfying post-Beatles work, having received almost universally positive reviews, sold over 3 million copies and innumerable downloads and remains to this day dear to the hearts of millions of listeners, and considering what can happen to the "magic" when you start tearing a track apart, don't you think maybe there are some "mistakes" that are better left alone?

Anonymous said...

No doubt Mr. Owsinski is expressing how the modern engineer work flow would approach this, not himself.

Rand said...

Paul McCartney - the man is still a Musical God we've been privileged to have shared this time in history with.

The innumerably positive adjectives of beautiful music that Paul, and his fellow Beatles bandmates have given us since that magical beginning in the early 1960's have undeniably enriched our world and lives.

Granted no one is perfect, but being the most successful songwriter in history over-rides that generality and is nothing less than truly inspirational and worthy of the greatest respect and admiration.

Larry Menshek said...

I don't know, Anonymous. Maybe you should let Mr. Owsinski speak for himself on that.

My point is that based on the full mix that was released and the results obtained, there was obviously nothing to fix here, and I'm glad nobody tried.

Bobby Owsinski said...

I didn't say that the part should be fixed, only that if were done today there are parts that definitely would be fixed. I'm pretty sure Sir Paul would agree, as you don't hear this in any of his modern work. He's one of the greatest musicians ever (a modern Beethoven, if you will) and his track record speaks for itself, but there are a number very obvious flams that modern product would correct, for better or worse.

Larry Menshek said...

Fair enough, Bob. I still don't believe we should do something simply because we can. A production team needs to sense the point at which the drive for a "perfect" track has taken things as far as they can go without dampening the musicality. I am thinking of lots of sessions during which somebody said something like "That was great! Let's do it again," only to get a succession of progressively worse takes until many hours later, exhausted, everybody in the room settled for something that was mechanically sound but had no spark.

As to whether Paul would fix something like this today, I think we're both guessing. I don't have access to listen to isolated tracks from McCartney's latest work, but I'll stick to my guess that he'd let something like this slide, and rightly so.


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