Band On The Run

Album: Band On The Run (1973)
Charted: 3 1


  • McCartney wrote this song in response to drug laws that criminalized him and his friends (including fellow "bands on the run" Eagles and Byrds). "We're not criminals," he explained. "We just would rather do this than hit the booze - which had been a traditional way to do it. We felt that this was a better move."
  • Shortly after the Band On The Run album was released, McCartney told Melody Maker: "The basic idea about the band on the run is a kind of prison escape. At the beginning of the album the guy is stuck inside four walls, and eventually breaks out. There is a thread, but it's not a concept album."

    Asked if this was a reference to Wings escaping from The Beatles, he replied: "Sort of – yeah. I think most bands on tour are on the run."
  • The song begins in a metaphorical prison ("stuck inside these four walls..."). Where the orchestra comes in is where McCartney envisioned a hole being blasted in one of the walls, and the subsequent escape.
  • Paul McCartney combined pieces of different songs to make this one. The Beatles did a lot of this on their Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road albums, since it provided a way to use unfinished songs. "A Day In The Life" is a good example of two Beatles songs combined to make one.
  • During a lengthy meeting with executives at The Beatles' Apple Records, George Harrison complained, "If I ever get out of this house." McCartney remembered the line and used it years later in this song.
  • McCartney recorded the album in Lagos, Nigeria along with his wife Linda and guitarist Denny Laine. The other Wings decided not to make the trip, which worked out fine in the end: McCartney considers the album his best post-Beatles work. He told Word in 2005: "I was on drums and guitar a lot, mainly because the drummer decided to leave the group the night before and one of the guitar players decided not to come! So we got that solo element into an otherwise 'produced' album."
  • This song was used to nice effect in the movie The Killing Fields, where a young woman with a transistor radio listens to this in the wake of a brutal US bombing of a Cambodian village when suspected rebels are being rounded up and shot. The song exemplified the contrast between the sort of druggy, frivolous Pop culture of the 1970s West and the stark realities of the Third World at the same time. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Louis - Camden, NJ
  • History shows this song to be a forebear of the "Yacht Rock" genre, which is made up of intricate soft rock classics that bear repeated listening. The leading Yacht Rock cover band, the Yacht Rock Review, includes the song in their set. Their vocalist Nicholas Niespodziani says it's the most deceptively difficult song in the Yacht Rock rubric. "It just has a lot of stops and starts and different twists, and then the vocals are really high at the end," he told us. "So it's a pretty high level of difficulty I would say."
  • Paul McCartney explained the song's meaning to The Mail on Sunday's Event magazine: "I wrote it as a story to sum up the transition from captivity to freedom. When the tempo changes at (sings), 'The rain exploded with a mighty crash,' I do that in my concert and that always feels like a freeing moment."

Comments: 69

  • Admiral Jet from EarthI briefly caught the tail portion of a documentary claiming the song is about a band of prisoners who supposedly escaped their confines, but most likely were actually murdered.
  • Seventh Mist from 7th HeavenThe music teacher at my junior high was crazy about this song when it came out and had the band play it at every sporting event.
  • Christian from BlunhamWorld Health Organization
  • Al Chance from Homosassa, FlFrom the standpoint of music appreciation, this song is quite complex encompassing at least 5 distinct (or arguably as much as 7) "movements." It shows McCartney' ability as a consummate composer of the highest order, while getting us to sing along on the "hook."
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaKevin in Pa. nothing like a 12 string to make your ears and heart happy. like the tune. and for all of those who posted this question, for what it is worth, Gonna give it all away: to me that means they stashed loot of some kind(i know others will bring the drug factor in) and if it will get them out of prison or keep them out, they will give all the money away. To a registered charity: as i recall(and laws may have changed)if you give money to a well known charity, you don't have to pay taxes(taxes was always a bugaboo for those living in England(my late oldest brother was a CPA and he would laugh at the Harrison song Taxman) also to the person who asked about the picture on the front of the LP, i have read or heard somewhere, that some of the people there were parts of the band Wings, couldn't swear to it though
  • Randy from Houghton Lake, MiI agree with Henry but I would really like to see "Live and Let Die" live with all the explosions and fireworks. It looks incredible on youtube can't imagine what it must be like live.
  • Henry from Sanford, Florida, UsaFor me, it's a tough choice between "Band on the Run" and several other McCartney songs: "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey," "Live and Let Die," "Listen to What the Man Said," Silly Love Songs" and "Coming Up." But ultimately, I like "Band On The Run," for the following reasons: Opening riff, vocals, guitar & uptempo sound.
  • Jim from Connecticut, Usa@Helbs: I take "thought of giving it all away" to mean the narrator has a stash of loot somewhere that he's been imagining he'd give up in karmic exchange for his freedom. (It's a comically hypocritical jailhouse repentance; he sees his ill-gotten gains as his own, and trading them for freedom as a square deal.) He'd trade all of it to get out -- or almost all, of it, anyway: He'd leave himself a beer allowance -- enough for "a pint a day."

    @Don: I think the undertaker's heavy sigh means the escapees were NOT killed. He's sighing because he expected a payday for burying dead desperadoes, but it never came. The rabbits are still on the run.
  • Don from Indianapolis, In"The undertaker drew a heavy sigh, seeing no one else would come." means the police killed them trying to escape, and told everyone they got away. They didn't want to encourage being on the lam, just like Elton John wasn't singing about "electric boobs" in "Bennie and the Jets".
    It would make a great comment at AA, if you said the lyrics up until "all I need is a pint a day, if we ever get out of here"
  • John Sasso from Walnut Creek, CaStuck inside these four wall is Malkuth. We fell into the sun is Tiphareth. The desert is the path over the abyss. And the town that will never be found is Kether. This is a pretty basic cabalistic path working up the tree of life. Paul always was the occult side of the Beatles, and he continues it here.
  • Jihyon from Seoul, KoreaIn the "if I ever get out of here" part, does anyone know what he means when he's saying "thought of giving it all away to a registered charity" ? Like, giving what?- helbs, liverpool, Austria.
    To Helbs,
    in my opinion, since the song is about 'escaping' and 'being free' more than anything, I think what those phrases are saying is that 'I don't even need any money if I can have freedom.'
    I think I can relate to that, if I am stuck inside those four walls, set inside forever, I think I might think about giving it all away if I can ever get out of there.
    You know, money amount to nothing if you have no freedom.
  • Scott from Russell, NyBill from CA. I do believe the guitar is in fact McCartney's playing. I've heard a few songs from McCartney and Wings and this sounds like it's Paul playing guitar.
  • Bill from Lodi, CaI'm still trying to find out who played the opening guitar lines on "Band On The Run"? Is it Paul or Denny Laine? It has very unorthodox figuring's reminiscent of Paul's guitar style, and it doesn't seem like something Denny would come up with, does anyone know (for sure)?
  • Steve from Whittier, CaThis is a quite complex song [lke a growing number of Wings offerings!] An official Apple Records professional radio programme disc jockey edit took out the last notes with the same melody as the first section's last lyrics ["like"] at the 0:25 [the entire intor is 0:36-even listed so on the full single which is around 5:10] 0:25 mark, and [at 2:55 on this official radio promo and 03:06 on the full ength--after the second verse, chorus,instrumental break and breathlessly repeated "Oh there's a band on the run/Band on the run" part as one [the long main section], and a local station did even better, taking out the mid section ["never never gonna get outta here"] which occurs at at 1:04 on DJ edit, and 1:11 on actual single. The title sounds like "Man on the run".:)
  • Frank from Toronto, Onthe foo fighters made an awsome cover of this song
  • Imweezel from New York, NyWhen I hear this song I think about a great band touring a small southern town in the U.S. but getting a very cold reception by the establishment who is very paranoid and combative about their use of pot and their style and wants to lock them up and kick them out so they never come back to spread the style that threatens them so much. I absolutely love this song, the music and the changes show that they are true talent and the establishment needs not worry because they are real true artists.
  • Suzanne from Toyota, JapanThis song is about The Beatles. The original video for the song makes that clear. The video was not released for years as McCartney did not wish to be thought to be capitalizing on the success of The Beatles, plus he and Lennon were still fighting at this time. Lennon referred to this song as "Band on the Rag".
  • K from Nowhere, OnI saw this live a week ago (cheers for Paul, you wouldn't think he was 68 at all) and it was amazing. You can't help but join in the deafening scream when they get to the third phase of the song!
  • Brian from Boston, MaRic from Atlanta Ga.Paul got busted for pot in Japan in 1980 [Not a good year for Paul with John dying too,I just relized that Damn what a s--tty year] Anyway BTR came out in 1973.
  • Ric from Atlanta, GaWas Band on the Run before or after he got busted for pot in Japan? I've always thought he wrote it about being in jail. "If I ever get out of here", "jailer man and sailor sam were searching everyone", "county judge who held a grudge"... just curious!
  • Paul from Glasgow, United KingdomHi all, listening to the song, it does come across as two different parts/songs. The vocals on the first part sound more like a Beatles song (the harmonies couldn't be anyone but the Beatles) and Paul may have re-recorded the music when he was with the Wings but kept the original vocal tracks? Possibly the song was an unfinished Beatles song that Paul finally got the song he was happy with. The second part of the song (no close harmonies (not the Beatles) not even the same singers), feels like a different production and both 'parts' of the song put together with the instrumental bridges. Just an opinion, what do you all think? It is a great song either way, genius always shows through.
  • Brian from Boston, MaI have always been a big fan of Mccartney and I like this song. For some reason or another I never really tried to figure out what this song was about.This is odd because I usually try to figure out the meaning of most songs but I just took this for face value.Brian from Grand Forks ND thanks for that qoute. What Paul has said here makes a lot of sense.It is amazing to me how much time and money law enforcment puts into eradicating marijuana use. Who was Paul and other musicians of that time hurting when they smoked pot.I am not talking about heroine or even coke or any other hard drug I am talking about pot. Why is it people can get so drunk that they can throw up on themselves but they can't smoke some pot. No one has ever overdosed on pot.The mere fact that people do not get "hung over" after pot use should be some indication of the fact that it is not as bad for you as alchohol.How is Paul Mccartney smoking pot in any way shape or form a threat to anyone. The fact is it is not.Police officers time would be better spent waiting outside of bars to catch drunk drivers.How can you argue with that? The old argument that pot is a gateway drug to harder drugs is absolutally ridicoulous. I know of many pot smokers who do no other drugs.I don't even like to call pot a drug because when I think of drugs I think of heroine cocaine etc. Marijuana is so far removed from these drugs in terms of potency and danger factor to put in the same catagory is almost laughable It is like comparing Coca cola to whiskey.To legalize Marijuana would not mean that the whole world high all the time. The number of pot smokers would not outnumber the amount of people that drink alchohol.The violence associated with marijuana is mostly attributed to the dealers due to it being illegal.Pot smokers are gennerally peaceful.They are at the very least no more prone to violence than none pot smokers. Alchohol use however is a factor in a large majority of violent crimes.
  • David from Boston, MaI lived in Tucson for several years. My understanding from the locals is while Paul and Linda were living in Tucson (Linda was from there)tourists visiting the area were always trying to track down where they lived. The officials didn't like their open use of pot either, I agree. I always thought much of the song represented all of this. May just be a coincidence.
  • Mike from Matawan, NjWhere the 'F' are the lyrics???? Sun-umma-batches!!! Michael, from Kissimee? I think you've nailed it sir. The song always seemed very cryptic to me, but I was never able to quite piece it together. Well played, sir...well played. Yes....when that 12-string starts and the, "Well the rain exploded with a mighty crash...." begins, I defy anyone to feel s--ttee.
  • Carrie from Roanoke, VaI agree with Michael from Kissimmee. The song does seem to be about the Beatles trying to escape from their crazed fans. The undertaker line reminds me of "Eleanor Rigby", because in both songs, nobody came to the church/funeral.
  • Jim from Long Beach, CaThis song is one of Paul's many finest moments. It seems like he combined two songs together brilliantly. A Beatles trademark.
  • Chloe from St. Louis, MoAm I the only one that sees the beginning scene of "A Hard Day's Night" in my head during the chorus?
  • Ron from New Harmony, UtListen carefully to the background voices the second time the line, "If we ever get out of here" is sung. I was told, and after listening to it many times, I believe my son was correct when he said John Lennon is singing backup. I have yet to find anything published or on the internet that supports this theory. But if it's not Lennon, it could be Harrison as well because it has a very Beatle-esque harmonic sound to it.
  • Helbs from Liverpool, AustriaIn the "if I ever get out of here" part, does anyone know what he means when he's saying "thought of giving it all away to a registered charity" ? Like, giving what?
  • Nick from North Kingstown, RiBand on the Run is one of the greatest rock songs of all time. Pure Paul McCartney, from beginning to end.
  • Matt from New York, NyPlayable song in "Guitar Hero: World Tour", using the original master track.
  • Michael from Kissimmee, FlPaul has said many times this song was about Wings but I have said since it first came out it was about the Beatles. Check out the last verse...many people at the time this song came out were trying to get the Beatles back together by throwing money at them. Paul seems to be saying "We never will be found" meaning that part of his career was over.
    "The rain exploded..." line could be about the Beatles first appearance on the world stage; and "the undertaker..." line could be about Ringo, who appeared as an undertaker on the Abbey Road album.
    I don't know...I think this song is about the Beatles.
  • Bob from Southfield, MiThe cover of this album features a group of British Actors caught in a searchlight. I know that Christopher Lee is one of them but I don't know who the others are. During the 1976 "Wings Over America" tour, the band ran a video of this scene while they performed the song. The actors were speaking to each other, however, whatever they were saying was drowned out by the music.
  • Kevin from Reading , PaPaul's performances of this song on his most recent tours were excellent. When that bright, 12-string acoustic strum comes in on the "C" and leads into the "well the rain exploded with . . . ." it is such a feeling of euphoria for the crowd. It's like breaking through the clouds and into the light. Awesome!
  • Josh from Westborough, MaEasily one of the greatest songs of all time, coming from easily the GREATEST musical genius of all-time (i personally prefer billy joel, but mccartney was the greatest musical mind ever).
  • Christine from St-georges, Canadafoo fighter made a remake in 2007, Great !!!
  • Scott from Boston, MaLinda: "The Times They Are A-Changin" was a song by Bob Dylan.
  • Lars from Columbia/danish Import, ScIf you play the song backwards, it mentions pot.
  • David from Deerfield Beach, FlPosted on 11/7/2007. Is this a great song or what! Ya know, in the 1970's when I was a little kid I so loved Paul McCartney & Wings. Surprisingly, during all that time I never even knew that he was one of The Beatles until John Lennon got shot in 1980 when all the news brought it to my attention. That only cemented for me how great he was & how much his music has enriched my life. Wings did so many great songs - "Live And Let Die", "Silly Love Songs", "With A Little Luck", "Listen To What The Man Said", "Maybe I'm Amazed", "Jet", "Goodnight Tonight", and so many others. "Band On The Run" may very well be the best one of all. I later got the "Band On The Run" album. And what an excellent album! Every song. I especially like the 2 little sections in "1985" where they do that chordal church organ & piano underneath those beautiful vocal harmonies - SO uplifting! I feel very fortunate to have seen him twice in concert in 2002 & 2005. The 2002 "Back In The U.S." show was one of the best concerts I have ever seen. Oh, and by the way, I'm sure you all know that "Band On The Run" came out long before "Limelight" ever did - just encase anybody might've been wondering who it was that might've borrowed the idea for the riff from who (of course, it could be a coincidence that they sound similar, right?).
  • Dan from Los Angeles, CaTrivia: In the UK, the B-Side of this single was the non-LP instrumental, "Zoo Gang." In America, I believe the flipside was "Mamunia."
  • Doug from Oakland, CaThis song,though not intended this way,was to me about the Symbionese Liberation Army and their attempt to flee the forces of the law.They were actually a true"band on the run"in the Spring of 1974 when the song was a hit.
  • Linda from London, AlI LOVE LOVE LOVE this song! My first favorite part is the 'If I ever get out of here' part, and my second favorite part is the 'Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell into the sun'. I used to think it went 'Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we bellied on the sun'. At first I thought it was Paul singing about his days with the Beatles too, fyodor. But, according to Brian, it's about Wings and people treating them like outlaws for taking pot...well, lots of bands took pot, in the 60's too. Drugs were a big thing in the 60's, and 70's. They still are today, but I don't think as many regular people take them. I mean today it's all about gang members and bad celebrities (by that I mean jailbirds like Paris Hilton and people like Britney Spears or Lindsey Lohan or whatever) taking drugs. Back in the 60's, lots more regular, nice, good people took them. I mean, the Beatles were good people, not like vandals or wackos or anything - they promoted peace and stuff, and they took drugs. Lots of hippies were into drugs, and their motto was peace. The times, they are a-changin' (don't remember where I heard that). Well anyways this song and Paul McCartney and John Lennon and George Harrison and Ringo Starr all rock!!!
  • Krissy from Boston, MaI love this song it's my favortie by them. I found this viedo where can watch it.
  • Ryan from Shoreham, NyThe synthesizer [or whatever it is] reminds me of ZZ Top's "Pearl Necklace"
  • Cristina from Santiago, ChileBrian, do you know where did he say that?.
  • Nicole from Kenosha, WiI love this song so much, and how the beat of the song changes is very good. I can listen to his song over and over.
  • Jenny from Hereford, Englandyes Olivia ! it touches me in a way I could never explain, it is so wonderful... I love it so much
  • Greg from New Haven, CtIt's interesting to note the lines/words "Sailor Sam" and "but we (he) never will be found" also appear in the song Helen Wheels
  • Ken from Louisville, KyIn a 1975 Rolling Stone interview, John Lennon said "Band On The Run is a great song and a great album."
  • Eduardo from Santa Tecla, OtherAwesome song, it blews my mind. My brother maked a parody video of this song, very funny.
  • Ray from Spring, TxI thought I read somewhere that the lines "stuck inside these four walls - sent inside forever" was a reference to the final days of the Beatles when everyone was dreading working with each other.
  • Jon from Oakridge, OrA GREAT SONG. A true testement to McCartneys talent as a musician and philosopher.
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI always thought this song was somewhat of an attempt by McCartney to relive his Beatles days, or at least rekindle their image. After all, The Beatles were precisely a "band on the run" in the movie Help! But maybe not. :-) I'm proud of him that he's been at times so open about his marijuana use and thought it was no big deal, instead of claiming that he didn't inhale or regretted it or some such. Of course, he wasn't a politician! :-)
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaWow. I love how all the parts fit together so well. Interesting paul quote, but did the Eagles really smoke so much pot? It seems like they were more of a
    western non pot smoking band? Not like they never did drugs, but still. I can never sense this song coming.
  • Jonathan from Johnstown, PaROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That funky keyboard thingy is so wierd!!!
  • Joe from Baltimore, Md"Band On The Run" is undoubtedly the greatest Paul McCartney and Wings song ever!! It's the best!
  • Dennis from Chicagoland Burrows, IlThis song is wonderfully used in the not so wonderful movie "Outside Providence" with a sweeping aerial view of trees in autumn.
  • Olivia from Perth, AustraliaDoes this song touch anyone else in an unknown way?
  • Olivia from Perth, AustraliaI love this song. For some reason it touches me in a way I can't explain. It's just so wonderful.
  • C.c. from Lake Charles, LaCan anyone offer insight as to why the album cover for "BAND ON THE RUN" features actor James Coburn?
  • Alex from Pinner, EnglandFor some strange reasons this song was left out on the Macca's Band on the Run LP released in the Soviet Union in 70s. Silly Love Songs took its place. The album was called just "Paul McCartney" and had a different cover.
  • Melissa from Fairborn, OhThis is one of my favorite Paul McCartney and Wings song.
  • Randy Arnold from Chicago, IlI thought the lyrics were "...and the county judge, Leavenworth, will search for evermore"
  • John from Boston, MaThis is my favorite song. The ending of the song just facinates me- "And the county judge who held a grudge, will search for evermore" I love that line
  • Don from San Antonio, TxO my godd that IS "Limelight"!
  • Keith Major from Bristol, EnglandGreat song, one of my Wings'favourites.
  • Clarke from Pittsburgh, PaA brief reprise of "Band on the Run" appears at the end of McCartney and Wings' song "1985."
  • Kent Lyle from Palo Alto, CaIn the segue between the first and second sections of this song, the band plays a riff twice. Tell me that this doesn't sound like the same riff used on Rush's "Limelight".
  • Brian from Grand Forks, NdThis is what Paul Said about the song

    "Well, at the time, bands like us and the Eagles were feeling like and being treated like outlaws and desperadoes, you know," replied McCartney.

    "I mean, people were getting busted for pot, that is. And that's about all they were getting popped for: Never anything serious.

    "And our argument was that we didn't want to be outlaws. We just wanted to be part of the regular scene, you know, and make our music and live in peace. We didn't see why we should be treated like criminals when all we wanted to do was smoke pot instead of hitting the booze.

    "And that's what the song was about; it was my reaction to that whole scene . . . "

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