Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Paul and Linda McCartney's Only Album

"Ram," which hit the music stores on this day in 1971, was not Paul McCartney's first post–Beatles album.

That distinction belonged to an album that was simply called "McCartney." It was released a year earlier, and — in my opinion, at least, but also in the opinions of many others — it was an inferior product even though it did give McCartney what was, technically, his first solo hit, "Maybe I'm Amazed."

(While "Maybe I'm Amazed" received ample praise and airplay in 1970, the studio recording from "McCartney" was never released as a single. It wasn't until 1977 that the live recording from "Wings Over America" became a Top 10 hit.)

"Ram" was the only album credited to both Paul and Linda McCartney; even though Linda was a member of her husband's post–Beatles band, Wings, and recorded several albums with him before her death, her only listed credits on those other efforts were her contributions to the band musically and/or lyrically.

She seemed largely content to play a supporting role to her husband. I guess that's a pretty easy choice to make if you're married to an ex–Beatle.

I have come to believe that the breakup of a band is very similar to the breakup of a marriage. The more idyllic such a partnership seems to be, the harder it is for others to accept its end, which may account in part for the lukewarm reaction to "McCartney."

At first, fans and critics weren't exactly wild about "Ram," either. Perhaps, like many children of divorce, those fans and critics resisted anything that made it more likely the change was permanent, desperately believing a reunion was possible.

To be fair, sometimes couples do reunite — Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor come to mind — but those truly are the exceptions, and the ones that succeed are even more exceptional. In the world of music, reunions seem to be even rarer occurrences, perhaps because they involve not just a couple but four or five people, possibly more. When they happen in music, they tend to be one–shot deals for special events, not long–term arrangements.

What is more likely is that an ex–band member, like an ex–spouse, will find a new love and move on. A tepid response from friends and relatives may be all that is necessary to crush a blossoming relationship.

But sometimes the new loves of divorced parents win over the children — perhaps not entirely but sufficiently. So it seems to have been with Linda McCartney and diehard Beatles fans, at least in the 1970s. The dream of a Beatles reunion persisted for 10 years but died when John Lennon died in 1980; after that, it always seemed to me, Paul McCartney was more widely accepted as a solo performer, although he and Linda achieved considerable success with Wings in the 1970s.

That success, it seemed to me, truly began with "Ram."

And I have always felt that "Uncle Albert" was the first of McCartney's post–Beatles hits, some with Wings (which disbanded in 1981), most under McCartney's name alone.

"Ram" spawned other singles, too, but they didn't have the commercial success that "Uncle Albert" had. Wings formed after "Ram" was released, but it, too, received poor reactions from fans and critics after its first two albums, "Wild Life" and "Red Rose Speedway."

(In hindsight, much of that reaction may have been the result of the perception of McCartney's role in the Beatles' breakup. In most fractured relationships, one of the partners is perceived to have been responsible for the breakup — or, at least, more responsible than the other. Fairly or unfairly, McCartney was long believed by many Beatles fans to have been the reason the band broke up.)

It wasn't until 1973's "Band on the Run" that McCartney and Wings started to enjoy regular commercial success.

And the course of popular music was changed forever.