Paul McCartney and his wife, Linda, experienced something horrific while they recorded 1973’s Band on the Run in Lagos, Nigeria. The former Beatle hoped working in the exotic place would help reinvigorate the semi-newly-formed Wings.
Paul McCartney wanted to record ‘Band on the Run’ someplace exotic to give Wings a breath of fresh air
After The Beatles split, Paul floundered. He didn’t know how to continue his music career and contemplated quitting. How do you follow The Beatles?
One night, Paul got his answer. Watching Johnny Cash and his band performing on TV inspired Paul to start a new band, Wings. Paul and his wife, Linda, had just started a family but were willing to begin their life over again. However, Wings had a bumpy start. With only 11 songs, Paul and Wings toured universities around the U.K., charging only 50p, just to get a following.
“It wasn’t exactly hippy, but that time was all about the two of us going off on this adventure,” Paul told the Independent. “It was about wanting to be free after being told what to do for so long.”
That’s eventually where the concept of Band on the Run originated. After recording two rocky albums, Paul had an idea for a third. In The Lyrics: 1956 to the Present, Paul wrote that the word “band” in Band on the Run and its titular track “refers mostly to the idea of a group of people who’ve escaped prison. A band of desperadoes.”
In Wings, Paul felt as if he was breaking away from the norm and becoming a band of desperadoes. When it came time to record Band on the Run, Paul wanted to do it in an exotic place, somewhere different. A change of scenery would breathe some fresh air into the band.
Paul considered Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro as possible recording locations. However, he decided on Lagos, Nigeria.
“I wanted to find something that turned me on, rather than just getting that ‘Here we go again’ feeling,” Paul told the Independent. “I was imagining sunny skies, uplifting African visions, and encasing my songs in that atmosphere.”
In Lyrics, Paul wrote, “Lagos sounded good, exotic.” He just didn’t realize it wasn’t always the safest place.
Paul and Linda experienced something horrible while recording ‘Band on the Run’
In Lyrics, Paul wrote that working in Nigeria wasn’t quite what he’d imagined. “I hadn’t imagined cholera or the mugging or the half-ready studios or my children being told they weren’t allowed in the hotel swimming pool because they were naked,” he wrote.
Paul ran into trouble before he and the band even left. Guitarist Henry McCullough left two weeks before, and Denny Seiwell left the night before their flight out. Plus, Paul was experiencing financial woes due to his legal battles with The Beatles’ Apple Records.
The mugging was the cherry on top of the disaster. One night, Paul and Linda were walking back to their villa from guitarist Denny Laine’s rented home.
“People kept telling us it was too dangerous to walk around,” Paul told the Independent. “But we’d been to Jamaica, we’d been to the Caribbean and these people were squares.
“Suddenly, a car comes along this dark road and slows down in front of us. A guy winds down the window and starts shouting. I go into friendly Liverpudlian mode. You know, ‘Hey mate, we don’t need a lift, ta very much.'”
A guy got out of the car and started shouting at Paul. “I actually bundled him back into the car, saying, ‘Yeah, yeah, I love you, man. Now come on, we’re going home.’ He looked bewildered for a moment before five guys piled out and held us up at knifepoint.”
Then, Linda essentially saved her husband’s life. “They’re taking our money, our tape recorders, everything. Suddenly, Linda says, ‘Don’t kill him, he’s a musician!’
“Well, maybe it did help, because apparently muggers in Nigeria often kill their victims to make sure they don’t go to the police. The big problem for me is that they went off with the demo tapes to the songs we had been recording.”
At least Paul survived the encounter.
Paul likes to remember only the good times in Nigeria
The former Beatle likes to reflect on only the good times making Band on the Run in Nigeria. In Lyrics, Paul wrote, “You block out all the worst stuff and you remember all the cool stuff.”
Paul said “the main thing” about Band on the Run and its titular track was that it was about freedom. “A lot of us at that time felt free from the strictures of civilisation. That’s one of the great things about rock and roll: it does allow you to break rules. One rule often broken is that a piece of music has to be highly complex to be any good.”
Paul ultimately started over with Wings and didn’t exactly know what he was doing. However, at least with Band on the Run, he got to prove that he could still make good music. As he did with the muggers in Nigeria, Paul wouldn’t let people take his livelihood away, suggesting he was finished with music.