So why did Paul set his album closer in 1985, then 12 years in the future? Partly because it rhymed.

With a lot of songs I do, the first line is it. It’s all in the first line, and then you have to go on and write the second line.1With “Eleanor Rigby” I had “picks up the rice in the church where the wedding has been.” That was the one big line that started me off on it. With this one it was “No one ever left alive in nineteen hundred and eighty-five.” That’s all I had of that song for months. “No one ever left alive in nineteen hundred and eighty… six?” It wouldn’t have worked!

And that’s classic Paul, innit? He’s not beating himself up over what it means; what matters is that it sounds good. And as I listened to “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” this morning while driving the back roads from Arcata to Eureka, it sounded tremendous. It has a mysterious feel to it; some sources say it’s in C minor, some in G#/A-flat major, and being no musicologist, I don’t know which to believe. In any case, it moves along smartly and builds to a satisfying crescendo — and ending the album with a reprise of “Band on the Run” is a clever little touch.

You might think from the opening lines that Paul had some sort of Diamond Dogs scenario in mind — 1985 is, after all, the year after 1984. But when you look at the words there’s not much there; it’s just another silly love song.

Well, she may be right, she may be fine
She may get love, but she won’t get mine
Because I got you

Though apparently not everyone finds it so anodyne. According to Wikipedia,

The song was referenced in Brett Easton Ellis’s novel Glamorama, driving a group of fictional supermodels to extreme terrorist acts.

A county-wide search for a used copy of this book was fruitless. Finally I found a new copy, but after some consideration, I chose not to pay $18 for the privilege of scouring through 546 pages for the reference. This will have to remain a tantalizing mystery for now.

A few weeks ago in this space a very slightly younger version of me said that Band on the Run was “probably Paul’s best solo album.” And he made a fair point, though both he and I have a soft spot for McCartney, Paul’s pleasingly ramshackle first solo joint. Band holds up all the way through, and though it doesn’t rank up there with the Beatles oeuvre, if you’re scoring strictly Paul vs. John, I’d say Paul won 1973.

Music aside, Paul seems to have been quite happy during this period, whereas John was heading to a dark place. Although the May Pang documentary would have us believe that the Lost Weekend was not as “lost” as is generally believed, and the available evidence seems to bear that out.

Which reminds me, here’s a little footnote that doesn’t really belong here but has nowhere else to go: One of the “antics” John and Harry Nilsson supposedly got up to was heckling the Smothers Brothers at the Troubadour. But John and Tommy Smothers, who died this week at 86, were pals; Tommy had sung and played guitar on “Give Peace a Chance.” So you would think it was friendly heckling. Although drunk Lennon could be an asshole; I wonder what they actually said.

Which is neither here nor there, I know. Anyway, R.I.P. Tommy Smothers, a true original.

The cover of Band on the Run shows Paul, Linda, and Denny Laine with six “celebrities,” of which the only ones we are likely to know are James Coburn and Christopher Lee.

In poking around online I found a bunch of silent footage from the cover shoot (and other things from around that time, which has to have been 1973, not 74, as BOTR came out in 73) synced to snippets of the album. It’s not a bad way to spend eight of the dwindling supply of 2023 minutes.

5 1 vote
Article Rating