I opted not to offer picture/audio grades for the set because the DVD – the usual subject of my ratings – is an extra here. Normally the DVD is the main component, but here it’s a bonus feature, so I didn’t think it made sense to give it a regular grade.
We find a mix of materials on the package’s DVD. We launch with three music videos. Also found on the McCartney Years release, here’s what we get:
“Helen Wheels”: A chugging ode to Paul’s ATV, “Helen” rocks. Damn, why doesn’t Paul write more tunes like this? No, it’s not exactly a deep or complicated song, and that’s fine with me. It delivers the goods.
The song comes from a transition period for Wings; McCullough and Denny Seiwell split, so “Helen” – and the rest of Band - were done by Paul, Linda and Denny Laine. The video reflects this, as it mixes lip-synch shots with the trio in the ATV and some other goofiness. It’s borderline idiotic at times but overcomes its flaws with a sheet attitude of fun – and Laine’s bizarre nothing-in-the-middle moustache. I shouldn’t, but I love this one. 8/10.
“Mamunia”: I’d argue that Run is Paul’s second best album, but “Mamunia” isn’t one of its more interesting tunes. Oh, it’s a good one, but it pales in comparison to the album’s best tracks. Still, a lesser song on Run is better than the top tunes on other records, so I can’t knock it too much. And I’ve always love the “lay down your umbrellas/strip off your plastic macs” line.
The video’s an odd little sort of animated affair. It uses much of its time to simply show the words to the chorus, and the rest depicts some crude drawings to vaguely illustrate the lyrics. This is the opposite of the “Helen” video. I shouldn’t have liked it but I did, whereas I feel I should dig this one, but I don’t. I give it extra points for ambition but just don’t enjoy it much. 5/10.
“Band on the Run”: Sometimes I forget what a great song “Band” is just because of its overplay. I can get a little sick of it, but that doesn’t diminish what a great tune it really is. Complex and catchy, it opens Run well and remains one of Paul’s top numbers.
The video follows in the footsteps of “Mamunia” with a partially animated affair. It’s a weird one that mixes art, old Beatle photos, and live shots of folks walking on the street. What’s the point? I’m not really sure, and I don’t think it’s very interesting. 3/10.
After this we find a few featurettes. An Album Promo (7:43) offers a mix of tunes: it includes snippets of “Band on the Run”, “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”, “Mrs. Vandebilt”, and “Bluebird”. We see a smattering of visuals, but shots from the album cover shoot dominate. Those make this a moderately interesting compilation.
For a glimpse of the location in which the album was recorded, we head to Wings in Lagos (3:14). Like “Album Promo”, this gives us silent film footage accompanied by music; here we hear a moody, Indian-inflected McCartney rendition of “Band on the Run”. Called “A Different Perspective”, it’s not particularly enjoyable, but it’s an interesting twist. The footage is also decent, but additional context/information would make it more valuable.
Osterley Park (15:25) delivers more footage from the album cover shoot. Unlike the “Promo”, though, this clip includes audio from the session; no music comes along for the ride. This isn’t the most coherent piece, but it’s fun, as we get a nice “fly on the wall” glimpse of the photo shoot.
The DVD’s final component is its biggest attraction for fans: 1974 TV special entitled One Hand Clapping. Shot in August 1974, it goes for 51 minutes, 49 seconds, and concentrates on time spent at Abbey Road studios.
For what purpose? Good question. I’ve tried to research “Clapping” and saw info that claimed the sessions occurred as rehearsals for a world tour that didn’t materialize; Wings would tour a year later, but with a different drummer in the fold.
Perhaps “Clapping” does document rehearsals, but it seems strange that McCartney recorded them in this fashion. Shooting film footage of the rehearsals makes sense, but recording them professionally in such a fancy way doesn’t. Perhaps Paul intended to release a “live in the studio” album to go along with the tour? I don’t know.
Anyway, “Clapping” includes 14 songs: “Jet”, “Soily”, “C Moon”, “Little Woman Love”, “Maybe I’m Amazed”, “My Love”, “Bluebird”, “Let’s Love”, “All of You”, “I’ll Give You a Ring”, “Band on the Run”, “Live and Let Die”, “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five”, and “Baby Face”. Most come straight from the studio sessions, but “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” is a bit of an odd beast; it starts with Paul solo at the piano and then segues into live vocals backed with the album music.
In addition to all the “live in the studio” performances, we get some chatter from the five members of Wings: McCartney, Linda McCartney, guitarist Denny Laine, guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton. Of course, Paul dominates, but we hear a little from everyone. The comments are moderately interesting, but only occasionally revealing.
The music remains the biggest focus, especially since none of these performances previously saw the light of day. “Soily” is a winner, partially because the only legit release of the tune came from the live Wings Over America version; it’s good to have a “real” studio cut. A few others – the run from “Let’s Love” through “Ring” – also have no legit counterpart, so they’re good to hear.
I also like the ability to hear and see the takes on the more “common” songs. Unfortunately, not all are complete, and sometimes the program places speech on top of the tunes, but the show still presents them well much of the time.
Note that “Clapping” may omit one song from its original incarnation. I snooped around online, and all the bootleg versions included “Junior’s Farm”. If those reports are accurate, I don’t know why it failed to make the cut here.
Though I didn’t want to give the DVD a picture/audio grade, I did want to comment on them for “Clapping”, as for fans, it’ll be the DVD’s main attraction. Visuals looked pretty weak. The program came from a video source and tended to be drab, flat and mushy.
That said, I didn’t find myself really bothered by the picture quality. Would it be nice to get a really top-notch presentation? Sure, but given the project’s roots, I don’t know if that’d be realistic. “Clapping” could certainly look better, but I found it to be watchable.
As for the monaural audio, it was competent to good. Again, stereo would’ve been nice, but the mono was clear and clean. The audio certainly seemed stronger and more impressive than the picture, so don’t worry that the sound will be a big disappointment. While not terrific, the audio was more than acceptable.
The package concludes with a Bonus CD. It throws in nine songs, most of which saw previous release. We find “Helen Wheels” and its B-side, “Country Dreamer”. We also get “Zoo Gang” – the B-side of “Band on the Run” in the UK – as well as six tracks from the “One Hand Clapping” sessions: “Bluebird”, “Jet”, “Let Me Roll It”, “Band on the Run”, “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” and “Country Dreamer”.
The three standard studio tracks make sense, but the “Clapping” tracks seem a little more confusing. Why do we only get a handful of them and not the whole thing? Perhaps stereo recordings only exist for these six songs, but that doesn’t sound likely; as I noted, McCartney recorded the whole thing in Abbey Road, so I don’t know why we wouldn’t have good quality audio for all the numbers.
The existence of this material makes me wonder why the “Clapping” video program remained monaural, but I suspect the nature of the sound mix may be the reason. While the music may be in the vault, the interview comments may not, so it might be tough to recreate the program’s entire mix.
Anyway you look at it, the bonus CD is a disappointment. It has some good components, but just not enough of them. It runs a mere 36 minutes and could’ve been extended with more “Clapping” audio.
After many years, Band on the Run remains at or close to Paul McCartney’s peak as a solo artist. While I’m a little burned out on it, I still recognize it as a strong work. This Special Edition packages the original album along with a decent – but not great – collection of supplements.
As a big McCartney fan, I’m happy to own this set; the ability to finally see a legit version of “One Hand Clapping” would sell me on it with nothing else to add. Nonetheless, I feel like it should’ve included more archival material, so it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity. This ends up as a good reissue but not a tremendously substantial one.