McCartney into Ram
It was at this point that we thought, 'Let's just get away from it all and went up to Scotland. I just had to get out into the mountains and the mist. We lived off our savings for a bit. There was no furniture on the farm so I built a bed for us, basically a mattress on some old potato boxes, we threw things together and lived very funkily. It was a time for rebuilding, literally - the house, the home and then finally the music, once again.
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I really had to ask myself, 'Do I want to give up music, or keep going?' I got a four-track Studer recording machine, like the Beatles used for Sgt Pepper, put it in the corner of the living-room at my house in London and tried a very simple technique of just plugging directly into the back, not going through a mixing desk. It's a cool way to record because it's pure. If, say, I was doing a drum track, I'd play the drums, record it with one microphone, listen to it back, move the mike a little if there wasn't enough hi-hat or cymbal, and then re-record. Then I'd add bass by plugging the mike into track two and overdubbing while listening to track one through headphones. I'd do that with all with four tracks. It was very hands-on, primitive way of working. In the opening track, The Lovely Linda, you can hear the door squeak as Linda came in while I was recording. It was a good take, so we left it in. I made the whole McCartney album like that, and when I needed to go further we used a little studio in Willesden called Morgan, just to get a bit more high-tech. But I played all the instruments and we did a few harmonies together. It was funky, and still sounds good to me.
Some of the songs on McCartney I had tried with the Beatles and they hadn't worked out. There was one called Teddy Boy - the unsuccessful Beatles version is on Anthology. The Beatles were breaking up and nobody had any patience, whereas in the earlier days we might have said, 'Why don't we try it like this?' So I thought, 'Right, I'll do it on my own album’.
For the McCartney cover artwork we had a big wad of photos that Linda had taken, and the only one that wasn't of me with a guitar was a photo with Mary, our new baby, inside my jacket. I used to carry her that way to keep her warm. Eventually, we had so many photos that we couldn't see the woods for the trees, so we sent a pile of them to a friend - David Putnam, now Lord Putnam. He has a very good eye for an image and he called back and said, 'There's only one cover in this lot - the one with the baby in the jacket’. Just to be difficult, though, we put that on the back cover and put a photo of cherries on the front.
Apple was no longer a happy place: there was a lot of tension in the air. I rang Neil Aspinall - who was and still is the head of Apple - and said, 'Can I have a release date for this album I'm making?' He gave me one and I worked towards that. Then, suddenly, a letter came from the other Beatles, who were now with [manager] Allen Klein, which said that they were releasing Let it Be [the film and album] and were going to delay my album. I said, 'Wait a minute I've made all my plans, I've got it all worked out...' We had another argument over that, which increased the tension even more. The word 'heavy' was coined during this time. I really did feel physically weighed down by it all, having such a bad time and, worst of all, feeling artistically constricted.
For business reasons, we had agreed to keep quiet about the Beatles' split, but after a while I was going crazy with the hurt and the disappointment of it all, the sorrow of losing this great band, these great friends. I thought it was unfair not telling people, so I broke the news in a press release for the McCartney album. Not being in the greatest frame of mind, I was dreading the press asking me, 'Are the Beatles happy?' I didn't want to lie through my teeth. So I announced in a press release that the Beatles had broken up. In actual fact, the breakup had happened months before, and it was John who did it. But it doesn't matter who broke the Beatles up - the Beatles were ready to breakup. We'd come full circle and now we had to get on to something new, all of us.
It was intense time, but luckily I still had my music. When you're going through the worst of times it's good for your soul if you can still make music.
Linda and I called it our 'funky period'. With the fame of the Beatles, everything was done for us. Like, around Christmas I'd ring up the office and say, 'Can I have a Christmas tree?' I had become used to having everything done for me, and hadn't realized it. A lot of people who find fame and money like to leave humdrum things behind. When Linda and I got together she said, 'Let's go and pick out our own Christmas tree' and 'Let's go down to the shops and buy something for dinner’. I like all those things, they're ordinary, and important to me. So we started to put them back into our life and do things for ourselves.
We were on holiday in France and thinking about making another album. I'd written a few new songs and we thought that for a change we'd go to New York to record. It's good place, with a lot of great musicians and would give us a different slant. We'd tried the amateur bit with McCartney, going back to square one; now we wanted to get a bit more professional. So we took the ocean liner lle de France and sailed from Southampton over to New York.
It was a crazy journey. I wore shades a lot of the time and nobody really bothered us. But there was one woman who got annoyed at me coming into the dining-room wearing them. I thought, 'What the hell. I'm on holiday, I'll do what I want' and I didn't particularly want to have to relate to some of these people. She got annoyed, saying, Take your sunglasses off. Elizabeth Taylor is on this boat and she doesn't wear them I said, 'Well I'm not Elizabeth Taylor!
When we got to New York we started to audition musicians. I put the word out via a couple of people and some drummers came by to play. Denny Seiwell, who had been working as a session man, was the best. He's a nice guy and we got on well, so we started the Ram sessions with him. I also auditioned guitar players, playing a couple of songs together to see if I liked their personality, if we got along. Dave Spinoza and Hugh McCracken emerged from those auditions, really good guys.
The British sense of humor, which can be a bit sarcastic, almost got me into trouble after one guitar audit ion. The player was a little bit serious and as he was leaving he said, ‘ок man, See ya. Peace and love’. And I said ‘Yeah, war and hate’. His face dropped - it was like I was the devil. I had to run after him saying, 'It's a joke!' He forgave me, I think.
I like the idea of writing songs about ordinary people and day-to-day lives, and Another Day is one of them. We all get up in the morning and do our usual stuff, yet somehow – even through it all - there are often magic moments. We recorded it in New York with the help of Phil Ramone and it was a hit which, at that time, was especially pleasing.
I had an uncle - Albert Kendall - who was a lot of fun, and when I came to write Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey it was loosely about addressing that older generation, half thinking 'What would they think of the way my generation does things? 'That's why I wrote the line 'We're so sorry, Uncle Albert'. There's an imaginary element in many of my songs - to me, Admiral Halsey is symbolic of authority and therefore not to be taken too seriously. We recorded it in New York and George Martin helped me with the orchestral arrangement. I was surprised when it became a big hit.
Back in Scotland, I had a four-track recording studio installed at the farm, which we called Rude Studio, sc I was able to demo and experiment and make bits and pieces of music. Eventually, when we started to put a band together, we could rehearse there.
Having had such a good time making a few Ram tracks in New York we went out to la as well, because there were a couple of guys there I wanted to work with. It was great weather and we rented a house on the beach, on Ocean Park Boulevard. While we were in la we started to put together the album artwork. Rather than get a smart studio photo and design, we did it ourselves - we took some prints and made a collage with glue, grass out of the garden, a little bit of hair, some felt-tip drawings, and so on. For the front we used a Scotland picture of me, holding a ram. It was a little bit unusual, but it worked.
I was happy with Ram as an album, though it didn't get very good reviews. Because we were still in the shadow of the Beatles everything we did was compared to them. We also bought into that, but - looking back - it actually did very well.