“Ebony and Ivory” Paul McCartney, featuring Stevie Wonder. 1982. Thank goodness it’s Friday and the last day of my “80′s guilty pleasures” week though I’m not even sure this fits in – I loved this song in ‘82 (when I was 11 years old) but, wow, it’s really insipid smooth adult contemporary AM gold, despite the two legends performing it. The music is very Wings-era McCartney sounding and while McCartney’s and Wonder’s harmonies are spot-on, the rhyming and pronunciation is dubious at best (i.e. “keyboard, oh lord!” and “side by side on my piaaahhhno”). Critics have described it as “saccharine” and was included in at least a couple of worst songs/worst duets in history lists (though to be fair it’s also on a few greatest songs charts as well).
That said, “Ebony and Ivory” went to #1 in both the US and the UK and was the 4th biggest hit of ‘82 in the US; it also was the first single by a Beatle to hit the R&B chart. It also ranked at #76 on the US Hot 100 all-time hits chart. “Ebony and Ivory” also received several Grammy nominations, including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal. McCartney’s included the track on his 1982 album Tug of War.
The b-side, “Rainclouds,” is a much better song, with a great beat, perfect harmonies and a light pop melody that McCartney is known for.
Paul McCartney and Wings “Band on the Run” released 45 years ago today, December 5th, 1973 on Apple Records. It was McCartney’s third album with Wings and his fifth after the disbanding of the Beatles. Band on the Run was initially beset with a multiple of near catastrophes. Just before recording of the album in Nigeria began, band members Henry McCollough (guitar) and Denny Sweiwell (drums) quit so Wings was cropped down to McCartney (on vocals, bass, drums and guitar), his wife Linda (keyboards) and Denny Laine (guitar). The recording in Nigeria did not go well: the country was just coming out of a brutal civil war, the studio was sub-standard, they had a confrontation with Felafels Kuti and the McCartneys were robbed at knifepoint with their valuables, lyric book and demo cassettes stolen. Despite all of this, Band on the Run was a wild success. Released on the 5th in the US, it came out two days later in the UK and became McCartney’s most successful record, hitting #1 in both the US and the UK (and making it to the #3 and #2 spots respectively for the top year-end albums of ‘74). In ‘75 it was nominated for an Album of the year Grammy and in 2012 won the Best Historical Album Grammy.
The two best-known (at least to me) songs on Band on the Run are its two top performing singles: “Jet” (#7 in the US and UK) and the title track “Band on the Run” (#1 US, #3 UK). Growing up in the 70′s, my parents were fairly big Beatles and Wings fan; they didn’t have this record that I recall but they did have Wings Greatest Hits, released in ‘78 that had both singles on it; I listened to that album a ton, loving it so much I put the album’s insert poster of Paul, Linda and Denny Laine up on my bedroom wall.
This copy of Band on the Run also came with a poster, one of polaroids taken during the album’s recording.
Wings released two other singles from Band on the Run including “Helen Wheels” (#10 US, #12 UK – it came out prior to the album’s release and was not included on the UK LP) and “Mrs Vandebilt” (released only in Continental Europe and Australia).