Paul McCartney's "Ram": It was a bad album in 1971 and still is fifty years later

It’s late May 1971. I’m home from my first year in college. I walk into a record store and find Paul McCartney’s newest album, “Ram.” Being a big Beatles fan, plus having liked Paul’s first, self-titled album, I’m going to need to hear this album. I put down my four bucks, took my change and went home to listen to “Ram.”

After hearing it for the first time, I called a friend and told him he needed to check out the album. And, then I listened to “Ram” again. Hmmm…not quite as good as thought after the first time. Over the next few weeks, I listened to ‘Ram” quite a few times. Each hearing was worse. After a month or so, I gave up. I put the album in my album shelf, never to be heard again. Basically, I banished “Ram” to Siberia.

A few months later I ran into my friend. We were talking about albums that came out during the summer. When we started chatting about “Ram”, he asked why I recommended it. I apologized a few times. Told I got caught up in the Beatles/McCartney hype and I should have waited until I heard it more than once before becoming a shill for Sir Paul’s trite ramblings.

It’s now fifty years later. There have been many pieces written about the classic albums from 1971, including an entire series done here. Some of the great albums from that year have held up after five decades; others not as much. But, what about an album like “Ram?” Did time help? Was fifty years of aging its friend?

In order to find out, I had to listen to the album from beginning to end. Oy! Could I handle it? I admit to being a bit scared, but it’s only music. No harm could be done, except to my psyche, right?

The opening track is “Too Many People.” It’s a diss John and Yoko song. A little childish and inane but musically, not horrible. Not great, but not horrible. Next!

“3 Legs” and “Ram On” follow. Blah, blah, blah. Only eight songs to go.

“Dear Boy” is next. Paul admits it’s autobiographical and tells the story about how lucky he is to have found his true love, Linda. In other words, a silly love song.

What can I say about “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey?” It’s a whimsical tune about his real Uncle Albert. Another silly song and an even sillier one, “Smile Away” ends side one.

You would think that side two couldn’t possibly be as bad, but it has classics such as “Monkberry Moon Delight”, “Eat At Home” and “Ram On.”

The best news about the record is it only lasts forty-three minutes and fifteen seconds.

There are two things I never understood about “Ram”:

a. Why didn’t Paul put “Another Day” on the album. He recorded it at the same time as the rest of the songs. It clearly would have been the best tune on the album.

b. McCartney took a lot of heat concerning how he worked alone on his debut solo album. He played all the instruments and all the vocals were his. Critics felt it wasn’t a serious album. On “Ram” he brought in multiple musicians to make what he hoped would be a critical success….and these are songs he chose?

It took a few albums for McCartney to recover from this disaster. His next two albums, with his new band Wings, “Wild Life” and “Red Rose Speedway” were panned by critics. In 1973, “Band On The Run” was released to critical acclaim and massive sales. Paul McCartney was back…although it doesn’t excuse the mess that was “Ram.” And fifty years later, it’s still a mess.

So to my friend whom I suggested spending hard-earned money on the album, I again apologize. Forgive me?

Related Post: It’s a great week to be Paul McCartney

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