Replay: Prairie Living in Paul and Linda McCartney’s ‘RAM’

Writer Brendan Parr reflects on what sets Paul McCartney’s second solo album “RAM” apart upon its release and how it paved the way.

“RAM” by Paul and Linda McCartney miraculously triumphs — even as a conundrum of an album.

Released fresh off The Beatles’ breakup in 1971, “RAM” was Paul’s attempt at standing out after his eponymous album released a year earlier. Where his 1970 solo debut was an outlet for lo-fi concepts and holdover work from The Beatles, “RAM” was Paul honed creative vision with his then-wife Linda.

First lambasted for its atypical songs and structure, “RAM” has grown in cult status to not just be a fine-tuned version of “McCartney” but a leading example of indie-pop music. The album is my personal favorite out of all of The Beatles’ solo works. 

The album celebrates independence and prairie living — The McCartney’s musical project is a manifestation of their quiet life in the U.K. countryside.

“Too Many People” opens the album with a swaying anthem fueled by animosity. The stinging start alludes to the rift between Paul and John Lennon, which initiated the band’s breakup.

“That was your first mistake / You took your lucky break and broke it in two / Now what can be done for you? / You broke it in two,” Paul sings in frustration.

The song “Ram On” best illustrates the album’s roots. An orchestra of ukulele acoustics and percussion overlap Paul’s hypnotic vocals. Each element is homespun but comes together intricately — a soothing yet invigorating listen.

It’s this song that made me fall in love with “RAM.” It has an infectious, serene beat producing a persistent earworm in my head. I catch myself constantly trumpeting along to Paul’s a cappella brass.

“Dear Boy” continues rustic riffing with a dramatic tune. An elegy to Linda’s ex-husband Joseph Melville See Jr., Paul chants about how much See’s missing out on with the presence of Linda, who sings hauntingly in the background. It’s a rebuke to her previous partner and a gleeful celebration of Paul and Linda’s love.

During his tenure with The Beatles, Paul developed a passion for whimsical songs with fictitious characters. “Eleanor Rigby,” “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” and “Obla Di Obla Da” are just a few fanciful ballads that paved the way for the album’s biggest hit, “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey.”

“We’re so sorry, Uncle Albert / But we haven’t done a bloody thing all day / We’re so sorry, Uncle Albert / But the kettle’s on the boil / And we’re so easily called away,” Paul croons rhythmically.

The song features a tonal crescendo similar to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Growing from a smooth opening to a rapid climax — a manner Paul and Linda later perfected in subsequent album and song “Band on the Run.”

A somber lamentation doubling as a nonsense shanty, Paul described “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” as a connection between his generation and an older one, according to an interview with American Songwriter. The song is an oddly lifting attempt at amends for moving on. I find myself returning to it whenever I have a shadow of guilt that needs melting away.

“Monkberry Moon Delight” is favorited for its nonsensical ramblings of youth, rebellion and a surreal milkshake. It’s a furious rock tune that nearly puts “Helter Skelter” to shame for its raw noise. I’m intoxicated by the tempo built by a mind-numbing electric guitar and both McCartneys’ coarse vocals.

“So I stood with a knot in my stomach / And I gazed at that terrible sight / Of two youngsters concealed in a barrel / Sucking monkberry moon delight,” Paul bellows as Linda animates.

Ending the album is the rock single “The Back Seat Of My Car.” Recounting teenage romance and sneaking out, it celebrates rebellious adolescence. Paul and Linda, married at 26 and 27, present their relationship as rich in joy and playfulness, reminding them of the youth they weren’t far grown from.

“For we were only hiding / Sitting in the back seat of my car, yeah / And when we finished driving / We can say we were late in arriving / And listen to her daddy’s song / We believe that we can’t be wrong, yeah,” Paul gleefully sings.

Initially 12 tracks, special editions of “RAM” added prior and unreleased songs, the most notable being the upbeat “Another Day,” rock-country string “Oh Woman, Oh Why” and “Sunshine Sometime” — the latter being a song I can only describe as scenic, as I listen while walking to give my day-to-day audible color.

Condemned at the time, “RAM” cemented Paul and Linda as a musical force, forming the band Wings the same year with Denny Seiwell and Denny Laine. 

“RAM” is a loving homage to a blossoming marriage and homestead living. It paved the way for DIY music, pushing against mainstream productions. It’s an album rife with complex instrumentation and entendres while harboring carefree rhythms and cleancut choruses. 

“RAM” is available to stream on all major platforms.

Featured image courtesy of Apple Records

Brendan Parr

Brendan Parr