This last month the album “Ram” credited to Paul and Linda McCartney was reissued. It’s been re-mastered, re-EQ’d, and definitely re-evaluated.
When it originally came out in 1971 it was savaged by critics. Rolling Stone’s Jon Landau wrote: “‘Ram’ represents the nadir in the decomposition of ‘60s rock thus far,” Calling the ex-Beatle’s second album “incredibly inconsequential” and “monumentally irrelevant,” Landau had seen McCartney’s future without John Lennon and didn’t like it.
Laundau would later go on to manage and produce Bruce Springsteen, before being dismissed while Springsteen was recording ‘The River’. Laundau would also later recant his review saying he let “emotion” get into his review and said it’s one of the most brilliant post Beatle albums.
The magazine Rolling Stone now even gives the reissue 4 ½ out of 5 stars.
At the time, John Lennon was the worst critic. His next album “Imagine” had a postcard in it. On McCartney’s “Ram” the front cover is McCartney holding a ram by the horns. The postcard was a picture of Lennon holding a pig by his ears.
But context and timing can be everything.
The album was released as McCartney was finally emerging from his depressed days of The Beatle breakup, figuring out he had a wife and child that he loved dearly, and had finally made the very difficult decision to sue the other Beatles because he wanted to get out of his contract with Allen Klein (the manager appointed by the other three that he NEVER wanted). He had to sue his ex band mates if he wanted to sue Klein.
He looked like the bad guy. The guy dragging his best friends through the courts. How could anybody sue your best friends especially the greatest, most influential band of all time?
So McCartney wasn’t very liked by the music “illuminati” when Ram came out. Lennon was ravaging him in interviews, Harrison was very negative, and even good old Ringo wasn’t even nice about Paul. So the music press followed along.
The thing about “Ram” is this. It’s a lightweight album. Lyrically it stays in the shallower end of the pool.
While Harrison was releasing his grand three record set (his absolute best) mainly about God and all things spiritual, and Lennon released “Plastic Ono Band” a record that stripped down his music and basically his chest cavity, Paul just put out a whimsical, melodic, harmony laden Beatlesque sounding album.
It was a man who was happy with his new wife and family on his dilapidated farm in Scotland and he didn’t care who knew it. He WANTED it to be lightweight.
And history ended up being “re-evaluated” in the case of McCartney vs. Allen Klein and The Beatles as well. All three of the other Beatles ended up suing Allen Klein later. Klein WAS a crook after all.
Now to my point (I think I had one).
When all these records came out I was a kid. I loved a couple of the songs off of George’s “All Things Must Pass” (‘My Sweet Lord’, ‘What Is Life’, Isn’t it a pity’) but it was a sprawling three record set with one of the albums being nothing but instrumental jams.
While I understood Lennon’s confessional “Plastic Ono” it was just a little difficult to listen to songs about god being a concept to measure pain and mommy leaving. It was painful to listen to someone in so much pain at 10 years old.
Ram was perfect. ‘Too many people’ rocked, ‘Dear Boy’, ‘Back seat of my car’, and ‘Long haired lady’ had production and harmonies that would make Brian Wilson jealous, and there were beautiful odes to country living and crazy nonsense songs about Monkberry Moon delight and Uncle Albert.
I listened to this record pretty much nonstop for a year.
And parents, be careful what your kids listen to from…oh ages 9 until 12. Something happens. This is only my theory (I swear I’m going to research this) but what you listen to during that period is stuck in your DNA forever.
So When I got the new ‘Ram’ reissue what was my assessment?
I became 10 years old again.
I remember where I was sitting the first time I put it on and looked at the alum cover. I remember learning (or trying to anyway) to play every song on the record. I remember singing it to the very top of my pre pubescent lungs.
So yeah. I still love it.
But that was me. I can’t really recommend every body rush out and buy this record. It certainly IS NOT “Abbey Road” (which is what confused people at the time…how can the guy who only a year ago was on the radio singing ‘The Long and Winding Road’ be singing about ‘Admiral Halsey’…) but, to me anyway, it is a monumental album. But I truly can’t be objective enough to discern if anybody else would think the same thing. It’s like I’m too close to it.
I’ll bet you have that. The album that maybe nobody even really knows much about but you wore it out to the point of it now being so buried in your sub conscious that parts of it come out when you don’t even know it. You’re not even sure if it’s good or not. It doesn’t really even matter.
For me that was “Ram”.
And yes, I actually laid out the cash and bought the ‘Ram’ box set.
It came with a Tee shirt. I wear it proudly. I was at a grocery store and a woman told me she tried to eat “raw” as well. I thought the raw diet may be screwing up her eyesight.
So what about you? What album is in your DNA whether you like it or not?