Graham Reid | | 2 min read
When the McCartneys released their Ram album in 1971 – the only album given co-credit to Paul's wife Linda – the response was swift.
John Lennon pronounced it “awful” and Ringo said, “I don't think there's a tune on it”, also adding he though McCartney had gone a bit weird.
(This from a man who was there for Tomorrow Never Knows and Strawberry Fields Forever?)
The critics were even more merciless. Alan Smith in the NME said it contained not one worthwhile or lasting piece of music and “is the the worst thing Paul McCartney has done”.
Jon Landau – a Lennonite – writing in Rolling Stone was even more brutal: “Ram represents the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far”, saying it was “monumentally irrelevant” and “emotionally vacuous”.
Once Lennon assimilated it properly he probably disagreed with Landau about it being emotionally vacuous because he heard how it contained some very obvious barbs directed his way, and so he hit back on his next album Imagine with How Do Your Sleep?
Despite the critical reaction, the public – as it so often does – thought better of Ram and took it to the top of the charts in Britain, Sweden, Spain, Norway, Canada and Holland, to number two in the US and three in Australia.
What the public heard was an album of whimsical songs (3 Legs), slightly bizarre rock (Monkberry Moon Delight, Smile Away), some gentler moments (Dear Boy directed at Lennon, the rather lame love song for Linda in Long Haired Lady) and something as catchy as Heart of the Country.
Critics carped about Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey and Back Seat of My Car as being pastiches of incomplete songs pushed together, not a complaint they'd directed at the medley on Abbey Road however.
Certainly Ram has its shortcomings, but rather fewer than the critical community alighted on . . . but then again those writers were still in thrall of the Beatles, many had long harboured the belief that Macca was a romantic lightweight, and Ram arrived after Lennon's extraordinary Plastic Ono Band and George Harrison's blockbuster All Things Must Pass.
In that context Ram did appear lacking gravitas.
But it's endearing pop qualities and somewhat lyrically odd aspects – as well as many more tunes than Ringo credited – has meant it has grown in stature over the decades, unshackled from its period.
On its 50thanniversary Ram – which has long been an Essential Elsewhere album – gets a limited edition vinyl half-speed remastering . . . but for most people that hardly matters.
The original vinyl is still out there in secondhand stores, there's also the original CD reissue as well as the 2012 reissue (which Elsewhere considered here).
So this is just to acknowledge an album which a few disliked passionately, masses of people enjoyed and which gave McCartney the confidence to carry on, get back on the road with a new band (Wings) and, after a faltering start, enjoy a massively successful second life with them in the Seventies when Lennon, Harrison and Starr's returns were steadily diminishing.
Taken in that context alone, Ram was an important album . . . and Monkberry Moon Delight may be weird but the great Screaming Jay Hawkins thought enough of it to cover it.