When Paul and Linda McCartney’s ‘Ram’ album came out in May 1971 I was seventeen years old and had hardly any money. But my Saturday job in a supermarket meant I’d have just enough to get the bus to town and go up to Probe Records in Clarence Street to buy it the morning it came out. So imagine my crestfallen disappointment when I got there and found that due to a government thing then in operation called ‘retail price maintenance’ the price of all LP’s in the country had just gone up, so I didn’t have enough.
Well it turned out my crestfallen face was enough in itself as Geoff Davies, the saint who ran Probe, said I could have the record anyway and for the old price. Which is how I went home that day with what has been one of my favourite records ever since. I’m listening to it now as I type. ‘Smile Away’ good and loud in the headphones.
Wherever I’ve gone in my life and through all the changes in format ‘Ram’ has come with me. Right in there with David Bowie, Joni Mitchell, Scott Walker and Kate Bush on the soundtrack of my life.
And I’m particularly thinking of ‘Ram’ the week because of Paul and Linda’s daughter Mary and this photograph of her, taken by Linda at the ‘Ram’ sessions. I saw it when I went to Linda’s retrospective at the Walker Gallery in Liverpool last week. Seeing the photograph reminding me I hadn’t listened to ‘Ram’ in a while.
Well now I have and it’s still the wonderful thing it was when I got the LP home that first time in May 1971. In fact it’s probably better now, as it’s got my whole life since then playing in its background. A life where I’ve always had a soft spot for our Paul and could see, like anyone could, how happy he always was with Linda. And this record is quintessential McCartney. Just out of The Beatles and bursting with confidence and songs. Harmonies, overdubs, showing off, justified in doing so and chock full of monkberry moon delight, whatever that is. I’ve no idea how many times I must have played it in these nearly fifty years, but not one of them was ever a waste of my time because ‘Ram’ always makes me happier than when I put it on. As much this week as back when the boy of seventeen got home with the record he couldn’t really afford.
And if I were leaving the planet this week and could only take one record with me, for who knows what reason, it would be ‘Ram’ clutched under my arm as I left the Planet Earth.
So thank you Mary McCartney for including the lovely picture of yourself at the ‘Ram’ sessions in your mum’s retrospective. It reminded me it had been too long since I’d listened to it. But then we’re all so easily called away aren’t we? As Admiral Halsey once said: