Nearly 50 years after the release of his 1971 Ram album, Paul McCartney and two of the album’s key players looked back on the legendary Manhattan sessions. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ram — which was billed to Paul & Linda McCartney — the album will be reissued May 14th as a limited edition half-speed mastered vinyl pressing.
McCartney, who recorded his first post-Beatles album, McCartney, all on his own, chose to bring the sessions to the “Big Apple” and record with top American session players. He recalled, “I’d had a little chance to kinda settle into my new circumstances with Linda, and now it was kind of a little bit easier to look at future plans, because my personal circumstances were a little more comfortable. So, I was able to take some time and start planning the kind of album I wanted next. And having done a homemade ‘front parlor’ album, I now wanted to kind of expand a little bit. I was ready to open my horizons.”
McCartney, who was working with outside musicians for the first time, shed light on how he would convey the tunes to guitarist’s Dave Spinozza and the late-Hugh McCracken: “I would say: ‘These are the chords. I’d like you to do this riff here, and this is the speed of the song, and this is how the words go. I wouldn’t say: ‘This is exactly what you have to play.’ So, then within that framework people would then come up with their own ideas, and then once that was sounding okay you’d go and do a take.”
Drummer Denny Seiwell, who went on to form Wings with McCartney in 1971, spoke about the quality of the material: “Every time you heard one of these songs, you’d go: ‘Oh my God, this is really special.’ I thought it was better than most of the stuff that I was used to hearing from the Beatle period. This was really interesting music.”
David Spinozza, one of New York’s most legendary guitarists remembered how the sessions played out: “We worked on a song per day. We’d get in at nine a.m. and go to five p.m. — It was very efficient. I was used to sessions with music charts written out, and an expectation in getting at least three songs recorded in a three-hour session. So, it was a different style of working for me. Paul wanted us to learn the songs like a band and work on the parts until they really gelled. I enjoyed listening to the songs come to life, and it was a luxury to do one a day and not have the pressure of getting three done. I also thought the tracks came out really special that way. He has a knack of making every track a special sonic experience.”
Although it was unknown at the time, the Beatles’ late-producer George Martin actually supplied the album’s orchestrations, Carrying over his role from his Beatles days, he recalled back in 2011: “With Ram, as always, we worked closely and well with each other. It was a shame the recordings happened in New York — I missed out on those. But it seemed the scores worked out okay without me. Mostly the scores were straightforward. They are always templates which can be modified on the session. Quite often I would make on-the-spot changes to make the arrangements work better. And Paul had such a vivid imagination he could easily have done the scoring himself if he had a little instruction.’”
Denny Seiwell told us he was simply amazed anytime he saw McCartney roll up his sleeves working with classical musicians: “Y’know, Paul doesn’t know music — he’s only the most prolific writer of the 20th century (laughs). But, I’ve seen him with George Martin. I’ve seen him when he sits down to write a string arrangement, or an orchestral arrangement and he says, ‘Now, here in this section, I’d like the cellos to be voiced like this, I’d like the trombones to be voiced like this, the French horns like this.’”