Whenever Brad Fay comes on television in one of his many appearances on Rogers Sportsnet– mostly covering hockey, but he does other sports, too– my friend’s mother pauses, swoons just a little, points to the tv and says, “I like that one.” Brad is an unaffected throwback to a time when broadcasters weren’t about bluster or blight or the foghorn of outrage. Rather, they were the quiet voice of perspective, and so it is with this former Vancouver announcer and music geek (as we see below). Here he is essaying about the music of youth, and the beginnings of his pop music education through Wings’ “Band on the Run.”
Drop the needle and wait those two or three turntable rotations for one of the best openings in pop music history.
Crisp may be the best way to describe those first few chords of – for my money – the best solo work ever laid down by a Beatle (full disclosure: I was fully aware of Paul McCartney long before I knew he had once conquered the world with three other dudes.) The fact I thought it was actually “Man on the Run” upon initially hearing it on Vancouver’s iconic CFUN doesn’t alter the fact the tune owned my summer of 1973, and to be honest, just about every summer since. Close my eyes when it comes on, even 40 years later and I can picture the family jammed into the station wagon on the Hope-Princeton highway, heading for our rustic summer resort in BC’s Okanagan Valley. And certainly I didn’t know then, as a 9-year-old slowly moving on musically from The Osmonds, that the three-stage makeup of “Band on the Run” would set up my eventual worship for Springsteen and his epic suites chalk full of all those similar changes of direction. As you might expect with a Bruce fan, lyrics have always been the thing for me and there aren’t many passages better than the opening lines of the final chapter in “Band on the Run’s” three-headed masterpiece. That brilliant acoustic guitar (again with the crispness) leads to this: “Well the rain exploded with a mighty crash, as we fell into the sun; and the first one said to the second one there – I hope you’re having fun.” That last line is punctuated by McCartney’s raspy howl, just as the final line in each of the next two verses is – in particular and to greatest effect with “for the rabbits on the run!” Start to finish, from the band being “stuck inside these four walls”…to the longing of “if I ever get out of here”…to the prison break and the triumphant cries of “but we never will be found”, the song takes me on the kind of journey only great music can. And isn’t it amazing that even after what has to be over 1500 listens, I still catch myself shaking my head at its brilliance.