George Harrison once said he didn’t recognize Beatle George. Newspaper reporters can only nail so much truth, not least for the limited glean of timed interview slots, after which informed guesswork as a kind of excusable act of fiction must fill in the gaps. Hence, George was and will forever remain in the picture — certainly as foundation — but Beatle George outgrew the source, becoming an endlessly canvassed product of hive-expectation. It happened to all of the Beatles, as it does all stars that achieve universal, celestial acclaim. They become cubistic: there were too many side to their profiles for them to be real.
Thus, out of the history box is returned Ram Paul; the freshly-ex-Beatle Paul who existed in 1971. If, as there will inevitably be one day, an action figure of Ram Paul, his plastic form would arrive with painted on beard, boasting an Aran sweater, complete with a limited edition Old English Sheepdog accessory. Because, with something rotten in the state of Apple, Ram Paul was the one who escaped to the Scottish outlands, to clear his head smoking dope and writing songs. Ironically, though, given how so much is known and invariably regurgitated about Paul McCartney, forensic as the music media industry has become over the last three decades, Ram has managed to remain the least known of all his works. Generally discussed or presented as little more than a narrative link between the end of the Fabs and the unfurling of Wings. Until now that is, given that Ram has finally been allocated its fair share of the Beatles Inc marketing budget.
Often Ram is spoken of as being Macca’s angry album and certainly there’s a pleasing crispy edge to the material, suggesting that punk was indeed a long time coming (even if, as with Lennon’s “Imagine”, it’s somewhat difficult to accept the otherwise universal emotion of anger from a rich man). It’s also talked of as a home-made album. Often plugging straight into the back of the mixing desk, Paul was less concerned with the smoke and backwards mirror effects of the Beatles Abbey Road exile years. All of which are fair approximations of what went into making Ram. but not the whole picture.
Check out “Too Many People”, the opening track on the newly re-released and re-mastered album and, if you listen in on headphones, the big treat will be the collage-like cut and paste of the finished soundscape. Given how so much of our music is processed to within an inch of implosion these days — even supposedly raw and acoustic, back to basic affairs — there’s an education to be had from listening to how McCartney arranged his channels and elements in 1971.