Certain Songs #1450: Paul McCartney & Wings – Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five

Album: Band on the Run
Year: 1973

Do you realize how far off in the future 1985 seemed to me in 1974? I was only eleven, so it was basically double my life!!!

So maybe that’s part of the reason I loved the final track from Band on the Run so much: it seemed so futuristic. And I actually think that was part of the point, at least musically, as “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” practically bordered on prog.

At first, it just a jaunty piano riff, followed hard by a rhythm section kicking in, plus some weird synth effects. Then an overly cheery Paul sings:

Oh, no one ever left alive
In nineteen hundred and eighty five
Will ever do
She may be right, she may be fine
She may get love but she won’t get mine,
’cause I got you
Whoa I, oh I
Well I just can’t get enough of that sweet stuff
My little lady gets behind

But it’s not really the beginning of “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” that really matters, it’s the ending. After a couple of organ drenched breakdowns, it takes off after the last verse, and the last two minutes are just fucking dense craziness: piano solos, guitar solos, sax solos, drum solos, synth squiggles while all along the song is building ever skywards.

Eventually a orchestra comes in, but it’s almost masked by the plethora of overdubs, which keep piling on until the song finally crashes into the sky, stripping it of everything but the orchestra which slams it back down to earth and straight into one last chorus of “Band on the Run” — for … reasons — as the song fades out.

It’s a pretty amazing recording, and my gut is that one of the reasons that Band on the Run has been eternally feted as an album is that it starts with the title track, hits high points like “Jet” and “Let Me Roll It” and then closes so massively, only to circle back to the beginning. Band on the Run was in no shape, way or form a concept album, but that reprise made it feel closer to one.

“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five”

“Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five” performed live in 2018

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