Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 145
Sun. June 23, 2013
“Back Seat of My Car”
Paul & Linda McCartney
After the commercial and critical success of 1971’s Surf’s Up and while Beach Boys fanatics, as well as their record label Warner Bros, eagerly awaited the release of the elder Wilson’s epic Smile, one of Brian’s closest rivaled confidants Paul McCartney came up with his own one word pocket symphony called Ram.
Known as one of the world’s famous lovers of Wilson’s Pet Sounds, Macca’s love of all things Brian and The Beach Boys followed the Wilson Brothers method of recording joyful anthems as you listen, to McCartney’s second post Beatles album, and you will hear, even though Macca recorded this in New York City, Ram filled with the most splendid of harmonies this side of Hawthorne, CA.
While some might hear Ram solely as Macca’s own masterpiece, Paul gives most of the glory of the harmonies to his wife and life partner Linda. Macca explained in Gary McGee’s Band on the Run: A History of Paul McCartney and Wings, when he said, “I worked her so hard in New York because I thought it’s all well having Linda on harmonies, but I’m not having her do bum harmonies. So I worked her like mad. She had never done it before. But if you listen to Ram, all those harmonies on there are just me and Linda. Pretty good, some of them. It was pretty good […] in the end it was just get it on and we did it.” Macca must have known Brian Wilson would be listening so, he and Linda crafted some of the best harmonies ever heard on a Paul McCartney album.
Originally intended for Abbey Road, Macca wanted “Back Seat of My Car” to be Ram’s climatic anthem for teenage lovers everywhere. In his book, Lennon & McCartney: Together Alone, John Blaney wrote, “McCartney’s early readings were peppered with allusions to the Beach Boys which he developed while recording the song in New York. A homage to fictionalized fantasy America of his youth, “The Back Seat of My Car” is an idealized expression of teenage love.” Paul’s “Car” was an ode to “The Back Seat” dreamers that Wilson and The Beach Boys so eloquently sung about in the 1960’s.
Mirroring the joyful themes of Wilson’s inspiring epic, recording Ram wasn’t all wonderful times in the studio. Even though Macca had experience some of the negative reactions, Brian had felt when he abandoned his Smile project, overcoming whatever his former Fab Four mates thought of their personal project Paul and Linda put their finishes touches on Ram. According to Peter Doggett’s You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup, John did his best Mike Love impression by dismissing Ram when he said “Fucking hell, it was awful. In general I think the other album [1970’s McCartney] he did was better, in a way. At least there was some songs on it.”
According to Lennon & McCartney: Together Alone, John and Yoko took Paul and Linda’s Ram as a personal affront while mocking “Back Seat’s” perseverance refrain of “We believe that we can’t be wrong.” I believe John Blaney said it best when he wrote, “Unsurprisingly, Lennon read it as another personal slight. It was typical. ‘Well, I believe that you could be just wrong.” Although it had little to do with their feuding, that Lennon could read it as such says much about the state of their relationship at the time.” In Doggett’s You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup, Linda responded to John and Yoko’s claims by saying, “They thought the whole album was about them. And they got very upset.” Paul admitted in Blaney’s Lennon & McCartney: Together Alone, on how he came up for the theme and title for his second album, when he said, “Ram seemed like a good word, because it not only meant ram forward, press on, be positive that aspect to it.”
Regardless of what Lennon or the rest of his Fab Four counterparts thought of Ram, “Car” reflects the amorous “Back Seat” fantasies of generations past. “The Back Seat of My Car” remains a soundtrack to lovers who lose themselves and their clothes within the pocket song symphony spirit of Brian Wilson’s Smile. That was no accident as Paul McCartney told Mojo Magazine in 2001, when he explained ““The Back Seat Of My Car” is very romantic: ‘We can make it to Mexico City.’ That’s a really teenage song, with the stereotypical parent who doesn’t agree, and the two lovers are going to take on the world: ‘We believe that we can’t be wrong.’ I always like the underdog.” Even with all the negative energies, Macca and Linda released Ram in 1971. Initially panned by critics and his band mates alike, like Smile, Ram’s underdog spirit of positivity outlasted the naysayers and is now considered to be one of Macca’s first masterpiece of the 1970’s.
In case you’re wondering how an unreleased album Smile from the 1966 would inspire Paul McCartney to record Ram? In 1971, The Beach Boys were becoming critical darlings with the release of “Surf’s Up” one of Brian’s most memorable cuts form his abandoned Smile project; Paul must have been listening because Ram captured the peace and love spirit that was still thriving in Surf’s Up.
More than just a Beach Boys homage or Beatles outtake, “The Back Seat of My Car” is one of those songs, you need to experience on headphones. Speaking of, I truly love the “marmalade skies and tangerine trees” like strings soaring through out “Car,” more than a turn on, with it’s brilliant odes to both his former band and Brian’s opus Smile, this Ram classic has the unique ability to take you away on a private musical trip. What are you waiting for? Get ready to grin with satisfaction as you take a personal ride and relive the pop pleasure of Paul and Linda McCartney’s one word pocket symphony, Ram‘s “The Back Seat of My Car.”