I very often make attempts to turn my country friends onto music they otherwise might sneer at. “Paul McCartney? He ain’t country.” Maybe not in the way we think of “country,” but this is a country album at its core.
Still, Ram isn’t just one thing. It’s 50s Rock (“Smile Away”), Baroque Pop (“Dear Boy”), folk (“Ram On”) along with elements of Country and Jazz that find their way throughout, making the album an eclectic combination of sounds that masterfully blend together.
After leaving the Beatles, McCartney moved to the Scottish countryside on The Mull of Kintyre. At this time, he began writing songs which reflected the simplicity of his lifestyle. His decision to live off the land, on a farm with wife Linda, translated into an very pure and heartfelt period in his career, which is exemplified with Ram. On the track, “Heart of the Country,” he sings:
Want Horse, I Want Sheep,
I Want To Get Me A Good Night’s Sleep,
Livin ‘ In A Home
In The Heart Of The Country
When the album was released, McCartney underwent harsh criticism. Rollingstone reviewer John Landau called the album “incredibly inconsequential” and “monumentally irrelevant,” which are comments that could probably be made about any good Americana or Roots album.
Lyrically, the Ram features themes that are present in most American country songs, such as love, heartache, uncertainty, betrayal, isolation, dogs (“Three Legs”), horses, poor hygiene (“Smile Away”), sex, mind altering substances (“Monkberry Moon Delight”)…. etc.
One of the most powerful tracks on the album (and in McCartney’s career) is “Dear Boy” (which in sentiment, is reminiscent of something off of the Beach Boys Pet Sounds). In the song, he expresses his disdain towards someone who took for granted the person he loves (though, allegedly this was directed at John Lennon) :
I guess you never saw,
Dear boy, that love was there,
And maybe when you look too hard,
Dear boy, you never do become aware.
I guess you never did become aware,
Dear Boy. When I stepped in, my heart was down and out,
But her love came through and brought me ’round,
got me up and about.
I hope you never know, dear boy,
how much you missed,
And even when you fall in love,
Dear boy, it won’t be half as good as this
I hope you never know how much you missed, dear boy.
Though an underlying theme of the album is discontent with the world and relationships, McCartney has always been an artist who is able to bring positivity amidst the melancholy. The semi-title track, “Ram On,” is a call to continue on despite upset and embrace the love of another person (“Ram on, give your heart to somebody soon, right away”). Whether or not such a concept is realistic, the childlike, naive sentiment makes for good pop music. And that is what McCartney is a master of.