“Jet” is a song by Paul McCartney and Wings from their album Band on the Run. It was the first British and American single to be released from the album. The song’s title was inspired by McCartney’s jet black Labrador.
The song peaked at number 7 on both the British and American charts on 30 March 1974, also charting in multiple countries in Europe. It has since been released on numerous compilation albums, and has since become one of the band’s best-known tracks.
Reviewers have reported that the song’s title was inspired by McCartney’s Labrador Retriever dog named “Jet”. McCartney has also substantiated this claim.
We’ve got a Labrador puppy who is a runt, the runt of a litter. We bought her along a roadside in a little pet shop, out in the country one day. She was a bit of a wild dog, a wild girl who wouldn’t stay in. We have a big wall around our house in London, and she wouldn’t stay in, she always used to jump the wall. She’d go out on the town for the evening, like Lady and the Tramp. She must have met up with some big black Labrador or something. She came back one day pregnant. She proceeded to walk into the garage and have this litter… Seven little black puppies, perfect little black Labradors, and she’s not black, she’s tan. So we worked out it must have been a black Labrador. What we do is if either of the dogs we have has a litter, we try to keep them for the puppy stage, so we get the best bit of them, and then when they get a bit unmanageable we ask people if they want to have a puppy. So Jet was one of the puppies. We give them all names. We’ve had some great names, there was one puppy called Golden Molasses. I rather like that. Then there was one called Brown Megs, named after a Capitol executive. They’ve all gone now. The people change the names if they don’t like them.
— Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney: In His Own Words
However, in a 2010 interview on the UK television channel ITV1 for the programme Wings: Band on the Run (to promote the November 2010 CD/DVD re-release of the album) McCartney explained that Jet was the name of a pony he had owned, although many of the lyrics bore little relation to the subject; indeed, the true meaning of the lyrics has defied all attempts at decryption.
The song’s use of the word “suffragette” was described by McCartney as “crazy” and “silly”, not having any deep inspiration.
I make up so much stuff. It means something to me when I do it, and it means something to the record buyer, but if I’m asked to analyze it I can’t really explain what it is. ‘Suffragette’ was crazy enough to work. It sounded silly, so I liked it.
— Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney: In His Own Words
In a 2017 interview on Australian radio station Triple J for the segment Take 5, McCartney explained that the song was actually about his experience meeting Linda’s father.
There’s no telling where you’ll get ideas from and we happened to name this little black puppy Jet. Again I was noodling around, looking for an idea and thought that’s a good word ‘Jet’. So, I wrote the song about that. Not about the puppy, just using the name. And now it’s transformed into a sort of girl. It was kind of — a little bit about the experiences I’d had in marrying Linda. Her dad was a little old fashioned and I thought I was a little bit intimidated, as a lot of young guys can be meeting the father figure. And if the dad’s really easy-going, it makes it easy. It wasn’t bad but I was a bit intimidated, probably my fault as much as his. Anyway, the song starts to be about the sergeant major and it was basically my experience, roughly translated. I never do a song with the actual words that actually happen, because then that’s like a news story. Oh Linda, I was going to see your dad and he was intimidating. A bit boring. So, I mask it and mould it into a song, something you can sing reasonably.
— Paul Mccartney, Take 5
Whereas most of the Band on the Run album was recorded in Lagos, Nigeria, “Jet” was recorded entirely at EMI Studios in London after the group’s return (according to engineer Geoff Emerick in his book Here There and Everywhere). Instrumentation used in the song includes electric guitars, bass, Moog, drums, piano, horns and strings. A closer listening reveals the Moog is used for the bass line during the verse and is simply Linda holding the root note.
“Jet” was released as the debut single from Band on the Run in January 1974 (although in some countries, the Non-UK/US single “Mrs. Vandebilt” was released first). The single was a Top 10 hit for Paul McCartney and Wings, peaking at number 7 in both America and Britain. The single was backed with “Let Me Roll It” in Britain. When first released, in America the single’s B-side was “Mamunia”, another track from Band on the Run, but it was soon replaced with the British B-side.
The song peaked at number 7 on both the British and American charts on 30 March 1974, also charting in multiple countries in Europe. “Jet” has since been released on multiple compilation albums, including Wings Greatest (1978) and All the Best! (1987).
Prominent music critic Dave Marsh named the song number 793 in his list of the 1001 greatest singles ever made. He referred to it as a “grand pop confection” that represented the only time McCartney approached the “drive and density” of his tenure with the Beatles. Writer Graham Reid has described it as a power pop “gem”.
Paul McCartney has since said that the soft rock band The Carpenters were fans of “Jet”.
I remember Richard and Karen Carpenter ringing me up to tell me about ‘Jet’ – they were like the last people on Earth I thought who’d like ‘Jet’! But they were like, ‘Oh, great record, man!’ So, you know, it was actually resonating with people.
— Paul McCartney, Clash
The Australian rock band Jet drew their name from the song title.
Paul McCartney – lead vocals, guitar, bass guitar, drums
Linda McCartney – backing vocals, keyboards
Denny Laine – backing vocals, guitar
Howie Casey – saxophone