Red Rose Speedway, the follow-up to Wings’ debut album Wild Life, was released days before the group’s 1973 tour of the United Kingdom began.
Red Rose Speedway was the live act. I mean, the album’s OK. It has its moments, but nothing approaching the impact of the band in person. After I had heard Wild Life, I thought, ‘Hell, we have really blown it here.’ And the next one after that, Red Rose Speedway, I couldn’t stand.
The album followed several standalone singles of varying quality and chart success: ‘Give Ireland Back To The Irish’, ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb’, and ‘Hi, Hi, Hi’. Having had a largely negative reaction from music critics to Wild Life, McCartney must have been mindful of the importance of a successful album if Wings were to be taken seriously.
Red Rose Speedway was recorded with the second line-up of Wings, with Henry McCullough joining on guitar. The original plan was to release a double album, with around 30 songs mooted for inclusion, but McCartney was persuaded by EMI to condense the selection to a single disc.
I’d been really delighted [with the double album], because from what you heard on the album, there was another side to it that brought out the best in McCartney. And I thought, ‘Great, at last he’s doing something that my friends are going to like!’ He was starting to rock out a little bit. But it only came out as a single and the rest was never released.
A two-disc acetate version of the album, dated 13 December 1972, shows how the album was originally conceived. Side one featured ‘Big Barn Bed’, ‘My Love’, ‘When The Night’, and ‘Single Pigeon’, while side two contained ‘Tragedy’, ‘Mama’s Little Girl’, ‘Loup (1st Indian On The Moon)’, and ‘I Would Only Smile’.
Side three contained ‘Country Dreamer’, ‘Night Out’, ‘One More Kiss’, and ‘Jazz Street’, and side four featured ‘I Lie Around’, ‘Little Lamb Dragonfly’, ‘Get On The Right Thing’, ‘1882’ (live) and ‘The Mess’ (Live).
Absent from the running order is the medley which eventually closed the album. The two live tracks were recorded in 1972, as was the ‘My Love’ b-side ‘The Mess’. Several other songs were also recorded during Wings’ European tour, but were left unreleased.
I thought Red Rose Speedway was good as a double album and more of a showcase for the band. So when it came out as a single album, I didn’t like it as much as Ram.
During research for the 2018 reissue of the album, MPL uncovered what they claimed was the final tracklisting for the double album. Red Rose Speedway: Reconstructed was released in December 2018 as a bonus CD in the deluxe edition of the album, and separately as a two-LP vinyl version.
During the research, either the essay writer or MPL aim to speak with as many of the musicians, producers and engineers from the period as we can – we always want the story to be as complete as possible. So we jumped out of our seats when we learned that Denny Seiwell (drummer on Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway) still had three of the four acetates of a version of the touted release. And luckily the tracklisting for the fourth side was also written on there – so we had a physical document from the time! (You can see scans of these acetates in the 128-page essay book included in the Deluxe Edition.)
Denny’s acetates were dated 13th December 1972. So was this the final version? Our subsequent research suggested not – ‘My Love’ wasn’t recorded until January 1973! But it was a great leap forward.
Then, as luck would have it, Paul’s archive department found another version of the tracklisting from 30th January 1973 (these archive folks are the people you REALLY want on your team if you’re ever in a pub quiz about our boss – they know everything, maybe even more than Paul himself!). As Red Rose Speedway was released in May 1973, we felt reassured this version would be pretty final. What’s more, this version also fitted perfectly onto four sides of vinyl. [Techie Note: You can only fit up to 22 minutes comfortably on a side of vinyl.]
With this new tracklisting in our pockets, we had one more test to run: Paul’s memory! Now, you might think with everything Paul has seen and done, there can only be so much room in one man’s brain and he might not remember every little detail of every release? Not true. We don’t know how he does it, but he never ceases to amaze us with what has filed away in his head!
So after several months of research, we proudly went to show Paul our homework and to see if it tallied it up with his memories of the time. We sat down with him in his office on a beautiful early spring day, presented what we had and after a few minutes of looking through it we got our answer… yes!
Paul told us: ‘You know, this is actually how I recollect that double album. I don’t remember exactly why we changed it. Possibly because of the label? But, to be honest, it’s more likely that I would have just said it’s so much easier to deal with a single album. I mean, this one we’re making at the moment [Egypt Station] – we’ve already said, ‘There’s too many tracks!’ But, ultimately we’ll pick the best and make it a single album. They’re so much easier to deal with! But it’s great the double album will finally get a release!’
Side one had ‘Night Out’, ‘Get On The Right Thing’, ‘Country Dreamer’, ‘Big Barn Bed’, and ‘My Love’. Side two contained ‘Single Pigeon’, ‘When The Night’, ‘Seaside Woman’, ‘I Lie Around’, and ‘The Mess’ (live at The Hague).
Side three had ‘Best Friend’ (live in Antwerp), ‘Loup (1st Indian On The Moon)’, and Medley: ‘Hold Me Tight’/‘Lazy Dynamite’/‘Hands Of Love’/‘Power Cut’. Side four featured ‘Mama’s Little Girl’, ‘I Would Only Smile’, ‘One More Kiss’, Tragedy’, and ‘Little Lamb Dragonfly’.
In the studio
Red Rose Speedway was recorded between March and October 1972, with the group entering the studio whenever time allowed. Work took place in a number of locations in England and America.
Most of the tracks were recorded between March and October, but sessions were bisected by the Wings Over Europe tour which took place from 9 July to 24 August.
Recording began in Los Angeles in March 1972, and continued at Olympic Studios in Barnes, London. Glyn Johns, who had worked on The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Let It Be albums, was enlisted as a producer, but walked out of the sessions in April following a series of disagreements.
Two of the songs on Red Rose Speedway, ‘Get On The Right Thing’ and ‘Little Lamb Dragonfly’, were remainders from the Ram sessions. ‘Little Lamb Dragonfly’ was completed with the addition of extra overdubs, but ‘Get On The Right Thing’ was left unchanged.
Red Rose Speedway was completed with final overdubs and mixing at EMI Studios in Abbey Road, London, in October 1972, the same month that Wings recorded ‘Live And Let Die’ at George Martin’s AIR Studios in London.
During the sessions a number of unreleased songs were also recorded. These include ‘Mama’s Little Girl’, ‘Night Out’, ‘Jazz Street’, ‘Best Friend’, ‘Thank You Darling’, a studio version of ‘The Mess’, and a cover version of Thomas Wayne’s song ‘Tragedy’.
Songs were also written by Denny Laine and Linda McCartney. Laine’s contribution, ‘I Would Only Smile’, was later released on his 1981 solo album Japanese Tears. Linda’s song, ‘Seaside Woman’, became a US single in 1977. Its title also appeared in the artwork on the inner sleeve of Red Rose Speedway.
Red Rose Speedway was originally going to be a double album. Denny wrote a song for that and I wrote a song, but then we narrowed it down.