Recorded: March-October 1972
Producer: Paul McCartney
Engineers: Alan Parsons, Richard Lush, Dixon Van Winkle, Tim Geeland, Glyn Johns, David Hentschel
Released: 4 May 1973 (UK), 30 April 1973 (US)
Paul McCartney: vocals, guitar, bass guitar, piano, electic piano, celeste, Moog, Mellotron
Linda McCartney: vocals, piano, organ, electric piano, electric harpsichord, percussion
Denny Laine: vocals, guitar, bass guitar, harmonica, drums
Henry McCullough: vocals, guitar, percussion
Denny Seiwell: drums, percussion
Dave Spinoza: guitar
Hugh McCracken: guitar
Big Barn Bed
Get On The Right Thing
One More Kiss
Little Lamb Dragonfly
When The Night
Loup (1st Indian On The Moon)
Medley: Hold Me Tight/Lazy Dynamite/Hands Of Love/Power Cut
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 Tragey, 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 I’m In (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.
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. Wings taped Big Barn Bed, My Love, One More Kiss, Single Pigeon, When The Night, Loup (1st Indian On The Moon) and the medley which closed the album.
Work 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.
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.
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 was 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 released with a gatefold sleeve with a 12-page booklet. The front cover photograph depicted McCartney in front of a motorcycle, and was taken in the roof studio of the Sunday Times newspaper.
The booklet featured artwork by Eduardo Paolozzi and Alan Jones, as well as photographs of Wings in concert and on holiday in Marrakesh. Paolozzi had taught Stuart Sutcliffe at the Hamburg College of Art in the early 1960s.
Original copies featured a braille message on the back cover – “We love you baby” – which was intended for the McCartneys’ friend Stevie Wonder. The address of the Wings fan club, which ran until 1998, was also printed on the sleeve.
A single, My Love, was released ahead of the album and became a transatlantic success. The b-side was The Mess, recorded live in The Hague in 1972.
My Love reached number nine on the UK charts, and topped the US Hot 100. It was McCartney’s second US number one, and raised expectations for the album.
My Love showed how Wings had matured since Wild Life, and was an assured ensemble performance. It was therefore a disappointment to many that Red Rose Speedway contained just a handful of songs of the same quality, with much of the rest of the album erring towards the middle of the road. As McCartney himself later admitted, it was “such a non-confident record… We needed a heavier sound.”
Red Rose Speedway was credited to Paul McCartney and Wings, suggesting that the group needed the former Beatle’s name to lift their public profile and sales. It was a canny move: the release coincided with The Beatles’ 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 compilations, and George Harrison’s Living In The Material World.
The album was released on 30 April 1973 in the United States. It reached number one on the Billboard 200, spending a total of 31 weeks on the chart.
Red Rose Speedway was issued on 4 May in the United Kingdom. It peaked at number five, spending 16 weeks all together in the charts.
In 1987 the album was first issued on compact disc, with I Lie Around, Country Dreamer and The Mess as bonus tracks. It was remastered and reissued in 1993 as part of the Paul McCartney Collection series, with the bonus tracks C Moon, Hi, Hi, Hi, The Mess and I Lie Around.