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 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’.
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.
Although Ringo’s “Back Off Boogaloo” was released over a year before this collection, and although it is debatable that Ringo’s song was aimed at Paul, this is an album that seems to justify Ringo’s lyrics ‘everything you try to do, you know it sure sounds wasted’. “Red Rose Speedway” has moments of near brilliance. Some of it is quite beautiful (albeit mainstream) and then Paul sings some rather banal lyrics and the listener can feel the mood being abruptly dispelled. It’s kind of rude. At the time this came out I already had quite the collection of Beatle bootlegs and other inside information. I knew all about how Paul would plunk a lyric in place when writing a song to help keep the cadence. Unfortunately here it would seem that Paul all too frequently kept his first impulse lyric.
I hope the double album can be released one day, in its entirety. Although I do like Red Rose Speedway as a single LP, the double album was what Paul & Wings were originally trying to shoot for. It could have been a classic on par with Band on the Run or All Things Must Pass.
I do think this album is underrated and was a step in the right direction, leading up to the classic Band on the Run. My Love was a big hit and a favorite of mine.
Lightweight throwaway songs with atrocious lyrics. That said, the melodies are incredibly catchy. Paul claims to not remember the album closing medley.
In my opinion RRS is the worst Wings recording. Rolling Stone Record Buying Guide even concurred by rating it 1 star. Its debute album Wildlife was better.
I am looking for a picture of Paul shaving that is on the sleeve of Red Rose Speedway original record. I took it out and had it framed. I just love that picture. Unfortunately my house burned down so I no longer have it. Do you have one or know where i can get one ? Even a small one from the CD.
Thank you for your time