Cover artwork

Red Rose Speedway was released with a gatefold sleeve with a 12-page booklet. The front cover photograph depicted Paul McCartney in front of a motorcycle, and was taken in the roof studio of the Sunday Times newspaper offices.

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.

The release

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 Paul 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 1973 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’.