Initially known as ‘The Mess I’m In’, ‘The Mess’ emerged from Wings’ first rehearsals at the Scotch of St James club in London on 20 January 1972. It was likely based in part on ‘The Shape I’m In’ by The Band.
It was first performed during Wings’ UK university tour in February 1972. It varied in length, sometimes breaching the seven-minute mark.
The studio recording was made at Olympic Sound Studios on 8 March 1972, one of the earliest songs recorded for Red Rose Speedway. The song was shelved, however, and side B of the planned double album ended with a live version recorded at the Congresgebouw in the Hague on 21 August 1972 during the Wings Over Europe Tour.
The live version was slightly edited, and contained some vocal and guitar overdubs.
The Red Rose Speedway double album was eventually released in 2018, as part of the deluxe edition and as a standalone vinyl release. The deluxe edition also contained the studio version.
The ‘My Love’ single, with ‘The Mess’ (Live at The Hague) on the b-side, was included in McCartney’s 2022 box set The 7″ Singles Box.