If you think about the skills you have – playing the piano, riding a bike, baking cookies – you had to practice, practice, practice to get good. Practicing and getting good at something is the thinking behind hashtags like #MotivationalMonday. It’s the idea behind the lyrics for Beyonce’s ‘***Flawless’, Drake’s ‘Started From The Bottom’, even Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’.
Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote that The Beatles had to play for over 10,000 hours to master their craft. So how did Wings get from the rough and tumble of their debut Wild Life to their more polished follow up? As Paul points out in the forthcoming reissue of Red Rose Speedway: Wings had to make their mistakes in public. But they did it in a very cool and punk way.
Getting in their van in London, the band drove around the country stopping off at student unions and offered to play. Word got out about the shows, but it was also a fun exercise of the five-piece learning how to be a band. With the tour under their belt, Wings headed back into the studio to begin work on their follow up album – still only around eight months old as a band!
In last month’s ‘You Gave Me The Answer’, Paul talked us through the starting point for Wings: Wild Life. This month Paul picks up that conversation to tell us about the follow up: Red Rose Speedway. The conversation took place during the remastering sessions for both releases at Abbey Road Studios.
PM.com: So after the University Tour and you started to gel as a band, was there a different approach to writing and recording Red Rose Speedway?
Paul: Yeah, it sounds more professional to me. It sounds like it’s putting in more effort, but it’s less rebellious than Wild Life.
PM.com: And listening back to the album today as you’ve been remastering it, are there any specific songs that stand out?
Paul: I’m very proud of ‘My Love’. This was early days for me and Linda, so it’s a love song to her really. One of the things I was proud of, funnily enough, was that it charted. It sort of did very well. [The ‘My Love’ single reached number one in the US!]
And the other story about the song was Henry McCullough’s guitar solo. We sat downstairs here at Abbey Road to do the take. It was all worked out. We were going to do it live with the orchestra, which was a little unusual, you know – you normally overdub the orchestra. But in the old days Sinatra used to record live with the orchestra. So, we were sitting around, I’m on piano and Henry’s over there in a corner somewhere, and the orchestra’s ready to go. So I’m just about to start. We’d rehearsed and the engineers had got “the sound”. And Henry just sort of wanders over to me and whispers in my ear: ‘I’ve got an idea for the guitar solo. Do you mind if I try it?’ And my mind goes, ‘No!! We’ve got an arrangement! They’re all here ready to go. It could be crap!’ [Laughs] But something just told me to sort of say, ‘Yeah, okay. Go for it!’ And he plays this really signature beautiful solo. So I was glad I said yes! But it was quite the moment, you know. It was like: well, here goes nothing! Then we do the take and I was amazed. I had never heard this solo, it was just something he’d come up with. And it was fabulous.
So, other songs on the album? ‘One More Kiss’. Mary was three or four around this time, so just a little kid. And you know how fathers often fuss over their kids? So I was fussing over her, she was a really cute baby. And I’m fussing away going, ‘Give me a kiss. Come on, give me a kiss!’ And she’d get fed up with me and sort of go: ‘Dad. Alright. But only one more kiss.’ So I got one more kiss… and a song! It suggested a country and western thing. And I was thinking that when we just listened back to it. A country singer should cover it!
PM.com: Do you remember where something like ‘Loup (1stIndian On The Moon)’ came from? It’s so different from everything else on the album.
Paul: Because it’s an album track we had a bit more room to manoeuvre. And I think it’s the rebellious aspect of Wild Life coming back in. So you’ve got ‘My Love’, and that’s a proper song. You’ve got some other proper songs on the album. But then we’ve got something like ‘Loup’, where it was sort of a bit of fun for us. It’s pretty experimental. But we didn’t ever play it live, it was just something fun that only existed in the studio.
PM.com: And then the album closes with this amazing 11-minute medley. Do you remember how that was written?
Paul: Well, I kinda like the idea of medleys, as it’s structured. It’s sort of operatic, you know. And it’s good fun putting things like this together, finding little links and ways to go from this to that. We had done it on the Abbey Road album, at the end. And what we’d done there was John and I both had bits of songs that we hadn’t finished. So we put them into a medley and it worked. So this was me doing it again.
PM.com: Then shortly after ‘Red Rose Speedway’, you do a similar thing on the song ‘Band on the Run’, which is two or three songs in one?
Paul:Yeah, that is true. I started medleying within the song more around that time. It’s just interesting finding new ways to write a song – especially when you write as many as I do. I mean, I notice looking back at The Beatles, that we never really did the same song twice. It’s interesting, you’ve got ‘Please Please Me’, and then we don’t do another ‘Please Please Me’. Our next song changes, and then the next changes again. And that happened with all the singles. Whereas, other bands like The Supremes, it was a bit of a formula: ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’, ‘Baby Love’. You know, it was a conscious decision to avoid the formula thing. And so if you do that you have to look for new ways of writing songs.
And with that, Paul finished the remastering of Wild Life and Red Rose Speedway and left Abbey Road Studios… to go work on ‘Despite Repeated Warnings’, another medley song that can be found on his recent number one album Egypt Station!
Fans can learn much more about Red Rose Speedway in Amanda Petrusich’s 128-page essay that accompanies the Deluxe Edition;