Monday, May 23, 2011

Red Rose Speedway 1973

In April 1973 I was 15 years old and Nixon was President. The Beatles had only been busted up for a couple of years, but it seemed like centuries since they had been together. But a new Paul McCartney album was coming out in April. So there was hope.

The Beatles solo work had been a bit sketchy in those 1971/1972 days. The Concert for Bangla Desh seemed more like a great opportunity missed than the great event it was supposed to be. Sometime in New York City was a challenge. As if John and Yoko were daring us to buy their records no matter what was on them. Ringo's 'Back off Boogaloo' 45 was a weak follow-up to 'It Don't come Easy' and his movies 200 Motels and Blindman were unwatchable.

Paul's previous album, the somewhat confusing Wild Life, was a bomb with the critics. But in the meantime, he had released a kick-ass single called "Hi Hi Hi', so maybe this new album was going to be good?

I still remember buying Red Rose Speedway from a local chain called 'Everybody's Records' in Southwest Portland. And it was really cheap, being new and all. I think it was something like $3.19.

We'd already heard the big hit, 'My Love'. Another one of Paul's love ballads. Good for the mainstream fans, and I was happy to see him selling records. But it wasn't what I was after.

But I really dug the first cut 'Big Barn Bed', which began with a little leftover refrain from the Ram album...'Who's that comin' 'round that corner? Who's that comin' round that bend?'. Linda's back-up vocals were growing on me and were definitely part of the Paul/Wings sound. And that photo of her on the booklet inside, all lit in red, straddling a motorcycle with a little knee showing was sexy. I think I decided I liked Linda at that point.

And while the critics were tough on Red Rose Speedway, I remember that my friends and I played the hell out of it. 'Get on the Right Thing', 'When The Night', 'Loop (1ST Indian on the Moon', 'Hands of Love' and 'Power Cut' are all great songs and along with 'Big Barn Bed' capture that early Wings sound that at it's best, was sincere and charming and gave us a glimpse of a band as a 'work in progress'. They were far from perfect. Even the guitars seemed a little out of tune sometimes. But it was real. And that's what rock and roll is all about, right?

In 1973, John and Yoko were playing political court jesters. Ringo was stumbling around not sure if he was a film star or a 45s hit maker. And George was out of his league, being grandiose by releasing triple disc LPs and not being shy about his religious beliefs. But they would all eventually find a comfortable niche and produce some damn good albums during the rest of the 1970's.

But Paul was getting back to his roots. Starting a band from scratch and touring and trying to find his way. Red Rose Speedway was the last time one of his records would sound a bit amateurish. And maybe that's one of the reasons I love it so much.


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