Recording "Give Ireland Back To The Irish"

Tuesday, February 1, 1972 • For Wings

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Give Ireland Back To The Irish 7" Single.
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

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On January 30, 1972, British soldiers shot 26 unarmed civilians during a protest march in Derry, Northern Ireland. In response to those events, Paul McCartney wrote “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” on the spot. The track, which would become the first Wings’ first non-album single, was recorded on this day, two days after the events.

In the Abbey Road studios, were present Wings (including Henry McCullough who had recently joined the band), engineer Tony Clark, assisted by Mark Vigars, and Andrew Tyler, a journalist from Disc And Music Echo magazine.

My wife said ‘Paul’s in the studio. They’ve just phoned up; you’ve got to go in!’ I actually remember walking down from the Tube station and crossing the zebra crossing and hearing the immense sound coming out of Abbey Road. It was that loud! […] It was rather a tense session but full of energy and Paul chose to finish it with Glyn Johns at another studio.

Tony Clark – Interview from “Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013)” by Luca Perasi

Andrew Tyler documented the session in his article published on February 12 in Disc And Music Echo (two weeks before the release of the single, on February 25):

[…] “Okay, let’s try the end bit again,” says Paul. He picks up his Fender bass and settles on the far side of a hinged screen that cuts off the top third of the studio. The others gather themselves in position — Denny L. and Henry on the near side, Denny S. in his fortress to the left and Linda to their right on piano.

Give Ireland Back To The Irish…” They’re trying for a backing track but it’s early days.

They run through the piece once and Paul comes over. “It’s something I woke up with this morning,” he tells me. “It’ll be our next single if it works out. If people want it. It’s about the mess in Ireland.”

He does a little dance and sings me a couple of bars then heads on for the sound room. He moves so fast. Part of the McCartney legend is to do with his energy. Here, there and everywhere, adjusting volume and tone on amps, flicking buttons on any one of a half-dozen keyboard instruments in the studio, coercing just the right sound out of the machine. McCartney the perfectionist. Ready for another go while his sleepy companions sup tea and munch chocolate biscuits.

Many hours later there was the debris of stoned, sleep-hungry bodies strewn over chairs in the sound room. Linda was asleep across her husband’s back; Henry and the Denny’s could have used some matchsticks to prop open their eyes and Paul McCartney was tapping out rhythms and playing with dials on the space-age control panel. […]

Ian [Horne, roadie] asks me if wouldn’t mind waiting in the sound room as I’d probably get in the way of things. But 15 minutes later I can see Paul signalling through the booth’s panoramic window: “Mr. Disc, you can come in here you like.”

They try a couple more takes while Tony Clark, the EMI engineer, tries for a balance, listening in on each instrument separately. It’s a simple, sing-along tune using G, D and A7 chords for the verse and a chorus in a minor mode. […]

9.30 p.m. They relax with a bit of Johnny Cash corn. Henry’s ready for a take but Tony in the sound room isn’t. “When You are in love it’s the loveliest night of the Year.” 10 p.m. Tony’s ready at last. They try a take but listening in on the replay they sense they’ve lost something.

We should have done it this afternoon when it was still fresh,” says Denny L. Paul agrees: “We’ve lost some of the feel but it’s a better sound.” He calls through on the monitor to Tony: “Couldn’t you make it sound more like a record. Something more electric. It sounds too much like a band.

As the night wears thin, he wages a subtle battle to arrest control of the sound panel from Tony. Eventually, he dominates as he dominates every other situation. By this time Henry has come through with a superb guitar line for the intro and verse. Denny supports with a compact rhythm that serves as a second lead and Linda backs with choppy chording on piano.

Do you think I should use organ or piano,” she’s asking. “Whatever feels best,” says Paul. 11 p.m. They decide on smaller amps and more baffles and Ian zooms away in the grey Bedford van to collect them. Linda settles for electric piano. More tea, dope and things. The breaks are coming more often as their strength goes.

Great Britain, you are tremendous, nobody knows like me. Meanwhile back in Ireland there’s a man who looks like me.

They sense they’ve found a suitable tracking track among the half dozen takes, and gather around a couple of mikes at the far end of the studio for vocals. But no, it’s a compromise. They start the whole process again. Bring on the big amps again. Okay, let’s get going.

By 3 p.m., they’ve found a good take and Paul, headphones clamped over his ears, doubles up on his original vocals. The others form a semi-circle around a second mike and Denny L. conducts them through the eeh, oohs, ahs and handclaps. They keep missing cues and giggling. Henry contributes a strangled howl.

But the replay sounds great. Everyone is in the sound room talking over what’s needed to fill the gaps. They decide on a bottleneck guitar intro from Henry. He tries a dozen takes with Paul at the panel telling him over the monitor: “A little more savage… yeah that sort of thing but leave out the end bit.” He whittles it down to four or five notes.

The final touch. Paul wants to add a few of his own lead guitar lines to the last few bars. Henry and Denny back him with straight rhythm guitar while he rehearses his bit. He takes 15 minutes to get it right.

The time is 5.30 Wednesday morning. They’ve been working on the song for 14 1/2 hours, 11 1/2 in the studio. They’ll be back for more overdubs, maybe a penny whistle for the chorus.

All I can say is goodnight,” says Paul and he, Linda and Denny stride out of Studio 3, Abbey Road.

From Disc And Music Echo, February 12, 1972

At least two further sessions – on February 3 and February 4 – would be required to complete the two versions of “Give Ireland Back To The Irish” released on the single (the B-Side was an instrumental version).

It’s unclear if they work on the track on February 2 and when work on the B-Side happened. From Wikipedia:

The B-side of the single, “Give Ireland Back to the Irish (Version)”, is an instrumental version of the song. McCartney used this rather than another song since, anticipating problems over the political content, he thought that if disc jockeys decided to favour the B-side to avoid the lyrics being heard, they would still have to mention the track’s title. McCartney took the rhythm section parts from the A-side and overdubbed lead guitar lines (played by himself and McCullough) and an Irish penny whistle. Seeking to emulate the low-fidelity quality of Jamaican reggae singles, where instrumental dubs were commonly used as B-sides, McCartney gave the track a muddy-sounding mix, with barely any high-end sound.

Last updated on April 23, 2022

Songs recorded


Musicians on "Give Ireland Back To The Irish"

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Vocals, Electric guitar (?)
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Keyboards
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Henry McCullough:
Electric guitar
Denny Seiwell:

Production staff

Paul McCartney:
Tony Clark:
Recording engineer
Mark Vigars:
Assistant engineer

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