The Paul McCartney Project

Helen Wheels

Album This song officially appears on the Helen Wheels 7" Single.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1973
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Helen Wheels” is a song by Paul McCartney & Wings. The song was named after Paul and Linda McCartney’s Land Rover, which they nicknamed “Hell on Wheels“.

Release

The single was released prior to Band on the Run and was not included on the original UK release of the album. However, Capitol Records vice president of promotion Al Coury persuaded McCartney to include it on the American release. The song peaked at number 10 in the United States on 12 January 1974 and at number 12 in the United Kingdom charts.

In the book Paul McCartney In His Own Words published in 1976, McCartney said:

“Helen Wheels is our land rover. It’s a name we gave to our land rover, which is a trusted vehicle that gets us around Scotland. It takes us up to the Shetland Islands and down to London. The song starts off in Glasgow, and it goes past Carlisle, goes to Kendal, Liverpool, Birmingham and London. It’s the route coming down from our Scottish farm to London, so it’s really the story of the trip down. Little images along the way. Liverpool is on the West coast of England, so that is all that means.”

From AllMusic:

Man critics and pop fans wrote Paul McCartney off as a mere purveyor of sugary pop in the 1970’s due to hits like “Silly Love Songs” but a close look at his work from this era reveals he also recorded several bracing rockers. One of the best was “Helen Wheels,” a raucous 1973 single that was added to American pressings of Band On The Run. The lyrics were inspired by Paul McCartney’s land rover and pay homage to Chuck Berry’s travelling-themed rockers like “The Promised Land” as they describe a trip from Scotland to England on the M-6 motorway: “M6, south down to Liverpool/Where they play the west coast sound/Sailor Sam, he came from Birmingham/But he never will be found.” This narrative is pumped up by an exciting melody that builds from swinging, breathlessly paced verses into a shout-along chorus that underlines the phrase “Helen – hell on wheels” with go-for-broke enthusiasm. McCartney raises the excitement level even higher on his recording of “Helen Wheels” with a gutsy arrangement that marries snarling electric guitars to a shuffling, ska-styled beat. McCartney wails over the top of this driving sound with an abandon reminiscent of his early Beatles, adding the ideal final touch to make it a fun rocker. As a result, “Helen Wheels” became a top-10 hit for McCartney. It did simarly well around the world and stands alongside “Jet” and “Junior’s Farm” as one of McCartney’s finest rockers from this era.

Paul McCartney in "Conversations With McCartney", by Paul Du Noyer:

I like that because it’s a British road song and there’s not many of those around. It’s always Route 66. How many songs have got Carlisle in them? And Birmingham, not Brimingham, Alabama. The M6… Linda loved Scotland. I still love setting off in London, going up the motorway, and you see the land change. It’s like going all the way through America. We always cheer as we go over the border then around Loch Lomond. It’s got a lot of memories for me, that Land Rover with everything in the back, dogs, kids, us all up at the front, and me, driving on this epic journey.

Last updated on October 22, 2016

Lyrics

Said farewell to my last hotel
It was never much kind of abode,
Glasgow town never brought me down
When I was heading out on the road,
Carlisle city never looked so pretty
And the Kendal freeway's fast.
Slow down driver, want to stay alive
I want to make this journey last

Helen - Hell on wheels
Ain't nobody else gonna know the way she feels
Helen - Hell on wheels
And they never gonna take her away.

M6 south down to Liverpool
Where they play the west coast sound
Sailor Sam he came from Birmingham
But he never will be found.
Doing fine when a London sign
Greets me like a long lost friend,
Mr Motor won't you check her out,
She's got to take me back again.

Helen - Hell on wheels
Ain't nobody else gonna know the way she feels
Helen - Hell on wheels
And they never gonna take her away.

Got no time for a rum and lime
I wanna get my right foot down
Shake some dust off of this old bus
I gotta get her out of town
Spend the day upon the motorway
Where the carburettors blast
Slow down driver, wanna stay alive,
I want to make this journey last.

Helen - Hell on wheels
Ain't nobody else gonna know the way she feels
Helen - Hell on wheels
And they never gonna take her away

Officially appears on


Band On The Run

Official album • Released in 1973

3:47 • Studio versionA • Additional track only on the US release

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Moog
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Monday:
Assistant recording engineer
Pete Swettenham:
Assistant mixing engineer

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Helen Wheels

7" Single • Released in 1973

3:48 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Moog
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Monday:
Assistant recording engineer
Pete Swettenham:
Assistant mixing engineer

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Band On The Run (1993)

Official album • Released in 1993

3:48 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Moog
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Monday:
Assistant recording engineer
Pete Swettenham:
Assistant mixing engineer

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Band On The Run (DTS 5.1)

Official album • Released in 1996

3:47 • DTS mixC • Additional track only on the US release

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Band On The Run (25th Anniversary)

Official album • Released in 1999

3:47 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Moog
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Monday:
Assistant recording engineer
Pete Swettenham:
Assistant mixing engineer

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Band On The Run (25th Anniversary)

Official album • Released in 1999

3:27 • InterviewB • Crazed - Includes Paul McCartney & Christopher Lee interview about the making of "Band On The Run" album

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyDenny Laine
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
September 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria


Wingspan Hits And History

Official album • Released in 2001

3:47 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Moog
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Monday:
Assistant recording engineer
Pete Swettenham:
Assistant mixing engineer

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Motor Of Love

Official album • Released in 2005

3:40 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Moog
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Monday:
Assistant recording engineer
Pete Swettenham:
Assistant mixing engineer

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Band On The Run - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2010

3:48 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Moog
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Monday:
Assistant recording engineer
Pete Swettenham:
Assistant mixing engineer

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Band On The Run - Archive Collection

Official album • Released in 2010

5:33 • InterviewB • Crazed - Includes Paul McCartney & Christopher Lee interview about the making of "Band On The Run" album

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyDenny Laine
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
September 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Bootlegs


MoMac's Hidden Tracks Vol. 5

Unofficial album

3:44 • Studio version


UK Singles Collection - Volume 01

Unofficial album • Released in 2007

3:48 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Moog
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Monday:
Assistant recording engineer
Pete Swettenham:
Assistant mixing engineer

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Band On The Run - Ultimate Archive Collection

Unofficial album • Released in 2016

3:46 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Drums, Electric guitar, Producer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Moog
Denny Laine:
Backing vocals, Electric guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Mixing engineer, Recording engineer
Monday:
Assistant recording engineer
Pete Swettenham:
Assistant mixing engineer

Session Recording:
September 1-23, 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria

Session Overdubs:
October 1973
Studio:
AIR Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Late October / Early November 1973
Studio:
Kingsway Studios, London, UK

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Band On The Run - Ultimate Archive Collection

Unofficial album • Released in 2016

3:47 • Studio version • A stereo downmix of the DTS-CD 5.1 mix released in May 1996


Band On The Run - Ultimate Archive Collection

Unofficial album • Released in 2016

5:32 • InterviewB • Crazed - Includes Paul McCartney & Christopher Lee interview about the making of "Band On The Run" album

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyDenny Laine
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer

Session Recording:
September 1973
Studio:
EMI Studios, Lagos, Nigeria


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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Joseph Ahern 1 years ago

Was watching a video on YouTube and noticing that Paul is playing most of the instruments. I don't know who was playing all the interesting solos on lead guitar. Would that be Paul or Denny?


The PaulMcCartney Project 1 years ago

Hi Joseph, thanks for the question. I unfortunately don't have the answer to this question ! Would require some researching ! Adding to the list :)