Paul McCartney – Helen Wheels

Great rocker by Paul that was on his most successful album Band On The Run. “Helen Wheels” was Paul’s tongue-in-cheek nickname for his Land Rover vehicle (“Hell-on-Wheels”). Paul originally wanted this song to be a stand-alone single but Capitol overruled him…. and placed it on US versions of the Band On The Run album.

Drummer Denny Seiwell and guitarist Henry McCullough quit Wings right before Paul was heading to Lagos, Nigeria to record this album. Paul only had himself, Linda, and Denny Laine to get it done. He wanted to record outside of the UK and got a list from Capitol of all of ther studio locations. He picked Africa and was accused of going there to expand his music with their percussion and rythms.

They got to Lagos ready to work but it didn’t go well at first. Paul and Linda walked home one night from the studio and were pestered by a group of men in a car, who repeatedly asked if they wanted a lift. After arguing with the men…six of them got out of the car and robbed Paul and Linda by gun point. They ended up handing over over demo tapes, cameras and cash. Al the music and lyrics he had for Band On The Run was gone. He had to reconstruct everything in the Lagos studio.

They went out of their way to avoid an African sound after the mugging and being accused of coming to Lagos to exploit their music. After 6 weeks in Lagos, the album was completed in London.

I do wish Paul would have made more songs like Juinors Farm, Let Me Roll It, and this one. He could do edgy songs when he wanted to.

The song peaked at #10 in the Billboard 100, #4 in Canada, and #12 in the UK in 1973. It was a non-album single in the UK and Europe but included on Band on the Run in America.

The Band on the Run album peaked at #1 in the Billboard Album Charts, Canada, The UK, and #23 in New Zealand in 1973-1974.

Helen Wheels

Said farewell to my last hotel, it never was 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 is fast
Slow down driver, wanna stay alive, i wanna make this journey last

Helen! (Helen) Helen Wheels
Ain’t nobody else gonna know the way she feels
Helen! (Helen) Helen Wheels
And they never gonna take her away

M6 south down Liverpool, where they play the west coast sound
Sailor Sam, he came from Birmingham, but he never will be found
Doin’ fine when a London sign, greets me like a long lost friend
Mister motor won’t you check her out, she’s gotta take me back again

Helen! (Helen) Helen Wheels
Ain’t nobody else gonna know the way she feels
Helen! (Helen) Helen 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 wanna make this journey last

Helen! (Helen) Helen Wheels
Ain’t nobody else gonna know the way she feels
Helen (Helen) Helen Wheels
And they never gonna take her away

Say bye-bye…

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

40 thoughts on “Paul McCartney – Helen Wheels”

  1. one of their really good singles yet one most people don’t remember. Except for Casey Kasem repeats, I don’t know when I last heard it on radio or in stores on ‘Muzak’. I would do with hearing it a few more times and ‘Band on the Run’ (good song as it is) a few less.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I saw an interview with Linda a long time ago…and she said something I could not find in print in what limited time I searched. She supposedly saved Pauls life when they were getting mugged.
      She started to point at him screaming “Beatle Paul, Beatle Paul” and they realized hurting him or killing him would not be a good thing….they would be hunted down lo.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good for her! I don’t know what Paul was thinking. For the most part, he’s certainly a fairly smart man but every once in awhile… I mean, I could understand him maybe being tired of London and the same ol studio, but if he wanted a change, why not move the band to LA for a few months? Or Alabama (Muscle Shoals). Or go back to Germany…why pick a Third World country in the midst of Civil War?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yea…he wanted that rythm section is what he wanted but I’m sure you can find that in New Orleans or a hundred other places.

        Like

    1. Yes it was… Paul Simon was accused of the same thing when he went there in the eighties. They were very protective of their music. You would think they would welcome the compliment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes….I guess jazz doesn’t have the commercial appeal as pop but it’s still big. I do like jazz a lot. Have you ever played much jazz Bruce? It’s not easy…at least what I’ve tried.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I shall look closer at that. Now I need a guitar! Years ago I started to learn the guitar and got stuck on the F. (Mind you it’s not the first time I got stuck on an F). I was taught by a Tongan (who is just having a volcano erupt big time according to the news) and Tongans tune their guitars differently from us but the chords sound the same – just different frets and fingers.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’ll have to look into the Tongan tuning!
        The tab system makes sense to me… no squiggly lines lol. I have to say though I mostly play by ear.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I was always pretty useless at music theory although I majored in it. When we had to analyse a piece of music I always teamed up with the woman who was good at harmony and she did all the talking – I just played each chord as she spoke. Got an A!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Without being too boring and monopolizing your comments!:
        Although the standard Western guitar tuning ( E, A, D, G, B, E ) is used, the preferred arrangement in Tonga is for a 5-stringed tuning ( G, D, G, B, D ) namely an open G tuning.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. You are never boring Bruce.
        I play in open G tuing! So I use Tonga tuning. At least 80 percent of Rolling Stones songs are in that tuning. Keith Richards uses it more than regular tuning.
        I love it…I do the 5 string.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. LOL… that was the hardest chord when I first learned it. The finger on the two botttom strings where not easy.

        Like

  2. Love helen wheels, one of his most under rated singles. Adore band on the run album and having this on it would only have increased my adoration – but its not on the album in my nostalgic memory of the time so i cant view it as being on it. Neither juniors farm. Jet and band on the run are masterpieces…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Juniors Farm was one of the first songs I like from Paul McCartney as a kid. Plus in Nashville he was all over the news in 1974 because he visited here at that time and recorded Sally G and Juniors Farm.
      I agree with Band on the Run and Jet…That album is great.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, Max, here I am, so-called Macca fan and I had to look up “Helen Wheels” and didn’t recognize it!

    I do have one excuse. When I taped “Ban on the Run” on MC many moons ago (can’t even remember who lent me their vinyl copy!), it must have been the European version, i.e., the one that didn’t have that tune.

    In any case, I agree it’s a great rocker and I’m glad I finally heard it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I dont’ know why it wasn’t added to the European version. It’s one that is not played as much as the other.
      I remember I had the single when I was in high school.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea the American releases always took a song or two away so they could make a new album…They should have released them as is

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d never heard this before… It’s got an early-seventies Beach Boys feel to it. I like the listing of British towns and cities in a very American sounding song. If only songs like these had been the big McCartney hits post-Beatles, rather than ‘Mull of Kintyre’, ‘Ebony and Ivory’ and the like…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m surprised at the number of commenters who’d never heard this song. It got a lot of radio play in the San Francisco Bay Area where I grew up. And with all the Capitol Records studios there must have been to choose from, why on earth would Paul want to go to Lagos, Nigeria?!

    Liked by 1 person

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