Venus And Mars

Venus And Mars album artwork - WingsRecorded: November 1974 - March 1975
Producer: Paul McCartney

Released: 30 May 1975 (UK), 27 May 1975 (US)

Paul McCartney: vocals, bass guitar, piano
Linda McCartney: vocals, keyboards
Denny Laine: vocals, guitar, bass guitar
Jimmy McCulloch: vocals, guitar
Joe English: drums
Jeff Britton: drums
Dave Mason: guitar
Allen Toussaint: piano
Tom Scott: saxophone

Tracklisting:
Venus And Mars
Rock Show
Love In Song
You Gave Me The Answer
Magneto And Titanium Man
Letting Go
Venus And Mars (Reprise)
Spirits Of Ancient Egypt
Medicine Jar
Call Me Back Again
Listen To What The Man Said
Treat Her Gently - Lonely Old People
Crossroads

The fourth album by Wings, Venus And Mars was the follow-up to the hugely successful Band On The Run. The release featured the fourth and fifth iterations of the group's line-up.

Venus And Mars was stylistically more diverse than Band On The Run, reflecting McCartney's range of musical tastes and willingness to explore everything from hard rockers and ballads to old fashioned Hollywood musical styles and even a cover version of the low-budget UK soap opera Crossroads.

It's a joke! It's after Lonely Old People, you see. They are sitting there in the park, saying, 'Nobody asked us to play'. It's a poignant moment. Then there's a little break and then Crossroads starts up. It's lonely old people. It's just the kind of thing that lonely old people watch. It could just as easily have been Coronation Street, but we knew the chords to Crossroads. I just thought that it would be nice to do it.
Paul McCartney
New Orleans press conference, 1975

The 18 months between the two releases increased audience anticipation for Venus And Mars, but it was widely considered a disappointment. Regardless, it topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

The recording

Although they had intended to record the entire album in the United States, Wings began recording Venus And Mars at Abbey Road in late 1974. McCartney recruited Jimmy McCulloch and Geoff Britton to play lead guitar and drums respectively, and the new line-up recorded Letting Go, Love In Song and Medicine Jar, as well as an early version of Rock Show.

Wings had wanted to begin the album in New Orleans around the time of Thanksgiving in 1974, but Denny Laine had trouble getting a visa to enter the country. In January 1975, however, work moved to Allen Toussaint's Sea Saint Studios in New Orleans. The relocation was for tax-avoidance purposes as much as for inspirational reasons.

The New Orleans sessions took place from 16 January to 24 February 1975, with work typically taking place from late afternoon until the early morning. Wings first recorded Lunch Box/Odd Sox, which was left off the album but was eventually released in 1980 as the b-side to Coming Up.

Other songs not used on Venus And Mars included Crawl Of The Wild, Karate Chaos and Sea Dance, as well as Tomorrow, an instrumental version of the Wild Life track. My Carnival was issued in 1985 as the b-side of the Spies Like Us single, and New Orleans was a Linda McCartney song which was included on her posthumous 1998 album Wild Prairie.

I'd never been to New Orleans, except on tour when we never saw anything except the inside of a trailer. The only thing I remembered about New Orleans was the vibrator bed in the motel and it was sweating hot. So we went down to New Orleans in search of a musical town and the weather. Then we found out Mardi Gras was on while we were there. I'd written most of the stuff before we got there and Jimmy had written one of the tracks with a mate of his. We'd been in Jamaica before we went to New Orleans and for the first time ever, I'd got all the songs together like a scroll that went from here to the end of the room. So I had all that together and we just went and turned up and started recording. With this new album I did this scroll thing and sat down and put one song there, and another song here. Fiddle about. Fiddle about. The only time I've done this before was on the mini-opera on Abbey Road, the only time I've sat down with four sheets of paper and put them in order.
Paul McCartney
Melody Maker, 1975

McCartney produced the New Orleans sessions, with Alan O'Duffy engineering. On one night they jammed at Sea Saint with local musicians Dr John, Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint and Traffic's Dave Mason.

A press conference and party was held on 13 February aboard a Mississippi steamboat; McCartney also hired the Young Tuxedo Brass Band to perform on the quay before the party began.

John Lennon was intending to visit the McCartneys in New Orleans, with the intention of songwriting and recording together. However, Lennon returned to Yoko Ono shortly before it was due to happen, and the pair never recorded again.

The very week we were supposed to go to New Orleans to visit Paul and Linda who were recording there – and John would write with Paul again – John went back to the Dakota.
May Pang
January 2011

Geoff Britton left the group around this time, following arguments with Denny Laine and Jimmy McCulloch. He was replaced with Joe English, who was later invited to become a permanent member of the group. Atlanta-based English had been rehearsing with Bonnie Bramlett when he was summoned to Louisiana by McCartney, following a recommendation from Tony Dorsey.

I completed half the tracks on the album and then a local drummer called Joe English did the rest.

It's a funny band, Wings. From a musician's point of view, it's a privilege to do it. From a career point of view, it's madness! No matter how good you are, you're always in the shadow of Paul.

Geoff Britton, 1975

9 responses on “Venus And Mars

      1. Joe Post author

        They weren’t UK singles though. Here are the UK releases (and chart placings) up to Venus And Mars:
        Another Day (2)
        Back Seat Of My Car (39)
        Give Ireland Back To The Irish (16)
        Mary Had A Little Lamb (9)
        Hi, Hi, Hi (5)
        My Love (9)
        Live And Let Die (9)
        Helen Wheels (12)
        Jet (7)
        Band On The Run (3)
        Junior’s Farm (16)
        Listen To What The Man Said (6)
        Letting Go (41)
        Venus And Mars (failed to chart)

        You could argue that Letting Go was the first to not chart, as generally only the top 40 counted in those days. Walking In The Park With Eloise (by The Country Hams, October 1974) also failed to chart, but it’s not normally considered a proper McCartney single (he played bass on it and his dad Jim wrote it).

  1. paulsbass

    A guy called Afro is playing Congas on the album.
    I also think that the “Venus and Mars” acoustic guitar sounds VERY much like Paul, so it might be fair to assume he joined in on the recording.

      1. paulsbass

        According to a German book called “Listen to what the man said” (1991) by Judtih Philipp/Rolf Aimon he plays on “Rockshow”.

        It’s a nice book, with commentaries to almost every Macca solo song.
        Unfortunately it’s not always correct, and they don’t make excact quotes.
        They DO list their sources at the end, but they don’t name the source at the quote.

        They also have a day by day history of Paul, with interviews, concerts and everything, from 1970 to 1990.

        They don’t say anything about Macca’s guitar playing (compare to Mull of Kintyre) , but the hard “attack” on the strumming at the beginning is very much Paul’s style, and it would be natural for him to play on the title track.

        1. GK

          I was lucky enough to see the 1975 World Tour rehearsals at Elstree Studios . This album was out that summer and although they played quite a few career spanning tracks, including some Beatles tracks , “Venus and Mars ” was the BIG FEATURE .
          I saw them at Hammersmith Odeon, twice , and the minute Paul sat on stage playing his acoustic to Venus and Mars everyone was enthralled ! A real live Beatle and a good band , now with Jimmy McCullough and Joe English joining Linda and Denny and Paul .
          Rock Show on the album is longer than the one heard on the radio as a single edit , none the worse for that as it blasts out ! I loved ” Love In Song” with its 12 string and “Back to the Home Land ” lyrics. This is a beautiful and timeless piece of music. “Letting Go ” , I love , the brother of ” Let Me Roll It ” from Band On the Run , good lyrics .
          Other highlights , ” Medicine Jar” by Jimmy McCullough, great rock track with a good vocal from Jimmy , those lovely Paul and Linda backing vocals that are so under rated , and blistering guitar from Jimmy . What a shame Jimmy ended up dead four later at such a young age , how did that happen ?
          “Listen to What The Man Said” most people will know, perfect single for the sunny summer of 1975 , “Soldier Boy . kisses girl ” people criticise Paul’s lyrics sometimes, but there is a touch that gets you .
          ” Treat Her Kind / Lonely Old People ” great melody , brave song , it wasn’t hip to sing about old people in 1975.
          “You Never Give Me The Answer ” , sort of 30′s pastiche (prabably for his Dad) , is a cousin of “Honey Pie ” from the White album , not my taste . ” Magneto and Titanium Man ” had the big comic backdrops on the Concert Tour, commercial and unusual, proving Paul could write about anything, not to every ones taste though. Denny sang “Spirits of Ancient Egypt” , which I always wanted to like , but never quite gets there.”Call Me Back Again ” with Paul showing off on vocals , but quite a weak track really .
          Finished by “Cross Roads” after the Lonely Only People medley , then the immortal line “Nice Bass Player”
          After Band On the Run ” there was a feeling of anti climax from some people. But its upbeat , full of great hooks and melodies, great vocals as always, so well worth buying.

  2. robert

    I’ve always felt that title song Venus and Mars was about Lennon and McCartney – consider the opening lyrics, and how John was supposed to come down to New Orleans to write and play with Paul again – I think Paul wrote this in anticipation of that – as if they are two planets back in orbit again. Anyone else?

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