‘Venus And Mars’ is the title track and opening song on Wings’ fourth studio album. It was released as a medley with ‘Rock Show’.
I was really throwing all of these ideas of the planets and ‘the stars’ and the live show – all of these period words – into this one song, which I don’t perform a lot, because of the embarrassment factor. But I’ve also met people who love this song, so I’ve kind of learnt to shut up about it.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
The song was recorded on 29 January 1975 at Allen Toussaint’s Sea Saint Recording Studio in New Orleans, with overdubs added – including McCartney’s vocals – on 26 February at Wally Heider Studios in Los Angeles.
McCartney intended the song as a curtain raiser for the album and subsequent live shows.
Sometimes you write a song to be a concert opener because you wonder, ‘What am I going to open with?’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ is a good one because it’s inviting people to a show – ‘Roll up, roll up for the mystery tour’. We’re inviting people to come in. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ we use nowadays because it’s got that big-bang chord. Certain songs work just because they’re welcoming, and I do like knowing I’m going to be doing them live. Sometimes I try and craft them with that in mind.
I’ve done this purposefully a few times, and ‘Venus And Mars’ is definitely one of those songs – ‘Sitting in the stand of the sports arena/Waiting for the show to begin’. It has a moody little opening and it’s spirited, and the arrangement is slightly operatic. But I’m less keen on the rest of the song, when it segues into ‘Rock Show’. I sort of get out of it quickly these days and segue to another song, like ‘Jet’.
The Lyrics: 1956 To The Present
The album Venus And Mars contains a reprise of the title track which is almost a minute longer. The reprise segues into ‘Spirits Of Ancient Egypt’.
When we had a party in the States to celebrate having finished the album, someone came up to us and said ‘Hello, Venus. Hello, Mars.’ I thought, ‘Oh, no.’ When I write songs, I’m not necessarily talking about me, although psychoanalysts would say ‘Yes, you are, mate.’ But as far as I’m concerned, I’m not.
The song ‘Venus And Mars’ is about an imaginary friend who’s got a girl friend who’s into astrology, the kind of person who asks you what your sign is before they say hello. That’s it, ‘a good friend of mine studies the stars.’ In fact, in the first verse, it’s ‘a good friend of mine follows the stars’, so it could be ambiguous, a groupie or an astrologer.
I didn’t even know they were our neighbouring planets. I just thought of naming any two planets. What were the first that came to mind? I thought, Jupiter, no, that doesn’t it… Saturn… no… Venus and Mars… that’s great, I’ll just put those in. Later, it turns out they’ve just done an eclipse, Venus and Mars have lined themselves up for the first time in something like a thousand years. I didn’t know they were the gods of love and war, either, and I wasn’t thinking about the Botticelli picture someone [George Melly] asked about.
Paul McCartney In His Own Words, Paul Gambaccini
It was issued as a single in the US on 27 October, and in the UK on 28 November, with ‘Magneto And Titanium Man’ on the b-side.
The single peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100, but became McCartney’s first UK single not to chart.
The single edit was included on the 2001 compilation Wingspan: Hits And History
Wings performed ‘Venus And Mars’ throughout their Wings Over The World Tour in 1975-76. A performance from 27 May 1976 at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati opens the Wings Over America live album.
McCartney performed the songs during his Up And Coming Tour in 2010-11, and the On The Run Tour in 2012.