After recording was finished at Sea Saint Studios in New Orleans and Wally Heider Studios in Los Angeles (where the album was also mixed thru March 27th) Paul decided to celebrate the completion of the album by throwing a lavish party aboard the original Queen Mary in Long Beach on March 24th.
The ship was (and still is) permanently moored there as a floating hotel, museum, event center and tourist attraction.
Among the 200 guests on board were George Harrison (the first time they had been seen in public together since the breakup of The Beatles), Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Marvin Gaye, The Faces, an Everly Brother (Phil), The Jackson Five (the first time Paul met future collaborator Michael), Dean Martin, Tony Curtis, Cher, and Monkees Mickey Dolenz and Davey Jones.
I was driving my girlfriend and two dear friends on May 16 of 1975 and we met them on a local Long Island beach. When we arrived they told me that they had just heard the new single from the soon to be released Wings new album, which was to be called Venus and Mars.
We laid in the sun and it wasn’t long before the song came on again.
Anticipation for this album release was the most that McCartney ever had generated as it had been almost 18 months since the highly successful BOTR (not counting the one-off 1974 single “Juniors Farm”).
The song was “Listen To What The Man Said” and initial reaction by myself was 50-50, as it was played thru a small transistor radio. When we got back into town we stopped at a tiny record/head shop store in downtown Greenlawn and asked the manager about the release of the album. He told me the date (May 27th) and I showed up like an excited child on Christmas morning and saw the album displayed on the rack.
The Linda McCartney photographed cover is sparse but lovely and striking. I guess the two pool balls are supposed to represent the two planets. Someone at the Queen Mary party came up to them and said “Hello Venus, Hello Mars” to them in the reception line. Paul was always…”It never occurred to me…etc…” I think it makes sense he did….. the “Venus and Mars are alright tonight” line makes me think this.
Inside the gatefold was a poster of the band from a photo shoot in front of an abandoned barn.
The entire inner sleeve was also a band shot amid the Mojave desert sand and sun.
The record label itself was in the style of vintage Capitol records from earlier in the century with the tiny red and orange balls linking the cover and lettering throughout.
Paul knew this album would be featured in the massive tour they were preparing and so track placement was factored in.
He placed the title track first on side one, and it was the song which opened each concert of the 13 month tour. The song itself described going to an actual concert and flowed into track two, giving actual hints on the ambitions of the band.
Paul set and met his goals…
“Venus and Mars” Amazingly smart to open an album with a song he wrote specifically to open his shows on his monster 1975-76 tour. The band seemed really united and having a grand time in any press photos and selected for the album artwork and promotional ads and photos.
But Paul claims to this day that this is not one of his favorite albums. But it has aged as well as possible from a standpoint of McCartney forever fans He only plays “Letting Go” and “Listen To What The Man Said” on the occasional tour.
I think this album and time reminds him so much of Linda he may put it down to not have to remember so much…..?
But as a 19 year old out of my mind super fan waiting for this very release, whipped up by the fun of 1974’s McGEAR I found it to be too antiseptic and calculated.
It sounded great and the production was spot on but beginning to get in that late 1970’s perfect sounding records. I felt at the time that V&M lacked the anger, rawness and ambition that BOTR had.
Well… I am under headphones and re-listening to the gigantic “deluxe” remaster album and bonus tracks from the archive collection.
And so link the show I was blessed to see from row 10 in May of 1976 the lights go down…..
What a way to open the album. With Denny Laine on moog and sitar? Paul’s voice is like ice cream. We are in the arena…and it’s almost time. And the band is ready to kick ass. Rating – 9
“Rock Show” Allen Toussaint Electric Guitar and Piano help drive this beauty. Another classic multi-part masterpiece by McCartney. The backing vocals are perfect. He tells us…. Relax, get high, and then they come out and do in fact, kick ass, and they tell you where they are coming to. In fact on the tour to follow the played each of the venues listed in the song.
The green metal suit part is pure fucked up McCartney. The coda is my favorite part…. “Oh, it’s you babe……” Shake that ass. On tour the first two song had me wishing I could have cried. I was all alone and had to hold back. It was so good to see him live. Rating – 9.5
“Love In Song” A song that has always been a sad one. A McCartney love song when you are happy lift you to another levels….but if your heart is broken songs like this can rip you apart. At the time it did…. 40 years later….I can still feel it…. With Geoff Britton on drums and milk Bottles. An interesting shift to an oriental feel during the break that wasn’t there on the first verse. Not his best middle eight but it’s still fine. Rating – 8.0
“You Gave Me The Answer” Written with Fred Astaire in mind, maybe even to have him record it. It’s a classic John Lennon hating “granny music Paul.” “Honey Pie” and others to follow show of Paul’s love of old times music he heard as a very young child. It’s again spot on perfect fo that, but other than pleasant, it doesn’t move me. He recreates the 1930’s effect on tour and I was loving every second of it. I’ll just say, it’s not my favorite and I’m slowed down now….. Rating – 6.5
“Magneto And Titanium Man” A song about comic book characters Paul was reading, probably all fucked up in bed with Linda, kids and dogs and cats flying everywhere. 1975….sigh….. Interesting song.
The lead vocal by Paul is something I never heard him do before. Kind of like being outside of a tent and these are the entertainers trying to get us in to see the whole show….
In 1976 tour a big screen came down with three of characters from the comic. Everyone went wild but that was it. The screen rolled up and the show went on as the finished the song. A harmless song built around classic bass lines. Nice vocals but again harmless. Rating – 7
“Letting Go” Geoff Britton is drums on this and he is perfect as the instrumental opening is impossible not to love. The best of Wings here… Paul, Linda and Denny on backing vocals. Really nice real horns… Jimmy placing nice Paul approved fills and he also does a great short solo.
This was the song my old time girlfriend would dance like a gypsy for attention… It is impossible not to remember that exactly as I hear this…. That is the power of music. Love the end fade out with Paul mixed way down asking “Do you feel like letting go?” I do. Rating – 9
“Venus And Mars (reprise) Geoff Britton is on cymbals There is no Denny. I guess song is meant to link the whole album but never thought any concept at all existed other the artwork and promotion. Gets way more interesting at the end. Rating – 7.5
Nice lead into Denny Laine singing…“Spirits Of Ancient Egypt” A goofy song with a classic rock and roll four to the floor 1950’s beat…. The organ is featured and Paul takes over the breaks vocally. The lyrics are wacky. They played this song straight up in concert. Rating 7.0
“Medicine Jar” Geoff Britton is on drums, Joe English on backing vocals. Denny is on congas. Jimmy wrote the music, Chad Allen wrote the words. Paul and the band help as much as they can as Jimmy takes lead vocal. It’s a pleasant song about pill addiction (the 70’s) with Paul again playing standard baselines.
Interesting backing vocals including a short multi tracked Linda riff… In concert after the Linda riff Jimmy did a second solo. He was amazing on both live. Rating – 8
“Call Me Back Again” Macca plays the clarinet on this one as well. Denny is on bongos. It is a 1950’s throwback and Paul’s vocals are amazing. The horns are perfect and the Moog helps in the lushness of the verse.
The last verse… Paul’s “Well when I.. I.. I.. I…….I called your name ..” till the end are amazing. The production is too much at the end and buries him in the mix…. Maybe intentionally. A super long fade into Paul doing Professor Longhair introduction to…. Rating – 8.5
“Listen To What The Man Said.” A nice speeded up reggae song that becomes a cute little shuffle by the lads. Dave Mason help on electric guitar is noticeable but minimal. Tom Scott on saxophone saves the song with his FIRST TAKE warmup attempt that Paul kept here. Wow, that’s amazing. The backing vocals peak at the end. Beautiful production throughout. Rating -8
“Listen then blends into “Treat Her Gently/Lonely Old People,” a sad song about being all alone and having nowhere to go. The say nobody asked them to play??? Is he mocking people who hadn’t asked Paul and Linda to make music with them in the last few years?? It also may say, watch out for what we about what they would soon see on our tour. Rating – 7
This fades into the “Crossroads Theme” (written by Tony Hatch). Written on commission, this song is a theme of a British soap opera aim for the elderly. A self mockery of the previous “elderly” song with a few more bob in the pocket. Rating – 6
The overall rating of VENUS AND MARS comes in at 7.7, making a wonderful memory of a special time that brings me to right back. A short break for the band while Paul plans…
During this time Paul is also buying up enormous amounts of music copyrights as they were becoming available. These included Buddy Holly, the rights to many broadway musicals and even “Happy Birthday.” This is truly what has made McCartney rich.
And so he was ready to tour…. He had a band, an album, a solo back catalogue and for the first time in a decade, a few more select Beatles songs. He did dust off a few in Wings final infamous 1979 tour.
Before starting their massive tour the band amazingly began recording the proposed “next album” from August 28th thru October 17th. Back then they would have more than enough material for an album every 6-18 months. Today we see the same artists wait five, ten, or more YEARS and a few…. no more albums…. so…..
After much rehearsal and final planning the band started their Wings Over the World tour in Europe, on September 9th, 1975 in Southampton, England and then finishing in Scotland on September 23rd.
In contrast to Wings’ two low-profile, smaller-scale outings of 1972, this was a major, highly promoted concert tour that took place mostly in the 15-20,000 size arenas.
Around one million people attended 66 shows on three continents — Australia, (November 1st -14th) Europe (March 20th, 1976 in Denmark -March 26th in France), and North America (where it was known as the Wings Over America Tour and represented McCartney’s first appearances in concert since the last Beatles tour in 1966).
They started the Wings Over America leg on May 3rd 1976 in Fort Worth and ended it on June 23rd in Los Angeles. I saw them on May 21st at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Paul was on the front cover of Time and Newsweek magazines at the same time and they reviewed the tour clearly as “McCartney is Back!.”
The band finished with a final leg of Europe starting September 19th in Austria and ended the world tour on October 21st in London.
Touring Japan was also planned, but was cancelled by that country’s authorities because of McCartney’s 1972 Swedish marijuana arrest.
McCartney and Wings took the rest of 1975 off and then started work again on January 5th thru February 4th on what on what would become the next album…..WINGS AT THE SPEED OF SOUND. Next