You could call it Paul McCartney’s version of the planets suite. Venus and Mars, released on May 27, 1975, was the album with which Wings rose admirably to the huge challenge of following Band On The Run. Such was the band’s ever-expanding popularity that it not only topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic, but led to a worldwide tour that went on for a year.
The first sessions for Venus and Mars took place in November 1974, less than a year after the release of its predecessor, which was continuing its multi-platinum popularity at the time. After the trials and tribulations of their recordings for Band On The Run in Lagos, Nigeria, the initial sessions at Abbey Road would feature a newly augmented line-up. Paul and Linda McCartney and Denny Laine were now joined by lead guitarist Jimmy McCulloch and drummer Geoff Britton.
In London, the five-piece laid down “Letting Go,” “Love In Song,” and “Medicine Jar.” But a planned new year trip to New Orleans, for sessions at Sea Saint Studios, was dealt another blow by Britton’s sudden departure. New Yorker Joe English arrived as a swift replacement and, apparently unperturbed, Wings spent a highly productive month in the Crescent City completing what became another rewarding album.
Just ahead of the LP release, the uplifting “Listen To What The Man Said” arrived as an obvious first single and an irresistible hit. It reached No.1 in America and Canada and went Top 10 in many other countries, including the UK. Tom Scott enhanced the powerful melody and harmonised vocals with a memorable soprano saxophone solo, while former Traffic member Dave Mason added guitar.
Venus and Mars was a record with something for everyone, from the rocking riffs of “Venus and Mars/Rock Show” and “Call Me Back Again,” via the spoof 1920s-style love song “You Gave Me The Answer” to the McCulloch/Colin Allen composition “Medicine Jar.” There was even a brief, closing instrumental version of the theme from the long-running British TV soap opera Crossroads, which was featured on the show for a while.
McCartney and Mardi Gras
“We went down to New Orleans in search of a musical town and the weather,” explained McCartney to Melody Maker as the album was released. “And 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,” he went on. “I wrote it all out and stuck it all together like a scroll that went from here to the end of the room. So I had all that together and we just turned up and started recording.”
Ousting Captain Fantastic
The album entered the UK chart at No.3 before spending the first of two non-consecutive weeks at No.1, in a run of 14 weeks in the Top 10. In the US, where Venus and Mars was another million-seller, it had a week at the summit in July, replacing Elton John’s Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.
So harmonious was the new band line-up that, in September 1975, Wings set out on the Wings Over The World tour, which played 65 dates in North America, Europe and Oceania and didn’t end until October of the following year.