After recording Band on the Run (1973) as a three-piece with wife Linda and guitarist Denny Laine, McCartney added Jimmy McCulloch on lead guitar and Geoff Britton on drums to the Wings line-up in 1974. Having written several new songs for the next album, McCartney decided on New Orleans, Louisiana as the recording venue, and Wings headed there in January 1975. Before the departure to New Orleans, Wings had recorded three songs at Abbey Road Studios in London in November 1974: "Letting Go", "Love In Song" and "Medicine Jar", all overdubbed later at Sea Saint Studios between January and February.
As soon as the sessions began, the personality clash that had been evident between McCulloch and Britton during Wings' 1974 sessions in Nashville became more pronounced, and Britton – after a six-month tenure – quit Wings, having only played on three of the new songs. A replacement, American Joe English, was quickly auditioned and hired to finish the album.
The sessions proved to be productive, not only finishing the entire album, but also several additional songs, including two future McCartney B-sides, "Lunch Box/Odd Sox" and "My Carnival". McCartney also decided to link the songs together much like the Beatles had on Abbey Road to give the album a more continuous feel.
John Lennon, often in a nostalgic mood during his "Lost Weekend" period, had told May Pang (his then girlfriend) that they would visit the McCartneys during the recording sessions for Venus and Mars, and considered writing with him again. Lennon's planned visit never happened due to his reunion with Yoko Ono.
Wings' interpretation of the theme to Crossroads, a British soap opera, was sometimes used to end the show in place of the regular theme tune, usually when there was a cliffhanger ending with a hint of sadness involved.
Preceded by the single "Listen to What the Man Said" in May 1975, Venus and Mars appeared two weeks later to decent reviews and brisk sales. The album reached number 1 in the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries around the world (as did "Listen to What the Man Said" in the US) and sold 4 million copies worldwide. The reaction was less than what had greeted Band on the Run a year earlier, however.
The album cover, which Paul summed up as "a package that would be nice to get, and also something recognizable" was photographed by Linda, depicting two billiard balls in a black background, which are yellow and red to fit the colours of the planets Venus and Mars. To fit the title, the inside photographs of the Wings were shot in the Mojave desert to capture a group photograph in an outerworldly location. Hipgnosis did the art design, incorporating billiard balls and cues in the lettering and illustrations by George Hardie.
Two additional singles, "Letting Go" and "Venus and Mars/Rock Show", were released. Although the latter almost reached the US top ten, it did not chart at all in the UK.
In September, Wings began what would be their year-long Wings Over the World tour in the UK, with concerts in Australia, Europe, the US and Canada to follow. Songs from Venus and Mars featured heavily in the concert setlist.
The album was first issued on compact disc by Columbia Records in 1983, although early pressings were pressed in Japan by CSR Compact Disc, which was etched in the inner ring. This CD was one of the first pressed at CBS/Sony's Digital Audio Disc Plant in Terre Haute, Indiana CD pressing plant. The Columbia McCartney Discs are prized by audiophiles for their mastering. In 1993, Venus and Mars was remastered and reissued on CD as part of "The Paul McCartney Collection" series with "Zoo Gang" (a UK television theme that was the UK B-side of "Band on the Run" in 1974), "Lunch Box/Odd Sox" (B-side of "Coming Up" in 1980) and "My Carnival" ("Spies Like Us"' B-side in 1985) as bonus tracks. In 2007, the album was reissued in digital form on iTunes with the same bonus tracks, plus the extended "party mix" of "My Carnival".
In 2014 the album was re-issued by Hear Music/Concord Music Group as part of the fifth set of releases, alongside Wings at the Speed of Sound, in the Paul McCartney Archive Collection. It was released in multiple formats. The reissue was accompanied by the Record Store Day exclusive edition of "Letting Go" single.
The album was also originally released in 4-channel quadraphonic. In 1996 the quadraphonic version of the album was issued on compact disc in the DTS 5.1 Music Disc format.
All songs written by Paul and Linda McCartney (listed as "McCartney"), except where noted.
- "Venus and Mars" – 1:16
- "Rock Show" – 5:31
- "Love in Song" – 3:04
- "You Gave Me the Answer" – 2:15
- "Magneto and Titanium Man" – 3:16
- "Letting Go" – 4:33
- "Venus and Mars (Reprise)" – 2:05
- "Spirits of Ancient Egypt" – 3:04
- lead vocals by Denny Laine
- "Medicine Jar" (Jimmy McCulloch, Colin Allen) – 3:37
- lead vocals by Jimmy McCulloch
- "Call Me Back Again" – 4:58
- "Listen to What the Man Said" – 4:01
- "Treat Her Gently – Lonely Old People" – 4:21
- "Crossroads Theme" (Tony Hatch) – 1:00
All tracks written by Paul & Linda McCartney.Standard Edition 2-CD; the original 13-track album on the first disc, plus 14 bonus tracks on a second disc.
Deluxe Edition 2-CD/1-DVD;
the original 13-track #1 album remastered at Abbey Road Studios in London;
a bonus audio disc with 14 tracks including the hit single "Junior's Farm" and rare and previously unreleased songs;
a 128-page numbered hardbound book featuring new interview with Paul McCartney, rare and previously unpublished photographs by Linda McCartney and Aubrey Powell (entitled "Nashville Diary 1975"), inserts of archive material (including a facsimile of Paul's original handwritten lyric "scroll"), expanded track-by-track annotation and full history of the album, a deck pass "Paul and Linda McCartney – Venus and Mars", a complete illustrated history of the making of Venus and Mars and a poster and a flyer "Wings in concert at Elstree";
a DVD featuring previously unreleased and exclusive content including the original TV commercial for the album (directed by Karel Reisz), footage of the band in New Orleans ("Recording My Carnival" and "Bon Voyageur") and rehearsing the songs from Venus and Mars at Elstree Studios ("Wings At Elstree");
an access to downloadable 24bit 96 kHz high-resolution audio versions of the remastered album and bonus audio tracks.
Remastered vinyl The albums will also be available on special gatefold vinyl editions (vinyl editions include a download card).
High Resolution Digital album will be made available as both standard and deluxe versions – including Mastered for iTunes and Hi-Res formats.
Disc 1 The original 13-track album.
Disc 2 – bonus tracks
- "Junior's Farm" – 4:23
- "Sally G" – 3:40
- "Walking in the Park with Eloise" (Jim McCartney) (credited to the Country Hams) – 3:10
- "Bridge on the River Suite" (credited to the Country Hams) – 3:11
- "My Carnival" – 3:59
- "Going To New Orleans (My Carnival)" – 2:07
- "Hey Diddle [Ernie Winfrey Mix]" – 3:51
- "Let’s Love" – 2:05
- "Soily [from One Hand Clapping]" – 3:57
- "Baby Face [from One Hand Clapping]" (Harry Akst, Benny Davis)– 1:43
- "Lunch Box/Odd Sox" – 3:55
- "4th of July" – 3:49
- "Rock Show [Old Version]" – 7:09
- "Letting Go [Single Mix]" – 3:36
Disc 3 – DVD
- "Recording My Carnival"
- "Bon Voyageur"
- "Wings at Elstree"
- "Venus and Mars TV Ad"
Additional download tracks available via paulmccartney.com
Paul McCartney – vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards, piano, percussion
Linda McCartney – keyboards, backing vocals, percussion
Denny Laine – vocals, guitars, keyboards, percussion
Jimmy McCulloch – guitars, vocals, percussion
Joe English – drums, percussion
Geoff Britton – drums on "Love in Song", "Letting Go" and "Medicine Jar"
Kenneth "Afro" Williams – congas on "Rock Show"
Allen Toussaint – piano on "Rock Show"
Dave Mason – guitar on "Listen to What the Man Said"
Tom Scott – saxophone on "Listen to What the Man Said"
- "Letting Go [Extended Version]" – 5:39
- "Love My Baby [from One Hand Clapping]" – 1:16
- "Rock Show [New Version]" – 6:31
Worldwide sales according to Paul McCartney's own website in excess of 10 million.