Paul Nelson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

As time goes by, John Lennon's importance to the Beatles becomes more and more self-evident. The same old story we've been hearing for years—that Lennon's wit and abrasive probing were needed to balance Paul McCartney's melodic charm and sweetness—is obvious but true….

Lennon probably had nothing whatsoever to do with Venus and Mars, the new Wings album, but somehow the ghost of his sincerity not only haunts but also accentuates the cool calculation of the McCartney project, and a jarring primal scream or two might make me feel less enraged by Paul and Linda's chic, unconvincing and blatant bid to be enshrined as pop music's Romeo and Juliet. One can point out that John and Yoko were no better, perhaps even worse, in their similar public insistence—or Bob Dylan on Planet Waves, for that matter—but what makes such a comparison appalling is that John and Yoko and Dylan believed what they were saying, or at least desperately tried to, while the McCartneys serve it all up with the offhand air of two uncaring jet-setters presenting us with the very latest in prefabricated TV dinners.

Venus and Mars begins with Paul and Linda's casual and false assumption that the whole world is tremendously interested in the state of their union (whereas John and Yoko and Dylan were driven, I think, more by individual inner needs to say what they did), so they concoct a slick, Broadway/Hollywood exterior romance that is an insult to the very "lovers everywhere" to whom they dedicate the L.P. For all I know, the McCartneys may love each other passionately, but it is self-aggrandizement, not private ardor, that shines through the computerized smoothness of their insubstantial songs; no blood on the tracks here, and no connection with reality either. Perhaps this is too harsh; perhaps Paul and Linda's image of themselves as rock & roll's mythical couple is real in their minds but, as this album proves, an extended trip across that arid area is apt to make even the night thoughts of Johnny Carson appear positively Dostoevskian. (p. 52)

Paul Nelson, "'Venus & Mars': Wings' Nonstellar Flight," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1975; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 192, July 31, 1975, pp. 52, 55.