Daily Beatle Break

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MAY 7

Listen to What the Man Said

Personnel

  • Paul McCartney — vocals, bass, guitars, keyboards, percussion
  • Linda McCartney — keyboards, backing vocals, percussion
  • Denny Laine – vocals, guitars,percussion
  • Jimmy McCulloch – guitars
  • Joe English – drums, percussion
  • Dave Mason – guitar
  • Tom Scott – Soprano saxophone (Solo)
  • Dean Elson (DeanTheSaxman) - Saxophones

"Listen to What the Man Said" is a hit single from Wings' 1975 album Venus and Mars. The song featured new member Joe English on drums, with guest musicians Dave Mason on guitar and Tom Scott on soprano saxophone. It was a number 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US and reached number 1 in Canada on the RPM National Top Singles Chart. It also reached number 6 in the UK, and reached the top ten in Norway and New Zealand and the top twenty in the Netherlands. The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales of over one million copies.

Recording

"Listen to What the Man Said" was recorded in early 1975 by Wings during their New Orleans sessions for Venus and Mars. It was a song which Paul McCartney had high hopes for, but early recordings did not live up to the song's potential. McCartney said in 1975 of his initial opinion of the song, "It was one of the songs we’d gone in with high hopes for. Whenever I would play it on the piano, people would say ‘Oh, I like that one.’ But when we did the backing track, we thought we didn't really get it together at all." After Mason added guitar overdubs, the band was still dissatisfied. However, once Scott recorded the sax solo, judgements were changed. Although several takes of the solo were recorded, the very first take was the one that was used. McCartney said of Tom Scott's impact on the track, "Someone said [famous jazz musician] ‘Tom Scott lives near here.’ We said, yeah, give him a ring, see if he turns up, and he turned up within half an hour! There he was, with his sax, and he sat down in the studio playing through. The engineer was recording it. We kept all the notes he was playing casually. He came in and I said ‘I think that’s it.’ He said ‘Did you record that?’ I said yes, and we listened to it back. No one could believe it, so he went out and tried a few more, but they weren’t as good. He’d had all the feel on this early take, the first take.” The effect of a kiss smack heard on the track was recorded by engineer Alan O'Duffy, who taped Linda doing it.

The end of the song also features a small link used to transition into the next song on Venus and Mars, "Treat Her Gently/Lonely Old People".

You either have to leave it and stop 'Listen to What the Man Said' dead or you spill over into the next little link piece. I just like that link myself, and thought no one's going to mind that little extra on the record.

— Paul McCartney, Paul McCartney: In His Own Words

Lyrics

The song is an optimistic love song. Even though love may be blind or may cause separated lovers to suffer, the singer believes that love will prevail. This is in accordance with what “the man” said.  “The man” is not explicitly identified, but might be God. Author Vincent Benitez believes that, "McCartney is advising everyone to stick with the basics of life, which for him means focusing on love." The song is in the key of G major.

The seemingly random words which are spoken before the music begins, according to Chip Madinger and Mark Easter's 2000 book "Eight Arms To Hold You," are said by McCartney.

"Paul's impression of Leo Nocentelli, the guitarist for The Meters (not Wolfman Jack, as has been incorrectly stated), which was placed at the beginning of the song, was taped when he recorded his vocal track," the book says.

The speaker says: "All right, OK... very good to see you down in New Orleans, man, yeah, yeah. Reet, yeah, yeah..." The word "reet" is jazz slang meaning, "good, proper, excellent."

Reception

Allmusic critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine called "Listen to What the Man Said" "a typically sweet and lovely melody". Paul Nelson of Rolling Stone called it "deliciously catchy" and "as fine an example of slick, professional entertainment and carefully crafted 'product' as has ever hit the airwaves". Author John Blaney described the song as "a slice of radio-friendly pop" and "a joyous celebration of love and life, buoyed by Linda's equally exuberant backing vocals...". Benitez described the song as "another great example of McCartney-style pop, a buoyant and optimistic song about love where words and music are wedded together. Authors Roy Carr and Tony Tyler note about the song that "artful and sensitive production elevate what was originally a piece of inconsequential whimsy into what can only be described as High Pop", also describing the song as "likeable" and "hummable". Author Chris Ingham described the song as "superior pop".

The song was also included on the numerous greatest hits compilations, including 1987's All the Best! and 2001's Wingspan: Hits and History. However, it was not included on the 1978 Wings compilation, Wings Greatest.