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Story Behind The Song: How John Lennon created 'Love', his ode to Yoko Ono


John Lennon’s 1970 track ‘Love’ begins with the succession of gloriously cheesy definitions of a concept that has bewildered philosophers, poets and indeed pop songwriters for hundred of years. According to Lennon: “Love is real, real is love/ Love is feeling, feeling love/ Love is wanting to be loved”.

Clocking in at around three-and-a-half minutes, it is actually quite astonishing that Lennon manages to convey so much of the emotion he felt for Yoko Ono in the time it takes to brew a cup of tea. Yes, these aren’t exactly the words of a man grappling with the divine nature of love, but what can I say, Lennon was a singer, not a scholar. Here, we take a look at how this startlingly earnest single came to be.

‘Love’ is one of the most minimalist songs Lennon ever released, featuring just two musicians, Lennon himself on guitar and vocals, and Phil Spectre on the piano. Compared to ‘The Ballad Of John And Yoko’, Lennon’s other great ode to his wife, ‘Love’ is a remarkably stark track, as if he wanted to avoid anything that might detract from his adoration. The stripped-back, elemental sound that Lennon pursued on ‘Love’ feels almost like an extension of the primal therapy that he and Yoko Ono took part in following the break up of The Beatles in 1970. It’s as if all that screaming into the wind allowed Lennon a period of calm in which he was able to sit down and write something honest, sensitive, and undeniably vulnerable.

With this in mind, those definitions that make up the lyrics for ‘Love’ feel less like assertions and more like queries, as though Lennon is holding a bunch of keys and pushing them into the lock one by one, attempting to redefine his love for Yoko so that it might stand the test of time.

Indeed, Lennon once admitted that their sessions with Arthur Janov, who formulated the theory of primal therapy, helped him to become less possessive over Yoko, a problem that had coloured his relationships with women throughout his life. During their sessions with Janov, Lennon and Yoko were staying in a property in Bel Air, Los Angeles. However, Lennon was keen to return to Abbey Road Studios to start recording John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, and so they flew back to London, having outstayed their visas in America anyway. Lennon performed guitar and vocals on all the tracks, with Ringo Starr on drums and Klaus Voormann on bass.

Lennon rarely spoke about ‘Love’ openly, but it’s possible that, at least in some ways, it was intended as a gift to Ono. “With Yoko, I really knew love for the first time,” he once said: “I’d never met anyone who was my equal in every imaginable way. My better, actually. The dream came true”.

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