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Music

Story Behind The Song: How The Beatles created ‘All You Need Is Love’

Arguably one of The Beatles’ most iconic tracks (although there are truly quite a few), ‘All You Need Is Love’ is instantly recognisable for its ridiculously catchy melody, oft-whistled refrain and simple message. It was released in 1967 as a non-album single and was credited to the familiar Lennon-McCartney writing partnership. The song’s birth is interesting and comes, rather than through the traditional means of lived experience, through a request to write a piece for a global event.

The event in question was Our World, the world’s first live global television link via satellite. The Fab Four were being filmed at EMI Studios in London on June 25th, 1967, where their song performance was to be broadcast worldwide to an audience of over 400 million viewers in 25 different countries. Lennon intentionally made the song’s lyrics easy to understand and follow, given that the international audience might not be able to comprehend any truly mystical or complicated messages.

The song also captured the spirit of the 1967 ‘Summer of Love’ and the romantic ideals of the Haight-Ashbury hippie-centric area of San Francisco. The track subsequently became an anthem for the counter-culture movement and the philosophy of ‘flower power’. The studio setting of the broadcast was adorned with appropriate signs and banners, and several guests dressed in psychedelic clothing filled in the gaps, including special appearances from the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Small Faces.

Our world was scheduled to run for six hours, featuring music from six continents. The Beatles were to represent Great Britain. Initially, the band were meant to record the track live during the show but instead used a pre-recorded backing track, while Lennon re-performed his vocal take some hours later.

So while this brilliant and famous track comes from a request to perform for a global audience, the real story of brilliance comes from its simple message. Lennon had something of an obsession with slogans and how they affected those who would read them, once stating, “I like slogans. I like advertising. I love the telly.” He later further claimed that ‘All You Need Is Love’ was propaganda in and of itself. “I’m a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change,” he said.

On the event, Ringo noted: “We were big enough to command an audience of that size, and it was for love. It was for love and bloody peace. It was a fabulous time. I even get excited now when I realise that’s what it was for: peace and love, people putting flowers in guns.”

On the day of the broadcast, the Beatles’ mentor George Martin ensured the group rehearsed all day ahead of the performance. The decision was made to have John, Paul and George sat up on high stools, with Ringo at his kit, while the band were surrounded by friends, including Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton, to name but a few. The broadcast only went on for just over six minutes, but it was not helped by the band having to go on thirty seconds early and having to hide a bottle of whiskey under the mixing desk. 

Ultimately the event was a success. Later, Ringo overdubbed a snare roll with Lennon re-recording some vocal takes for a studio single version. It was released on 24th June 1967, a day before Our World was broadcast globally. The single was a hit and spent four weeks at number one in the UK singles chart. The rest… is history.

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