There weren’t many corners of the Beatles palace that John Lennon didn’t walk up to, unzip his trousers, and unleash a stream of golden rhetoric upon. As famed for talking as he was singing, the founding member of The Beatles saw fit to speak openly and candidly about being in the most famous band in the world once he had left the Fab Four behind. This meant, across a host of interviews, Lennon was caustic about his relationship with McCartney, furious with those artists who tried to copy them and more than happy to share his thoughts on the band’s bustling back catalogue.
Lennon wasn’t always disappointed with his and the gorup’s work. He often picked out songs that could be considered his favourites and noted how their “realness” always meant they stood the test of time. Equally, as happy as he was to heap praise on his and the rest of the band’s work, he was also happy to throw some shade too. From picking out some of McCartney’s “granny shit” to lamenting his own run of “throwaway” songs. However, there was only one track that he said made him feel “ashamed”.
The singer conducted many famous interviews in his lifetime and even a few infamous ones for good measure. One such chat that falls into the latter category saw the singer, freshly out of The Beatles, speak to Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner. During his conversation with the ever-increasing presence of Wenner, Lennon was on particularly treacherous form.
He not only opens up about The Beatles but even goes so far as to call Mick Jagger a “tart” after The Rolling Stones frontman made some disparaging comments about the Liverpool band. During the conversation, Lennon picks out some of his favourite songs, but he also has Wenner provide some songs which he felt typified the icon sitting across from him. “I’ve listed a group of songs that I associate with you, in terms of what you are or what you were, songs that struck me as embodying you,” says the interviewer.
He lists as reams of songs which, in fairness, are all easily seen as some of the typical tracks Lennon would write. Songs such as ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds‘, ‘I Am The Walrus’ and a few others. Those three, Lennon was happy to agree to as being an embodiment of his character. However, there was one tune on the list that he wouldn’t sign off on — ‘It’s Only Love’.
“‘It’s Only Love’,” Lennon muses, “I was always ashamed of that ’cause of the abominable lyrics you know – they’re probably all right. George just came and talked about it last night. He said, remember we always used to cringe when the guitar bit came on, when we did that blam blam blam-blam-blam, we liked it, but there was something wrong.”
The song first appeared on the second side of the Help! album and rarely makes it into the top echelons of people’s favourite Beatles numbers. Originally using the title of ‘That’s A Nice Hat’, Lennon was never a fan of the track, and, it appears, his viewpoint didn’t soften. When speaking to David Sheff many years later for All We Are Saying, Lennon said of the track: “‘It’s Only Love’ is mine. I always thought it was a lousy song. The lyrics were abysmal. I always hated that song.”
It wasn’t only John’s opinion of the song that was disparaging, Paul McCartney also noted to Barry Miles for Many Years From Now, the track’s inferior lyrics: “Sometimes we didn’t fight it if the lyric came out rather bland on some of those filler songs like ‘It’s Only Love’. If a lyric was really bad, we’d edit it, but we weren’t that fussy about it because it’s only a rock ‘n’ roll song. I mean, this is not literature.”
No, it certainly isn’t. In fact, if one were to equate ‘It’s Only Love’ to any form of prose, then perhaps the closest we can get is the back of a cereal packet. Sure, ‘It’s Only Love’ has its charm, and with nothing but time and thumbs to twiddle, it does its job as a reminder of The Beatles pop gleam. Ultimately, however, it’s hard not to agree with the song’s creator.