All You Need Is Love
|"All You Need Is Love"|
US picture sleeve
|Single by the Beatles|
|B-side||"Baby, You're a Rich Man"|
|Released||7 July 1967|
|Recorded||14, 19, 23–26 June 1967|
|Studio||Olympic Sound Studios, London; EMI Studios, London|
|The Beatles singles chronology|
Italian picture sleeve, showing the Beatles in advance promotion for the Our World broadcast
"All You Need Is Love" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles that was released as a non-album single in July 1967. It was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The song served as Britain's contribution to Our World, the first live global television link, when the Beatles were filmed performing it at EMI Studios in London on 25 June 1967. The programme was broadcast via satellite and seen by an audience of over 400 million in 25 countries. Lennon's lyrics, which were deliberately simplistic to allow for the show's international audience, captured the utopian sentiments of the Summer of Love era. The single topped sales charts in Britain, the United States and many other countries, and became an anthem for the counterculture's embrace of flower power philosophy.
Rather than perform the song entirely live on Our World, the Beatles played to a pre-recorded backing track. The released recording featured a new lead vocal by Lennon but was otherwise little changed from this performance. With an orchestral arrangement by George Martin, the song opens with a portion of the French national anthem and ends with musical quotations from works such as Glenn Miller's "In the Mood", "Greensleeves", and Bach's Invention No. 8 in F major, as well as the chorus of the Beatles' 1963 hit "She Loves You". Adding to the festive atmosphere of the broadcast, the studio was adorned with signs and streamers, and filled with guests dressed in psychedelic attire, including members of the Rolling Stones, the Who and the Small Faces. The performance took place at the height of the Beatles' popularity and influence, following the release of their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and was described by Brian Epstein, their manager, as the group's "finest" moment.
"All You Need Is Love" was later included on the US Magical Mystery Tour album. It also appears in a sequence in the Beatles' 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine and on the accompanying soundtrack album. Originally broadcast in black-and-white, the Our World performance was colourised for inclusion in the Beatles' 1995 Anthology documentary series. While the song remains synonymous with the 1967 Summer of Love ethos, this quality led to criticism from several commentators, particularly during the 1980s, that the lyrics and general sentiment are naive.
- 1 Background and inspiration
- 2 Composition and musical structure
- 3 Recording
- 4 Release and reception
- 5 Cultural responses and legacy
- 6 Personnel
- 7 Charts and certifications
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 Sources
- 11 External links
Background and inspiration
On 18 May 1967, the Beatles signed a contract to appear as Britain's representatives on Our World, which was to be broadcast live internationally, via satellite, on 25 June. The Beatles were asked to provide a song with a message that could be easily understood by everyone, and using "basic English" terms. The band undertook the assignment at a time when they were considering making a television special, Magical Mystery Tour, and working on songs for the animated film Yellow Submarine, for which they were contractually obliged to United Artists to supply four new recordings. "All You Need Is Love" was selected for Our World for its contemporary social significance over the Paul McCartney-written "Your Mother Should Know".[nb 1] In a statement to Melody Maker magazine, Brian Epstein, the band's manager, said of "All You Need Is Love": "It was an inspired song and they really wanted to give the world a message. The nice thing about it is that it cannot be misinterpreted. It is a clear message saying that love is everything."
Lennon later attributed the song's simple lyrical statements to his liking of slogans and television advertising. He likened the song to a propaganda piece, adding: "I'm a revolutionary artist. My art is dedicated to change." Author Mark Hertsgaard views it as the Beatles' "most political song yet" up to 1967 and the origins of Lennon's posthumous standing as a "humanitarian hero". The song's advocacy of the all-importance of love followed Lennon's introduction of the idea in his lyrics to "The Word" in 1965 and George Harrison's declaration in "Within You Without You", from the band's recently released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, that "With our love, we could save the world".
The Beatles were unimpressed when Epstein first told them that he had arranged for their appearance on Our World, and they delayed choosing a song for the broadcast. In their interviews for The Beatles Anthology in the 1990s, McCartney and Harrison say they were unsure whether "All You Need Is Love" was written for Our World, while Ringo Starr and George Martin, the Beatles' producer, assert that it was. McCartney said: "It was certainly tailored to [the broadcast] once we had it. But I've got a feeling it was just one of John's songs that was coming anyway."[nb 2]
Composition and musical structure
"All You Need Is Love" is notable for its asymmetric time signature and complex changes. Musicologist Russell Reising writes that, although the song represents the peak of the Beatles' overtly psychedelic phase, the change in metre during the verses is the sole example of the experimental aspect that typifies the band's work in that genre. The main verse pattern contains a total of 29 beats, split into two 7
4 measures, a single bar of 8
4, followed by a one bar return of 7
4 before repeating the pattern. The chorus, however, maintains a steady 4
4 beat with the exception of the last bar of 6
4 (on the lyric "love is all you need"). The prominent cello line draws attention to this departure from pop-single normality, although it was not the first time that the Beatles had experimented with varied metre within a single song: "Love You To" and "She Said She Said" were earlier examples.
The song is in the key of G and the verse opens (on "There's nothing you can do") with a G chord and D melody note, the chords shifting in a I–V–vi chord progression while the bass simultaneously moves from the tonic (G) note to the root note of the relative minor (E minor), via an F♯, supporting a first inversion D chord. After the verse "learn how to play the game, it's easy", the bass alters the prolonged V (D) chord with F♯, E, C and B notes. The song includes a dramatic use of a dominant or V chord (here D) on "It's easy." The "Love, love, love" chant involves chords in a I–V7–vi shift (G–D–Em) and simultaneous descending B, A, G notes with the concluding G note corresponding not to the tonic G chord, but acting as the third of the E minor chord; this also introducing the E note of the Em chord as a 6th of the tonic G scale. Supporting the same melody note with different and unexpected chords has been termed a characteristic Beatles technique.
According to Reising, the lyrics advance the Beatles' anti-materialistic message and are an "anthemic tribute" to universal love in which "nothing is tempered or modulated". He says that Lennon favours words such as "nothing", "no one", "nowhere" and "all", thereby presenting a series of "extreme statements" that conclude with "the final reversals of 'All you need is love' and 'Love is all you need'".
Quotations and coda
On the Beatles' recording, the song starts with the intro to the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise", and contains elements from other musical works, such as Glenn Miller's 1939 hit "In the Mood". This use of musical quotations follows an approach first adopted by the Beatles in Harrison's composition "It's All Too Much", a song that similarly reflects the ideology behind the hippie movement during the 1967 Summer of Love. George Martin recalled that in "All You Need Is Love" "the boys ... wanted to freak out at the end, and just go mad". During the long coda, elements of various other songs can be heard, including "Greensleeves", Invention No. 8 in F major (BWV 779) by J. S. Bach, "In the Mood", and the Beatles' own songs "She Loves You" and "Yesterday". The first of these three pieces had been included in the arrangement by Martin. "She Loves You" and "Yesterday" were the result of improvisation by Lennon during rehearsals.[nb 3]
Like musicologist Alan Pollack, Kenneth Womack views the "She Loves You" refrain as serving a similar purpose to the wax models of the Beatles depicted on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, beside the real-life band members, and therefore a further example of the group distancing themselves from their past. In his book Rock, Counterculture and the Avant-Garde, author Doyle Greene describes the combination of the "Love is all you need" refrain, "She Loves You" reprise, and orchestral quotations from Bach and Miller as "a joyous, collective anarchy signifying the utopian dreams of the counterculture topped off with a postmodern fanfare".
The Beatles began recording the backing track for the song at Olympic Sound Studios in south-west London on 14 June 1967. The producers of Our World were initially unhappy about the use of a backing track, but it was insisted upon by Martin, who said that "we can't just go in front of 350 million people without some work". The line-up was Lennon on harpsichord, McCartney on double bass, Harrison on violin – three instruments that were unfamiliar to the musicians – while Starr played drums. The band recorded 33 takes, before choosing the tenth take as the best. This performance was transferred onto a new 4-track tape, with the four instruments mixed into one track. The engineers at Olympic thought the Beatles displayed a surprising lack of care during this process, a sign, according to author Ian MacDonald, of the group's new preference for randomness in contrast to the high production standards of Sgt. Pepper.
From 19 June, working at Studio 2 in EMI Studios (now Abbey Road Studios), the Beatles recorded overdubs including piano (played by Martin), banjo, guitar and some vocal parts. Among the latter were the "Love, love, love" refrains, and a Lennon vocal over the song's choruses. On 23 June, the band began rehearsing the song with an orchestra, whose playing was also added to the backing track. On 24 June, the day before the broadcast, the Beatles decided that the song would be their next single. Late that morning, a press call was held at EMI Studios, attended by over 100 journalists and photographers, followed by further rehearsals and recording. Publicity photos were taken during the press call and rehearsals, and a BBC television crew blocked the camera angles required for the live performance.
– Barry Miles, 2007
The Our World broadcast took place in the wake of the Arab–Israeli Six-Day War and, for the Beatles, amid the public furore caused by McCartney's admission that he had taken LSD. On 25 June, the live transmission cut to EMI Studios at 8:54 pm London time, about 40 seconds earlier than expected. Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick were drinking scotch whisky to calm their nerves for the task of mixing the audio for a live worldwide broadcast, and had to scramble the bottle and glasses beneath the mixing desk when they were told they were about to go on air.
The Beatles (except for Starr, behind his drum kit) were seated on high stools, accompanied by a thirteen-piece orchestra. The band were surrounded by friends and acquaintances seated on the floor, who sang along with the refrain during the fade-out. These guests included Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Richards, Keith Moon, Graham Nash, Pattie Boyd (Harrison's wife), and Mike McGear and Jane Asher (McCartney's brother and girlfriend, respectively). The studio setting was designed to reflect the communal aspect of the occasion while also demonstrating the position of influence that the Beatles held among their peers, particularly following the release of Sgt. Pepper.[nb 4] Many of the invitations were extended through Beatles aides Mal Evans and Tony Bramwell, who visited various London nightclubs the night before the broadcast.
Also among the studio audience were members of the Small Faces and the design collective the Fool.[nb 5] Balloons, flowers, streamers and "Love" graffiti added to the celebratory atmosphere. The Beatles and their entourage were dressed in psychedelic clothes and scarves; in his report on the performance, Barry Miles likened the setting to a medieval gathering, broken only by the presence of modern studio equipment such as large headphones and microphones. According to Michael Frontani, an associate professor of communications, whereas Sgt. Pepper had showed the Beatles as artists and "serious musicians", Our World emphasised their identity as members of the hippie counterculture.[nb 6]
The segment was directed by Derek Burrell-Davis, the head of the BBC's Our World project. It opened with the band playing "All You Need Is Love" for about a minute, before Martin, speaking from the studio control room, suggested that the orchestral musicians should take their places for the recording as the tape was rewound. The BBC presenter, Steve Race, announced that the Beatles had just recorded this performance and were about to complete the recording live. In fact, in author John Winn's description, Race's statements were part of the "staged" aspect of the segment, which purported to show the Beatles at work in the studio: the opening footage of the band (merely rehearsing over the backing track) had been filmed earlier, and by the time Martin appeared to be issuing instructions, the orchestra were already seated in Studio 1.[nb 7] The Beatles, accompanied by the orchestra and the studio guests, then performed the entire song, overdubbing onto the pre-recorded rhythm track. In addition to the lead and backing vocals and the orchestra, the live elements were McCartney's bass guitar part, Harrison's guitar solo and Starr's drums. In the opinion of music critic Richie Unterberger, the performance of "All You Need Is Love" is "the best footage of the Beatles in the psychedelic period" and "captures Flower Power at its zenith, with enough irreverence to avoid pomposity, what with the sandwich boards of lyrics, the florid clothing and decor, and celebrity guests".
– Ringo Starr, 2000
Lennon, affecting indifference, was said to be nervous about the broadcast, given the potential size of the international TV audience. Later on 25 June, dissatisfied with his singing, he re-recorded the solo verses for use on the single. On 26 June, in EMI's Studio 2, Lennon's vocal was treated with ADT, and Starr overdubbed a drum roll at the start of the track, replacing a tambourine part.
The programme was shown in black-and-white since colour television had yet to commence broadcasting in Britain and most of the world. The Beatles' footage was colourised, based on photographs of the event, for the 1995 documentary The Beatles Anthology. Over the documentary's end credits, a snippet of studio conversation from the 25 June overdubbing session includes Lennon telling Martin: "I'm ready to sing for the world, George, if you can just give me the backing …" The colour version of the band's Our World appearance also appears on the Beatles' 2015 video compilation 1.
Release and reception
"All You Need Is Love" was issued in the UK on 7 July 1967, on EMI's Parlophone label, with "Baby, You're a Rich Man" as the B-side. It entered the Record Retailer chart (subsequently the UK Singles Chart) at number 2 before topping the listings for three weeks. The single was released in the United States on 17 July, on Capitol Records, and went on to top the Billboard Hot 100 for a week. In his feature on the song in Rolling Stone, Gavin Edwards writes that "All You Need Is Love" "hit Number One all over the world, providing the sing-song anthem for the Summer of Love, with a sentiment that was simple but profound". The release coincided with the height of the Beatles' popularity and influence during the 1960s, following that of Sgt. Pepper. According to historian David Simonelli, such was their international influence, it was the song that formally announced the arrival of flower power ideology as a mainstream concept. The single was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America on 11 September 1967.[nb 8]
In his contemporary review of the single, for Melody Maker, Nick Jones said the Beatles represented the "progressive avant-garde" in their approach to singles releases, and that "All You Need Is Love" was "another milestone in their very phenomenal career". He described the song as a "cool, calculated contagious Beatles singsong" that was more immediate than "Strawberry Fields Forever", and concluded: "The message is 'love' and I hope everyone in the whole wide world manages to get it." According to author Jonathan Gould, the Beatles "bask[ed] in the glow of their artistic achievements" while enjoying their first summer free of tour commitments, having quit performing concerts the previous year. In late July, the band investigated the possibility of buying a Greek island with a view to setting up a hippie-style commune for themselves, their partners and children, and members of their inner circle such as Neil Aspinall, Evans, Epstein and Derek Taylor. After sailing around the Aegean Sea and approving a location on the island of Leslo, the Beatles decided against the idea and returned to London. In early August, Harrison, accompanied by a small entourage including Taylor and Aspinall, made a highly publicised visit to the international hippie capital of Haight-Ashbury, in San Francisco.
Writing in 2001, Peter Doggett said that the Beatles' performance on Our World "remains one of the strongest visual impressions of the summer of love"; Womack describes it as "flower power's finest moment". Rolling Stone ranks "All You Need Is Love" 370th on its list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" and 21st on its "100 Greatest Beatles Songs" list. Mojo placed it at number 28 on a similar list of the best Beatles songs. In his commentary for the magazine, producer and musician Dave Stewart admired the track's "jumbled-up mix of music – marching band and rock'n'roll" and recalled the Beatles' Our World appearance as "a signal for those [of us] who felt we were trapped in a mental hospital in some suburban town to break out". In 2018, the music staff of Time Out London ranked "All You Need Is Love" at number 4 on their list of the best Beatles songs.
In November 1967, "All You Need Is Love" was included on the American LP version of Magical Mystery Tour, together with the band's other singles tracks from that year. It was also included on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album, released in January 1969. As a statement on the power of universal love, the song served as the moral in the Yellow Submarine film; it plays over a scene where Lennon's character defeats the Blue Meanies by throwing the word "Love" at their evil Flying Glove.[nb 9] In a rare example of the Beatles licensing their music for use in another artist's film or television project, in February 1968 the song was played in the "Fall Out" episode of the TV series The Prisoner, directed by Patrick McGoohan. The track is also featured in Cirque du Soleil's show Love, based on the songs of the Beatles, and is the closing track of the 2006 soundtrack album. Remixed by Giles and George Martin, this version includes elements from "Baby, You're a Rich Man", "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", "Good Night" and The Beatles' Third Christmas Record.
Cultural responses and legacy
In a 1981 article on the musical and societal developments of 1967, sociomusicologist Simon Frith described "All You Need Is Love" as a "genuinely moving song" and said that, further to the impact of Sgt. Pepper, the international broadcast confirmed "the Beatles' evangelical role" in a year when "it seemed the whole world was waiting for something new, and the power of music was beyond doubt." Psychiatrist and New Left advocate R.D. Laing wrote about the song's contemporary appeal:
The times fitted [the Beatles] like a glove. Everyone was getting the feel of the world as a global village – as us, one species. The whole human race was becoming unified under the shadow of death ... One of the most heartening things about the Beatles was that they gave expression to a shared sense of celebration around the world, a sense of the same sensibility.
According to author Jon Wiener, "All You Need Is Love" served as "the anthem of flower power" that summer but also, like Sgt. Pepper, highlighted the ideological gulf between the predominantly white hippie movement and the increasingly political ghetto culture in the United States. Wiener says that the song's pacifist agenda infuriated many student radicals from the New Left and that these detractors "continued to denounce [Lennon] for it for the rest of his life".[nb 10] Wiener also writes that, in summer 1967, "links between the counterculture and the New Left remained murky", since a full dialogue regarding politics and rock music was still a year away and would only be inspired by Lennon's 1968 song "Revolution". Doyle Greene writes that because of its presentation as the conclusion to Our World, "All You Need Is Love" provided "a distinctly political statement". He says that the song was "selling peace" on a program that aimed to foster international understanding in a climate of Cold War hostility, the Vietnam War and revolutionary unrest in the Third World.
– John Lennon, 1980
In the decades following the release of "All You Need Is Love", Beatles biographers and music journalists have criticised the lyrics as naive and simplistic and detected a smugness in the message; the song's musical content has also been dismissed as unimaginative. Writing in 1988, author and critic Tim Riley identified the track's "internal contradictions (positivisms expressed with negatives)" and "bloated self-confidence ('it's easy')" as qualities that rendered it as "the naive answer to 'A Day in the Life'". By contrast, Mark Hertsgaard considers "All You Need Is Love" to be among the Beatles' finest songs and one of the few highlights among their recordings from the Magical Mystery Tour–Yellow Submarine era. In his opinion, Lennon's detractors fail to discern between "shallow and utopian" when ridiculing the song as socially irrelevant, and he adds: "one may as well complain that Martin Luther King was a poor singer as criticize Lennon on fine points of political strategy; his role was the Poet, not the Political Organizer." For his part, Lennon said in a 1971 interview: "I think if you get down to basics, whatever the problem is, it's usually to do with love. So I think 'All You Need Is Love' is a true statement ... It doesn't mean that all you have to do is put on a phoney smile or wear a flower dress and it's gonna be alright ... I'm talking about real love ... Love is appreciation of other people and allowing them to be. Love is allowing somebody to be themselves, and that's what we do need."
Ian MacDonald views the song as "one of The Beatles' less deserving hits" and, in its apparently chaotic production, typical of the band's self-indulgent work immediately after Sgt. Pepper. Regarding the song's message, McDonald writes:
During the materialistic Eighties, this song's title was the butt of cynics, there being, obviously, any number of additional things needed to sustain life on earth. It should, perhaps, be pointed out that this record was not conceived as a blueprint for a successful career. "All you need is love" is a transcendental statement, as true on its level as the principle of investment on the level of the stock exchange. In the idealistic perspective of 1967 – the polar opposite of 1987 – its title makes perfect sense.
In 1978, the Rutles parodied "All You Need Is Love" in their song "Love Life" and titled their television film satirising the Beatles' history All You Need Is Cash. According to New York Times journalist Marc Spitz, writing in 2013, this title was "really an attack" on the commercialisation of rock music by the late 1970s. In July 1985, during his solo performance at Live Aid, Elvis Costello performed "All You Need Is Love" before a television audience estimated at up to 1.9 billion. Costello introduced it as an "old Northern English folk song" and sang with a "vitriolic snarl", in Riley's description, that suggested "how far there still was to go rather than how far we'd come" in terms of realising the song's message.
In Granada Television's 1987 documentary It Was Twenty Years Ago Today, commemorating two decades since Sgt. Pepper and the Summer of Love, several of the interviewees were asked whether they still believed that "Love is all you need". Harrison was the only one who unequivocally agreed with the sentiment. Asked why this was, he told Mark Ellen of Q magazine: "They all said All You Need Is Love but you also need such-and-such else. But … love is complete knowledge. If we all had total knowledge, then we would have complete love and, on that basis, everything is taken care of. It's a law of nature."[nb 11]
In 2009, George Vaillant, the chief investigator of the Grant Study, which tracked 268 Harvard undergraduates for a period of 80 years with the goal of finding what factors led to happiness, stated that its findings could be summarised as "Happiness is love. Full stop." In response to accusations that the statement was sentimental or overly general, Vaillant revisited his findings and concluded: "The short answer is L-O-V-E." The CBC reported that the "[Grant] study proves Beatles right: All You Need is Love."
According to Ian MacDonald, except where noted:
- John Lennon – lead and backing vocals, harpsichord, banjo
- Paul McCartney – bass, double bass, backing vocals
- George Harrison – lead guitar, violin, backing vocals
- Ringo Starr – drums
- George Martin – piano, orchestral arrangement, production
- Mike Vickers – conductor
- Sidney Sax, Patrick Halling, Eric Bowie, John Ronayne – violins
- Lionel Ross, Jack Holmes – cellos
- Rex Morris, Don Honeywill – tenor saxophones
- David Mason – trumpet
- Stanley Woods – trumpet, flugelhorn
- Evan Watkins, Harry Spain – trombones
- Jack Emblow – accordion
- Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, Jane Asher, Pattie Boyd, Mike McGear, Keith Moon, Graham Nash, Hunter Davies, Gary Walker and others – background vocals
Charts and certifications
- McCartney also offered "Hello, Goodbye" for consideration.
- In McCartney's recollection, the song was entirely Lennon's, with Harrison, Starr and his own contributions confined to "ad-libs" at the end of the recording.
- Lennon had also experimented with interpolating "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" during the coda.
- The idea to film the performance in the company of their friends and fellow artists reprised the orchestral overdubbing session for "A Day in the Life" in February 1967, when the Beatles had hosted a happening-style event at EMI's Studio 1. Author Ian MacDonald cites a television performance by Pink Floyd of their June 1967 single "See Emily Play", when the band were "surrounded by a kaftan-clad crowd of beatific followers", as a precedent.
- Starr recalls that his outfit was designed by the Fool especially for the event. It included a yellow sequin jacket with a fur collar and edging, and rings of beads around his neck; he says that together "it weighed a ton."
- Among a number of placards featuring the word "love" translated into a variety of languages, one sign read: "Come Back Milly". This was a plea to an aunt of McCartney's who was in Australia visiting her son and grandchildren.
- In a tone that Winn terms "facetious", Race announced that "The Beatles get on best with symphony men" and Martin was "the musical brain behind all the Beatles' records". In his article on the broadcast, for Rolling Stone in 2014, Gavin Edwards comments: "Note how as late as 1967, the institutional voice of the BBC was trying to make the Beatles more palatable by claiming their affinity with classical musicians."
- "All You Need Is Love" achieved sales of over 50,000 copies in Australia, making it eligible for a Gold Disc award there also.
- In November 1967, Emerick prepared an extended version of "All You Need Is Love", lasting 4:30, for its appearance in Yellow Submarine. Although the song's duration is only 2:42 in the film, the remix is evident from the inclusion of an extra chorus from which Emerick cut the saxophone riffs.
- When considering the island commune scheme, Lennon and his bandmates were similarly oblivious to the political upheaval in Greece, three months after the country had become a fascist state. At the time, he told the Beatles' official biographer, Hunter Davies: "I'm not worried about the political situation in Greece, as long as it doesn't affect us. I don't care if the government is all fascist or communist."
- Harrison had also shown his enduring admiration for the song by referencing it in his 1981 tribute to Lennon, "All Those Years Ago". In The Beatles Anthology, he describes "All You Need Is Love" as "a subtle bit of PR for God".
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