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Real Love (Beatles song)

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"Real Love"
Song by John Lennon from the album Imagine: John Lennon
Released 10 October 1988
Recorded New York City
Length 2:48
Writer(s) John Lennon
"Real Love"
Single by The Beatles
from the album Anthology 2
B-side "Baby's in Black" (Live)
Released 4 March 1996
Genre Rock
Length 3:54
Label Apple 58544
Writer(s) John Lennon
Producer(s) Jeff Lynne
Certification Gold (RIAA)
The Beatles singles chronology
"Free as a Bird"
"Real Love"
Music sample

"Real Love" is a song written by John Lennon, and recorded with overdubs by the three surviving Beatles in 1995 for release as part of The Beatles Anthology project. To date, it is the last released record of new material credited to the Beatles.

Lennon made six takes of the song in 1979 and 1980 with "Real Life", a different song that merged with "Real Love". The song was ignored until 1988 when the sixth take was used on the documentary soundtrack Imagine: John Lennon.

"Real Love" was subsequently reworked by the three surviving former members of the Beatles (Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) in early 1995, an approach also used for another incomplete Lennon track, "Free as a Bird". "Real Love" was released as a Beatles single in 1996 in the United Kingdom, United States and many other countries; it was the opening track on the Beatles' Anthology 2 album. It is the last "new" credited Beatles song to originate and be included on an album. To date, it is the last single by the group to become a top 40 hit in the US.

The song reached number four and number 11, respectively, in the UK and US singles charts, and earned a gold record more quickly than a number of the group's other singles. The song was not included on the BBC Radio 1 playlist, prompting criticism from fans and British members of parliament. After the release of "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love", Starr commented, "Recording the new songs didn't feel contrived at all, it felt very natural and it was a lot of fun, but emotional too at times. But it's the end of the line, really. There's nothing more we can do as the Beatles."[1]

Early origins[edit]

According to Beatles biographer John T. Marck, "Real Love" originated as part of an unfinished stage play that Lennon was working on at the time titled "The Ballad of John and Yoko". The song was first recorded in 1977 with a hand-held tape recorder on his piano at home. Eventually the work evolved under the title "Real Life", a song Lennon would record at least six takes of in 1979 and 1980, and then abandoned. The song was eventually combined with elements of another Lennon demo, "Baby Make Love to You".[2] In June 1978, Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono said to the press that they were working on a musical, "The Ballad of John and Yoko", which had been planned a year prior.[3] Songs proposed to be included up to this point were "Real Love" and "Every Man Has a Woman Who Loves Him".[3]

In later versions, Lennon altered portions of the song; for example, "no need to be alone / it's real love / yes, it's real love became "why must it be alone / it's real / well it's real life." Some takes featured an acoustic guitar, while the eventual Beatles release featured Lennon on piano, with rudimentary double-tracked vocals, and a tambourine. The song eventually released in 1996 most closely reflected the lyrical structure of the early demo takes of the song.[4]

Lennon appears to have considered recording "Real Love" for Double Fantasy; a handwritten draft of the album's running order places it as the possible opening track for side 2.[5]

The song remained largely forgotten until 1988, when the sixth take of "Real Love" appeared on the Imagine: John Lennon film and soundtrack album. The song was also released on the Acoustic album in 2004. The demo with just Lennon on piano was released in 1998 on John Lennon Anthology and then later, on Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon.

Reuniting the Beatles[edit]

Before the Anthology project, the closest the Beatles had come to reuniting on record (while all four members were still alive) was for Starr's 1973 Ringo album, upon which all appeared — with Lennon, Harrison, and Starr appearing on "I'm the Greatest" — though Lennon and McCartney did not work together. While Starr's Ringo album is the last album on which all four ex-Beatles perform, they all contributed either in performance or in song composition to 1976's Ringo's Rotogravure. Harrison contributed one song, "I'll Still Love You", but does not perform on the album.

The idea of re-doing some of Lennon's old songs apparently was inspired by former Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall and Harrison, who first requested some old demos from Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono. Then, in January 1994, McCartney went to New York City for Lennon's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While there, he received at least four songs from Ono. According to Aspinall, it was "two cassettes" which "might have been five or six tracks." Ono said of the occasion: "It was all settled before then, I just used that occasion to hand over the tapes personally to Paul. I did not break up the Beatles, but I was there at the time, you know? Now I'm in a position where I could bring them back together and I would not want to hinder that. It was kind of a situation given to me by fate."[6]

In an interview, McCartney remarked:

The remaining band members focused their attention on four songs: "Free as a Bird", "Real Love", "Grow Old with Me", and "Now and Then". Of these, they liked "Free as a Bird" the most, and worked hard on it. McCartney said, "Ringo was very up for it, George was very up for it, I was very up for it."[6] Eventually the song saw release as the first new Beatles single since 1970. The remaining Beatles then turned their attention to "Real Love". Co-producer Jeff Lynne said, "... we thought, we'd work on 'Real Love' which had a complete set of words."[7]

Working in the studio[edit]

According to McCartney:

Instead the Beatles brought in Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne, who had worked with Harrison as part of the Traveling Wilburys and had already co-produced "Free as a Bird".[1]

The first problem they had to confront was the low quality of the demo, as Lennon had recorded the demo on a hand-held tape recorder. Lynne recalled:

Although "Real Love" was comparatively more complete than "Free as a Bird", which had required the addition of some lyrics by McCartney,[6] the song also suffered from problems with Lennon's timing. Lynne said:

Lynne and the remaining Beatles did their best to make the song appear very "Beatles-y." Lynne said:

Therefore, the Beatles gathered once more in Sussex, England, at McCartney's studio to produce another single. Added to the demo were the sounds of a double bass (originally owned by Elvis Presley's bassist, Bill Black), Fender Jazz bass guitar, a couple of Stratocaster guitars, one a modern "Clapton-style one" as Lynne described it, and George Harrison's psychedelically-painted "Rocky" strat (as seen in the "I Am the Walrus" video), as well as a Ludwig drum kit. McCartney did not use his signature Höfner "violin" bass guitar or his Rickenbacker 4001S, as he did during his career as a Beatle.[7] Other than their traditional instruments, a Baldwin Combo Harpsichord (used by Lennon on the Beatles song "Because") and a harmonium (which appeared on the Beatles hit single "We Can Work It Out") were also used. During the recording process, it was decided to speed the tape from the key of D minor to E flat minor which would be the speed that it was released in at the song's completion.[8]

They used sound engineer Geoff Emerick, who had not only worked with them to a great extent in the 1960s, but is often credited with many of the Beatles' audio inventions. McCartney said, "[H]e's solid, really great. He knows how Ringo's snare should sound." They also chose Jon Jacobs as assistant engineer. Jon had worked with Paul and Geoff Emerick since the late 70s and they knew he would be a great asset to the team. The attitude in the studio was very relaxed, according to Lynne, "Paul and George would strike up the backing vocals—and all of a sudden it's the Beatles again! ... I'd be waiting to record and normally I'd say, 'OK, Let's do a take', but I was too busy laughing and smiling at everything they were talking about." Starr said that they had to be, in order to avoid being overwhelmed by the thought of being too reverent towards "a fallen hero" (as McCartney put it): "We just pretended that John had gone on holiday or out for tea and had left us the tape to play with. That was the only way we could deal with it, and get over the hurdle, because [it] was really very emotional."[7]

Music video[edit]

The single's video features shots of the three remaining Beatles recording in Sussex, mixed with shots of the Beatles taken during their career. Geoff Wonfor, who directed the Anthology documentary, filmed the Beatles recording in the studio with a handheld camcorder, as they did not want to be aware of the camera recording. Kevin Godley, who co-directed the music video, went on the record to state that it was meant to be a "fly on the wall thing."[1] There are actually two different versions of this video: the first version aired during the second installment of The Beatles Anthology television mini-series on ABC, at the end of the episode. The second version is the more common of the two, and appears on the Anthology DVD set. The most notable difference are how the videos open: the first is presented by a strawberry (possibly a reference to "Strawberry Fields Forever"), (but also quite likely a nod to "Strawberry Studios" from Kevin Godley) while the second opens with a piano (the piano chord at the beginning).


Although the song was released as single in both the UK and US on 4 March 1996, the first time the song was publicly aired had come on 22 November 1995, when the American television network, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) aired the second episode of The Beatles Anthology.

The single jumped into the British charts on 16 March 1996 at number four, selling 50,000 copies in its first week.[9] However, the single's progress in the charts was stunted by BBC Radio 1's exclusion of "Real Love" from its playlist. Reuters, which described Radio 1 as "the biggest pop music station in Britain", reported that the station declared, "It's not what our listeners want to hear ... We are a contemporary music station."[10]

Beatles spokesman Geoff Baker responded by stating the band's response as "Indignation. Shock and surprise. We carried out research after the Anthology was launched and this revealed that 41% of the buyers were teenagers."[11]

The station's actions contrasted strongly with what occurred at the launch of "Free as a Bird" the year earlier, when it became the first station to play the song on British airwaves. The exclusion of "Real Love" provoked a fierce reaction from fans, and elicited comment from two members of parliament (MPs). Conservative MP Harry Greenway called the action censorship, and urged the station to reverse what he called a ban.[10]

An angry McCartney wrote an 800-word article for British newspaper The Daily Mirror about the ban, where he stated: "the Beatles don't need our new single, 'Real Love', to be a hit. It's not as if our careers depend on it. If Radio 1 feels that we should be banned now, it's not exactly going to ruin us overnight. You can't put an age limit on good music. It's very heartening to know that, while the kindergarten kings of Radio 1 may think the Beatles are too old to come out to play, a lot of younger British bands don't seem to share that view. I'm forever reading how bands like Oasis are openly crediting the Beatles as inspiration, and I'm pleased that I can hear the Beatles in a lot of the music around today. As Ringo said to me about all this, who needs Radio 1 when you've got all the independent stations?" The letter was published on 9 March, the day after Radio 1 announced the "ban".[11][dead link]

The station's controller, Matthew Bannister, however denied that the failure to include the song was a ban, but merely meant that the song had not been included on the playlist of each week's 60 most regularly featured songs.[citation needed] The station also hit back by devoting a "Golden Hour" to the group's music as well as music by bands influenced by the Beatles. This "Golden Hour" concluded with a playing of "Real Love".[12]

"Real Love" fell out of the British charts in seven weeks, never topping its initial position of number four. In the US, the single entered the charts on 30 March, and reached number 11;[13] after four months, 500,000 copies had been moved in the US.[9][14] Their compilation album Anthology 2, which carried the song as well, eventually reached number one in both the British and American charts.[15][16]

John Lennon's solo versions appear on several Lennon compilations, the film Imagine: John Lennon and one was also used in a 2007 ad campaign for J. C. Penney.[17]

On 6 November 2015, Apple Records released a new deluxe version of the 1 album in different editions and variations (known as 1+). Most of the tracks on 1 have been remixed from the original multi-track masters by Giles Martin. Giles Martin, with Jeff Lynne also remixed "Real Love" for the DVD and Blu-ray releases. The remix of "Real Love" cleans up Lennon's vocal further, and reinstates a number of deleted elements originally recorded in 1995, such as lead guitar phrases and drum fills, as well as making the harpsichord and harmonium more prominent in the mix, resulting in the overall sound being distinctly different from the mix made in 1995.

Lyrics and melody[edit]

The song's lyrics have been interpreted by one reviewer to be conveying the message that "love is the answer to loneliness" and "that connection is the antidote to unreality."[18]

The song has been sped up 12% from the demo, apparently to "effect the ... snappy tempo" as Alan W. Pollack has speculated. The tune is nearly completely pentatonic, comprising primarily the notes E, F#, G#, B and C#. The refrain is higher than the verse; while the verse covers a full octave, the refrain, at its peak, is a fifth higher.[19]

The instrumental intro is four measures long, and the verse and refrain are eight measures. The introduction occurs in parallel E minor,[20] with the main thrust of the song being in E major. There are several other occasions where Lennon moves to a chord from the parallel minor, e.g. in the chorus where the progression moves from a major tonic chord to a minor iv chord. The move to minor harmony happens on the words 'alone' and 'afraid'. This combination of lyrics and harmony turning at the same point is a common Beatles device, and helps give the song a wistful feeling. The outro largely comprises the last half of the refrain repeated seven times, slowly fading out.[19]


Sixth take[edit]

Beatles version[edit]

Track listings[edit]

All tracks written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.

7" (R6425)
  1. "Real Love" (Lennon) – 3:54
    • Recorded at The Dakota, New York City, NY: circa 1979 (original demo) and at The Mill Studio, Sussex, England: February 1995.
  2. "Baby's in Black" – 3:03
    • Recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl: 29 August 1965 (spoken introduction by John Lennon) and 30 August 1965 (song performance).
CD (CDR6425)
  1. "Real Love" (Lennon) – 3:54
  2. "Baby's in Black" – 3:03
  3. "Yellow Submarine" – 2:48
    • Recorded at EMI Studios, London: 26 May and 1 June 1966. A new remix with a previously unreleased "marching" introduction with the sound effects mixed higher in volume throughout
  4. "Here, There and Everywhere" – 2:23
    • Recorded at EMI Studios, London: 16 June 1966. This is a combination of take 7 (a mono mix of the basic track with Paul's guide vocal) with a 1995 stereo remix of the harmony vocals as overdubbed onto take 13 superimposed at the end.

Charts and certifications[edit]

Tom Odell version[edit]

"Real Love"
Single by Tom Odell
Released 6 November 2014
Format Digital download
Genre Pop
Length 2:21
Label Sony
Writer(s) John Lennon
Tom Odell singles chronology
"I Know"
"Real Love"
"Wrong Crowd"

In 2014, English singer-songwriter Tom Odell released a cover version of the song. It was released on 6 November 2014 in the United Kingdom as a digital download through Sony. The song was selected as the soundtrack to the John Lewis 2014 Christmas advertisement.

Chart performance

On 9 November 2014 (week ending 15 November 2014), "Real Love" debuted at number 21 in the UK Singles Chart with only 3 days of sales, and then reached a new peak of number 7 the following week.

Track listing
Digital download
No. Title Length
1. "Real Love"   2:21

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly charts

Other versions[edit]

Regina Spektor recorded a cover version of "Real Love" for Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur, released in June 2007. She performed that cover at Bonnaroo the same month.[38]

Adam Sandler performed the song in the 2009 film Funny People. This version is also found on the film's soundtrack.

The Last Royals released a cover version of "Real Love" on September 1, 2015 [39][40]


  1. ^ a b c d Maclauchlan, Paul (1998). Gobnotch's Recording Sessions Update - February 1995. Retrieved 24 June 2005.[unreliable source?]
  2. ^ Marck, John T. Oh Look Out! Part 26, Free as a Bird & Real Love. Retrieved 24 June 2005.[unreliable source?]
  3. ^ a b Miles, Barry; Badman, Keith, eds. (2001). The Beatles Diary After the Break-Up: 1970–2001 (reprint ed.). London: Music Sales Group. ISBN 978-0-7119-8307-6. 
  4. ^ Hodgson, Gordon (1998). "Real Love History". Archived from the original on 3 September 2007. Retrieved 24 June 2005. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d Maclauchlan, Paul (1998). Gobnotch's Recording Sessions Update - February & March 1994. Retrieved 24 June 2005.[unreliable source?]
  7. ^ a b c d e f (2000). Jeff Lynne & the Beatles. Retrieved 24 June 2005.[unreliable source?]
  8. ^ Real Love. Retrieved 24 June 2005.
  9. ^ a b Cross, Craig. Beatles British Singles[dead link]. Retrieved 24 June 2005.
  10. ^ a b "BBC in 'oldies' row over ban on Beatles single". Reuters. 8 March 1996. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. 
  11. ^ a b Maclauchlan, Paul (1998). Gobnotch's Recording Sessions Update - 4 March 1996. Retrieved 24 June 2005.
  12. ^ Culf, Andrew (12 March 1996). Radio 1 changes tune on Beatles. The Guardian.
  13. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 3/30/96". Cashbox. 1996-03-30. Archived from the original on 20 August 2012. Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  14. ^ Cross, Craig. Beatles American Singles[dead link]. Retrieved 24 June 2005.
  15. ^ "The Official UK Charts Company : ALL THE No.1's" at the Wayback Machine (archived 29 September 2007)‹The template Wayback is being considered for merging.› . Retrieved 11 December 2006.
  16. ^ "allmusic ((( Anthology 2 > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 11 December 2006.
  17. ^ "Yoko Ono Did Sell Out John Lennon to JCPenney". FOX News Network. Retrieved 10 August 2012. 
  18. ^ Bromell, Nicholas Knowles (2000). Tomorrow Never Knows: Rock and Psychedelics in the 1960s, p. 34. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-07553-2.
  19. ^ a b Pollack, Alan W. (1995). Alan W. Pollack's Notes on "Real Love". Retrieved 27 August 2009.[unreliable source?]
  20. ^ "Real Love sheet music". Sheet Music Direct. 
  21. ^ Everett, Walter (1999). The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 290. 
  22. ^ " – The Beatles – Real Love". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  23. ^ " – The Beatles – Real Love" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  24. ^ "The Beatles - Real Love". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved 15 May 2016. 
  25. ^ "The Beatles: Real Love" (in Finnish). Musiikkituottajat – IFPI Finland. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  26. ^ " – The Beatles – Real Love" (in French). Les classement single. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  27. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Real Love". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  28. ^ " – The Beatles – Real Love" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  29. ^ " – The Beatles – Real Love". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  30. ^ " – The Beatles – Real Love". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  31. ^ a b "Archive Chart: 1996-03-16" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 May 2016. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "sc_UK_" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  32. ^ "The Beatles – Chart history" Billboard Hot 100 for The Beatles. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  33. ^ "Cash Box Top 100 Pop Singles". Cashbox Archives. Retrieved 18 June 2016. 
  34. ^ "American single certifications – The Beatles – Real Love". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 15 May 2016.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH
  35. ^ "Chart Track: Week 46, 2014". Irish Singles Chart.
  36. ^ " – Tom Odell – Real Love" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  37. ^ "Archive Chart: 2014-11-22". Scottish Singles Top 40.
  38. ^ Padgett, Ray (2010-08-20). "Consequence of Sound Presents…Best Fest Covers » Cover Me". Retrieved 2011-08-01. 
  39. ^ Padgett, Ray (2015-09-01). "Real Love - Single on iTunes". Retrieved 2016-05-17. 
  40. ^ Padgett, Ray (2015-09-01). "Real Love - Single on Spotify". Retrieved 2016-05-17. 

External links[edit]