History of The Beatles All You Need Is Love: 50 Years Ago

On this day 50 years ago, the Beatles released the song “All You Need Is Love.” On June 25, 1967, they participated in the Our WorldTV show which used the recently constructed satellite system and broadcast their performance across the globe. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr said later,

“It was the first worldwide satellite broadcast ever,”

Impact

With “All You Need Is Love” the Beatles released the anthem of flower power during the Summer of Love as I’ve written previously. It was broadcast live on TV in 24 countries to over 400 million viewers. The single was later included in the U.S. version of the album Magical Mystery Tour, and in the animated movie Yellow Submarine.

Context

The TV show Our World was a serious affair with appearances by Franco Zeffirelli who showed a rehearsal for his upcoming film Romeo and Juliet, Pablo Picasso, and media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, and Van Cliburn with Leonard Bernstein. The Soviet Union was to be the 25th country in which the broadcast was to appear, but they dropped out the week before in protest of the outcome of the Six-Day War in Israel.

Late In the Making

The Beatles didn’t start writing the song until just 11 days ahead of the broadcast. Paul proposed his song “Hello, Goodbye,” for the event and indeed, the Beatles did release it five months later as a single, but they went instead with a song that John had been working on. Recording for the backing tracks of “All You Need Is Love” started on June 14 and did 33 takes of the recording. They selected take Number 10 (not Number 9).

Though originally recorded with:

  • John: harpsicord
  • Paul: double bass with bow
  • George: violin
  • Ringo: drums

they later overdubbed other instruments. Producer George Martin added piano; John added banjo, guitar, and other orchestral nuances. On June 25, the world witnessed live as the Beatles cut their next single.

Live in front of the cameras

While the live BBC feed cut to the Abby Road studios about 40 seconds earlier than expected, some quick improvisation by the announcer and scrambling by producer George Martin got things ready. He had insisted on a pre-recorded rhythm track for the work, and the tape player was rewound so they could play the track under the live event.

“We did it — one take.”

said George Harrison.

The Chorus

A number of other singers and musicians were on hand at the recording. Mick Jagger (Rolling Stones), who occasionally showed up at their recording sessions. Eric Clapton — at that time with Cream and considered Rolling Stone Magazine’s #2 greatest guitarist of all time — was there too. He later played the guitar for their White Album “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Keith Richards (Rolling Stones), Keith Moon (The Who), and Graham Nash (Hollies, and later Crosby, Stills, & Nash.) At the very end, the camera showed who was conducting the orchestra. It was flutist/saxophonist Mike Vickers from the band, Manfred Mann. You may know that British group from their hits “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” and “Mighty Quinn.”

International appeal

The tune that started the song was not a British march but “La Marseillaise” the French national anthem. The song would end with an international flair as well. While shot in both color and black-and-white, it was broadcast live in monochrome. Paul commented:

”The chorus ‘All you need is love’ is simple, but the verse is quite complex. In fact, I never really understood it.”

The song ends with a long chorus of “Love is all you need” ahead of a reprise led by Paul of “She loves you… yeah, yeah, yeah.” During the chorus, you hear parts of three other international songs.

  • German Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg concerto
  • American Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”
  • British folk tune “Greensleeves”

After the recording session when everyone had left, the Beatles added some overdubs of music and singing before sending the tapes out to make the record. The song did indeed become #1 all over the world during the Summer of Love in 1967.

Their manager Brian Epstein said of the song:

“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.”

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian
www.billpetro.com

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The history behind the holidays, the backstory, featuring the secular history behind the sacred holidays, and the sacred history behind the secular holidays.

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Bill Petro

Bill Petro

Writer and technologist. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, and pop culture. billpetro.com @billpetro

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