‘Love’, the tenderest moment on John Lennon’s debut solo album, was a simple love song inspired by his feelings for Yoko Ono.

‘Love’ I wrote in a spirit of love. In all that s**t, I wrote it in a spirit of love. It’s for Yoko, it has all that connotation for me. It’s a beautiful melody and I’m not even known for writing melody.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

Lennon had recorded a guitar demo of ‘Love’ in Bel Air, Los Angeles, where he stayed in the summer of 1970 while undergoing Primal Therapy with Dr Arthur Janov. The recording is the only one of the time that lacked the anger or bitterness that coloured much of John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band: the other demos were of ‘God’, ‘I Found Out’, ‘Mother’, ‘My Mummy’s Dead’, and ‘Well Well Well’.

Back in England, ‘Love’ was recorded at EMI Studios, Abbey Road. Lennon again played a simple acoustic guitar part, over which he sang his plaintive lyrics. An alternative version from the session was later released on the Acoustic album and the John Lennon Anthology box set.

After recording a satisfactory take, Lennon asked Phil Spector to add a piano part. Although listed as producer on the album, Spector was only present for a handful of sessions, and his contribution was primarily the creation of the final mixes.

‘Love’ was not released as a single in John Lennon’s lifetime, although he considered issuing it as one. It received considerable radio airplay from stations who baulked at the prospect of playing ‘Mother’, Lennon’s eventual choice of single in the US.

People aren’t going to by my album just ’cause Rolling Stone liked it. People have got to be hyped in a way, they’ve got to have it presented to them in all the best ways possible. And if ‘Love’ can – because I like the song ‘Love’. I like the melody and the words and everything, I think it’s beautiful. I’m more of a rocker, that’s all. I originally conceived of ‘Mother’ and ‘Love’ as being a single, but I want to put one out with her [Yoko]. Then I have to get rid of one. But I think ‘Love’ will do me more good.
John Lennon, 1970
Lennon Remembers, Jann S Wenner

In 1982 ‘Love’ appeared on the compilation The John Lennon Collection, and was released as a single at the same time. The cover photograph for the single was taken by Annie Leibovitz on 8 December 1980, the day of Lennon’s death.

The 1982 release was a remix of the song with the faded introduction and coda at a consistent volume. It was also issued in stereo; the original album mix had been in mono.

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