‘All You Need Is Love’ was written by John Lennon especially for Our World, the world’s first televised satellite link-up between 25 countries worldwide. Its message perfectly encapsulated the optimistic mood of the Summer of Love, with a simplicity perfectly judged for their global audience.
We were big enough to command an audience of that size, and it was for love. It was for love and bloody peace. It was a fabulous time. I even get excited now when I realise that’s what it was for: peace and love, people putting flowers in guns.
The BBC had suggested the idea of using new satellite relays to connect the national television networks of countries across the world, to make a live link-up on a scale previously unknown. The Beatles were the natural choice to represent Britain, and they decided to compose a new song especially for the broadcast.
I don’t know if they had prepared any ideas but they left it very late to write the song. John said, ‘Oh God, is it that close? I suppose we’d better write something.’
Our World took place on 25 June 1967; The Beatles began recording the backing track just 11 days before the transmission date. Coming just two weeks after the release of Sgt Pepper, The Beatles were clearly full of confidence, and took a the prospect of a potential audience of 400 million people in their stride.
‘All You Need Is Love’ was John’s song. I threw in a few ideas, as did the other members of the group, but it was largely ad libs like singing ‘She Loves You’ or ‘Greensleeves’ or silly things at the end and we made those up on the spot.
The chorus, ‘All you need is love’, is simple, but the verse is quite complex; in fact I never really understood it, the message is rather complex. It was a good song that we had handy that had an anthemic chorus.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
A remix of ‘All You Need Is Love’ was the closing track on the Love album. The song’s ending featured vocals from ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’, ‘Rain’, and ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’, as well as the guitar riff from ‘Ticket To Ride’. The song segues into a brief orchestral snippet from ‘Good Night’, accompanied by a snippet of dialogue from The Beatles’ 1965 Christmas fan club recording.
The time got nearer and nearer and they still hadn’t written anything. Then, about three weeks before the programme, they sat down to write. The record was completed in 10 days.
This is an inspired song, because they wrote it for a worldwide programme and they really wanted to give the world a message. It could hardly have been a better message. It is a wonderful, beautiful, spine-chilling record.
In the studio
The Beatles began recording ‘All You Need Is Love’ on 14 June 1967, at Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes, London. The group taped some vocals and played unconventional instruments: Lennon on harpsichord, McCartney on double bass, and Harrison playing a violin. Ringo Starr was the only member to stick to his usual instrument.
We just put a track down. Because I knew the chords I played it on whatever it was, harpsichord. George played a violin because we felt like doing it like that and Paul played a double bass. And they can’t play them, so we got some nice little noises coming out. It sounded like an orchestra, but it’s just them two playing the violin and that. So then we thought, ‘Ah, well, we’ll have some more orchestra around this little freaky orchestra that we’ve got.’ But there was no perception of how it sounded at the end until they did it that day, until the rehearsal. It still sounded a bit strange then.
On 23 and 24 June they made last minute rehearsals and additional recording, including an orchestral overdub. There was also a press call on the morning of 24 June, which saw more than 100 journalists and photographers enter Abbey Road.