Lennon later spoke of his embarrassment at the triteness of the lyrics. He told Hit Parader magazine: “That’s the one song I really hate of mine. Terrible lyric.” In another interview he named ‘It’s Only Love’ and Rubber Soul’s ‘Run For Your Life’ as his least favourite Beatles songs.
‘It’s Only Love’ is mine. I always thought it was a lousy song. The lyrics were abysmal. I always hated that song.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Paul McCartney, who co-wrote the song at Lennon’s home in Weybridge, was slightly more forgiving.
Sometimes we didn’t fight it if the lyric came out rather bland on some of those filler songs like ‘It’s Only Love’. If a lyric was really bad we’d edit it, but we weren’t that fussy about it, because it’s only a rock ‘n’ roll song. I mean, this is not literature.
Many Years From Now, Barry Miles
In his book Revolution In The Head, Ian MacDonald explained how Lennon’s melodies tended to be ‘horizontal’ in nature, often based around a single repeated note, whereas McCartney’s would climb up and down the scales ‘vertically’.
‘It’s Only Love’, however, is more melodically ‘vertical’ than many of Lennon’s compositions of the time. The winding tune and explorative chord sequence showed that he wasn’t simply going through the motions of songwriting, and he evidently regarded both highly enough to rework them in 1967 for the Sgt Pepper song ‘Being For The Benefit Of Mr Kite!’.
In the studio
The Beatles recorded ‘It’s Only Love’ during an afternoon session on 15 June 1965. It took six takes to get right, though only four of those were complete.
Lennon double-tracked his vocals onto take six, and five guitars were recorded: two acoustic, including a 12-string; and three electric guitars, with a tremolo effect applied to Harrison’s 12-string Rickenbacker.
Take two of ‘It’s Only Love’ was included on Anthology 2 in 1996, along with the aborted take three from the session. Interestingly, Ringo Starr’s drum part on take two was very similar to that later heard on another Lennon song, Rubber Soul’s ‘In My Life’.