History of All You Need Is Love, by The Beatles


On June 25, 1967, The Beatles released the song “All You Need Is Love.”

At that time, they participated in the Our World TV show, which used the recently constructed communication satellite system and broadcast their performance across the globe. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr said later,

“It was the first worldwide satellite broadcast ever.”


Impact of All You Need Is Love

With “All You Need Is Love,” the Beatles released the anthem of flower power – during the Summer of Love – as I’ve written previously about the prominence that summer of their recently released album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Global_Beatles_Day_promotional_posterIt 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. Since 2009, Global Beatles Day, an international celebration of the Beatles’ music and social message, has taken place on June 25 each year in tribute.


Context of All You Need Is Love

Magical Mystery TourThe TV show Our World was a serious affair with appearances by director Franco Zeffirelli, who showed a rehearsal for his upcoming feature film Romeo and Juliet – a massive hit in 1968-69. It also featured artist Pablo Picasso, media philosopher Marshall McLuhan, and American pianist Van Cliburn with conductor 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.


All You Need Is Love: Late In the Making

YellowSubmarineThe Beatles didn’t start writing the song until just 11 days before the broadcast. Paul McCartney 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 Lennon 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: harpsichord, banjo
  • Paul: bass, double bass with a bow
  • George: violin, lead guitar
  • 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 to All You Need Is Love

Love is All You NeedSeveral other singers and musicians were on hand for the recording. Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones) occasionally showed up at their recording sessions. Eric Clapton — at that time with the band 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 song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

Also present were Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones), Keith Moon (The Who), and Graham Nash (The 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 of All You Need Is Love

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.”

Love is All You NeedThe song ends with an extended chorus of “Love is all you need” ahead of a reprise led by Paul of “She loves you… yeah, yeah, yeah” and “Yesterday.”


During the chorus, you hear parts of three other international songs.

  • German Johann Sebastian Bach‘s Invention No. 8 in F Major
  • 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.

The Beatles’ 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 Beatle maniac

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About billpetro

Bill Petro writes articles on history, technology, pop culture, and travel. He has been a technology sales enablement executive with extensive experience in Cloud Computing, Automation, Data Center, Information Storage, Big Data/Analytics, Mobile, and Social technologies.

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