May 06

THE BEATLES – “All You Need Is Love”

Popular27 comments • 6,195 views

#235, 22nd July 1967

On the I Love Music message board, someone just asked for a definition of “schlock”. I answered, because I wanted to be in the pub and not at work, “anything that you only like when you’re drunk”. I don’t like this song any extra when I’m sloshed but when I listened to it just now what I heard was a song that sounds drunk itself, that’s trying to be my idea of schlock. That reeling trumpet after every line on the chorus, the way the song breaks down into tunelets and shout-outs at the end, the final bleary nostalgia as “She Loves You” crashes the party?.it’s less “All You Need Is Love”, more “You’re My Best Mate, You Are”.

And why not? If you’re sold on the idea of intoxication as a way to world consciousness, you’re going to need a universal intoxicant. “All You Need Is Love” is hardly prime Beatles, or prime anybody – it’s lumbering, ripe for parody, more affable than moving – but ‘write a song for the first global TV link up’ is a big ask by any standards, and it’s not surprising their panacea is more beery shoulder-clasps than LSD ego-death. The woeful koans of the verses, though, don’t even approach the rudimentary wisdom of hop and grape.



  1. 1
    Mark Gamon on 26 May 2006 #

    Tell you what, Tom: we knew at the time that this was schlock by Beatles standards. Think of it as half a yard over the peak of their career – and looking downhill from then on, give or take the odd hillock.

    Nice costumes, though. And it WAS exciting staying up to watch it on the black and white telly.

  2. 2
    Doctor Mod on 27 May 2006 #

    What’s so funny about peace love and understanding?

    Following fast on the heels of “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” we come to yet another party where all the participants seem to be stoned, minus the “bad trip” aspect this time around.

    I remember seeing this on television, part of some sort of celebration of global live broadcasting via satellite, I think. Even then, it had an impromptu feeling about it. I recall the cue cards (with the lyrics translated into various languages) exhorting everyone in the world to sing along, and someone on the broadcast said that the Beatles wrote this song with ultra-simple lyrics so that they would be accessible to everyone in the universe, or something to that effect. Still, even a sixteen-year-old could sense that there was something not quite right here.

    All the news about the Beatles suggested that all was not well–drugs, Yoko, and a variety of other factors seemed to be tearing them apart. In retrospect, it’s amazing they held together for another two years and then some. But after their announcement that they’d never perform live again, this broadcast suggested they might reconsider. And I think the success of the record was not so much the song itself as a gesture of relief that we (the fans) hadn’t lost them after all.

    The song does, of course, lack the complexity of the best late Beatles work, and it seems like something rapidly tossed off in retrospect. Not brilliant, but fun. And the sentiments, though naive, told us something we wanted to hear then.

    Too bad they’re not listening now.

  3. 3
    Doctor Mod on 27 May 2006 #

    Come to think about it, the party in the Yellow Submarine was a lot more fun . . . .

  4. 4
    Daniel on 28 May 2006 #

    The “but there is a DARK SIDE to (insert happy pop song here)” trope is probably one of the most overused and boring ones ever, but still I do feel inclined to ask – “there’s nothibng you can do that can’t be done”? And the solution is “you can learn how to play the game – it’s easy!” I mean, sure, you could just interpret this as carpe diem common sense, but still it’s always struck me as weird that, in an era where everyone was going on about expanding your senses, finding new worlds, realising dreams, etc. the Beatle’s supposedly most blatant hippie tune seems to be all about limits, about what you can’t accomplish. And love doesn’t change that, it just makes you feel better about not being able to do anything.

  5. 5
    Pete on 28 May 2006 #

    OK, it’s not great as a song but what makes it work for people who were around at the time is the circumstances in which it was recorded.

    In June 1967 there were enough communication satellites orbitting to allow a world wide live TV programme to be broadcast for the first time. This was some achievement in itself, of course. Most of the countries which took part copped out on the content and, in their segments, just broadcast really boring stuff such as national dances featuring folks in funny costumes. I seem to recall that Australia showed a street corner in a city (Sydney?) from a fixed camera (hey, shades of web cams!) while Mexico had a military band playing on a roof top. Dead boring stuff only relieved by being zapped by the realisation that it was possible at all. The UK had other ideas though and broadcast The Beatles sitting around with a large bunch of stoned hippies and others recording All You Need Is Love. What better message to send to a world where the Vietnam war was at its height? So far as I’m aware the record is the recording of that event and should be heard in that context.

  6. 6
    Anonymous on 30 May 2006 #

    John – who wasn’t exactly in his most creative period – was entrusted with the bulk of the writing. He only had one message he wanted to get across and arguably this he did albeit without too much finesse. Love, love, love was all he needed and therefore that’s what we all needed and who can argue ? It was designed to represent the moment and I believe it achieved at least that. Ok – it doesn’t stand up too well in hindsight because we know ultimately their heady optimism would fail – but for one fleeting moment everything was possible. This isn’t a song that makes any real sense in any time other than it s own.


  7. 7
    Anonymous on 30 May 2006 #

    As for content and directness of the message, John was probably thinking along the same lines when he wrote ” Give Peace A Change”.

    Writing anthems.

    Brian in Canada

  8. 8
    Anonymous on 30 May 2006 #


    give Peace a CHANCE ! :-)

    B in C

  9. 9
    Mark Gamon on 31 May 2006 #

    In another life, John Lennon would have done rather well as an advertising copywriter. All You Need Is Love. Give Peace a Chance. War is Over, if You Want It. The point about all three songs is they don’t need any further elaboration: he was trying to stick a catchphrase into the collective consciousness – and in the case of All You Need is Love, he chose just about the most direct delivery method anyone could imagine at the time (the global broadcast).

    Waddaya know? It worked. Doesn’t matter that the songs were sometimes over-simplistic – it’s the straplines that are Lennon’s legacy.

    (Mind you, he wrote a few good songs too…)

  10. 10
    koganbot on 5 Jul 2006 #

    what makes it work for people who were around at the time

    I love statements like this. I was around at the time, I was a Beatles fan to boot, and I found this song’s stupidity totally offensive.

  11. 11
    Southall on 6 Dec 2006 #

    The best thing about this tune is its b-side.

  12. 12
    Lena on 6 Dec 2006 #

    And its being used for the last few moments of The Prisoner

  13. 13
    Sharon Rose Goldberg Mercado on 28 Jul 2008 #

    I don’t understand why all the negative comments on this song. Is the world afraid of love. This was a worldwide event and the message was love. Love is all good as versus all evil. Upright homosapien has a higher brain. War is for beast. Human mammals have their higher brain and should be aware they have the organ, a heart that is the seat of emotions. War is one of the most irrational ideologies in existence. Violence is negative, evil, not productive. The world does need love and their simple, melodic song is what the world needs for all time. Our planet is in great trouble and if most humans had a better education, they would realize that simple fact. By 2024 and possibly sooner most of the fish will be gone!!!!! Read more, get more educated. There are amazing books out now writen by intelectuals, it is time to have heart and I think it is sad to criticize the Beatles song. Power, greed, and sexual irrationalities, and the irrational greed for money are what is destroying our planet. It is hard to realize that most of our population is not suffiently educated, and who is to blame for that here in America.

    Has the whole Country gone mad, has anyone demanded that all our bridges be fixed instead of all our money being robbed by robber barons. A small percentage of humans own most of the money and resources on this planet and they are destroying our Planet. We scientist who are not being paid off to be part of the governing of our planet and intellectuals who are not paid off, should be part of governing our planet. University professors who are not being paid off, should be part of the governing body that can prevent our blue planet earth from imploding from so much toxics as an end result from a few man who are polluting our planet with no regard for their own children and grandchildren. Money and power and greed will not insulate any man. thanx I love the Beattle song and we need more groups like the Beattles singing again via Satelite world wide and we need to have all negative governments use this song and begin saving the earth with respect and love for their planet. Love Sharon Rose

    I do hope no one hates me for speaking up like what happen to the sweet Dixie Chicks, An American Icon singing our heritage of Country Western music to the world. New Orleans was our historical heritage and is gone forever. What is going on out there. Has the whole world gone mad!!!! No one should ever be persecuted for speaking the truth. Mother Teresa was the most beautiful living human mammal on the earth. And thankfully there have been Human mammals like her and there are some now and hopefully in our future. Education and love for all humanity is where it is. No one wins if they do not work together for the good of everyone.

  14. 14
    The Intl on 28 Jul 2008 #

    Fact: this was a crap song. Flip it over, & you have the much better choice, replete with faux-funky beat. Poor Beatles were losing out to Airplane, Doors, soul, etc. Very out of touch. I still loved ’em, though, kinda like you love an uncle who was once cool but now kinda pathetic and still in the “pull my finger” mode after you’ve hit puberty and become clothes conscious.

  15. 15
    Jimmy the Swede on 10 Nov 2009 #

    I also recall watching the global TV link-up. My family were on holiday on the Isle of Wight and I can also recall strange young adults wandering around in colourful garb and the long-haired boys being summarily dismissed as “bleeding poofs” by my Edwardian father. Thus for me, AYNIL is remembered for corresponding with a very happy and safe time for a six year-old rather than for being a great record, which it clearly is not. It was however an event, a happening, and as Lena pointed out, it is also used at the start of “Fall Out”, the last episode of “The Prisoner”, along with the magnificent “Dem Bones” by the Four Lads. To say that this record was of its time is probably the most superfluous thing you can say about it. Rather like saying that Brigitte Bardot was a girl.

  16. 16
    Brooksie on 19 Feb 2010 #

    Brigitte Bardot was a girl?!

    This song has a kind of thrown together feel, which makes it at once charming and tacky at the same time.

    In think of it as a kind of holding action for the band amid changes outside and inside. It’s interesting to note that this was the single out when Sgt. Pepper was still ruling the charts.

  17. 17
    John I on 2 Mar 2010 #

    I have a weakness for their throwaway Magical Mystery era stuff, before they got all deep and personal on the White Album. Fun and silly even if the naivete is a bit of a put on. “Rich Man”, “Bulldog”, “Blue Jay” – good romps.

    And typically, in AYNIL, what sounds like a simplistic sing along is actually a deceptively tricky tune to pull off. An odd choice to submit to be recorded live with the world watching. Apart from the orchestral bits, the verses are in seven while the choruses in four. You can hear Ringo thinking hard to make sure not to miss the extra beat.

  18. 18
    larry.kooper on 15 Dec 2010 #

    This song is Lennon poking fun at the hippies. Nothing you can do that can’t be done but you can learn to play the game? It’s right in the lyrics.

  19. 19
    crag on 14 Apr 2011 #


    Robert Knox-Johnston, sailor(1970)

    Penelope Keith, actress(1976)

    Wayne Sleep, dancer(1977)

    Jackie Stewart, Formula One Driver(1986)

    George Foreman, boxer(2003)

    Michael Howard, politician(2004).

  20. 20
    Lena on 4 Nov 2011 #

    All you need is freedom: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2011/11/weve-got-something-to-say-monkees-randy.html Thanks for reading, everyone!

  21. 21
    Lena on 7 Nov 2011 #

    The telephone always rings: http://musicsoundsbetterwithtwo.blogspot.com/2011/11/dont-touch-that-dial-vikki-carr-it-must.html Merci for reading tout le monde!

  22. 22
    Jimmy the Swede on 21 May 2013 #

    Since this was number one at the time “Light My Fire” was number one in the US and indeed replaced it at number one over there too, this seems a good a place as any to mark the passing of Ray Manzarek, a pioneering musician on anybody’s tariff. RIP.

  23. 23
    hectorthebat on 5 May 2014 #

    Critic watch:

    1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010)
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 100 Greatest Beatles Songs (2010) 21
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (2004) 362
    Rolling Stone (USA) – The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (Updated 2010) 370
    Stephen Spignesi and Michael Lewis (USA) – The 100 Best Beatles Songs (2004) 5
    Mojo (UK) – The 101 Greatest Tracks by The Beatles (2006) 28
    Uncut (UK) – The 50 Greatest Beatles Tracks (2001) 35
    Now & Then (Sweden) – The Beatles’ 50 Best Songs (1992) 15
    Gilles Verlant and Thomas Caussé (France) – 3000 Rock Classics (2009)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  24. 24
    lonepilgrim on 18 Apr 2016 #

    I always approach this song with the intention of giving it a good kicking but then when I hear it I get seduced by it’s looseness, Lennon’s equivocal phrasing and the positive vibes. I don’t care for the burlesque style horn section but otherwise it’s OK.

  25. 25
    chrisew71 on 2 May 2018 #

    You know it’a a weak year when even The Beatles single isn’t all that great.

  26. 26
    Mark G on 3 May 2018 #

    A ha ha ha.. ahem..

    The thing is, the TV broadcast showed the single, and in theory that was the version that everyone bought. However, there was one more set of overdubs applied to the version that everyone heard, most noticeable would be the drum roll on the intro which isn’t on the broadcast version. There was some nervousness about doing this in case people stood up and said “That’s Changed!”

    In fact, nobody noticed and I don’t think it even got discussed until decades later.

    Nevertheless, I think it suggested that the general public weren’t quite as fastidious about the music, whereas they’d pour over the lyrics to a greater extent. Things got looser from here-on-in.

  27. 27
    Gareth Parker on 1 Jun 2021 #

    I would still class this as one of their better singles, imo. 7/10.

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