The British Broadcasting Corporation began work on an event of a gigantic scale in 1966. Taking advantage of the capabilities of satellite technology, the BBC sought to create a global television program that would be broadcast live around the world. The British would partner with other broadcasters around the world, taking turns with live deliveries.
The show, titled “Our World,” was finally announced to take place on June 25, 1967. The special broadcast would feature segments spanning all five continents and nearly 20 countries, although that number was hit when the bloc nations the east withdrew a week before the event.
The producers had two stipulations, that nothing would be pre-filmed for broadcast (everything would be live) and there would be no appearances by politicians or statesmen. “Our World” would focus on the technology, lifestyle and culture of each participating nation.
Given the huge popularity of The Beatles around the world, it made sense that they would be the center of attention during the UK segment. The Beatles found out and accepted the honor in May, just a couple of weeks before the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” At the time, no one seemed discouraged at the prospect of putting together a new composition for live broadcast within a month.
“I don’t know if they had come up with any ideas, but they left it too late to write the song,” recalled engineer Geoff Emerick on The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. “John [Lennon] He said, ‘Oh God, is he that close? I guess we better write something. “
Paul McCartney offered a couple of his most recent songs, “Your Mother Should Know” and “Hello, Goodbye”, for your consideration, but the decision was made to opt for a Lennon original: “All You Need is Love.” When planning an appearance before an international and multilingual audience, the Beatles probably chose the song that expressed a direct and simple message. It’s hard to misunderstand “All you need is love.”
No one could have known that the melody would become a hymn for the “Summer of Love”. “This is an inspired song, because they wrote it for a world show and they really wanted to give the world a message,” said Beatles manager Brian Epstein at the time, according to The Beatles Anthology. “It could hardly have been a better message.”
As Our World approached, The Beatles and producer George Martin decided that at least part of “All You Need is Love” should be recorded before the live broadcast, despite disapproval from the BBC. After all, the band had just spent half a year experimenting in the studio with complicated recordings that would be difficult to reproduce live. On June 14, the boys went to work. Because their usual digs at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios were booked, Martin and The Beatles went to Olympic Sound Studios to start a backing track.
“We just put up a clue. Because he knew the chords, he played it on whatever it was, harpsichord, “Lennon said in Anthology. “George [Harrison] he played a violin because we wanted to do it that way and Paul played a double bass. And they can’t touch them, so we have some nice little noises. It sounded like an orchestra, but it’s just the two of them playing the violin and stuff. So we thought, ‘Ah well, we’ll have more orchestra around this weird little orchestra that we have.’ But there was no perception of what it sounded like in the end until they did it that day, until rehearsal. So it still sounded a bit strange then. “
A few days later, other elements were added to this basic track: more drums by Ringo Starr, banjo by Lennon, and piano by Martin, along with some vocals. At some point along the way, the band decided to open the song with a bit of “Le Marseillaise” and finish with a mix of melodies.
Martin was tasked with organizing the competing orchestral finale, which is based on elements from “Greensleeves”, invention no. Bach’s 8 in F major and Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood”. As zero hour approached, the Beatles rehearsed with a small orchestra, which Martin also recorded on the backing track. During rehearsals, Lennon came up with the idea to sing a little “She Loves You” during the chaotic finale; McCartney actually delivered the lines in the broadcast.
Then the big day arrived. With camera equipment installed in EMI’s Studio 1, beginning just before 9 p.m. local time, the Beatles pretended a rehearsal of the song before producer Martin, also in the control room camera, signaled to the band that will begin the final recording of the song. “All you need is Love.” Lennon, bubblegum, was incredibly nervous singing in front of hundreds of millions of viewers. Martin and Emerick felt the same about their technical responsibilities, something that didn’t help when they learned the broadcast was running ahead of schedule and were on camera a little earlier than expected.
“We actually went on the air about 40 seconds earlier,” Emerick recalled. “George and I were having a welcome drink of scotch when we were called on the intercom. There was a great panic to hide the bottle and glasses. We were putting them under the mixer! “
Still, everything seemed to be going well. After a mock rehearsal for the cameras, Martin did his part. He sent out the small group of violinists, saxophonists and metal musicians, as one announcer intoned: “You will notice that musicians are not rock ‘n’ roll youngsters. The Beatles get along better with symphonists.”
You must not have noticed the entourage of “rock ‘n’ roll youths” sitting cross-legged around the Fab Four, who were perched on large stools, except for Ringo on his team. The Beatles had invited Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Marianne Faithfull, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Graham Nash, and others to participate in what looked like a hippie commune, complete with ornate dresses and fantastic décor. Of course, some of that was lost in the black-and-white broadcast, only later colored in, based on photos, for the Anthology.
As for the recording of “All You Need is Love”, although many elements were on the backing track, some of the recording was done live, including Lennon’s vocals, McCartney’s bass, Harrison’s guitar solo. , Starr’s drums and symphonic accoutrements (the last two added to earlier overdubs). As the song descended into multi-melodic chaos on the stage, a conga line began to form through the crowd and the image faded. The Beatles, Martin and everyone involved could breathe easy. Despite the early start, everything went according to plan.
But Lennon was dissatisfied. After a post-broadcast party, he stayed at EMI to re-record his vocals. The day before, the Beatles had decided to release “All You Need is Love” as their next single, and John thought he could do a better take for the final version. Ringo also added a drum roll to underline the song’s intro, which originally featured a tambourine. By 1:00 pm the next day, the session was over and “All You Need is Love” could be mixed in.
The song that the Beatles debuted to between 400 and 700 million viewers was released as a single (backed by “Baby, You’re a Rich Man”) on July 7. Not only did “All You Need is Love” skyrocket to No. 1 in at least 10 countries: it became the slogan of the summer, a mantra for hippies, and a statement for many young people protesting the conflict in Vietnam. It remains one of the most famous songs of the Beatles.
“We were big enough to attract an audience of that size, and it was for love,” Starr recalled in the Anthology. “It was out of love and bloody peace. It was a fabulous time. I even get excited now when I realize that’s what it was for: peace and love, people who put flowers in their arms. “