Sunday, June 25, 2017

The 50th Anniversary of The Beatles' "All You Need is Love"

It was fifty years ago today, on June 25 1967, that The Beatles performed "All You Need is Love" live on the television special Our World. It was the first time the song was performed in public and it was used to close the programme.

Here it must be pointed out that Our World was not just any television special. It was the first live, international, television programme broadcast by satellite. It had been conceived by BBC producer Aubrey Singer, who would later become managing director of BBC Television. Nineteen different countries participated in the programme, each contributing something of their own. Among the artists who participated were legendary opera singer Maria Callas, actress Olivia Hussey, actor Milo O'Shea, painter Pablo Picasso, and many others. In all, Our World took ten months to put together.

Quite naturally, The Beatles were selected to represent the United Kingdom. The BBC asked only that The Beatles provide a song that could be easily understood by anyone. To this end, John Lennon wrote "All You Need is Love". Lyrically the song is very simple, while at the same time it conveyed an important message for an international broadcast.

The Beatles performed "All You Need is Love" at EMI's Studio One in London. A broadcast van was outside the studio which would broadcast the performance around the world via the satellites Intelsat I (Early Bird), Intelsat II (Lana Bird) and ATS-1. The performance took place at 9:36 PM GMT or, for those of us in the States, 3:36 PM Central time. During the performance The Beatles were surrounded by a number of famous friends, including Jane Asher (then Paul McCartney's girlfriend), Pattie Boyd (then married to George Harrison), Eric Clapton, Hunter Davies, Marianne Faithfull, Mick Jagger, Keith Moon, Graham Nash, and Keith Richards.

Today the Our World broadcast is best known for the performance of "All You Need is Love", but apparently not all British citizens were happy that The Beatles were representing the United Kingdom. In a memo written by a BBC official, who had been asked to assess viewer reaction, at the time, it was noted, "There was little specific comment on the separate parts of the programme apart from a volume of angry protests at the choice of The Beatles as one of the UK's contributions." Apparently some viewers did not think The Beatles were the best that Britain had to offer, especially when compared to what had been offered by many other countries. The BBC wisely never told The Beatles any of this, nor was it made public until decades afterwards. Of course, today most people do not know that Maria Callas and Pablo Picasso were part of the Our World special. What they do know is that it was the first time The Beatles performed "All You Need is Love" in public. It would seem the naysayers were wrong about the United Kingdom's choice of The Beatles to represent them on Our World.

The Beatles would tweak "All You Need is Love" a bit before it was released as a single on July 7 1967. It went to number one in both the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as several other countries.

Since there seem to be no clips of The Beatles' performance of "All You Need is Love" remaining online, here is the track from the single courtesy of Spotify.

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