The power of love
It was the Summer of Love and the Beatles had one message... Behind the Song, No. 4
Thursday 05 March 1998
First released: 1967
Highest UK chart position: 1
Highest US chart position: 1
If 1967 was the Summer of Love, then the Beatles' "" has as much claim as anything to be the song of that summer. And it was quite literally an instant anthem, having been written specifically for an historic event - the very first world-wide simultaneous television broadcast by satellite. John Lennon and Paul McCartney decided to compose separate songs and then make a decision as to which one to use (although the Lennon-McCartney songwriting credit persisted, the pair were rarely collaborators at this point).
Paul's song (thought to have been "Your Mother Should Know") was shelved in favour of the Lennon opus, which everyone agreed summed up the era most suitably: anything was possible, there's nothing you can do that can't be done... it's easy. This was an era when people thought music really could change the world.
The brief from the BBC had been succinct: keep it simple so that everyone everywhere will understand it. The international flavour of the broadcast was emphasised by an excerpt from the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise", in the introduction. The instrumentation, too, was fairly exotic: John playing harpsichord (hired at a cost of 10 guineas), Paul double bass and George violin.
Our World was scheduled to be beamed to viewers on five continents on Sunday 25 June 1967. The 10th of the 33 takes was deemed the best, and would be overdubbed with banjo and piano.
The scene shifted to Abbey Road on the 23rd, when the orchestra crammed into the large Number One studio and the Fab Four performed the vocals live. Amazingly, the commercial potential only registered the day before the programme was aired, and the song would become the Beatles' 15th single.
On the day, the Beatles performed live over their pre-recorded backing track, assisted by an all-star choir sitting cross-legged in the Abbey Road studio that included Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithfull, Keith Richards, Keith Moon, Eric Clapton, Graham Nash and the Walker Brothers' Gary Leeds. A 13-piece orchestra was conducted by ex-Manfred Mann guitarist Mike Vickers, a classically trained musician with a foot in both cultural camps. Interestingly, horn player David Mason played the same piccolo trumpet that had featured so prominently in "Penny Lane". Only John Lennon's lead vocal would be re-recorded for the eventual release.
The Beatles' appearance, lasting six minutes 11 seconds (three minutes 40 seconds of which was the song itself) appeared under the heading of Artistic Excellence, one of several categories in the 125-minute broadcast.
Paul McCartney summed up the whole venture thus: "We'd been told we'd be seen recording it by the whole world at the same time so we had our message for the whole world - love - we need more love in the world."
'Behind the Song' by Michael Heatley and Spencer Leigh is published by Blandford at pounds 14.99. Independent readers can buy the book for pounds 12.99 (including p&p). To order 01624 675 137
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