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Sunday, February 5, 2012

All You Need Is Love b/w Baby, You're a Rich Man

Before Sgt. Pepper was even released, the Beatles were already writing and recording songs for two new projects that they had lined up.  As if that wasn't enough to occupy them, manager Brian Epstein suddenly informed the group that they had a third, more immediate project which required their attention - they were to represent Great Britain in the first-ever worldwide satellite television broadcast, entitled Our World.  Despite the fact that the date for this event was little more than a month away, the boys still managed to put it on the back burner. 

With the deadline looming and Epstein reminding them of the task at hand, it was once again John Lennon who rose to the occasion and came up with the goods, as he had with the title songs for A Hard Day's Night and Help!  Since the group was to be seen in the studio recording a new single, John felt that it would be the perfect time to send a positive message to the entire world.

All You Need Is Love - The Beatles and producer George Martin gathered at Olympic Sound Studios on June 14th, 1967 to lay down a most peculiar backing track consisting of John on harpsichord, Paul on double bass, Ringo on drums and George inexplicably deciding to play a violin for the first time in his life.  Back at Abbey Road in the ensuing days, they added overdubs of Martin on piano, more drums and John on banjo, an instrument his mother Julia had played.   And, working counter to the usual procedure, they did the backing vocals first.  A thirteen piece orchestra was brought in a few days before the big event to provide some additional backing.

On June 25th, the date of the broadcast, they arrived early in the day to rehearse with the orchestra and the backing track.  For the six minutes that they were on the air, everyone was extremely nervous as they were seen first rehearsing a bit, waiting as the tape was rewound and then recording the orchestra, more drums, George's lead guitar, Paul's bass and John's lead vocal live.  The studio was adorned with posters, flowers and another crowd of friends including Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Marianne Faithfull, Eric Clapton, Keith Moon, Graham Nash and more, all of whom joined in the chorus.  Later in the evening, after everyone else had gone, a few overdubs were added and the song was complete.

The music is a hodgepodge, from the opening moment of La Marseillaise, through the strange dropped beats in the verses and ending with Martin's wacky blending of Greensleeves, In the Mood and a Bach two-part invention.  And the lyrics are Lennon at his most simplistic, although that was what the BBC requested in order that the whole world could instantly grasp the message.  But, as guest Keith Richards told Rolling Stone in 1987 (note that he had added the "s" to his last name in the interim), "Try livin' off of it."  Nevertheless, the song immediately became the anthem of the Summer of Love.

Baby, You're a Rich Man - This Lennon-McCartney collaboration is another blending of two unfinished songs - in this instance, the verses are by Lennon and the refrain by McCartney.  The lyrics don't amount to very much.  The verses are an absurd take on the equally-absurd press conferences the group had been subjected to for years.  And the refrain is simply nonsensical.  Aside from the usual instruments, John plays a keyboard called a Clavioline, which provides some unique accents throughout the song.  The recording was completed in one session at Olympic Sound Studios, with Mick Jagger in attendance and possibly joining in for the chorus.

This song had been recorded back on May 11th and was actually the first to be set aside for the upcoming animated film Yellow Submarine, but when a B-side was needed at the last minute for this single, it was pulled from that project, although a brief snippet of the song did eventually make its way into the movie.  All You Need Is Love, on the other hand, wound up playing a pivotal part in the film, and later appeared on the soundtrack album in 1969.

The single was rush-released in July of 1967 in the wake of the Our World broadcast and became a worldwide number one hit.  Both of these songs also appeared on the Magical Mystery Tour LP in the US at the end of the year.        

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