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Real Love (The Beatles song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


"Real Love" is a song originally written and performed as a demo by John Lennon, later re-worked by the three remaining members of The Beatles (Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) in late 1995. The song was released as a Beatles' single in 1996 in the United Kingdom, United States and many other countries; and it was also the opening track on The Beatles' Anthology 2 album. It is the last "new" credited Beatles song to date to originate and be included on an album.

"Real Love" was warmly received by some critics, and the single reached #4 and #11 in the UK and US singles charts respectively. The song was not included on the British Broadcasting Corporation's Radio 1 playlist, prompting criticism from fans and members of the British parliament.

After the release of "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love", Starr commented, "Recording the new songs didn't feel contrived at all, it felt very natural and it was a lot of fun, but emotional too at times. But it's the end of the line, really. There's nothing more we can do as The Beatles."

Early origins

Although the song was first recorded in 1977, when Lennon recorded a song entitled "Real Love" with a handheld tape recorder on his piano at home, according to Beatles biographer John T. Marck, "Real Love" may have actually had its origins as part of The Beatles' last British #1, "The Ballad of John and Yoko". Marck then traces "Real Love" to an eventual combination of "Real Life", a song Lennon would record at least six takes of in 1979, and then abandon, and another Lennon demo, "Baby Make Love To You".

According to bootlegs, the first couple of the demo takes' lyrical structure mostly resembled the song eventually released in 1996, but the others featuring "Real Life" altered portions of the song; for example, "don't need to be alone / it's real love / yes, it's real love" became "why must it be alone / it's real / well it's real life". Some takes featured an acoustic guitar, while the eventual Beatles release had Lennon on the piano.

The song was eventually put on the backburner by Lennon, and forgotten until 1988, when the sixth take of "Real Love" appeared on the Imagine: John Lennon film and soundtrack album. The song was also released on the Acoustic album in 2004. The demo with just Lennon on piano was released in 2005 on Working Class Hero: The Definitive Lennon.

Reuniting The Beatles again

Beforehand, the closest The Beatles had come to reuniting (while they were all still alive) was during the recording of Starr's 1973 Ringo album when they all worked on tracks, though Lennon and McCartney did not work together.

The idea of redoing some of Lennon's old songs apparently was inspired by former Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall and George Harrison, who first requested some old demos from Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono. Then, in January 1994, McCartney came to New York City for the induction of Lennon into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While there, he received reportedly at least four songs from Ono. According to Aspinall, it was "two cassettes" which "might have been five or six tracks". Ono said of the occasion: "It was all settled before then, I just used that occasion to hand over the tapes personally to Paul. I did not break up The Beatles, but I was there at the time, you know? Now I'm in a position where I could bring them back together and I would not want to hinder that. It was kind of a situation given to me by fate."

In an interview, McCartney remarked:

The remaining band members focused their attention on three songs: "Free as a Bird", "Real Love" and "Grow Old With Me". Of these, they liked "Free as a Bird" the most, and worked hard on it. McCartney said, "Ringo was very up for it, George was very up for it, I was very up for it." Eventually the song saw release as the first Beatles single since 1970. The remaining Beatles then turned their attention to "Real Love". Co-producer Jeff Lynne said, "...we thought, we'd work on 'Real Love' which had a complete set of words."

Working in the studio

Geoff Wonfor, who directed the Anthology documentary, filmed The Beatles recording in the studio with a handheld camcorder. Kevin Godley, who co-directed the music video, stated that it was meant to be a "fly on the wall thing".
Geoff Wonfor, who directed the Anthology documentary, filmed The Beatles recording in the studio with a handheld camcorder. Kevin Godley, who co-directed the music video, stated that it was meant to be a "fly on the wall thing".

The first problem The Beatles had to confront was the low quality of the demo, as Lennon had not used professional recording equipment on the take they were using, but a handheld tape recorder. The Beatles brought in Jeff Lynne (George Martin was not interested in the project), who had worked with Harrison as part of The Traveling Wilburys to co-produce. Lynne, who had already co-produced "Free as a Bird" said:

Although "Real Love" was comparatively more complete than "Free as a Bird", which had required the addition of some lyrics by McCartney, the song also suffered from problems with Lennon's timing. Lynne said:

Ironically, a more complete, higher-quality studio piano version would later be found, that eventually appeared on the Lennon Anthology in 1998.

This complicated job was a large part of the reason why George Martin, the traditional Beatles producer, did not produce any of the new, original Beatles songs. McCartney said:

Nevertheless, Lynne and the remaining Beatles did their best to make the song appear very "Beatles-y". Lynne said:

Therefore, The Beatles gathered once more in Sussex, England at McCartney's studio to produce another single. Added to the demo (which was now a semi-tone higher because Lynne and The Beatles had it sped up) were the sounds of a double bass (originally owned by Elvis Presley's bassist, Bill Black), Fender Jazz bass guitar, a couple of Stratocaster guitars, one a modern "Clapton-style one" as Lynne described it, and a "psychedelic" one, as well as a Ludwig drum kit. Surprisingly, McCartney did not use his traditional Höfner bass guitar, as he did during his career as a Beatle. Other than their traditional instruments, a celeste (used by Lennon on The Beatles song "Because") and a harmonium (which appeared on The Beatles hit single "We Can Work It Out") were also used.

The Beatles used Geoff Emerick, who had not only worked with them to great extent in the 60s, but is oft credited with many of The Beatles sound inventions, as the sound engineer. McCartney said of him:

The release

"Real Love" reached #4 in the UK singles chart
"Real Love" reached #4 in the UK singles chart

Although the song was released as single in both the UK and US on March 4, 1996, the first time the song was publicly aired had come on November 20, 1995, when the American television channel, the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) aired the second episode of The Beatles Anthology.

The single jumped into the British charts on March 16, 1996 (three days before the release of Anthology 2, which carried the song and would eventually reach #1 in both the British and American charts) at #4, selling 50,000 copies in its first week. However, the single's progress in the charts was stunted by BBC Radio 1's exclusion of "Real Love" from its playlist. The Reuters news agency, which described Radio 1 as "the biggest pop music station in Britain", reported that the station declared, "It's not what our listeners want to hear ... We are a contemporary music station."

Beatles spokesman Geoff Baker responded by stating the band's response as "Indignation. Shock and surprise. We carried out research after the Anthology was launched and this revealed that 41% of the buyers were teenagers."

The station's actions contrasted strongly with what occurred at the launch of "Free as a Bird" the year earlier, when it became the first station to play the song on British airwaves. The exclusion of "Real Love" provoked a fierce reaction from fans, and elicited comment from two members of parliament (MPs). Conservative MP Harry Greenway called the action censorship, and urged the station to reverse what he called a ban. However, the station stayed its course, and the damage was done.

An angry McCartney wrote an 800-word article for the British newspaper, the Daily Mirror about the ban, where he stated that "The Beatles don't need our new single, 'Real Love', to be a hit. It's not as if our careers depend on it. If Radio 1 feels that we should be banned now, it's not exactly going to ruin us overnight. You can't put an age limit on good music. It's very heartening to know that, while the kindergarten kings of Radio 1 may think The Beatles are too old to come out to play, a lot of younger British bands don't seem to share that view. I'm forever reading how bands like Oasis are openly crediting The Beatles as inspiration, and I'm pleased that I can hear The Beatles in a lot of the music around today. As Ringo said to me about all this, who needs Radio 1 when you've got all the independent stations?" The letter was published on March 9, the day after Radio 1 announced the "ban".

The station's controller, Matthew Bannister, however denied that the failure to include the song was a ban, but merely meant that the song had not been included on the playlist of each week's 60 most regularly featured songs. The station also hit back by devoting a "Golden Hour" to the group's music as well as music by bands influenced by The Beatles. This "Golden Hour" concluded with a playing of "Real Love".

"Real Love" fell out of the British charts in seven weeks. In the US, the single entered the charts on March 23, and reached #11; after four months, 500,000 copies had been moved in the US.

The single also has a music video to go with it, which featured shots of the three remaining Beatles recording in Sussex, and also mixed in shots of The Beatles taken during their career. Geoff Wonfor, who directed the Anthology documentary, filmed The Beatles recording in the studio with a handheld camcorder, as they did not want to be aware of the camera recording. Kevin Godley, who co-directed the music video, went on the record to state that it was meant to be a "fly on the wall thing".

Lyrics and melody

The song's lyrics focus on describing the euphoria and experience of real love. Lennon describes how all his carefully planned schemes have fallen apart after he falls in love, and joyously declares that there's "no need to be alone" and "no need to be afraid". He appears to already have been involved in a romantic relationship, for he sings that he, "thought I'd been in love before, but in my heart I wanted more".

One reviewer described the song as a, "mature, still hopeful but frightened man less concerned with screaming at life than surviving it."

The song has been sped up 12% from the demo, apparently to "effect the snappy tempo" as Alan W. Pollack has speculated. The tune is nearly completely pentatonic, comprising primarily the notes E, F#, G#, B, and C#. The refrain is higher than the verse; while the verse covers a full octave, the refrain, at its peak, is a fifth higher.

The instrumental intro (performed on a celeste) is four measures long, and the verse and refrain are eight measures. The outro largely comprises the last half of the refrain repeated seven times, slowly fading out.

A sample (950k) from the song is available.

Track listings

  • 7" R6425
  1. "Real Love" - 3:54
    • Original composition by Lennon; Beatles version by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starkey.
    • Produced by Lennon, McCartney, Harrison, Starkey and Jeff Lynne.
  2. "Baby's in Black" - 3:03
    • By Lennon and McCartney.
  • CD CDR6425
  1. "Real Love" - 3:54
  2. "Baby's in Black" - 3:03
  3. "Yellow Submarine" - 2:48
    • By Lennon and McCartney.
  4. "Here, There and Everywhere" - 2:23
    • By Lennon and McCartney.


  • "BBC in 'oldies' row over ban on Beatles single". (Mar. 8, 1996). Reuters.
  • Cross, Craig. Beatles American Albums. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Cross, Craig. Beatles British Albums. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Cross, Craig. Beatles American Singles. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Cross, Craig. Beatles British Singles. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Cross, Craig. Beatles Songs - R. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Culf, Andrew (Mar. 12, 1996). Radio 1 changes tune on Beatles. The Guardian.
  • Hertsgaard, Mark (Oct. 1, 1996). A Sweet Tune From Lennon's Tomb. Salon.
  • Hodgson, Gordon (1998). Real Love History. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Hodgson, Gordon (2002). Real Love: The Unofficial Collector's Homepage. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • (2000). Jeff Lynne & The Beatles. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Maclauchlan, Paul (1998). Gobnotch's Recording Sessions Update - February & March 1994. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Maclauchlan, Paul (1998). Gobnotch's Recording Sessions Update - February 1995. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Maclauchlan, Paul (1998). Gobnotch's Recording Sessions Update - March 4 1996. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Marck, John T. Oh Look Out! Part 26, Free as a Bird & Real Love. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
  • Pollack, Alan W. (1995). Alan W. Pollack's Notes on "Real Love". Retrieved June 9, 2005.
  • Real Love. Retrieved June 24, 2005.
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