Richard Furnstein: Thanks, Robert. You set that up nicely. The Our World programme (program here in the States) was a talent show for the world. Each of the civilized nations with television technology provided entertainment (including comedy skits, Hungarian juggling, traditional dance, and songs) for the live broadcast. I'll tell you what, they should have just cut to the chase and shown "All You Need Is Love" twenty times. Can you imagine sitting through this endless program for three minutes of The Beatles? It must have been torture. They probably had teasers before each commercial break: "Coming soon: THE BEATLES live from England." That was that, you were stuck in your chair for hours, staring at some confusing samurai swordplay, hoping for the salvation from the greatest band on the planet. Suddenly, there they were! They looked just like the creepy aged faces on the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (except John and Paul lost their progressive mustaches). While the Sgt Pepper's album cover's heaving forest of exploding flowers and garish frocks was drained of all its color in the broadcast, the array of beautiful people (plus Mal Evans), willing hippie women, and stuffy old English session players provided an even sharper view of the love revolution. Look, the Rolling Stones stopped by! The Pepper sleeve told us about that band. I should check them out at some point.
Robert Bunter: So, the group wisely decided against using Paul's less-than-stellar "Your Mother Should Know" in favor of John's anthemic mission statement "All You Need Is Love." It was a simple, catchy tune with a nice universal message that really rings true. Even Paul had to agree that it was the right choice for the TV program, after he regained consciousness with the bruises under his nipples and on his behind. And yet - "All You Need Is Love" ultimately represents a disappointment. Lennon was at his best when writing about his deep personal emotions and somehow managing to strike a chord of resonant universality with the larger outside world, on tracks like "In My Life" and "Nowhere Man." When he sat down to consciously address humanity ("The Word," "Give Peace A Chance," "Power To The People," all of Some Time In New York City), more often than not he was wont to trip over his own inflated ego and serve up a platter of stale broadsides. There were exceptions ("Revolution," "Imagine," "Isolation" and "Working Class Hero"), but I'm putting "All You Need Is Love" in the former category.
Richard Furnstein: Cut Lennon some slack. Do you think it was easy for him to relate to the common man? He couldn't sing of straight happiness or love; his emotional ideal was based on dependency and abandonment fear. His nightmares were full of horrific fanged visions. Yet, Lennon had an ongoing desire to make that connection. Hence, his worldwide plea for peace and love was anchored in familiar melodies ("Three Blind Mice," "The Song Of The Marseillaise," "She Loves You") and offset by a uniquely Lennon clipped verse melody. There you go, World: you've heard it before but you haven't heard it before. Do you love it? Of course, you do, it's got Keith Moon playing brushes on a snare while Mick Jagger wears a ridiculous Lennon face jacket. Forget Haight-Ashbury, "All You Need Is Love" resides at the corner of Fabulous and Lysergic. Time to clock in at the ol' drop out factory.
It’s no wonder the hippie dreams of the ‘60s faded into the clouds like so much happy smoke, leaving behind only the seedy crumbs and vague, burnt peanut butter stink of yesterday’s stash box.
Richard Furnstein: Gosh, I'm surprised you didn't complain about Ringo's poor drumming performance in the broadcast video. Listen, I'm sorry if you can't appreciate Lennon's cool gum-chewing detachment in the dreary verses. It's too bad that you can't hear the beautiful swirl of the finale as a mantra (the fanatical George Harrison later claimed it was a "subtle bit of PR for god"). What about George's squeaky but emotional solo? If only you could delight in the cello driven string section, old friend. I think there's a lot to love here. It has always represented the excitement of the transitional points of The Beatles. While in many ways a retread of the sophisticated pop symphonies of Pepper, the weird combination of live and backing tracks alone make this a completely unique recording in the world of The Beatles. (Side note: have you ever imagined what the backing track sounds like on its own?) It's certainly not The Beatles' fault that this song was anthologized to death; it was merely a single with a worldwide premiere. A snapshot at the transition from the wide eyed lovers of life in Sgt Pepper to the garish confusion that marked the Magical Mystery Tour/Yellow Submarine era. The Robert Bunter I used to know would lament that we don't have a full album of these miracle sessions. Another branch in the mighty Beatles oak tree cut short by the changing seasons.
Robert Bunter: I’m not taking the bait. This track is weak and I think deep down everyone knows it. John certainly did; I would refer you to the following quotes: “[All You Need Is Love] wasn’t our best track” (Crawdaddy, 1971); “…a real low point, creatively speaking” (Rolling Stone, 1973); “Frankly, Dick, I was just phoning it in. Me heart wasn’t in it, we just figured we had to cut a track for the telly-vision program” (Dick Cavett interview segment, 1974); “Garbage? Yes.” (Creem, 1977). Now, I will grant you that artists themselves are seldom the best judge of their own work, but I think we ought to at least give him the benefit of the doubt. One little-known fact about these sessions is that the Beatles played oddball instruments on the backing track – John strummed a banjo, Paul thumped a double-bass and George scratched away on a violin. I will admit that I would love to hear those isolated tracks. They probably sounded like Flatt and Scruggs. VERY flat and Scruggs, that is! Look, the song is far from terrible. John’s assessments (“another steaming pile shoveled onto the dung-mound of our post-Pepper doldrums” –East Village Other, 1972) were overly harsh. I’m just saying this is ultimately a pedestrian effort that does not deserve to be numbered among the greatest hits. That’s all, Richard.
Richard Furnstein: Here's a quote I'm more interested in: "It was a fabulous time musically and spiritually"--Ringo Starr, poolside, Los Angeles, California, 1995. He's right, we're both wrong. Let's go get some Mexican food, old friend. I'm buying.