DiscoverA History of Rock Music in 500 SongsEpisode 150: “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles
Episode 150: “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles

Episode 150: “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles

Update: 2022-06-26
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Description

This week’s episode looks at “All You Need is Love”, the Our World TV special, and the career of the Beatles from April 1966 through August 1967. Click the full post to read liner notes, links to more information, and a transcript of the episode.

Patreon backers also have a thirteen-minute bonus episode available, on "Rain" by the Beatles.

Tilt Araiza has assisted invaluably by doing a first-pass edit, and will hopefully be doing so from now on. Check out Tilt’s irregular podcasts at http://www.podnose.com/jaffa-cakes-for-proust and http://sitcomclub.com/

NB for the first few hours this was up, there was a slight editing glitch. If you downloaded the old version and don't want to redownload the whole thing, just look in the transcript for "Other than fixing John’s two flubbed" for the text of the two missing paragraphs.



Errata

I say "Come Together" was a B-side, but the single was actually a double A-side. Also, I say the Lennon interview by Maureen Cleave appeared in Detroit magazine. That's what my source (Steve Turner's book) says, but someone on Twitter says that rather than Detroit magazine it was the Detroit Free Press.

Also at one point I say "the videos for 'Paperback Writer' and 'Penny Lane'". I meant to say "Rain" rather than "Penny Lane" there.

Resources

No Mixcloud this week due to the number of songs by the Beatles.

I have read literally dozens of books on the Beatles, and used bits of information from many of them. All my Beatles episodes refer to: The Complete Beatles Chronicle by Mark LewisohnAll The Songs: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Release by Jean-Michel GuesdonAnd The Band Begins To Play: The Definitive Guide To The Songs of The Beatles by Steve LambleyThe Beatles By Ear by Kevin MooreRevolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald, and The Beatles Anthology.

For this episode, I also referred to Last Interview by David Sheff, a longform interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono from shortly before Lennon’s death; Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, an authorised biography of Paul McCartney; and Here, There, and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles by Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey.

Particularly useful this time was Steve Turner's book Beatles '66. I also used Turner's The Beatles: The Stories Behind the Songs 1967-1970.

Johnny Rogan's Starmakers and Svengalis had some information on Epstein I hadn't seen anywhere else.

Some information about the "Bigger than Jesus" scandal comes from Ward, B. (2012). “The ‘C’ is for Christ”: Arthur Unger, Datebook Magazine and the Beatles. Popular Music and Society, 35(4), 541-560. https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2011.608978

Information on Robert Stigwood comes from Mr Showbiz by Stephen Dando-Collins.

And the quote at the end from Simon Napier-Bell is from You Don't Have to Say You Love Me, which is more entertaining than it is accurate, but is very entertaining.

Sadly the only way to get the single mix of "All You Need is Love" is on this ludicrously-expensive out-of-print box set, but the stereo mix is easily available on Magical Mystery Tour.

Patreon

This podcast is brought to you by the generosity of my backers on Patreon. Why not join them?

Transcript

A quick note before I start the episode -- this episode deals, in part, with the deaths of three gay men -- one by murder, one by suicide, and one by an accidental overdose, all linked at least in part to societal homophobia. I will try to deal with this as tactfully as I can, but anyone who's upset by those things might want to read the transcript instead of listening to the episode.

This is also a very, very, *very* long episode -- this is likely to be the longest episode I *ever* do of this podcast, so settle in. We're going to be here a while. I obviously don't know how long it's going to be while I'm still recording, but based on the word count of my script, probably in the region of three hours. You have been warned.

In 1967 the actor Patrick McGoohan was tired. He had been working on the hit series Danger Man for many years -- Danger Man had originally run from 1960 through 1962, then had taken a break, and had come back, retooled, with longer episodes in 1964. That longer series was a big hit, both in the UK and in the US, where it was retitled Secret Agent and had a new theme tune written by PF Sloan and Steve Barri and recorded by Johnny Rivers:

[Excerpt: Johnny Rivers, "Secret Agent Man"]

But McGoohan was tired of playing John Drake, the agent, and announced he was going to quit the series. Instead, with the help of George Markstein, Danger Man's script editor, he created a totally new series, in which McGoohan would star, and which McGoohan would also write and direct key episodes of. This new series, The Prisoner, featured a spy who is only ever given the name Number Six, and who many fans -- though not McGoohan himself -- took to be the same character as John Drake. Number Six resigns from his job as a secret agent, and is kidnapped and taken to a place known only as The Village -- the series was filmed in Portmeirion, an unusual-looking town in Gwynnedd, in North Wales -- which is full of other ex-agents. There he is interrogated to try to find out why he has quit his job. It's never made clear whether the interrogators are his old employers or their enemies, and there's a certain suggestion that maybe there is no real distinction between the two sides, that they're both running the Village together.

He spends the entire series trying to escape, but refuses to explain himself -- and there's some debate among viewers as to whether it's implied or not that part of the reason he doesn't explain himself is that he knows his interrogators wouldn't understand why he quit:

[Excerpt: The Prisoner intro, from episode Once Upon a Time, ]

Certainly that explanation would fit in with McGoohan's own personality. According to McGoohan, the final episode of The Prisoner was, at the time, the most watched TV show ever broadcast in the UK, as people tuned in to find out the identity of Number One, the person behind the Village, and to see if Number Six would break free. I don't think that's actually the case, but it's what McGoohan always claimed, and it was certainly a very popular series.

I won't spoil the ending for those of you who haven't watched it -- it's a remarkable series -- but ultimately the series seems to decide that such questions don't matter and that even asking them is missing the point. It's a work that's open to multiple interpretations, and is left deliberately ambiguous, but one of the messages many people have taken away from it is that not only are we trapped by a society that oppresses us, we're also trapped by our own identities. You can run from the trap that society has placed you in, from other people's interpretations of your life, your work, and your motives, but you ultimately can't run from yourself, and any time you try to break out of a prison, you'll find yourself trapped in another prison of your own making. The most horrifying implication of the episode is that possibly even death itself won't be a release, and you will spend all eternity trying to escape from an identity you're trapped in.

Viewers became so outraged, according to McGoohan, that he had to go into hiding for an extended period, and while his later claims that he never worked in Britain again are an exaggeration, it is true that for the remainder of his life he concentrated on doing work in the US instead, where he hadn't created such anger.

That final episode of The Prisoner was also the only one to use a piece of contemporary pop music, in two crucial scenes:

[Excerpt: The Prisoner, "Fall Out", "All You Need is Love"]

Back in October 2020, we started what I thought would be a year-long look at the period from late 1962 through early 1967, but which has turned out for reasons beyond my control to take more like twenty months, with a song which was one of the last of the big pre-Beatles pop hits, though we looked at it after their first single, "Telstar" by the Tornadoes:

[Excerpt: The Tornadoes, "Telstar"]

There were many reasons for choosing that as one of the bookends for this fifty-episode chunk of the podcast -- you'll see many connections between that episode and this one if you listen to them back-to-back -- but among them was that it's a song inspired by the launch of the first ever communications satellite, and a sign of how the world was going to become smaller as the sixties went on. Of course, to start with communications satellites didn't do much in that regard -- they were expensive to use, and had limited bandwidth, and were only available during limited time windows, but symbolically they meant that for the first time ever, people could see and hear events thousands of miles away as they were happening.

It's not a coincidence that Britain and France signed the agreement to develop Con
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Episode 150: “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles

Episode 150: “All You Need is Love” by the Beatles

Andrew Hickey