The “All You Need Is Love” live satellite broadcast was part of a program called “Our World,” which the BBC promoted as

For the first time ever, linking five continents and bringing man face to face with mankind, in places as far apart as Canberra and Cape Kennedy, Moscow and Montreal, Samarkand and Söderfors, Takamatsu and Tunis.

“Actually,” notes Mark Lewisohn, “the Soviet Union dropped out at the last minute.” But “as much as these things can be measured, 400 million people across five continents tuned in and saw this Beatles recording session.”

It is, sadly, somewhat difficult for us today to see it. The greedheads who control The Beatles’ copyrights work overtime to keep a lot of their material off the internet, unwilling to risk even the slightest compromise of their license to print money. I don’t necessarily blame Paul or Yoko for this; at this point they are just cogs in the vast Beatles Industrial Complex. But it still sucks.

This was the best version I was able to find:

I’ve always been impressed by how calm, cool, and collected John Lennon looks, casually chewing gum as he sings to the whole wide world. But according to Geoff Emerick, he was quite nervous:

[I was] struck by how visibly nervous John was, which was quite unusual for him: we’d never seen him wound up so tightly. He was smoking like a chimney and swigging directly from a pint bottle of milk, despite warnings from George Martin that it was bad for his voice – advice that Lennon studiously ignored. One time as I passed by, I heard John mumbling to himself, “Oh, God, I hope I get the words right.”

In the end, of course, he crushed it. For the next bit, I’m going to fall back on Bob Spitz; he writes beautifully of the day’s events, and I don’t think I could do better.

In all the turmoil, between miscues and mischief, the Beatles performed “All You Need Is Love” to the world without a hint of disorganization. They sat perched on barstools placed directly in front of the guests, appearing as cool as only the Beatles could look under such hothouse circumstances. John, Paul, and George seemed impervious to the do-or-die situation, synching their voices beautifully, perfectly, to the backing track. The prerecorded music no longer mattered – if it ever did. Remembered chiefly for its stripped-down, monotonous chorus, the song’s verses were nevertheless quite a mouthful for John, who spit them out on camera as if they were child’s play. “There’snothin-youcan-dothatcan’tbedone…” It sounded effortless, done in one Hail Mary take, much the way he’d fired off “Twist and Shout” four and a half years earlier: rock-steady and right on….

John relaxed visibly as the song cruised into its extended fade. “La Marseillaise” drew a ceremonial reprise, giving way to “In the Mood” and “Greensleeves,” as planned. But John, who had tinkered in rehearsal with a fragment of “She’ll Be Coming ’Round the Mountain,” suddenly chimed in with a few bars of an old standby that no one – probably not even John – had anticipated. At a juncture in the action, he sang out: “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah….”

And right there, you have it, I think. The high-water mark of the Sixties. The Beatles in full psychedelic regalia, surrounded by hippie glitterati, singing about love (and by inference peace) in front of the whole planet, ending by slipping in a little winking nod to…The Beatles. There’s no moment that better captures the innocence and optimism of this great rising wave, the beauty and hope that reigned before the poison began to seep in.

Well, that’s my theory, anyway. What’s yours?


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