- Published on 1965
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 9 on “Help!“
JOHN 1972: “That’s the one song I really hate of mine. Terrible lyric.”
JOHN 1980: “‘It’s Only Love’ is mine. I always thought it was a lousy song. The lyrics are abysmal. I always hated that song.”
PAUL circa-1994: “Sometimes we didn’t fight it if the lyric came out rather bland on some of those filler songs like ‘It’s Only Love.’ If a lyric was really bad we’d edit it. But we weren’t that fussy about it, because it’s only a rock ‘n roll song. I mean, this is not literature.”
About “It’s Only Love”
“It’s Only Love” was written mostly by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. The Beatles recorded it at EMI Studios in London on 15 June 1965. Lennon’s working title for the composition was “That’s a Nice Hat”. The band recorded six takes of the rhythm track, two of which were incomplete, with a line-up of 6- and 12-string acoustic guitars, bass and drums. The high register of the acoustic guitars was created through Lennon and George Harrison each using a capo on the neck of their instrument.
Lennon overdubbed his vocals onto the final take, and Harrison recorded lead guitar parts, including one with a heavy tremolo effect. According to musicologist Walter Everett’s description of the recording, Harrison played all three of the electric guitar parts, including one that doubles the main riff on a Rickenbacker 12-string. Author Ian MacDonald cites the varied sound treatment applied to Lennon’s vocals and Harrison’s guitars as an example of the Beatles’ increasingly experimental approach to production during the Help! period.
Take 2 of “It’s Only Love” was included on the Anthology 2 compilation in 1996, with a false start (the incomplete take 3) edited onto the beginning of the track.
Meaning of “It’s Only Love”
The meaning of “It’s Only Love” has been a subject of interpretation and analysis. The lyrics convey a somewhat contradictory message. On one hand, they express the beauty and intensity of love, with lines like “When I go away / I know my heart can stay with my love, it’s understood.”
However, the song also introduces a sense of emotional distance and uncertainty about the nature of love. Lines like “Oh, how I love you, babe / But you’re so hard to find” and “Yes, it’s only love, but that’s all” suggest a recognition that love, while powerful, can also be complex and sometimes elusive.
The title refrain, “It’s only love, and that is all,” seems to encapsulate the idea that love, while a profound and transformative emotion, is still just one aspect of human experience.
Some interpretations suggest that the song may reflect Lennon’s own contemplation of love and relationships at the time, as he was going through personal challenges and changes.”It’s Only Love” is a reflective and contemplative song that captures the multifaceted nature of love. It acknowledges both the deep emotional impact of love and the complexities that can accompany it.
- John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, 12-string acoustic guitar
- Paul McCartney – bass guitar
- George Harrison – acoustic guitar, lead guitars
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine