March 4: The Beatles released Real Love in 1996

“Real Love” is a song written by John Lennon, and recorded with overdubs by the three surviving Beatles in 1995 for release as part of The Beatles Anthology project. To date, it is the last released record of new material credited to the Beatles.

Lennon made six takes of the song in 1979 and 1980 with “Real Life”, a different song that merged with “Real Love”. The song was ignored until 1988 when the sixth take was used on the documentary soundtrack Imagine: John Lennon.


“Real Love” was subsequently reworked by the three surviving former members of the Beatles (Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr) in early 1995, an approach also used for another incomplete Lennon track, “Free as a Bird”. “Real Love” was released as a Beatles single in 1996 in the United Kingdom, United States and many other countries; it was the opening track on the Beatles’ Anthology 2 album. It is the last “new” credited Beatles song to originate and be included on an album. To date, it is the last single by the group to become a top 40 hit in the US.

The song reached number 4 and number 11, respectively, in the UK and US singles charts, and earned a gold record more quickly than a number of the group’s other singles. The song was not included on the BBC Radio 1 playlist, prompting criticism from fans and British members of 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.”

John Lennon piano demo:

Press release from Apple Corp:
“There was never a more romantic band than The Beatles. Throughout their career they only really said one four-letter word – l-o-v-e.

Love is the theme in almost every song they wrote. Although the actual word only appears in the titles of 10 of the 213 Beatles’ compositions (All My Loving, All You Need Is Love, And I Love Her, Can’t Buy Me Love, It’s Only Love, Love Me Do, Love You To, PS I Love You, She Loves You, and You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away) the loving feeling hallmarks The Beatles’ musical history.

Love is all around in Paul’s Here, There And Everywhere. There’s the lust for constant love in “Ooh I need your love, babe… eight days a week”. There’s the idolized love of George’s “Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover”. There’s the desperate cry for love in John’s Help! There’s the happiness of being in love in John’s “I’m in love with her and I feel fine.” And, of course, there’s Paul’s classic lost love lament of Yesterday, “Love was such an easy game to play”.

Even the last song they ever recorded together – the aptly-titled The End, at the very end of Abbey Road, their last album – highlighted the importance of love to The Beatles when they sang their very last lines: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”.

For The Beatles, all you ever really did need was love. And now they are releasing their very last love song as their absolutely final word.

Aptly it’s called Real Love.

Real Love is the final track from the Beatles’ reunion sessions that were the talk of last year after Paul, George and Ringo came together in the studios for the first time in 25 years to re-record unreleased songs penned by the late John Lennon.

Unlike Free As A Bird, which basically Paul, George and Ringo had to piece together and write extra parts for around an unfinished demo track of John’s, Real Love was completed as a song by John before he died. However, to make it a Beatles song, Paul, George and Ringo spent hours in Paul’s Sussex studio layering over drums, bass, electric guitar, acoustic guitars and instantly recognizable Beatles harmonies.

The result is a more catchy song than Free As A Bird and is many people’s favorite of the two for being the more “poppy”. In essence it passes the record industry’s “whistle test” – one listen and you can whistle along with it.

Real Love was different from Free As A Bird in that it had all the words and the music and so it was a bit more like being side men to John – but that was very joyful and good fun and I think we did a good job”, said Paul.

“I think Real Love is slightly deceptive, it’s one of those songs that the more you hear it the more you go ‘ooo'”.

Recording sessions for Real Love began at Macca’s studio in February, 1995 and lasted for a week. In June, Paul and George came together again to make the final edit. It is probably the last time that The Beatles will record together as Beatles. As Paul admits, that day is probably done.

“I think it may be a non-starter, just the three of us. You know, maybe we’ve done enough. If you look at our career, hell, it wasn’t a bad one. And now we’ve done the Anthology, had great success with that, and I think the only thing that might excite me and George and Ringo now would be some crazy idea someone might have or finding another crazy John track that we’ve all got to work on.

“But the three of us working on our own – I just can’t see it myself. But you never know”. If this really is, as it seems, the end, then it is fitting that the world’s most celebrated band is ending it all with a love song.

For Paul, leaving love as The Beatles’ last message is important. As it is, The Beatles led the Love Generation and influenced the spread of peace and kindness throughout the Sixties. But, Paul warned, the world could have gone a worse way had they used their power to tell their millions of fans to riot and violently rebel.

“The one thing that I’m really proud of with The Beatles is that I’m glad of the content of the songs, of what we said in them”, said Paul.

“Because if you listen to Beatles’ songs, we’re saying good things. We’re saying love and peace. Let It Be, there will be an answer, Hey Jude, don’t make it bad.’ Looking back on it, none of it says go and screw your brother.

“Our songs weren’t anthems of rebelliousness. We weren’t saying ‘come on kids, hate your parents.’ Although we could have done, we had that power – we could have stood for Satanism instead of love – and if we had chosen to use that power the whole thing could have gone a very different way.

“We could have gone off on the whole psychedelic thing and have really majored on that and forgotten the love thing. But love was important to us.

“I thought spreading love was important then and I still do now. I really do think that’s all there is. I don’t think you need much else and a lot of the problems in society that you’re getting now is because there isn’t enough love, especially between families. Kids are just not getting it.

“But I think the overall impression that The Beatles left people with was an affectionate feeling. Most people I talk to say ‘Aah, great days’, they’ve got lovely memories of it. And if there is any residue of love for The Beatles, I think it’s because we had that very honest, loving attitude and our message still remains a very positive, loving message”.

As he sang long ago, “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.””

– hallgeir