Boomers Knew All You Need is Love

Since it’s Valentine’s weekend, a boomer’s thoughts inevitably turn to love. We surrounded ourselves with mentions of love for each other and humanity during our heyday, but we were especially fond of love songs from the ’50s through the ’70s. In the middle of it all, perhaps there were no more prolific love song composers in the 1960s than John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The dynamic songwriting duo of The Beatles composed dozens of love songs in the four years of their peak popularity. The Beatles covered dozens more, too, from Buddy Holly’s Words of Love to Arthur Alexander’s Soldier of Love (Lay Down Your Arms), and many more.

There is a special place in the heart of just about every boomer for The Beatles; even those who didn’t care for a lot of their music have a favorite Beatles love song. Mister Boomer was thinking about Beatles love songs this weekend, and quickly realized the list was extensive, so he decided to concentrate only on the songs that had the word “love” in them.

P.S. I Love You/ Love Me Do – October 1962 (in UK; 1964 in US)
The first Beatles single had not one but two love-titled songs on it and was destined to be become a classic. The A-side featured Love Me Do. Credited to Lennon-McCartney, it was primarily written by Paul McCartney several years before he was in The Beatles (1958-59). John Lennon recalls McCartney had the song with him in Hamburg, and had possibly collaborated on parts of it, but called it “Paul’s song.” McCartney relates the effort as 50-50.

P.S. I Love You, the B-side, picked up the theme of writing love letters that had been so prevalent in love songs of the 1950s. McCartney wrote it but again it is credited to Lennon-McCartney. About the time the group was going to record it, Ringo Starr was hired to replace Pete Best; George Martin didn’t know Ringo would be at the studio so he hired session musician Andy White to appear on the recording. You can hear Ringo playing maracas on the record.

She Loves You -August 1963
Written by Lennon-McCartney, it was released as a single and became their best selling single in the UK. They duo began composing the song on the band’s bus when they were touring with Roy Orbison and Gerry and the Pacemakers. McCartney completed the song when he returned to his home in Liverpool the next day. Unlike a lot of love songs of the era, this one wasn’t talking about a love or to a lover, but was written from the point of view of one friend talking to another who needed to be clued into what was happening.

All My Loving – November 1963
Recorded for the album, With the Beatles, All My Loving was not released as a single in the US or UK. The song enjoyed a lot of airplay, so EMI did release it as a single in Canada, where it became a number one hit.

And I Love Her – July 1964
Written by McCartney for the album, A Hard Day’s Night, it is another song that is credited to Lennon-McCartney. In addition to the album and used in the movie, it was released as a single backed with If I Fell, another love song.

Can’t Buy Me Love – March 1964
Also written for A Hard Day’s Night, it was also credited to Lennon-McCartney. It was released as a single backed with You Can’t Do That. McCartney defended the song years later when he was questioned about whether it was about a prostitute. He stated the song was about the fact that all the money in the world can’t buy a man what he really needs — love.

It’s Only Love – August 1965
This one was written by John Lennon, but credited to Lennon-McCartney. It was released on the album, Help! in the UK, but on Rubber Soul in the US. Neither Lennon nor McCartney thought much of the song. Lennon said in an interview in 1980 that he hated it, and McCartney said the group usually edited lyrics when they didn’t care for them, but It’s Only Love was considered album filler, so they didn’t take the time and effort.

You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away – August 1965
John Lennon wrote the song for the album, Help!, but it is another that is credited to Lennon-McCartney. The song was released as a single and was the first featured in the Help! film.

Love You To – August 1966
George Harrison wrote the song and it was included on the Revolver album. Though Norwegian Wood is often named as the first Western song that included Indian classical musical instruments, Love You To was more fully realized for a rock audience. Harrison played sitar on the track, but the other Beatles had minimal involvement in the recording. Instead, Harrison got Indian musicians to play Northern Indian tabla, which is a pair of hand-drums, and a tambura, a lute-like stringed instrument. Harrison is said to have written the lyrics as a love song to his wife, Patti, but the inclusion of sitar was inspired by Ravi Shankar, who agreed to become his tutor shortly after the song was released.

All You Need is Love – July 1967
When The Beatles were commissioned by the BBC for a song that would be included in Our World, the first global live television link, John Lennon wrote All You Need is Love. Like many others, it is credited to Lennon-McCartney. The Beatles performed it on the live telecast and it was included on the Magical Mystery Tour album.

Mister Boomer’s brother was a big Beatles fan, bringing singles and albums into the Boomer household as soon as they became available, so Mister B was familiar with them all. Nonetheless, if pressed to choose a favorite, Mister B will deflect the question. After all, love being a many splendored thing, different songs might be “more favorite” at various times. If you press further, Mister B might add that some of his favorite Beatles love songs might not have had the word “love” in the title. They recorded so many, and they stand as testament to the great love songs of the 1960s.

Do you have a favorite Beatles love song, boomers? Does it have “love” in the title?

“Wild Is the Wind”: A Boomer Story

It happened again one morning this week: Mister Boomer woke up with a song in his head (if not his heart). Sometimes these infiltrations are earworms, the epitome of brute force inflicted on the hazy circuits of a waking brain. (Mister Boomer has detailed such incursions previously: Earworms Burrowed into Boomers’ Brains). This time, however, the melodious visitor was welcome to pitch its tent in his memory campground and hike the synaptic trails in the space between his ears. This time the song was Wild Is the Wind by David Bowie.

He was content to let the tune swirl around as he finished the last leg of his morning commute to work when he spotted a young man walking directly toward him. On any other day, the man would have passed unnoticed, but on this morning, Mister B observed that the man’s t-shirt was emblazoned with a portrait of David Bowie. “Hmm. Happenstance or message?” thought Mister B. As the day went on, the song did not leave. Mister B thought it was time that he learned more about this visitor, and discovered more than he had previously imagined.

David Bowie’s version of the song was released on his Station to Station album in 1976, which was the same album that gave us the hit, Golden Years. Right out of the gate Mister Boomer recognized that the song’s structure and sound did not follow the usual Bowie opus. Not knowing the song’s history, he correctly assumed Bowie had not written the tune, and very quickly found out that it was written for the film of the same name by Dimitri Timkin and Ned Washington. The 1957 film, directed by George Cukor, was a reworking of the 1947 Italian film, Fury. Anthony Quinn and Ann Magnani starred in the lead roles and it featured a young Anthony Francisosa. It was the story of a widowed Nevada rancher who brought an Italian widow to America as his second wife, but the woman was neglected by the rancher and she falls in love with a young ranch hand. Both Quinn and Magnani were nominated for Academy Awards, as was the title song.

Here is where is gets really interesting for boomers. At the 30th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, the song was sung by Johnny Mathis, who sang the title song for the film. Mathis had his first album released a year before the movie was released. His appearances in several films as a singer or singing the title songs of others gave him the exposure he needed to be sought after as a guest on TV shows like The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, which in turn made him a favorite with audiences. Mathis went on to chalk up multiple hits throughout the 1960s.

The song’s history didn’t end there. It was recorded by several artists of differing sensibilities over the next decade, including twice by Nina Simone — in 1959 and again in 1966. Her smooth jazz sound paired perfectly with the romantic lyrics to reveal a guttural longing missing in Johnny Mathis’ film score version.

You touch me, I hear the sound of mandolins
You kiss me, with your kiss my life begins
You’re spring to me, all things to me
Don’t you know, you’re life itself?

Mister Boomer recommends you listen to all three versions of the song and you’ll see that Bowie’s interpretation owes much to Simone’s version. In fact, Bowie himself had mentioned that he was a deep admirer of Simone. Mister Boomer prefers Bowie’s version of the three. He has often stated to people who may have recognized Bowie’s showmanship, but not his musicality and vocal range, that they should have a listen to Wild Is the Wind. In this song, Bowie bridges the gap between Mathis and Simone. He embraces a pop tempo like Mathis’ version but infuses the phrasing with all the emotional impact of Simone.

Thus ended another song-in-the-head infiltration. Mister Boomer hopes the hits just keep on coming.

When did you first hear Wild Is the Wind, boomers, and who was singing it?