Remember When: The Beatles Performed “All You Need is Love” on the First Worldwide Satellite Broadcast

Younger folks or casual Beatles fans who hear “All You Need is Love” on the radio or as part of a playlist might think it’s just another in a long line of hit songs by the group. And it is. But did you know it was the result of a kind of contract gig, as The Beatles were hired to deliver a song that would transmit a message to television audiences all over the world?

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The Beatles wrote “All You Need is Love” for the sole purpose of performing it on the first ever worldwide satellite television broadcast. Here is how the band rose to the occasion with such an apropos message to go all over the globe.

“Love” All over the World

As satellite technology hit new heights in the 1960s, it became clear to television executives it would be possible for signals broadcast in one country to be beamed into other countries. Hence, it was decided the first-ever worldwide satellite program, entitled Our World, would take place on June 25, 1967, with 25 countries involved. The BBC asked The Beatles to be Great Britain’s representative on the show, and the group accepted.

The band was at that point in the midst of a very busy and successful time in their career. At the beginning of the summer of ’67, they had released their landmark album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had shattered the boundaries of what could be expected from pop and rock music. They easily could have prepared one of those songs for a performance, but they decided to raise the difficulty level and write a new one instead.

The broadcast was less than a month away when the band finally set their mind to coming up with a song. John Lennon stepped up and wrote “All You Need is Love,” which featured an instantly memorable chorus and iconic message. Considering 1967 would come to be known as the Summer of Love, Lennon’s timing was impeccable, as always.

Because of the concerns about the logistics of a live performance going out across the world in that manner, the group decided to play it a bit safe. They put together a backing track that could be played that night, to which they could add their vocals live. But their approach to the track stayed whimsical and lighthearted, regardless of the import of the performance. Everybody played odd instruments, such as John Lennon on the banjo, Paul McCartney on double bass, and George Harrison on violin.

With the track in place, The Beatles headed into EMI Studios a bit early on the day of the performance to rehearse for the cameras. An orchestra was in place to play a clever score that producer George Martin had put together, one that referenced everything from the French National Anthem “La Marseillaise” to the classic big band song “In the Mood.”

The Performance

To heighten the excitement, The Beatles had invited friends to come and be part of the chorus that sang the song’s refrain. Among the notables who showed up were Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithfull, Graham Nash, and Keith Moon, along with Paul McCartney’s girlfriend Jane Asher and George Harrison’s wife Patti.

All that was left was for the lads to play the tune. They were cued in by Martin (more than a half-minute ahead of schedule due to a mix-up in the broadcast). Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison sat on stools while Ringo Starr was perched at his drum kit.

Despite the pomp of the occasion, Lennon looked utterly at ease, singing while chewing gum. McCartney jokingly inserted a refrain of the Fab Four’s earlier song “She Loves You” toward the end of the song. The group had pulled it off, and “All You Need is Love” became an immediate anthem.

That means every time you hear John Lennon’s voice on the radio singing “All You Need is Love,” you’re hearing what a mesmerized television audience heard live on that summer 1967 evening. Not a bad effort at all, as The Beatles came up with the ideal music for a monumental moment.

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Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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