The Story and Meaning Behind “A World Without Love,” the Peter & Gordon Hit that Paul McCartney Delivered from Next Door

It was a song written by Paul McCartney, featuring lyrics that used to make John Lennon chuckle. But the songwriting pair were laughing all the way to the top of the charts when Peter & Gordon did a version of “A World Without Love” that ruled the pop music world in 1964.

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What is the song about? Why did Lennon find it so amusing? And what connection to The Beatles did Peter & Gordon have that gave them the leg up in covering many Lennon/McCartney songs? Let’s find out about “A World Without Love,” Peter & Gordon’s first and biggest single.

A “Lock” for Success

John Lennon and Paul McCartney broke the mold in terms of their songwriting skills. Very few bands before them had ever written their own material. But the Lennon/McCartney duo came right out of the gate with massive hits that came from their own songwriting pens.

Of course, other bands and artists didn’t have that ability to write their own hits. That’s why it wasn’t too long after The Beatles became popular that Lennon/McCartney songs were shopped around to others. These were songs the Fab Four themselves weren’t planning on recording, yet many of these also-rans often became smash singles for others.

In the case of “A World Without Love,” it was one of many songs that Paul McCartney had completed on his own before The Beatles had a recording contract. Whenever he would play it for John Lennon, Lennon would break into hysterics at the opening line: Please lock me away. That probably prevented it from ever being considered as a Fab Four track. Luckily, there was an up-and-coming vocal duo with deep connections to The Beatles who were looking for just the right song to kick off their careers.

Sharing the “Love”

Peter Asher and Gordon Waller were London schoolmates who started playing music together at about the same time that The Beatles were making their way to stardom. The pair developed an excellent vocal blend. They could produce a great sound in unison, or they could deliver sweet harmonies in Everly Brothers’ fashion.

Peter & Gordon, as they dubbed themselves, weren’t songwriters, so they needed to bring in outside material. Luckily, they had a pretty good source for those. Asher’s sister Jane was a well-known British actress and, in 1963, she began a romantic relationship with none other than Paul McCartney. In fact, for a while, McCartney lived in a room right next to Peter Asher in the Asher family home.

That made it a natural for Peter & Gordon to be near the top of the list when McCartney had songs to spare. Peter & Gordon enjoyed success with several Lennon/McCartney songs during their time together, but none did quite as well as “A World Without Love,” which topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1964.

What is the Meaning of “A World Without Love”?

That opening line of Please lock me away, the one that John Lennon found so uproarious, was meant in earnest by McCartney to indicate the narrator’s wish for isolation if he can’t be with his girl. “A World Without Love” is a lofty phrase used by this guy to describe what it feels like when he gets lonely without her.

The lyrics go on to describe the sad state of affairs he faces when she’s away: Birds sing out of tune / And rain clouds hide the moon. In the bridge, he hints at a possible reunion to get him out of this funk. But it’s by no means a sure thing: She may come, I know not when, he equivocates.

I don’t care what they say / I won’t stay/In a world without love, Peter & Gordon sing in the refrain. It’s a slightly somber song, although the thudding drums and chirpy guitars don’t let things get too maudlin, and neither do the soothing harmonies. “A World Without Love” is evidence of what comes from having a Beatle for a next-room neighbor.

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Photo by David Redfern/Redferns

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