John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band— “Love”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — September 11, 2022


(song first featured as) #113) John Lennon — “Love”

On this 21st anniversary of 9/11, the only thing I could think of to play that was remotely appropriate was John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band‘s “Love” from 1970, one of the most beautiful, delicate and consoling songs ever written. I present it along with five wonderful cover versions, by Barbra Streisand, the Lettermen (yes, the Lettermen), Shirley Bassey, Jimmy Nail, and Beck.

The Beatles Bible says:

“Love”, the tenderest moment on John Lennon’s debut solo album, was a simple love song inspired by his feelings for Yoko Ono. “‘Love’ I wrote in a spirit of love. In all that shit, I wrote it in a spirit of love. It’s for Yoko, it has all that connotation for me. It’s a beautiful melody and I’m not even known for writing melody.” Lennon had recorded a guitar demo of ‘Love’ in Bel Air, Los Angeles, where he stayed in the summer of 1970 while undergoing Primal Therapy with Dr Arthur Janov. The recording is the only one of the time that lacked the anger or bitterness that coloured much of [the album]. Back in England, ‘Love’ was recorded at EMI Studios, Abbey Road. Lennon again played a simple acoustic guitar part, over which he sang his plaintive lyrics. . . . After recording a satisfactory take, Lennon asked Phil Spector to add a piano part. . . . ‘Love’ was not released as a single in John Lennon’s lifetime, although he considered issuing it as one. It received considerable radio airplay from stations who baulked at the prospect of playing ‘Mother’, Lennon’s eventual choice of single in the US.

Sam Kemp adds:

Clocking in at around three-and-a-half minutes, it is actually quite astonishing that Lennon manages to convey so much of the emotion he felt for Yoko Ono in the time it takes to brew a cup of tea. . . . ‘Love’ is one of the most minimalist songs Lennon ever released, featuring just two musicians, Lennon himself on guitar and vocals, and Phil Spect[or] on the piano. . . . [It] is a remarkably stark track, as if he wanted to avoid anything that might detract from his adoration. The stripped-back, elemental sound that Lennon pursued on ‘Love’ feels almost like an extension of the primal therapy that he and Yoko Ono took part in following the break up of The Beatles in 1970. It’s as if all that screaming into the wind allowed Lennon a period of calm in which he was able to sit down and write something honest, sensitive, and undeniably vulnerable. . . . [I]t’s possible that, at least in some ways, it was intended as a gift to Ono. “With Yoko, I really knew love for the first time,” he once said: “I’d never met anyone who was my equal in every imaginable way. My better, actually. The dream came true”.

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Barbra Streisand (from her ’71 album Barbra Joan Streisand):

The Lettermen (from their ’71 album Love Book, and a B-side):

Shirley Bassey (from her ’72 album I, Capricorn):

Jimmy Nail (from his ’95 album Big River, and an A-side):

Beck (from a ’14 Starbucks compilation):

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