The song that made The Beatles realise “love is the answer”

Singing about love is something that came naturally to The Beatles. The Fab Four were all accustomed to the subject in their own ways, with Paul McCartney and John Lennon, in particular, not only experienced it acutely in their personal lives but also knew that it was largely a commercial selling point.

Many of the band’s biggest hits discuss love at length, like the early composition ‘She Loves You’ and the assembly’s belief that ‘All You Need Is Love’. Nevertheless, in 1965, the band ventured into previously uncharted territory by exploring the abstract realm of love as a notional concept with the release of ‘The Word’.

Sitting among other esteemed classics on Rubber Soul, like ‘Norwegian Wood’, the deeply introspective ‘Nowhere Man’, and ‘In My Life’, it was ‘The Word’ that saw the foursome tackling the word love itself as something specific and powerful, whether that might be good or bad. “It sort of dawned on me that love was the answer,” Lennon said. “My first expression of it was a song called ‘The Word’. The word is ‘love’, in the good and the bad books that I have read, whatever, wherever, the word is ‘love’. It seems like the underlying theme to the universe.”

The lyrics of ‘The Word’ exuded an almost religiosity, with Lennon and McCartney adopting roles akin to evangelists, imparting their newfound revelation about love: “In the beginning I misunderstood/ But now I’ve got it, the word is good”.

‘The Word’ showcased The Beatles’ growing recognition of their influence as advocates and symbols; this evolution was particularly evident in Lennon’s contributions, notably in the 1966 track ‘Rain’ and his subsequent politically charged compositions. He was no longer happy to sit back and pen pop poems for lovesick teenagers. Things were now getting a little more serious.

The song emerged as a collaborative effort between Lennon and McCartney, originating from an endeavour to craft material centred around a solitary note. “We smoked a bit of pot,” McCartney said, “Then we wrote out a multicoloured lyric sheet, the first time we’d ever done that. We normally didn’t smoke when we were working. It got in the way of songwriting because it would just cloud your mind up – ‘Oh, shit, what are we doing?’ It’s better to be straight. But we did this multicoloured thing.”

Subsequently, Lennon gifted the lyrical manuscript to Yoko Ono, who, in turn, presented it as a birthday gift to John Cage. This notable occurrence found its place in Cage’s volume Notations, a compendium of contemporary music scores. Parts of ‘The Word’ were fused with fragments from ‘Drive My Car’ and ‘What You’re Doing’ for a sequence within the 2006 album Love.

When recording the song, it took three takes to perfect the track, which they dubbed with harmonic vocals, McCartney’s piano sounds, and Ringo Starr’s maracas. Despite being very much a collaborative effort, Lennon maintains the song was mostly his. “‘The Word’ was written together, but it’s mainly mine,” he states. “You read the words, it’s all about – gettin’ smart. It’s the marijuana period. It’s love, it’s the love-and-peace thing. The word is ‘love’, right?”.

The track symbolises yet one more stepping stone for the band as they moved away from their pop-driven Beatlemania toward a more altruistic and artistic state of play.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mick Jagger John & Yoko’s Elvis Presley & Priscilla Presley