This broadcast was the first time the world heard "All You Need Is Love," which had been written only shortly before, and the recording of the broadcast went more or less directly out into the world as a single about a week later. ("More or less" because the ever-picky John insisted on redubbing his vocal before release. I'm not sure if the video above has audio from the original broadcast, or if they've overdubbed the single, with John's altered vocal, over the video portion. John, for the record, was by his own admission very very nervous about this performance. Note how he's chewing gum to try to affect indifference.)
Our World was to feature representative acts from various countries of the world, and of course it made sense for the Beatles to represent Britain, so they were asked to provide a new song that would be easily understood by non-native English speakers. "All You Need Is Love" seems to have been one that John had on the backburner anyway, so out it came. (Paul's suggestion was "Your Mother Should Know," but of course "All You Need Is Love" is much more suitable for this kind of thing, and also a better song, in my opinion.) While the refrain is indeed fairly easy to understand, the verses get a little more complex, loaded as they are with the kind of wordplay that John, native English speaker as he is, delights in-- though unlike, say, his books of poetry, it's fairly easy to understand, possibly because it's a little meaningless and relentlessly positive.
And like the words, the music is more complicated than it might appear on first blush as well. John, who as we know likes to follow the natural rhythms of speech in his songwriting, has done so again here, giving the verses in particular a choppy, talky rhythm. The verses are also metrically odd for a pop song, especially a pop anthem like this. Depending on how you hear it, the verses are either in alternating measures of 4/4 and 3/4 (with an extra 4/4 bar where you would least expect it), or in double-wide measures of 7/4 (with a measure of 8/4 thrown in to mix it up). I don't think I even noticed this until I'd been listening for at least a few years, which is kind of neat, isn't it? John just makes this feel so natural. Sometimes when John messes around with multiple meters, you can instantly hear how awesome and jarring it is, like in "Good Morning Good Morning." But in "All You Need Is Love," the effect is pretty smooth-- pretty expertly handled, in fact.
These verses lead us into a metrically simpler chorus (pretty much straight-up 4/4). In fact, the chorus is melodically one of the simplest bits in the Beatles catalog. The chorus stays on just one note for two repeats, which makes the small slide upward on the third "all you need is LOVE" almost unbearably sweet. The "love is all you need" line feels like a little sigh of relief after all that. But I have to say-- as anyone has to say if they've ever sung this song a capella around a campfire with their Girl Scout troop, as I have-- that the melody is actually kinda thin, and that much of what's making this thing at all exciting is the arrangement. George Martin orchestrated particularly effective stuff here. The way the oscillating strings come in after George's languid guitar solo and sweep us back into the chorus, the little shimmy in the horns in response to each "all you need is love" line, and one of my favorite bits-- the triplets in the strings as they climb up to that very high pitch on the last refrain, going into the coda. And then, of course, there's the coda, a pastiche of musical quotations from sources as diverse as a Bach two-part invention to a Glenn Miller number to an early Beatles song. (In the video above, the coda is sadly cut off a little bit; it also cuts off the opening bars of the Marseillaise, which is a shame.)
You know, I would never have called "All You Need Is Love" a favorite of mine per se, though I like it enough-- but listening to it over and over again today, I find I like it much more. Never mind all the dated flower-wreathed hippie weirdness of the video above, and never mind the song's treatment in the psychedelic dreamscape of Yellow Submarine...
No, it's really pretty good, I think. Don't let the datedness get to you, is my point. Love might not be all you need, but it's nice, isn't it? And it's a nice little singalong. Enjoy.
"All You Need Is Love," released in the U.K. as a single b/w "Baby You're a Rich Man," July 7, 1967; in the U.S. July 17, 1967.