It’s Only Love - The Beatles

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"It’s Only Love" - The Beatles (1965)

Lennon said that “It’s Only Love” was the only song he wrote that he truly hated. He told British journalist Ray Connolly:

"It's the most embarrassing song I ever wrote. Everything rhymed. Disgusting lyrics. Even then I was so ashamed of the lyrics, I could hardly sing them. That was one song I really wished I'd never written."

McCartney said John wrote 60% of it and he, 40%, adding:

“Sometimes we didn’t fight it if the lyric came out rather bland. It’s only a rock ‘n roll song. I mean, this is not literature. In a rock or pop song- the music is everything- the lyrics almost an afterthought.”

Russian music critic George Starostin wonders whether Lennon’s hatred of the song has more to do with his own nature than with any horrendous flaws within the song itself. He says that while the lyrics are weak- musically, there's a fine, unique guitar sound and an even finer high-pitched vocal delivery from John, ending in a marvelously modulated falsetto climax that he avers John probably picked from Brian Wilson - and almost ended up, Starostin claims,  "putting the master to shame."

Beatle scholar Terence O’Grady stated that “It’s Only Love” mixes the rock ballad style and uptempo or moderate tempo rock in a manner similar to that found in some earlier Beatle songs, but is differentiate from them in its complexity and approach to musical detail.  He writes that the most outstanding manifestation of the song’s complexity and attention to detail is the multiplicity of sounds and tone colors in the instrumental accompaniment.

Six different guitar effects occur, ranging from a vigorous acoustical strum to a tremolo on the electric lead guitar. The various individual and combined effects are made possibility by the most extensive multiple tracking to be found on any early Beatle album; this digress of detail in instrumentation in itself indicates an artistic intent the self- consciousness of which has few precedents in the Beatles’ earlier composition – with perhaps the exception of “Yesterday.”"

Musicologist Alan Pollack points out that the combination of textural soft-focus with a "moderato" tempo is a bit of a departure for John though the elliptical emotional stance of the lyrics is right up his alley.  

“The form is structurally both short and simple. To the extent that, as we'll see, the formal boundary between what I've labeled as "verse" and "refrain" is rather blurred you might argue that the meat of the song be even more compactly described as a repetition of a single larger verse and refrain "combo" section. “

The song’s story is essentially about how the narrator’s girl lights up the night for him and yet he’s suffering from butterflies in his stomach due to his feelings of love for her.
As simple as the lyrics and their message are, Pollack says it does show off John’s songwriting talents as he is able to plumb the poetic depths that are inherent in the bourgeois clichés of the vernacular.

Pollack asks:

“Indeed, if it's "only love", then why the exquisite pleasure pain over why it's "so hard"?”

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