Timeline Albums, EPs & singles Songs Films Concerts Sessions People Interviews Articles

June 17-22, 1967

Mike Vickers writes the orchestra arrangement for “All You Need Is Love”

Last updated on April 5, 2023

On May 18, 1967, Brian Epstein signed a contract for The Beatles to appear as Britain’s representatives on “Our World”, a live television production that would be broadcast internationally via satellite on June 25. For this momentous occasion, The Beatles chose to record “All You Need Is Love”, a track written by John Lennon, and perform parts of it live.

On June 14, 1967, The Beatles began the recording of “All You Need Is Love” at Olympic Sound Studios. 

On June 17, 1967, Mike Vickers, a member of Manfred Mann, was asked to write the orchestra arrangement, as George Martin had some personal constraints. Mike Vickers was also asked to conduct the orchestra during the rehearsals and live recordings, as George Martin would be busy producing the session on the day of the broadcast.

But I suppose the most traumatic week of those early years of AIR, indeed probably of my whole life, came in June 1967. Judy was extremely pregnant. On the Tuesday my father died. We were in the middle of moving house. And at the end of the week, the Beatles and I were due to be the British contribution to a worldwide satellite television link-up called ‘Our World’.

George Martin – From “All You Need Is Ears“, 1979

Because George Martin wanted to remain in the control room, Mike Vickers of the band Manfred Mann was recruited to conduct.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

Mike Vickers completed the writing of the score on June 22, a day before the first rehearsals with the orchestra.

Saturday 17 June 1967 (Mike Vickers is asked to write the arrangement)

‘They’re doing a TV show next week, live from the studio,’ said Dave [Mike Vicker’s agent]. ‘It’s a global telecast, called ‘Our World’. They’ve written a new song.’

‘Isn’t George [Martin] going to do it, as usual?’ I said. I’d worked for George Martin a number of times, supplying arrangements for some of his other artists. But he always did the Beatles’ extra orchestral stuff himself, didn’t he? ​

‘George’s father has just died, and he’s dealing with that over the next few days, and he’s asked if you could do the arrangement for the orchestra on the live show, with you conducting.’

[…] I opened the front door again, seeing a courier out there now – not the grim reaper at all – with a package for me, direct from the publishers for the fab four. I signed for it, thanked the courier, and took the package into the music room. Inside was the acetate, a 10 inch test disc, with a label saying ‘Dick James Music’ and ‘The Beatles’ and the song title ‘All You Need Is Love’. It was official. This was the real thing. The pinnacle.

Mike Vickers – From “A Week in the Life: working with the Beatles on ‘All You Need Is Love’“, 2019

Sunday 18 June 1967 (Mike Vickers visit Paul and John at Paul’s home in Saint John’s Wood)

I opened my briefcase, and took out the acetate of the song, just in case they didn’t have a copy there – which they didn’t seem to – and the chord/rhythm sheet I’d prepared, a double-spread. Oh, and a pencil. I was ready for anything they might throw at me. Wagner horns during the chorus? An army of timpani players? Two dozen bouzoukis and a phono-fiddle?

So we played the acetate, and then Paul sat at the piano while John sang it, although there were some lyrics missing, and he la-la-ed here and there, and then Paul sang some of it with John at the piano, and then we played the acetate again, then I checked one of the chords, asking Paul to show it to me on the piano, which he did, and I modified my notation, because he was playing a more interesting inversion of the chord, that I’d missed.

‘OK?’ said Paul.

‘Um…yes…fine,’ I said. But they hadn’t made any musical suggestions yet, which was odd. Surely they had the whole thing planned out, ideas for me to orchestrate. Surely they didn’t expect me to just…

‘Write the first thing that comes into yer ’ead,’ said John.

‘That’s what George Martin told me, funnily enough,’ I said.

‘That’s what we tell George,’ said Paul.

‘Funnily enough,’ said John.

‘OK, well, I was thinking of getting some cellos to play the low phrase that keeps coming in, during the 3/4 bars?’

‘Great,’ said Paul.

‘Fab gear,’ said John. Possibly.

‘And after that maybe I could…’

‘Just write it,’ said Paul, ‘and if we want to change anything we’ll do it on the session. We do it all the time.’ His droopy moustache made him look a little doleful, I thought.

‘Changes,’ said John, his eyes spinning behind his circular glasses.

‘OK,’ I said, and put my stuff back in my briefcase, with only one small pencil alteration to show for the visit. ‘It was very nice to meet you,’ I said, and shook hands with them both. ‘See you next week.’

‘Yep,’ said Paul.

‘Yep,’ said John.

Mike Vickers – From “A Week in the Life: working with the Beatles on ‘All You Need Is Love’“, 2019

Thursday 22 June 1967 Guildford

I finished the arrangement about 5 am or so the next morning. It had taken much longer than it normally would, due in part to the interruptions, but also to the intense pressure I felt because of the nature of this particular commission. Working for the Beatles, it had to be good, and on time of course.

Mike Vickers – From “A Week in the Life: working with the Beatles on ‘All You Need Is Love’“, 2019

During the second day of orchestra rehearsals on June 24, 1967, The Beatles and George Martin made some adjustments to Mike Vickers’s original arrangement.

George M and Paul wandered over to the saxophone players, and started talking to them. What was going on? Was I out of the loop, now? I stood back, behind one of the cameras, and then I heard the sounds of a somewhat corny, almost slapstick phrase from the saxophones, which Paul seemed to be singing to them. Then he seemed to be suggesting a sort of smeary swoop up to the first note of the phrase. BA-ba-baba-baa, went the tenors, sounding for all the world like they were playing on a Norman Wisdom film score. BA-ba-baba-baa. I couldn’t see how it was going to work.

And then, from my disadvantage point behind the camera, I saw George requesting the playback again, and there were four bars lead in, then ‘All you need is Love’, and then BA-BA-BABA-BAA went the saxophones, and then again, ‘All you need is love’ – BA-BA-BABA-BAA! Wow, it sounded great, and so exactly perfect in those little gaps in the chorus, bringing a whole new element of joyousness to the song, with an unexpected blast from a more vaudevillian past.

And then John came out and talked to George, suggesting a change in the orchestration of the opening anthem, so the trombones were lower, creating a more brassy sound, and that was tried with the track, and that sounded excellent too, although it had been pretty good before.

This was the Beatles at work, in their element – having heard something, they could now shift it around, change it, do whatever they wanted with it. The studio was their playground, after all.

Mike Vickers – From “A Week in the Life: working with the Beatles on ‘All You Need Is Love’“, 2019

Now they were concentrating on the end section, destined for a long fade, where everybody keeps playing, but gradually the faders are pulled down, and the song seems to float off into infinity. A popular ruse at the time, but it seemed like this fade was going to be a very long one, because now Paul and John seemed to be both making suggestions to George, who was conveying them to the musicians verbally. And then I heard the tune ‘Greensleeves’, the Olde English evergreen, and the musicians were making notes on their parts, and then the end section was played back, and the violins bowed the lovely old melody in it’s original 3/4 time over the 4/4 of the end section, and it sounded floaty, unreal.

And then they turned their attention to the trumpet players, and George must have known they’d be familiar with the piece of music he possibly suggested, although it may have been Paul, who obviously listened to many things. The trumpet players played the first bit of the Two-Part Invention on their little high piccolo trumpets – otherwise known as Bach trumpets, because Johann Sebastian liked using them – and this added quite a Germanic tinge to the whole thing.

And then, amazingly, I heard the sounds of ‘In the Mood’, the classic tune by Jerry Gray that was made famous by Glenn Miller, so here was some swing music from the USA, to add to the mix, the intro to ‘In The Mood’, twice, just sorted of slotted in to the track, at exactly the right moments, it seemed. The notes were in swing feel, and at twice the tempo of the song itself, and the players sounded a bit ragged at first, until they got the hang of it. The orchestral metamorphosis was complete, and, together with the opening French National Anthem, there were contributions from other countries of our world – England, Germany, USA – in musical form. Clever.

Mike Vickers – From “A Week in the Life: working with the Beatles on ‘All You Need Is Love’“, 2019

Despite this collaboration, most Beatles books and recollections by key figures like George Martin and Geoff Emerick suggest that Mike Vickers played a relatively limited role in the final recording of the song. Specifically, Vickers is typically credited as the conductor of the orchestra, rather than as a primary composer or arranger for the track.

I did a score for the song, a fairly arbitrary sort of arrangement since it was at such short notice.

George Martin – From “All You Need Is Ears“, 1979

Going further

The Beatles Diary Volume 1: The Beatles Years

"With greatly expanded text, this is the most revealing and frank personal 30-year chronicle of the group ever written. Insider Barry Miles covers the Beatles story from childhood to the break-up of the group."

We owe a lot to Barry Miles for the creation of those pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - a day to day chronology of what happened to the four Beatles during the Beatles years!

Shop on Amazon

Paul McCartney writing

Talk more talk, chat more chat

Notice any inaccuracies on this page? Have additional insights or ideas for new content? Or just want to share your thoughts? We value your feedback! Please use the form below to get in touch with us.

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

2024 • Please note this site is strictly non-commercial. All pictures, videos & quoted texts remain the property of the respective copyright owner, and no implication of ownership by us is intended or should be inferred. Any copyright owner who wants something removed should contact us and we will do so immediately. Alternatively, we would be delighted to provide credits.