When was it recorded? Jun. 15, 1965
When was it first released, and on which album? Aug. 6, 1965 on “Help!”
Who wrote it? Lennon (with noteworthy contribution from McCartney)
Have I heard this song before? No
What my research dug up:
John had the original idea for “It’s Only Love,” though he gave it the goofy working title, “That’s a Nice Hat.” Paul helped him complete the tune at Paul’s home in Weybridge.
According to Alan Pollack, “The lyrics of this song are deceptively simple in their outlook and message. We’ve noted elsewhere… John’s talent for plumbing the poetic depths that are inherent in the bourgeois clichés of the vernacular, and this one provides yet another fine example. Indeed, if it’s ‘only love,’ then why the exquisite pleasure pain over why it’s ‘so hard?’”
John didn’t have such a rosy analysis of his work.
“I always thought it was a lousy song. The lyrics were abysmal. I always hated that song.” – John Lennon (David Sheff, “All We Are Saying”)
“That’s the one song I really hate of mine. Terrible lyrics.” – John Lennon (Hit Parader)
According to Paul and his biography, “Sometimes we didn’t fight it if the lyric came out rather bland on some of those filler songs like ‘It’s Only Love.’ If a lyric was really bad we’d edit it, but we weren’t that fussy about it, because it’s only a rock ‘n’ roll song. I mean, this is not literature.” Fair enough. The Beatles Bible adds, “If Lennon was later ashamed by the lyrics, the winding tune and explorative chord sequence showed that he wasn’t simply going through the motions of songwriting.”
The Beatles recorded six takes of the “It’s Only Love” rhythm track on Jun. 15, 1965, but only four of those takes were complete. The second take and the aborted third take appeared on “Anthology 2” (though it sounds in the video like #3 comes first, then Take 2). The Beatles Bible highlights how the drum part in this take is “very similar to that later heard on another Lennon song, ‘Rubber Soul’s’ ‘In My Life.’”
The final take was used; John added vocals and George added a tremolo guitar part the same day.
“It’s Only Love” first appeared on “Help!” in the UK but “Rubber Soul” in the US.
I don’t know, I like it a lot. It’s cute (probably not what John was going for, but eh). I think I almost enjoy John’s vocals on Take Two more than the final version.