Throughout their decade-long career, The Beatles recorded 213 songs together. With that much material, it was inevitable that some songs couldn’t quite stack up against others. With more than 20 number one singles, The Beatles had one of the greatest hit rates in the history of popular music. But the band also made some songs that weren’t beloved, endearing, or even particularly memorable.
Thanks to their contract with EMI, which was largely overseen by their manager Brian Epstein, The Beatles were expected to crank out two albums a year. During the early and mid-1960s, they were able to accomplish that with the vitality of youth on their side. As they began to command more respect as musicians, the members were able to stretch out recording sessions, experiment, and lighten up their workload to only include material that could pass the smell test. But in the band’s earliest days, there were a few songs that were included just to fill up space on albums.
‘It’s Only Love’, an album cut from 1965’s Help!, might have been the ultimate example. A relatively pedestrian track, especially from a band that was experimenting with folk and string quartets around this time, ‘It’s Only Love’ wouldn’t be fondly remembered by its main writer. “‘It’s Only Love’ is mine. I always thought it was a lousy song,” John Lennon told David Sheff in 1980. “The lyrics were abysmal. I always hated that song”.
Paul McCartney had relatively little to do with the writing and recording of ‘It’s Only Love’. He played bass and might have helped with some of the song’s lyrics, but McCartney didn’t even sing on the track. “Sometimes we didn’t fight it if the lyric came out rather bland on some of those filler songs like ‘It’s Only Love’,” McCartney recalled in the book Many Years From Now. “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.”
At less than two minutes long, ‘It’s Only Love’ was never the most memorable Beatles track. While it appeared on the canonical British release of Help!, the track was released on the American version of Rubber Soul a few months later. Rubber Soul would be the final album that saw different track listings between their American and British versions, and perhaps songs like ‘It’s Only Love’ contributed to the end of that trend.