"Real Love" is a song by The Beatles, credited to John Lennon. Lennon made six takes of the song in 1979 with "Real Life", a different song that merged with "Real Love". The song was ignored until 1988 when it was used on the documentary soundtrack Imagine: John Lennon. The song was well received and many considered it to be one of Lennon's best.
"Real Love" was subsequently reworked by the three remaining Beatles in 1995. This version was released as a single in March 1996 and as the opening track of Anthology 2 the same month.
With George Martin declining to produce the new recording, the Beatles brought in Electric Light Orchestra's Jeff Lynne, who had worked extensively with Harrison, including as part of the Traveling Wilburys, and had already co-produced "Free as a Bird". The first problem that the team had to confront was the low quality of the demo, as Lennon had recorded it on a hand-held tape recorder. Lynne recalled:
Although "Real Love" was more complete than "Free as a Bird", which had required the addition of some lyrics by McCartney, the song also suffered from problems with Lennon's timing. Lynne recalled that "it took a lot of work to get it all in time so that the others could play to it." Lynne emphasised that the three remaining Beatles were keen to ensure the song sounded very "Beatles-y": "What we were trying to do was create a record that was timeless, so we steered away from using state-of the-art gear. We didn't want to make it fashionable."
As with "Free as a Bird", the Beatles worked at McCartney's studio in Sussex, with the intention of producing another single. Added to the demo were the sounds of a double bass (originally owned by Elvis Presley's bassist, Bill Black), Fender Jazz bass guitar, a couple of Fender Stratocaster guitars, one of which was Harrison's psychedelically-painted "Rocky" Strat (as seen in the "I Am the Walrus" video), as well as a Ludwig drum kit. Other than their regular instruments, a Baldwin Combo Harpsichord (as played by Lennon on the Beatles song "Because") and a harmonium (which appeared on the band's 1965 hit single "We Can Work It Out") were also used. During the recording process, it was decided to speed up the tape, thereby raising the key from D minor to E flat minor. As their sound engineer, the Beatles opted for Geoff Emerick, who had not only worked with them to a great extent in the 1960s, but is often credited with many of the Beatles' audio inventions. The assistant engineer was Jon Jacobs, who had worked with McCartney and Emerick since the late 1970s. The attitude in the studio was very relaxed, according to Lynne: "Paul and George would strike up the backing vocals – and all of a sudden it's the Beatles again! ... I'd be waiting to record and normally I'd say, 'OK, Let's do a take', but I was too busy laughing and smiling at everything they were talking about." Starr said that the lightheartedness was key to ensuring he, Harrison and McCartney could focus on the task: "We just pretended that John had gone on holiday or out for tea and had left us the tape to play with. That was the only way we could deal with it, and get over the hurdle, because it was really very emotional."
John Lennon: vocals, piano, drum machine Paul McCartney: backing vocals, bass, double bass, acoustic guitar, synthesiser, percussion George Harrison: backing vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion Ringo Starr: backing vocals, drums, percussion Jeff Lynne: backing vocals, guitar
Engineers: Geoff Emerick, Jon Jacobs