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Beatles Rarity Of The Week – “Real Love” (piano demo)

Posted by on October 8, 2012 at 6:00 am.

In light of this week’s BROW being set to post one day prior to John Lennon’s 72nd birthday, I thought it would be a good time to recognize his artistry with an unfinished, yet beautiful account of his circa 1977 composition “Real Love.”

This piano demo was captured sometime in the fall of 1980 on a portable cassette recorder that John used to keep sitting on top of his piano at the Dakota (his apartment in New York). In 1994 it was included on a tape that Yoko Ono gave to the other Beatles. The tape also included other demos of songs such as “Free As A Bird,” “Grow Old With Me” and “Now And Then.” With production assistance from Jeff Lynne, “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love” were completed by the surviving Beatles for use in The Beatles Anthology film and CD sets.

As I remember John this week, the intimacy of this “John-only” home-recorded and imperfect version of the song is what is hitting the spot for me now. It’s just a little piece of work by a man who at one time, so many years ago, started up a rock band that just happened to go on until they changed the world.

John Lennon - Real Love

John Lennon

John Lennon

Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase, some music related to this post:

1) Beatles Anthology 2 1996 compilation of Beatles out-takes and extras between 1965 and 1968 and The Beatles’ version of “Real Love.”

2) Acoustic 2004 CD collection of acoustic John Lennon demos, including a different demo of “Real Love.”

3) Imagine: John Lennon (Original Soundtrack) CD soundtrack of 1988 film, including acoustic demo of “Real Love.”

4) More Amazon links for any of your favorite Beatles-related music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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  • Stacey says:

    John and his piano is what has inspired me at 42 years old to take piano lessons. I could listen to songs like this all day and night (Paul and George, too) and never grow tired of them. In fact, I’m afraid that when I get good enough on piano that I will buy up every Beatle song book and just play nothing but that 24 hrs. a day and drive my husband completely insane – as if he doesn’t think I’m (Beatle’s) wacky enough already.

    What a great song this is. I’ll be listening to my John cd’s this week, I may even buy something new to add to my collection.


  • debjorgo says:

    This is a great version of the song.

    This is close to the version on the Lennon Anthology set. And of course there is the version on the Acoustic release.

    I have some earlier versions of the song, taped off the radio from the Lost Lennon specials, when the song was called Boys and Girls. Then there is the version called Real Life from Lost Lennon with the words and music that later turns into Stepping Out.

  • Kathy says:

    Absolutely beautiful, thank you..

  • Lennonista says:

    Yes, it’s so beautiful and intimate. The other home demos that I absolutely adore are Say it Again and Now and Then… and now there are new rumors that Paul will be recording N&T.

  • This touches me in a way no finished record ever could. So much of what we can never forget about John Lennon shines so brightly here. Thanks, again.

  • Tony Maxwell says:

    I began writing this comment two nights ago, and couldn’t finish it until tonight. I’m not good at editing myself, so I leave the original commentary intact, despite the overly-long and ingratiating writing:

    I literally have tears in my eyes as I’m writing while listening to this fully realized, poignant and (to me) astonishing example of John’s most heartfelt and nakedly honest home demos I’ve heard since those ‘Esher tapes’ from all those years ago.

    This treasure that you’ve shared with us has an impact on me that I cannot adequately describe in words to express how intense the emotions are. Of course, Elliott and probably Joe (and certainly Happy Nat) are fully aware of how that’s never stopped me from writing these epistles before, and this commentary will be no exception.

    I was ashamedly disappointed in my own lackluster reaction when initially listening to ‘Free As A Bird’ on it’s ‘Anthology’ series debut – I’m not sure what I was expecting, because I had already dismissed the original demo I heard (on the incomparable Artifacts CD collection I was blessed to come across only a few years earlier), which was lackluster, barely comprehensible, woefully incomplete, hideously recorded even by cheap portable cassette-deck standards of the time, and a vocal that sounds like he just got out of bed.

    I did not see how even the most advanced recording technology (or three other Beatles!) would begin to successfully remix and enhance this very poor effort by John, one that was obviously never intended for anything other than his own personal reference track to maybe pick up on later. And then hearing the lavish, sonically jarring, multi-layered thickness of the full studio treatment, surrounding a still-completely thin-sounding, 1/4″ strip of tinny cassette tape and an uninterested, loping piano backing an equally uninterested vocal, I found that they didn’t, and was throughly pissed off that Yoko couldn’t offer anything better than this to the group, and that they couldn’t replicate the ‘magic’ well enough to not make me care.

    Needless to say, I did not have any great expectations in hearing ‘Real Love’ after the next installment of the TV special aired. Unlike ‘Bird’, I had not heard a note of this other song in any form; I also wasn’t surprised to find it kind of sappy and not even as worthy as ‘Bird’ to give the full-scale treatment to. The only difference here was that John seemed to really be putting forth an effort, and seemingly had completed a lot more of this song than the previous one. But to my sensibilities at the time of its initial release, I never considered it more than a so-so track that would have fit nicely on ‘Double Fantasy’, but NOT a Beatles’ release.

    And so, with my already-satisfied afterglow from the incredibly saturated media coverage dominating print and television throughout the wonderful couple of weeks that ‘Anthology’ was being promoted, I resolved to mostly ignore ‘Real Love’s radio rotation at work, or to consider it as even a ‘bonus’ release, which has resulted in my very conveniently not bothering to listen to the tune more than two full times since 1996, and not once in over 15 years.

    And then tonight, I see the BROW has the 1980 piano demo, and of course I have a listen, if only to reaffirm my prior opinions. And I could not have been more wrong.

    Listening to this demo tape is an incredibly satisfying experience for me. Much like when I heard the ‘It Don’t Come Easy’ demo w/ George singing lead that was featured recently, it just thrills me to hear stuff from John and George that give me reminders that Paul, my own ‘favorite Beatle’ for all these years, was ultimately just one incredibly talented musician/songwriter of THREE Beatles, with the indispensable Ringo completing a perfect 4-sided combination of formidable musical power that makes any attempt to single out any one individual a futile and unnecessary endeavor.

    I’ve been too dismissive of John’s individual talent, at the same time knowing a group like The Beatles couldn’t have existed without him.

    It’s just a wonderfully refreshing reminder that, as complex, confrontational and contradictory as Lennon could be, he never lost the soul of a true poet, or the sincerity and love he was capable of when expressing his art. This ‘Real Love’ demo brings all of these emotions to surface yet again, and I’m thankful for the privilege of hearing it on this latest BROW.

  • Clare Kuehn says:

    This is one of my favourite songs of all time, and versions of it. I adore John. Thanks, Nat! (U’re great, too.) :)

  • Andrew Tune says:

    This piece is beutiful, the way John used to play piano is one of my favourite things from him; this is such a great track, one of my favourite song of him, definitely.

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