The Beatles’ trio of early 1964 hits proved that, despite the group’s teen idol status, they were capable of producing truly great material. “A World Without Love,” on the other hand, showed that Beatlemania could make a hit of even a weaker record with a “Lennon/McCartney” credit. Like “Love Me Do,” “A World Without Love” was a Paul McCartney composition that predated The Beatles. But where “Love Me Do” is adolescent in the best sense of the word – raw, direct, effortlessly cool – “World Without Love” is freshman poetry navel-gazing. McCartney rejected it as sub-Beatles standard, instead passing it on to his girlfriend Jane Asher’s brother Peter and his new folk duo.
In the hands of The Beatles, one could imagine “A World Without Love” as sort of a lesser “Yesterday,” Paul’s showcase but with his bandmates keeping the sentimentality in check. Peter & Gordon, on the other hand, are all soft voices and tasteful guitar plucking, sounding very much like the easy-listening folk pop of the pre-Beatles era. To be fair, though, “A World Without Love” would be weak regardless of who recorded it. The middle eight (“So I wait, and in a while …”) doesn’t resolve itself satisfactorily, and the lyrics veer toward overwrought cliché.
Still, “A World Without Love” isn’t a terrible song. McCartney clearly recognized its potential to become a hit, or he wouldn’t have shopped it around. That The Beatles discarded it anyway is testament to the band’s level of quality control. “A World Without Love” actually marked the second time a song rejected by The Beatles became a number-one record. After the group refused to release the professionally-written “How Do You Do It” as their first single, Gerry and the Pacemakers took it to the top of the charts in the UK. By rejecting those two songs, The Beatles were making an artistic statement rare in the rock and roll era: that staying true to one’s standards and crafting a high quality discography is more important than grubbing for hits. What The Beatles chose not to record was just as important to their mythology as what they did. 5
Hit #1 on June 27, 1964; total of 1 week at #1
111 of 982 #1’s reviewed; 11.30% through the Hot 100