The idea of redoing some of Lennon's old songs apparently was inspired by former Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall and George, who first requested some old demos from Yoko. Then, in January 1994, Paul came to New York City for John's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. While there, he received at least four songs from Yoko. According to Neil Aspinall, it was "two cassettes" which "might have been five or six tracks."
The remaining band members focused their attention on four songs: Free As A Bird, Real Love, Grow Old With Me, and Now and Then. Of these, they liked Free As A Bird the most, and worked hard on it. They then then turned their attention to Real Love. Co-producer Jeff Lynne said, "we thought, we'd work on Real Love which had a complete set of words." The instrumental intro was performed on a Celeste.
Snubbed by the BBC
The BBC refused to add Real Love to its regular playlist, saying "It's not what our listeners want to hear...We are a contemporary music station." Conservative MP Harry Greenway called the ban censorship and urged the BBC to reverse its decision.
Sped up track
The song has been sped up 12% from the demo, apparently to "effect the snappy tempo" as Alan W. Pollack has speculated. The tune is nearly completely pentatonic, comprising primarily the notes E, F#, G#, B, and C#. The refrain is higher than the verse; while the verse covers a full octave, the refrain, at its peak, is a fifth higher.
"It was all settled before then, I just used that occasion to hand over the tapes personally to Paul. I did not break up The Beatles, but I was there at the time, you know? Now I'm in a position where I could bring them back together and I would not want to hinder that. It was kind of a situation given to me by fate." - Yoko Ono
"We tried out a new noise reduction system, and it really worked. The problem I had with 'Real Love' was that not only was there a 60 cycles mains hum going on, there was also a terrible amount of hiss, because it had been recorded at a low level. I don't know how many generations down this copy was, but it sounded like at least a couple. So I had to get rid of the hiss and the mains hum, and then there were clicks all the way through it. ... We'd spend a day on it, then listen back and still find loads more things wrong. ... It didn't have any effect on John's voice, because we were just dealing with the air surrounding him, in between phrases. That took about a week to clean up before it was even usable and transferable to a DAT master. Putting fresh music to it was the easy part!" - Jeff Lynne
"The Beatles don't need our new single, 'Real Love', to be a hit. It's not as if our careers depend on it. If Radio 1 feels that we should be banned now, it's not exactly going to ruin us overnight. You can't put an age limit on good music. It's very heartening to know that, while the kindergarten kings of Radio 1 may think The Beatles are too old to come out to play, a lot of younger British bands don't seem to share that view. I'm forever reading how bands like Oasis are openly crediting The Beatles as inspiration, and I'm pleased that I can hear The Beatles in a lot of the music around today. As Ringo said to me about all this, who needs Radio 1 when you've got all the independent stations?" - Paul, in response to the BBC not adding Real Love to its rotation
"Indignation. Shock and surprise. We carried out research after the Anthology was launched and this revealed that 41% of the buyers were teenagers." - Beatles spokesman Geoff Baker on the BBC's refusal to add Real Love to its rotation
- 1979 (John Lennon's original demo)
- February-March, 1994 (additional editing, instrumentation, and vocals by Paul, George, & Ringo)
- #4, March 16, 1996 (UK)
- #10, March 30, 1996 (US)
- Regina Spektor (from Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign To Save Darfur, 2007)