Real Love by Tom Odell and Monty the Penguin
Let me tell you a story about Monty the Penguin, he is the rather adorable star of this year’s John Lewis advert. The song that accompanies Monty’s exploits is performed by the talented Tom Odell and is, as has been well publicised, a cover of a John Lennon song.
It is a fairly offbeat choice of cover when you consider the origins of the song; in Lennon’s lifetime it was never more than an unreleased demo and his original version is a fragmented, beautifully flawed lullaby to love. Lennon had a difficult relationship with love over the years, his bleak “Love” is a downbeat classic and “Mother” is primal scream therapy transposed into song.
It was not until the birth of his second son Sean that he seemed to grow more comfortable, at least in song form, with the notion of love and with the way that he had lived his life. We can see this gentler side evidenced in later recordings such as Watching the Wheels, Beautiful Boy and (Just Like) Starting Over. But Lennon being Lennon, even his more positive reflections on love have a darker side and he still manages to reflect his own insecurities in Real Love with lines such as “no need to be afraid”, “no need to be alone” and “thought I’d been in love before” his vocal delivery convening his own uncertainty about moving forwards.
The surviving Beatles would later record a version of Real Love, layering extra vocals and guitars over Lennon’s original sparse recording; this version robs it of some of it’s simple beauty and Jeff Lynne’s production is not to all Beatles’ fans taste. I still think this version has a lot of charm and George Harrison’s guitar is fantastic.
Real Love is a very familiar song in the de Gruyther household – firstly because we are fairly keen on the Beatles and secondly it has been my son’s bedtime song of choice for some time, mostly because its sweet melody works well as a sleepy lullaby and my son really likes the line “playing with their little toys”.
I have shared all three versions of the song for you here, let me know which one you prefer the most. My favourite is undoubtedly the unvarnished original version.
Real Love by The Beatles
Real Love by John Lennon