Published on June 27, 2016
“A World Without Love” is a song recorded by the English duo Peter and Gordon and released as their first single in February 1964, reaching number one in the UK Singles Chart in April. The song was written by Paul McCartney and attributed to Lennon–McCartney. The B-side was “If I Were You” written by Peter and Gordon. In June 1964, “A World Without Love” topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the US. It also reached number one on the Cash Box chart in the US for one week. It was included on the duo’s debut album in the UK, and in the US on an album of the same name.
It is one of two songs written by Lennon–McCartney to reach number one in the US by an artist other than the Beatles. The other is “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” covered by Elton John. “Bad to Me” written by Lennon in 1963 was given to Billy Kramer and reached number 1 in the UK, but it failed to do so in the US. The song was one of the seven #1s written by Lennon-McCartney that charted in the US in 1964, an all-time songwriting record for most songs to top the US charts in a calendar year. (see List of Billboard Hot 100 chart achievements and milestones)
“A World Without Love” is one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. A version by the Supremes made the Top 10 in countries in Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong and the Philippines.
Del Shannon also performed a cover of this song on his 1964 album Handy Man.
A cover version by Bobby Rydell released May 1964 did well enough regionally to reach number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100. In Rydell’s native Philadelphia his version reached number 1 in a tandem ranking with the Peter and Gordon version, while in the Pittsburgh market Rydell’s version reached number 4 to the exclusion of the Peter and Gordon original.
Terry Black released a version of the song on his 1965 debut album, Only 16.
McCartney did not think the song was good enough for The Beatles. Before giving the song to Peter and Gordon, he offered it to Billy J. Kramer, who rejected it.
McCartney described John Lennon’s reaction to the song: “The funny first line always used to please John. ‘Please lock me away –’ ‘Yes, okay.’ End of song.” Lennon said of the song that “I think that was resurrected from the past. … I think he had that whole song before the Beatles. … That has the line ‘Please lock me away’ that we always used to crack up at.”
McCartney wrote the song when he was 16. When he moved into the London home of his then-girlfriend Jane Asher in 1963, sharing a room with her brother Peter Asher, he offered the song to Asher and Gordon Waller after the pair obtained a recording contract as Peter and Gordon.
This song was never released by the Beatles, and the only known recording of the song by any member of the Beatles is the original demo of the song performed by McCartney, which is now in the possession of Peter Asher.
As of January 2013, Paul McCartney’s demo has been leaked on YouTube. It is 30 seconds in length, but offers a rare glimpse into the song’s origins. The clip was played at Asher’s most recent string of concerts.