No band is as familiar as The Beatles. Wherever you go, their ‘brand’ is recognizable, and universally loved. Whatever musical subculture you identify with, it’s difficult to develop an active dislike for them, the way, for example, the Sex Pistols stigmatized Pink Floyd, or The Clash, Led Zeppelin. In spite of its limitations, The Beatles’ catalogue seems to have a little bit in common with everything.

This said, that’s also why it can be difficult to hear anything new in The Beatles’ work. So familiar are we with their catalogue, it takes a great deal of effort, even musical training,¬†so that we might hear it differently, in ways that surprise us.

However, every now and then, hearing old standards, in new contexts, sometimes as covers, can deepen our appreciation of them. Even if the cover is meant to be disrespectful, or ironic.

One such example is a choral rendition of All You Need is Love, played at a Turin street party, on San Giovanni day, in ¬†June 2011. Played at deafening volume, next to the Po River, the Swiss Alps on one side, a set of hills on the other, the reverb was absolutely incredible. So was the historical context, following Silvio Berlusconi’s defeat in local elections three and a half weeks before, four months before he was to resign from office.

Fireworks bookend the beginning and end of the piece, samples from the Revered Dr Martin Luther King scattered in between. The feel is simultaneously¬†ethereal and apocalyptic. Indeed, the entire setting breathes new life into the old song. It would not be entirely out of place to imagine the context being as important to this version’s compositional identity as the choral version by itself. This recording attempts document that.

Photograph and recording courtesy of Joel Schalit