“A World Without Love” is a song recorded by the English duo Peter and Gordon and released as their first single in February 1964. It was included on the duo’s debut album in the UK, and in the US on an album of the same name. 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 the United Kingdom, the song reached No. 1 on both the Record Retailer chart and the New Musical Express chart. In the United States, “A World Without Love” topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top 100. The song also reached No. 1 on the Irish Singles Chart, No. 1 on New Zealand’s “Lever Hit Parade”, No. 2 in Australia, and No. 8 on Norway’s VG-lista.
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. 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 did not think the song was good enough for The Beatles. As such, the 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.
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. Before giving the song to Peter and Gordon, McCartney offered it to Billy J. Kramer, who rejected it. 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 cover version by Bobby Rydell released May 1964 was a strong regional hit in many markets, and reached No. 80 on the Billboard Hot 100. In Rydell’s native Philadelphia his version reached No. 1 in a tandem ranking with the Peter and Gordon version, while in the Pittsburgh market Rydell’s version reached No. 4 to the exclusion of the Peter and Gordon original. In Chicago, Rydell’s version reached No. 10 on the WLS “Silver Dollar Survey”, in a tandem ranking with the Peter and Gordon version, while reaching No. 13 independently. Rydell’s version also reached No. 5 in Singapore and No. 9 in Hong Kong.
In 1964, The Supremes released a version of the song on the album A Bit of Liverpool. Their version was a hit in some countries in Southeast Asia, reaching No. 7 in Malaysia.
Del Shannon also performed a cover of this song on his 1964 album Handy Man.
Terry Black released a version of the song on his 1965 debut album, Only 16.