“For Your Love” is a rock song written by Graham Gouldman and recorded by English group the Yardbirds. Released in March 1965, it was their first top ten hit in both the UK and the US. The song was a departure from the group’s blues roots in favour of a commercial pop rock sound. Guitarist Eric Clapton disapproved of the change and it influenced him to leave the group.
Gouldman wrote the song at the age of 19 while working by day in a gentlemen’s outfitters near Salford Docks and playing by night with the semi-professional Manchester band the Mockingbirds. He explained: “I was sleeping most of the time because I’d been gigging with the Mockingbirds the night before, and then during the day when I’d got any spare time I’d write in the shop. I used to shut up the shop at lunch time and sit in the back writing.”
Gouldman cited the Beatles as his influence, “We went down to Denmark Street and went round all the publishers trying to find a song … we didn’t get any songs that we liked or we weren’t given any songs period and the Beatles had started and I thought ‘well, I’m gonna really have a crack at song-writing.’ I had dabbled a bit, but they were really my inspiration and gave me and I think a lot of other people the courage to actually do it. We all wanted to be like the Beatles. I wrote two songs and the record company we were with turned down one of the songs. The song they turned down was ‘For Your Love’, which eventually found its way to the Yardbirds.”
Gouldman’s manager, Harvey Lisberg, was so impressed by the song he told Gouldman they should offer it to the Beatles. “I said, ‘I think they’re doing alright in the songwriting department, actually”, Gouldman recalled. Undeterred, Lisberg gave a demo of the song to publisher Ronnie Beck of Feldman’s, who took it to the Hammersmith Odeon, where the Beatles were performing. By coincidence the Yardbirds were also performing on a Christmas show at the venue and Beck played the song to their manager, Giorgio Gomelsky, and the band.
In 1965, the Mockingbirds began a regular warm-up spot for BBC TV’s Top of the Pops, transmitted from Manchester. Gouldman recalled: “There was one strange moment when the Yardbirds appeared on the show doing ‘For Your Love’. Everyone clamoured around them – and there I was just part of an anonymous group. I felt strange that night, hearing them play my song.”
The Yardbirds recorded “For Your Love” at the IBC Studios in London on 1 February 1965. The majority of the song was recorded with singer Keith Relf and drummer Jim McCarty backed by session musician Ron Prentice on bowed bass, Denny Piercy on bongos, and organist Brian Auger on harpsichord. Guitarists Eric Clapton and Chris Dreja only perform during the song’s double-time middle break section. Bassist Paul Samwell-Smith assumed the production duties and is listed as musical director on the 45. At the conclusion of the session, Auger wondered, “Who, in their right mind, is going to buy a pop single with harpsichord on it?”
Shortly after its release by Columbia on 5 March 1965, it became a hit in the UK. When it was released a month later by Epic Records in the US, it became the group’s first charting single. By then, Clapton had already left the group for various reasons, including their more commercial aspirations.