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Beatles Ultimate Experience: Songwriting & Recording Database: Yellow Submarine
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Yellow Submarine

Originally released in the UK, January 17, 1969

Includes Instrumental 'Movie Score' tracks:
Pepperland / Sea Of Time / Sea Of Holes / March Of The Meanies / Sea Of Monsters / Pepperland Laid Waste / Yellow Submarine In Pepperland


PAUL 1966: "It's a happy place, that's all. You know, it was just... We were trying to write a children's song. That was the basic idea. And there's nothing more to be read into it than there is in the lyrics of any children's song."

JOHN 1972: "Paul wrote the catchy chorus. I helped with the blunderbuss bit."

JOHN 1980: "'Yellow Submarine' is Paul's baby. Donovan helped with the lyrics. I helped with the lyrics too. We virtually made the track come alive in the studio, but based on Paul's inspiration. Paul's idea. Paul's title... written for Ringo."

PAUL 1984: "I wrote that in bed one night. As a kid's story. And then we thought it would be good for Ringo to do."

PAUL circa-1994: "I was laying in bed in the Asher's garret, and there's a nice twilight zone just as you're drifting into sleep and as you wake from it-- I always find it quite a comfortable zone. I remember thinking that a children's song would be quite a good idea... I was thinking of it as a song for Ringo, which it eventually turned out to be, so I wrote it as not too rangey in the vocal. I just made up a little tune in my head, then started making a story-- sort of an ancient mariner, telling the young kids where he'd lived. It was pretty much my song as I recall... I think John helped out. The lyrics got more and more obscure as it goes on, but the chorus, melody and verses are mine."

GEORGE 1999: "Paul came up with the concept of 'Yellow Submarine.' All I know is just that every time we'd all get around the piano with guitars and start listening to it and arranging it into a record, we'd all fool about. As I said, John's doing the voice that sounds like someone talking down a tube or ship's funnel as they do in the merchant marine. (laughs) And on the final track there's actually that very small party happening! As I seem to remember, there's a few screams and what sounds like small crowd noises in the background."


GEORGE 1980: "'Northern Song' was a joke relating to Liverpool, the Holy City in the North of England. In addition, the song was copyrighted Northern Songs LTD, which I don't own."

GEORGE 1999: "It was at the point that I realized Dick James had conned me out of the copyrights for my own songs by offering to become my publisher. As an 18 or 19-year-old kid, I thought, 'Great, somebody's gonna publish my songs!' But he never said, 'And incidentally, when you sign this document here, you're assigning me the ownership of the songs,' which is what it is. It was just a blatant theft. By the time I realized what had happened, when they were going public and making all this money out of this catalog, I wrote 'Only A Northern Song' as what we call a 'piss-take,' just to have a joke about it."


JOHN 1971: "I enjoyed it when football crowds in the early days would sing 'All Together Now.'"

PAUL circa-1994: "When they were singing a song, to encourage the audience to join in they'd say 'All together now,' so I just took it and read another meaning into it, of-- we are all together now. So I used the dual meaning. It's really a children's song. I had a few young relatives and I would sing songs for them."


JOHN 1980: "It's a good sounding record that means nothing."

PAUL circa-1994: "I remember 'Hey Bulldog' as being one of John's songs and I helped him finish it off in the studio, but it's mainly his vibe. There's a little rap at the end between John and I, we went into a crazy little thing at the end. We always tried to make every song different because we figured, 'Why write something like the last one? We've done that.' We were on a ladder so there was never any sense of stepping down a rung, or even staying on the same rung, it was better to move one rung ahead."

GEORGE 1999: "We now have an unreleased video of 'Hey Bulldog,' as you know. When we were in the studio recording 'Bulldog,' apparently it was at a time when they needed some footage for something else, some other record (Lady Madonna), and a film crew came along and filmed us. Then they cut up the footage and used some of the shots for something else. But it was Neil Aspinall who found out that when you watched and listened to what the original thing was, we were recording 'Bulldog.' This was apparently the only time we were actually filmed recording something, so what Neil did was, he put (the unused footage) all back together again and put the 'Bulldog' soundtrack onto it, and there it was!"


GEORGE 1980: "'It's All Too Much' was written in a childlike manner from realizations that appeared during and after some LSD experiences and which were later confirmed in meditation."

GEORGE 1999: "I just wanted to write a rock 'n roll song about the whole psychedelic thing of the time-- 'Sail me on a silver sun/ Where I know that I am free/ Show me that I'm everywhere/ And get me home for tea.' (laughs) Because you'd trip out, you see, on all this stuff, and then whoops! you'd just be back having your evening cup of tea! 'Your long blond hair/ And your eyes of blue' --that was all just this big ending we had, going out. And as it was in those days, we had the horn players just play a bit of trumpet voluntarily, and so that's how that 'Prince Of Denmark' bit was played (in the fade-out). And Paul and John just came up with and sang that lyric of 'your eyes of blue.'"


PAUL 1967: "We had been told we'd be seen recording it by the whole world at the same time. So we had one message for the world-- Love. We need more love in the world."

PAUL circa-1994: "'All You Need Is Love' was John's song. I threw in a few ideas, as did other members of the group, but it was largely ad libs like singing 'She Loves You' or 'Greensleeves' or silly little things like that at the end, and we made those up on the spot."


(excerpted from his book, 'All You Need Is Ears.')

MARTIN 1979: "Everything had to be tailor-made for the picture ('Yellow Submarine' film). If a door opened or a funny face appeared at a window, and those moments needed to be pointed-up, it was the musical score that had to do the job.

"The answer is really very simple. You plan whatever tempo your rhythm is going to be, and then you lay down what is called a 'click track.' That is, a separate track which simply contains a click sound which appears every so many frames of film. You know that 35-mm film runs at 24 frames per second, so knowing what tempo you want, you simply ask the film editor to put on a click at whatever interval you want.

"Then while conducting the orchestra, you wear headphones through which you can hear the clicks, and by keeping to that particular beat you 'lock in' the orchestra to the film. In that way you can write your score knowing that, even if something happens a third of the way or halfway through a bar, you can safely put in whatever musical effect you want, with absolute certainty that it will match the picture... that is how I did it with 'Yellow Submarine.' I wrote very precisely even with avant-garde and weird sounds like 'Sea Of Holes,' keeping to their bar-lines, knowing that the click track would ensure it fitted.

"'Yellow Submarine' saw some pretty strange experiments, too. In one sequence, in the 'Sea Of Monsters,' the yellow submarine is wandering around and all kinds of weird little things are crawling along the sea floor, some with three legs. One monster is enormous, without arms but with two long legs with wellington boots on, and in place of a nose there is a kind of long trumpet. This is a sucking-up monster-- when it sees the other little monsters, it uses it's trumpet to suck them up. Eventually it sucks up the yellow submarine, and finally gets hold of the corner of the (movie) screen and sucks that up too, until it all goes white. I felt, naturally, that scene required special 'sucking-up' music-- the question was how to do it with an orchestra!

"Suddenly, I hit upon the obvious-- backwards music. Music played backwards sounds very odd anyway, and a trombone or cymbal played backwards sounds just like a sucking-in noise. So I scored about 45 seconds for the orchestra to play, in such a way that the music would fit the picture when we played it backwards. The engineer working at CTS at that time was a great character named Jack Clegg, and when I explained the idea to him he said, 'Lovely! Great idea! I'll get the film turned 'round, and you record the music to the backward film. Then, when we turn the film 'round the right way, your music will be backwards.' It sounded like something from a 'Goon' script.

"Once all the music had been recorded, we dubbed it onto the film, and even then there was more messing about. In some places we cut out the music because sound-effects worked better-- in others we eliminated sound-effects because what I had written sounded better. Yet, in spite of everything, that score proved enormously successful and earned me a load of fan mail."


- All You Need Is Ears- George Martin, 1979
- Beatles At The Movies- Roy Carr, 1996
- Beatles Book Monthly
- Beatles Recording Sessions- Mark Lewisohn, 1988
- Beatlesongs- William J. Dowlding, 1989
- Billboard Magazine/Harrison, 1999
- David Frost Interview/McCartney
- Final Testament: 'Unedited' Lennon/Playboy Interviews
- Let It Be- movie/sessions dialog
- Many Years From Now- Barry Miles, 1997
- Playboy Magazine/McCartney
- Press conferences and archived audio interviews
- Rolling Stone Magazine/Lennon
- The Beatles- Hunter Davies
- The Beatles In Their Own Words- Barry Miles 1978