Baby, You're a Rich Man
|"Baby, You're a Rich Man"|
US picture sleeve (reverse)
|Single by the Beatles|
|A-side||"All You Need Is Love"|
|Released||7 July 1967|
|Recorded||11 May 1967
Olympic Sound Studios, London
|Genre||Psychedelic pop, psychedelic rock|
|The Beatles singles chronology|
"Baby, You're a Rich Man" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles that was released in July 1967 as the B-side of their "All You Need Is Love" single. It originated from an unfinished song by John Lennon, titled "One of the Beautiful People", to which Paul McCartney added a chorus. The song was recorded and mixed at Olympic Sound Studios in London, making it the first of the Beatles' EMI recordings to be entirely created outside EMI Studios. The track features a monophonic keyboard instrument known as a clavioline, which Lennon played on its oboe setting, creating a sound that suggests an Indian shehnai. The lyrics address the "beautiful people" of the 1960s hippie movement and partly echo the utopian message of "All You Need Is Love". The song has also invited interpretation as a message to the Beatles' manager, Brian Epstein.
"Baby, You're a Rich Man" peaked at number 34 on America's Billboard Hot 100 chart. A month after its release, George Harrison performed the song during his visit to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, during the height of the Summer of Love. The track also appeared on the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour album and in a sequence in their 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine. Although the song was not included on the soundtrack album for the latter film, a new mix of the track appeared on the expanded 1999 release, Yellow Submarine Songtrack.
Among reviewers' varied comments on the song, Billboard admired it as "an Eastern-flavored rocker with an infectious beat and an intricate lyric", while Pitchfork Media has dismissed it as "a second-rate take on John Lennon's money-isn't-everything theme". In 2010, Rolling Stone ranked "Baby, You're a Rich Man" at number 68 on its list of the "100 Greatest Beatles Songs".
"Baby, You're a Rich Man" was the result of combining two unfinished songs written by Lennon and McCartney, in a similar fashion to "A Day in the Life" and "I've Got a Feeling". The working title, based on Lennon's verses, was "One of the Beautiful People", to which McCartney added the "Baby, you're a rich man" chorus. In a 1980 interview, Lennon described it as "two separate pieces ... put together and forced into one song". The two songwriters worked on the composition at McCartney's London home, on Cavendish Avenue in St John's Wood.
During the 1960s, "beautiful people" was the term adopted by Californian hippies to refer to themselves. According to author Barry Miles, who was among the leading figures in the UK underground in 1967, Lennon drew inspiration for the song from newspaper articles on the emerging hippie phenomenon. It is thought that McCartney wrote his section about the band's manager, Brian Epstein. Lennon's lyrics are in the form of a question-and-answer exchange, similar to that used by him and McCartney in "With a Little Help from My Friends". Musicologist Walter Everett writes that the song "asks an unnamed Brian Epstein what it's like to be one of the 'beautiful people'"; Everett adds: "This appellation was used of both communal hippies and those who mingle with the most celebrated entertainers." Another interpretation is that the "Beautiful People" verses were meant as a "tip of the hat" to Epstein for finally taking the psychedelic drug LSD. Lennon claimed, however, that the meaning of the song was that everybody is a rich man, saying, "The point was stop moaning. You're a rich man and we're all rich men ..." George Harrison said that the message of the song was that all individuals are wealthy within themselves, regardless of material concerns.[nb 1] According to author and critic Ian MacDonald, Lennon was most likely inspired to write the verses after attending the first recognised coming together of Britain's "beautiful people" – an all-night festival known as the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream, held at Alexandra Palace in north London on 29 April 1967.
The song opens in what appears to be the key of G in Mixolydian mode, a G chord moving to ♭VII/I (Fadd9/G) on "now that you know who you are", all over a G pedal (sustained harmonic tone). Soon, however, the song moves to the key of C major and becomes reminiscent of "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" with its use of non-Western sounding gamak melodies on the clavioline. Musicologist Alan Pollack considers a notable feature in the chorus to be the bass move from C to G via a ♭III (B♭).
The recording of "Baby, You're a Rich Man" took place during a period when, free of deadlines following the completion of their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in April 1967, the Beatles worked on songs for the United Artists animated film Yellow Submarine and for what became the band's television film Magical Mystery Tour. They recorded "Baby, You're a Rich Man" in a six-hour session, starting at 9 pm on 11 May, at Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes, south-west London. The session marked a rare example of the Beatles recording outside of EMI's facility at Abbey Road, after the band had briefly used Regent Sound in central London during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper. The engineers assisting George Martin, the Beatles' producer, were Olympic manager Keith Grant and Eddie Kramer. Mick Jagger, whose band the Rolling Stones regularly used the same studio, also attended the session.
The song was mixed, in mono only, that same day. The music features an unusual oboe-like sound reminiscent of an Indian shehnai, which was created with a clavioline, an early, three-octave forerunner of the synthesizer. Being a monophonic keyboard, it was only capable of sounding one note at a time; according to music journalist Gordon Reid, citing a report from the session, Lennon created the trill sound "by rolling an orange up and down the keyboard" of the clavioline. A feed back delay effect known as spin-echo was used to fill from the end of one line of the verse to the start of the next. In its doubling of the vocal line, Harrison's lead guitar part mirrors the role of a sarangi in an Indian khyal vocal piece, an effect that Harrison first used on Lennon's song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds". In his feature article on the clavioline for Sound on Sound magazine, Reid pairs "Baby, You're a Rich Man" with the Tornados' 1962 hit "Telstar" as the two seminal pop recordings made with the instrument.
Following the completion of Sgt. Pepper in late April 1967, the Beatles' recording sessions for the remainder of that year have been dismissed as uninspired by the majority of commentators.[nb 2] Kramer contests this view, however; he says of the Beatles' collaboration on "Baby, You're a Rich Man": "The energy level was so intense … that you were riding wave upon wave of amazing creativity. It was like watching a well-oiled machine. Just incredible." According to another Olympic staff engineer, Grant and Kramer were highly complimentary of Lennon as a vocalist and "couldn't believe anyone could sing that well". Aside from the clavioline part, overdubs on the track included maracas and tambourine, and vibraphone played by Kramer. McCartney recalled the six-hour session as an energetic one and "rather exciting", adding: "Keith Grant mixed it, instantly, right there. He stood up at the console as he mixed it, so it was a very exciting mix, we were really quite buzzed."[nb 3]
During the session, Lennon changed a line in the chorus to "Baby, you're a rich fag jew". According to author Bob Spitz, this was either a joke at the expense of Epstein or a provocation in reaction to the band's former moptop image. Spitz writes that the session tapes also reveal Lennon improvising similarly "wicked" remarks about McCartney, Ringo Starr and Jagger. Partly as a result of these disruptions, the Beatles required twelve takes before they achieved a satisfactory rhythm track. Having enjoyed working at Olympic Sound, the group returned to Barnes on 14 June to record the basic track for "All You Need Is Love".[nb 4]
"Baby, You're a Rich Man" was initially submitted for inclusion in Yellow Submarine. While the song was used in the film, its initial release was as the B-side of "All You Need Is Love", which the Beatles performed on the Our World satellite broadcast on 25 June 1967 and then rush-released as a single. The release took place on 7 July in the United Kingdom and on 17 July in the United States. "All You Need Is Love" topped singles charts in many countries around the world. In the United States, the B-side also charted in its own right, peaking at number 34 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 60 on the Cash Box Top 100.
Further to Sgt. Pepper, which was issued in June 1967, the single provided a soundtrack to that year's Summer of Love. On 7 August, Harrison and a small entourage visited the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco to experience the atmosphere in the centre of the counterculture's hippie movement, as "the city of the beautiful people". When handed an acoustic guitar in Golden Gate Park, Harrison briefly performed "Baby, You're a Rich Man", leading a crowd around in a manner that press reports likened to the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Although the visit was viewed as the Beatles' endorsement of a youth movement that they had helped to inspire, Harrison was disappointed at how Haight-Ashbury represented a haven for dropouts and drug addicts, rather than a community looking to explore the possibility of enlightenment that LSD presented. On his return to London, he shared this disillusionment with Lennon, after which the pair became spokesmen for Transcendental Meditation and the Beatles publicly disavowed LSD.
Contrary to the Beatles' wishes, Capitol Records, EMI's North American affiliate, included "Baby You're a Rich Man" and other tracks from the band's 1967 singles on the US album Magical Mystery Tour, released in November that year.[nb 5] In the company's rush to prepare the album, a duophonic (or "mock stereo") mix of the song was used for the stereo version of the LP. While the song was featured in the 1968 film Yellow Submarine, it was not included on the accompanying soundtrack album. The sequence for "Baby, You're a Rich Man" appears towards the end of the film, when Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band have been released from the paralysis initiated by the Blue Meanies' hatred of music. Later editions of the US single include a voice saying "Seven" or "Eleven" before the song starts.
Writing in the NME in July 1967, Derek Johnson recognised the song's "modern" qualities, relative to the sing-along style of the A-side. He highlighted Lennon's falsetto singing, the recording's "Oriental instrumentation and … unusual shuffle beat, emphasised by handclaps", and concluded: "The whole effect is startling and packed with interest from the word go." Billboard's reviewer described it as "an Eastern-flavored rocker with an infectious beat and an intricate lyric". In one of the first cultural essays to acknowledge the Beatles' impact on American culture in a meaningful way, for the journal Partisan Review, Richard Poirier cited both sides of the single as a "particularly brilliant example" of how contemporary British rock bands had "restor[ed] to good standing ... the simplicities that have frightened us into irony and the search for irony". He described the musical backing on "Baby, You're a Rich Man" as "bursts of sitar music and the clip-clopping of Indian song", which combined to "operate in the manner of classical allusion in Pope", and he admired the lyrics' satirical quality as superior to Lennon's Lear-inspired poetry writing.[nb 6]
In his assessment of the track, Ian MacDonald welcomes the use of clavioline, saying that the instrument evokes "a beguiling joss-stick exoticism", and he praises Starr's drumming as the equal of his performance on the song "Rain". MacDonald bemoans the lack of focus evident in this and other Beatles recordings from the immediate post-Sgt. Pepper period, however; he says that, while "Baby, You're a Rich Man" demonstrates the band's command of musical "feel" and "black-white acid-dance fusion" a year ahead of the Rolling Stones, McCartney's choruses are weak and, overall, the song is devoid of any "well-crafted music".
Writing for Mojo in 2003, Martin O'Gorman paired "Baby, You're a Rich Man" with Harrison "It's All Too Much" as two of the Beatles' "most sonically intriguing, but unfocused tracks". In a 2009 review of Magical Mystery Tour, Scott Plagenhoef of Pitchfork Media dismissed the song as "a second-rate take on John Lennon's money-isn't-everything theme from the considerably stronger 'And Your Bird Can Sing'". He added that it was "the one lesser moment on an otherwise massively rewarding compilation". Dan Caffrey of Consequence of Sound writes that, while it lacks the wholly universal scope of other songs by the band, "it's a nice little Lennon morality ditty on the perils of materialism with some innovative work with the clavioline from Lennon." Music critic Jim DeRogatis considers the track to be one of the Beatles' best psychedelic rock songs and an effective comment on Britain's first major countercultural happening. In 2010, "Baby, You're a Rich Man" was ranked at number 68 in Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs. The magazine's editors wrote: "Lennon's deeply stoned delivery and abstract questions about 'the beautiful people' captured the playfully spaced-out mood of the summer of 1967 – a spirit the Beatles were more tapped into than anyone."
Remixes, further releases and cover versions
George Martin and recording engineer Geoff Emerick created the first true stereo mix of the song when preparing a 1971 German release of the Magical Mystery Tour album. Unable to recreate the spin-echo effect that had been introduced at the mixing stage of the original recording, they simply omitted it. The mix was completed on 22 October 1971. It was first made available in Britain in December 1981, when "Baby, You're a Rich Man" was included on a bonus EP containing previously unissued stereo mixes in the box set The Beatles EP Collection.
"Baby, You're a Rich Man" was mixed in stereo for a second time for the 1999 DVD release of the Yellow Submarine film and the accompanying Yellow Submarine Songtrack album. Portions of Lennon's clavioline part appear in the Love version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds", released in 2006. In 2009, remastered stereo (per 1971) and mono (per 1967) Magical Mystery Tour album CDs were released. The song plays at the end of The Social Network, a 2010 film directed by David Fincher about the rise of Facebook.
American rappers the Fat Boys performed "Baby, You're a Rich Man" in the 1987 comedy film Disorderlies. Their version appeared as the opening track on the Disorderlies soundtrack album. In the song "The Beautiful" from their 1991 album Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience, hip-hop duo P.M. Dawn incorporated the "How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?" lyric and, having been denied permission to sample the Beatles' recording, replicated part of the music from "Baby, You're a Rich Man". A cover version by Company of Strangers appeared on the band's self-titled 1992 album and peaked at number 118 in Australia when issued as a single. The song has also been covered by Kula Shaker, the Presidents of the United States of America and Umphrey's McGee.
- John Lennon – double-tracked lead vocal, piano, clavioline
- Paul McCartney – backing vocals, bass, piano
- George Harrison – backing vocals, lead guitar, handclaps
- Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas, handclaps
- Eddie Kramer – vibraphone
- Mick Jagger – backing vocals[nb 7]
- George Martin – producer
- Keith Grant – engineer
- Speaking about the song in 1987, Harrison said that, given the Beatles' influence during the 1960s, "the idea was to show that we, being rich and famous and having all these experiences, had realized that there was a greater thing to be got out of life – and what's the point of having that on your own? You want all your friends and everyone else to do it, too."
- According to the group's recording historian, Mark Lewisohn, their efforts "display a startling lack of cohesion and enthusiasm", while MacDonald cites the band members' drug intake and over-reliance on random events for inspiration.
- Grant's time-conscious approach as the recording engineer contributed to the efficiency of the session. He told Lewisohn in 1987, "I'm a terrible pusher on sessions", and recalled the Beatles telling him that they usually worked at a "much more leisurely pace".
- As a further example of the closeness between the Rolling Stones, particularly Jagger, and the Beatles at this time, Jagger, Keith Richards and Marianne Faithfull were among the crowd of friends who sang on "All You Need Is Love". Lennon and McCartney also contributed vocals to the Stones' single "We Love You", which was recorded at Olympic in mid June 1967.
- In Britain and other markets, Magical Mystery Tour was originally a double EP release, consisting only of the songs from the television film. Because of the difficulty in marketing EPs in the US, Capitol expanded the content to form an LP, with the non-album singles tracks filling side two.
- According to author Jonathan Bellman, Poirier's comments also had an adverse effect on the public's perception of Transcendental Meditation, which became inadvertently linked with rock music, the sitar and LSD. Poirier said that whereas the Beatles' "sitar music" on Sgt. Pepper had represented India in the form of the Bhagavad Gita, on "Baby, You're a Rich Man" it evoked "another India, of fabulous riches, the India of the British and their Maharajahs, a place for exotic travel, but also for josh sticks and the otherworldliness of 'the trip'".
- Jagger's name appears on a session tape box, possibly indicating that he provided backing vocals near the end of the song.
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