Baby, You're a Rich Man
|"Baby, You're a Rich Man"|
US picture sleeve
|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. It was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and released as the B-side of the band's "All You Need Is Love" single in July 1967. 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 away from 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. In its lyrical themes, the song addresses the "beautiful people" of the 1960s hippie movement and partly echoes the utopian message of "All You Need Is Love". The lyrics have 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 the varied reviews of 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".
During the 1960s, "beautiful people" was the term adopted by Californian hippies to refer to themselves. It is thought that McCartney wrote his section of the song 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 Beatles recorded "Baby, You're a Rich Man" during a six-hour session held at Olympic Sound Studios in Barnes, south-west London, on 11 May 1967. 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 their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. 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) that same day. The music featured an unusual oboe-like sound reminiscent of an Indian shehnai, which was created with a clavioline (an early forerunner of the synthesizer being a three-octave monophonic keyboard). In addition, "spin-echo", an feed back delay effect, 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".
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' playing during the session for "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". Having enjoyed the experience of working at Olympic Sound, the Beatles returned to Barnes on 14 June to record the basic track for "All You Need Is Love".
During the session for "Baby, You're a Rich Man", 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.
"Baby, You're a Rich Man" was initially submitted for inclusion in the Beatles' upcoming animated film, 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.
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 self-styled centre of the counterculture's hippie movement. 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.
Later that year, contrary to the Beatles' wishes, "Baby You're a Rich Man" and other tracks from their 1967 singles were included on the US album Magical Mystery Tour, available in both mono and 'mock stereo' formats. While the song 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 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."
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, saying 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."
Remixes, further releases and cover versions
For a 1971 German release of the Magical Mystery Tour album, George Martin and recording engineer Geoff Emerick created the first true stereo mix of the song; unable to recreate the spin-echo effect that had been introduced at the mixing stage of the original recording, they simply omitted it. The stereo mix fades out approximately eight seconds earlier than the mono version. When standardising the Beatles' catalogue for world-wide CD release in 1987, the (1971 stereo) Magical Mystery Tour album was included with the otherwise British album line-up.
"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. PM Dawn used a sample of the Beatles recording in their song "The Beautiful" from the 1991 album Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience.
The Fat Boys perform "Baby, You're a Rich Man" in the 1987 film Disorderlies. Their version appeared as the opening track on the Disorderlies soundtrack album. 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 3]
- George Martin – producer
- Keith Grant – engineer
|US Billboard Hot 100||34|
|US Cash Box Top 100||60|
- 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.
- Jagger's name appears on a session tape box, possibly indicating that he provided backing vocals near the end of the song.
- Borack 2007, p. 3.
- DeRogatis 2003, p. 48.
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