Yellow Submarine (song)
US picture sleeve
|Single by the Beatles|
|from the album Revolver and Yellow Submarine|
|A-side||(double A-side) "Eleanor Rigby"|
|Released||5 August 1966|
|Recorded||26 May and 1 June 1966,|
EMI Studios, London
|The Beatles singles chronology|
"Yellow Submarine" is a 1966 song by the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney and John Lennon, with lead vocals by Ringo Starr. It was included on the Revolver (1966) album and issued as a single, coupled with "Eleanor Rigby". The single went to number one on every major British chart, remained at number one for four weeks, and charted for 13 weeks. It won an Ivor Novello Award "for the highest certified sales of any single issued in the UK in 1966". In the US, the song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became the most successful Beatles song to feature Starr as lead vocalist.
It became the title song of the animated United Artists film, also called Yellow Submarine (1968), and the soundtrack album to the film, released as part of the Beatles' music catalogue. An orchestral reprise to the song arranged by George Martin titled "Yellow Submarine in Pepperland" is featured at the end of the film and its soundtrack.
In a joint interview in March 1967, McCartney and Lennon recalled that the song's melody was created by combining two different songs they had been working on separately. Lennon noted that McCartney brought in the chorus ("the submarine... the chorus bit") which Lennon suggested combining with a melody for the verses that he'd already written. McCartney also noted: "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."
In 1980, Lennon talked further about the song: "'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." Donovan added the words, "Sky of blue and sea of green".
In 1994, McCartney discussed his inspiration for the song's concept: "I was laying in bed in the Ashers' garret ... 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, 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." The song began as being about different coloured submarines, but evolved to include only a yellow one.
Produced by George Martin and engineered by Geoff Emerick, "Yellow Submarine" was recorded in five takes on 26 May 1966, in Studio Two at Abbey Road Studios; special effects were added on 1 June. Martin drew on his experience as a producer of comedy records for Beyond the Fringe and The Goon Show, providing an array of zany sound effects to create the nautical atmosphere. On the second session the studio store cupboard was ransacked for special effects, which included chains, a ship's bell, tap dancing mats, whistles, hooters, waves, a tin bath filled with water, wind, and thunderstorm machines, as well as a cash register, which was the very same one later heard on Pink Floyd's song "Money" (1973). Lennon blew through a straw into a pan of water to create a bubbling effect; McCartney and Lennon talked through tin cans to create the sound of the captain's orders; at 1:38-40 in the song, Starr stepped outside the doors of the recording room and yelled like a sailor, acknowledging "Cut the cable! Drop the cable!", which was looped into the song afterwards; and Abbey Road employees John Skinner and Terry Condon twirled chains in a tin bath to create water sounds. After the line, "and the band begins to play", Emerick found a recording of a brass band and changed it slightly so it could not be identified, although it is thought to be a recording of Georges Krier and Charles Helmer's composition, "Le Rêve Passe" (1906). The original recording had a spoken intro by Starr, but the idea was abandoned on 3 June.
The "Yellow Submarine" single was the Beatles' 13th single release in the United Kingdom. It was released in the UK on 5 August 1966 as a 'double A side' with "Eleanor Rigby", and in the United States on 8 August. In both countries, the album Revolver (which also featured both songs) was released on the same day as the single. On July 6, 2018, a 7-inch vinyl picture disk was released to mark the 50th anniversary of the release of the film based on the song, although the reissue used the stereo remixes made for the Yellow Submarine Songtrack album released in 1999 for the film's theatrical re-release.
Reception and interpretations
The single went to number 1 on every major British chart, remained at number 1 for four weeks and charted for 13 weeks. It won an Ivor Novello Award for the highest certified sales of any single issued in the UK in 1966.
In the United States, the single reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 1 in Record World and in Cashbox. The single was released during the controversies about the "Butcher Cover" (the Yesterday and Today album cover) and Lennon's remarks about Christianity, which are cited as part of the reason the song failed to reach number 1 on all US charts. It sold 1,200,000 copies in four weeks and earned the Beatles their twenty-first US Gold Record award, beating the record set by Elvis Presley.
Although intended as a nonsense song for children, "Yellow Submarine" received various social and political interpretations at the time; music journalist Peter Doggett wrote that the "culturally empty" song "became a kind of Rorschach test for radical minds." The song's chorus was reappropriated by schoolchildren, sports fans, and striking workers in their own chants. At a Mobe protest in San Francisco, a yellow papier-mâché submarine made its way through the crowd, which Time magazine interpreted as a "symbol of the psychedelic set's desire for escape". A reviewer for the P.O. Frisco wrote in 1966, "the Yellow Submarine may suggest, in the context of the Beatles' anti-Vietnam War statement in Tokyo this year, that the society over which Old Glory floats is as isolated and morally irresponsible as a nuclear submarine." Writing for Esquire, Robert Christgau felt that the Beatles "want their meanings to be absorbed on an instinctual level" and wrote of the interpretations, "I can't believe that the Beatles indulge in the simplistic kind of symbolism that turns a yellow submarine into a Nembutal or a banana—it is just a yellow submarine, damn it, an obvious elaboration of John [Lennon]'s submarine fixation, first revealed in A Hard Day's Night."
- Ringo Starr – drums, lead vocals
- Paul McCartney – bass, backing vocals
- John Lennon – acoustic guitar, backing vocals, sound effects (bubbles)
- George Harrison – acoustic guitar, tambourine, backing vocals
- Mal Evans – bass drum, backing vocals
- George Martin – backing vocals, producer
- Geoff Emerick – backing vocals, tape loops, engineer
- Neil Aspinall – backing vocals
- Alf Bicknell – sound effects (rattling chains)
- Pattie Boyd – backing vocals
- Marianne Faithfull – backing vocals
- Brian Jones – backing vocals, sound effects (clinking glasses)
- Brian Epstein – backing vocals
Charts and certifications
A 51-foot (16 m)-long yellow submarine metal sculpture was built by apprentices from the Cammell Laird shipyard, and was used as part of Liverpool's International Garden Festival in 1984. In 2005, it was placed outside Liverpool's John Lennon Airport, where it remains.
There have been submarine sandwich shops called Yellow Submarine in various cities.
Yellow Submarine has entered popular usage as a sing-along children's song, such as in Fun Song Factory, when it was once combined with colourful props and actions, and on Sesame Street, where a group of Anything Muppets sang the song inside a yellow submarine (resembling the one from the animated movie).
It was included on "Beatle Country", an album by Boston bluegrass group The Charles River Valley Boys, who pronounced "yellow" as "yeller".
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