Monday, 16 January 2017

The Beatles "Yellow Submarine" (1969)




The Beatles "Yellow Submarine" (1969)

Yellow Submarine/Only A Northern Song/All Together Now/Hey Bulldog/It's All Too Much/All You Need Is Love

Non-Beatles Soundtrack Score: Pepperland/Sea Of Time/Sea Of Holes/Sea Of Monsters/March Of The Meanies/Pepperland Laid Waste/Yellow Submarine In Pepperland

"Too-yah-much!"

"Pro quid pro quo, so much to learn, so little to know!"

"This is Alan's Album Archives but that is what the website is called so that is no big thing, except that it is our name and it's our turn to write the review of 'Yellow Submarine'. Of course it goes without saying that not only have we nothing new to say about The Beatles whom we adore too much to apply any critical reasoning and by whom we've spent far too much money on to feel completely free, also we couldn't be bothered, so here instead is a repeat of our review for 'The White Album'...no only kidding, 7000 odd words on 'Yellow Submarine' it is!'

One of the many unsung skills that enabled The Beatles to be the true and utter pinnacle of their generation is their belief that they should always offer value to money to their consumers. That thought seems to have gone by the by after such oddities as the 'Love' remix album, the pricey 'Anthology' sets and the fact that the 'Red' compilation album retails at the price of a double disc set despite lasting barely over an hour. But at the time it was one of the many things that made The Beatles special: Why make fans fork out to buy singles they'd already bought on albums all over again? Why release an album with ten tracks quickly if you can take your time making one with fourteen? Why release compilation albums with nothing new when you have rarities sitting in the vaults? The Beatles never forgot that they were music fans long before they were musicians and their own annoyance at having to fork out money several times over for the same product. Except in this one case, 'Yellow Submarine', a curious album which repeats two whole songs from years past, throws in a second side of George Martin strings, has the most oddball sleevenote like the one we've parodied above (which really did feature an entire review of 'The White Album' from 'The London Observer' on the back sleeve) and no pictures of the 'real' fab four at all, just the cartoon version. At times this record doesn't seem as if it has the Beatles hallmark of quality on it at all, existing on the periphery of Beatle-dom alongside 'The Hollywood Bowl' (even with the recent re-issue),  the 'Past Masters' and 'Anthology' sets and so on. Released six weeks after 'The White Album' (and in January when most fans couldn't afford to buy it having already forked out for a double record set!) 'Yellow Submarine' was the poorest seller of 'new' music in the Beatles' catalogue, often overlooked and dismissed, usually by blue meanie reviewers.

However, while no one would ever make the claim that 'Yellow Submarine's 1967 and 1968 outtakes are 'peak Beatles', they do still prove that even when not trying the fab four had a certain magic aura about them, even when they were in cartoon form releasing songs they'd already passed over for two, sometimes three projects. Like the film, The Beatles didn't have much say in the soundtrack album. Getting a deal to make the band's third movie a cartoon was one of the last things Brian Epstein agreed to before his death in November 1967 and one other band trait was that The Beatles never pulled out of a contract once signed, even the ones that occasionally made them look stupid (like the packets of chewing gum and playing cards made out of knickers, as Lennon once put it). The Beatles shuddered when they heard it was being organised by Al Bromax's company (the same creative team behind 'The Beatles Cartoons' which came to an end in 1966 - just in time to make 'Tomorrow Never Knows' the soundtrack of the last episode!) and decided to take no creative interest in the project whatsoever. Heck, they weren't even going to provide any new songs for it, though they were contracted to provide something, passing over four songs for the album instead that had been gathering dust since sessions for 'Sgt Peppers' and 'Magical Mystery Tour'. Eventually they were coerced into making an appearance somewhere and turned up at the end in live action, right near the end of animating, suddenly realising too late that actually 'Yellow Submarine' was a very hip and exciting project they were proud to be associated with. The voices were by this time all synchronised up and the plot finished - which was a shame as Lennon for one was suddenly eager to add his voice to the soundtrack. The Beatles felt rather bad about only letting the studio use oldies or outtakes too, but it was too late - there was no time to animate anything else.

Sensing that actually the project might be a hit after all, The Beatles reluctantly agreed to a soundtrack. However, in keeping with the state of the band at the time, they couldn't agree what form it should take. Not yet wanting to rip fans off, for a time this record was only meant to be an EP, possibly a 'double' one like 'Magical Mystery Tour' with a fifth outtake ('Across The Universe' taped at the end of 1967) as an extra 'bonus' track. However EMI - who hadn't yet heard about 'The White Album' in the works, be careful what you wish for EMI... - requested a full LP and for a time this was a 'greatest hits with some rarities' project featuring more of the songs heard on the film soundtrack (very much the way the more palatable 1990s version 'Yellow Submarine Songtrack' CD turned out). The Beatles weren't keen (they'd already disliked the 'Oldies But Mouldies' compilation they'd been forced to release in lieu of a 1966 Christmas album). Then someone pointed out that it would be a shame if people didn't get to take George Martin's score home and, hey, their producer (still on staff wages - generous wages for the time but still nothing compared to the Beatles themselves) would get extra royalties. So in a very 1969 Beatley mixture of generosity, pride and to-hell-with-it arguing, 'Yellow Submarine' ended up being a whole album - or half a 'whole' anyway - without the time to fix it before The Beatles' minds started wandering.

Though it was only really a bit of contract filler 'Yellow Submarine' ended up working rather well as a finale to the psychedelic era as masterminded by the most naturally psychedelic band on the planet (Lennon: 'People call this something 'new' but I was always psychedelic, in my teens I was psychedelic' etc etc) . It's a shame the record didn't come out six weeks before the roots/Revolution rock of 'The White Album' where it might have made more sense. After all, it's the most psychedelic music The Beatles ever made: George's 'Only A Northern Song', for months George's contribution to 'Sgt Peppers' which no one from its author down liked much, would have been the trippiest album song outside 'Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds',  built on a swirling organ while Paul McCartney reviving his teenage passion for the trumpet if not his skill and big fat drum sounds that seems like another LSD trip caught in song; 'All Together Now', Paul's attempt at writing a 'simple universal song' for the 'Our World' broadcast (and which was soundly trounced by John's 'All You Need Is Love') is as childish and scarily playful as any song by Syd Barratt; John's acerbic 'Hey Bulldog' (the 'newest' song here, taped the day the band were shooting a promo video for 'Lady Madonna') tries hard to bark its way out of fantasy with the bite of reality but never quite shakes off the echo and air of surrealism that makes it the Picasso painting of Beatles numbers, being along with 'I Dig A Pony' The Beatles' last truly psychedelic song (some say 'Revolution 9' but they're 'wrong' - it's realism in black and white, not fantasy in technicolour); finally 'It's All Too Much' takes a trip much further out into the ether than The Beatles had ever dared go before - this attempt to copy the San Franciscan groups of the day and stretch a track past breaking point would have found a natural home on 'Magical Mystery Tour' and is as out-there as The Beatles ever dared go. Throw in another then-outtake sitting in the vaults from late 1967 ('You Know My Name Look Up The Number' - 'I'd like to see them animate their way out of this!' you can imagine Lennon chortling; the poor animators had quite a stretch with 'Hey Bulldog' as it was, a scene cut from most early prints of the film but back intact on DVD) and you'd have had easily The Beatles' weirdest album. Somehow tacking the previously released and over-played 'Yellow Submarine' and 'All You Need Is Love' makes it all palatable though: as 'It's All Too Much' puts it, this is an album that can show you everywhere - and then get you home in time for tea.

Even so, what many reviewers miss is what a dangerous, subversive little album - and film - this is considering that its target audience were mainly children, albeit clued-up Beatle-fan children whose eyes and ears were already more open than most previous generations. 'Only A Northern Song' is a wicked pastiche of Beatles from a grumpy composer fed up at getting less royalties than John and Paul despite being part of the same publishing group. It's tale of things going wrong and going weird is straight out of the scarier end of the fairytale spectrum. 'All Together Now' sounds oddly creepy for a children's song, the out-of-tune blur of the opening chord settling into position another sign that things aren't quite...right (also, 'Chop the tree' is an oddly blunt and aggressive metaphor given the many John and Paul could have chosen to illustrate their point). 'Hey Bulldog' is Lennon building on 'I Am The Walrus' and suddenly rediscovering his hard-edged cynical side after two years of losing it to LSD and it's the start of a whole new Yoko-inspired songs that see Lennon 'free' to become himself (while simultaneously chasing free -association words that are less autobiographical than most of his songs to come). Lennon hasn't screamed since 'Leave My Kitten Alone' and 'Bad Boy', so his double-tracked freak-out at the end alongside Paul is scary indeed much more than it is playful. Equally 'It's All Too Much' sounds big and relentless (especially the unedited take that runs another two minutes longer, so closer to nine in all - by far the longest Beatles recording though in edited form 'Revolution 9' just pips it), no little Magical Mystery Day-tour but an endless universe that will take many life-times to get to know. In other words, this is no longer the playful psychedelia of 1966 into 1967 but the darker edge of 1967 into 1968 when the world is drifting into chaos and no one can stop it but everyone is still tripping and trying to escape it. Again, this album would have made a lot more sense before 'The White Album', not after it, as it's a stepping stone between the good-willed anarchy of 'Peppers' and 'Revolution' et sequence.

As for George Martin's score, that's oddly and uncharacteristically quite scary too at times - especially without the film to watch alongside it or refer to. You'll be in the middle of a tune that suddenly disappears down a hole without warning (literally, in the film) or suddenly some big green monster is laughing at us with strings, unseen in our mind's eye (at least until you know the film really well). The producer wrote the soundtrack as quickly as The Beatles made most of their albums and at times it shows, recycling bits here and there and letting melodies come and go rather than making the most of them (I cite this side as an example of why George Martin needed The Beatles actually more than they needed him, along with the 'America' Beatle sound-alike albums he worked on). However by and large Martin manages to make his score just about 'Beatley' enough. Not just by re-casting the title track as a renaissance number akin to Haydn (with George building on his early cash-in album of classical fan four numbers 'Off The Beatle Track') but by being as simultaneously grand and serious and yet mischievous and carefree as the parent band - this is why George was the perfect Beatles producer, not his technical know-how or genius for problem-solving as some books have it. You can tell that George cares passionately and deeply about the score, but he isn't above laughing at himself and the absurdity of the work, with the rug pulled from under his feet every time he risks getting too 'pompous'. The eerie 'Sea Of Holes' works best (it's the least like other film scores, with the same epic imagination as period Beatles), 'Sea Of Monsters'  and 'Pepperland Laid Waste' the worst (your average blockbuster film score, albeit played on xylophones!) The score is perhaps not quite as flashy and technicolour as the film itself and not the way another outside composer might have made it feel, with George clearly closer to Earth than Pepperland. However for a composer who'd never really done a film score before (bar working with Macca on 'The Family Way' soundtrack in 1966) the score works rather well as a 'whole', well half-a-whole anyway (hey, you can't make that joke too many times!)

There isn't a 'true' theme in this album, given that these songs are all outtakes (they don't even follow the 'plot', given that none of these four pieces were written to one). If there's a theme in these projects, though, then it's 'in-jokes'. By 1968 (when this album was being put together) the world loved thinking about and studying The Beatles more than they did simply listening to them passively. The 'Paul Is Dead' rumour is about to fly and Lennon is already gleefully spoofing the whole movement with his White Album song 'Glass Onion' ('make sense out of that lot!' he's said to have gleefully said to no one in particular). Sadly 'The White Album' will be used for the wrong-ends here, with Charles Manson picking up 'clues' about murder and mayhem that the band would have been horrified to hear - this aspect ends up dying out in the last year of The Beatles' existence, perhaps for this reason, but 'Yellow Submarine' is it's high water-mark. The animators picked up on this Beatle trademark: The Blue Meanies (modelled on Bromax himself by his staff - he's said to be flattered!) are wonderful creations who deserve their own theme song; The non-talking Apple-Bonkers are a hilarious in-joke about the executives at The Beatles' Apple label who kept culling funds from the project without meeting anyone working on the project, while the wonderful character of Jeremy Boob, the Nowhere Man, is every fan who ever rang the Apple office reception with a thesis about what The Beatles meant to the world at large, even when the band themselves meant nothing of the sort (it goes without saying he's my favourite character from any Beatles film and I'd hire him for this website this instant if I only could). The album too features lots of 'injokes' : 'All Together Now' slyly gets the line 'Can I take my friend to bed?' past the censors, even though it was never likely to be played on the radio; 'It's All Too Much' opens with Lennon's garbled compacted version of the title before the song gets stretched out to oblivion, as if it's not 'travelling' to us at normal speeds and playing with time; 'Hey Bulldog' features a lyric largely re-written by accident (Paul couldn't read John's handwriting but Lennon loved the randomness to keep Paul's mis-hearings in!), while 'Only A Northern Song' is one long lengthy in-joke, laughing at everything from the band's publishing company to the way pop stars acted in the 1960s to people ordering George about, while he uproariously seeks to make the least Beatle-like backing ev-uh!

The end result is, a little like 'Yellow Submarine' as a film, not as essential as other Beatles products, a little too self-aware and lacking the discipline of the other albums (even 'Please Please Me' - given the way it was recorded, perhaps especially 'Please Please Me'). The Beatles remain detached, the whole thing gets weird quickly and in many ways the score is the 'cartoon' entry in a Beatles canon generally composed of big encompassing books. However to ignore it's place in The Beatles' story is to miss the charm and fun and excitement. 'Hey Bulldog' especially is much too good to be thrown away here - you can hear, in the many outtakes that exist of the backing track, just how much this song means to Lennon for all it's supposed gibberish as he turns the knife on himself for the first time in song, while also pleading that he needs to talk to somebody, even if he can only talk to himself. 'Only A Northern Song' isn't up to its 'Peppers' replacement 'Within You Without You' (this is a minor comedy song - that one was a major sermon) but I'd take it over the similar minor comedy 'When I'm 64' any-day with it's sourpuss lyrics that are actually George laughing at himself while sounding more serious than ever, the dual sides of his piscean nature heard like never before in his Beatle works (there are lots more examples in his solo stuff!) The Beatles needed to do one big freak-out song just to prove they could: the fact it arrived late when this sort of thing was going out of fashion and that George recycles Beatle rivals The Merseybeats' song 'Sorrow' in the mixture from an entirely different age that's being left behind notwithstanding ('With your long blonde hurr and yer eyes of blue!'), I still can't get enough of 'It's All Too Much' which works even better (weirder?) in its original uncut state. Only Paul is caught napping, with 'All Together Now' arguably his weakest song across the whole of The Beatles run (though 'Rocky Raccoon' cuts it close), but even that song - a reject that was meant to be abandoned - is popular enough to have found a new home at football matches as The Beatles' simplest (and easiest to sing!) composition.

In other words, you don't need this album as much as some of the others - and yet you somehow do. It's a sort of early version of 'Anthology', mopping up outtakes back in the days when music of this sort was so new there wasn't a need for 'rarities' sets, yet somehow The Beatles invented that too. You could argue that there were better outtakes that should perhaps have been here as well. 'Leave My Kitten Alone' would have sounded great twinned with 'Hey Bulldog' as a cat-and-dog one-two and '12 Bar Blues' would have made a great film score (especially during the opening Liverpudlian sequences, though 'Eleanor Rigby' is the best placed of all the old songs in the score - that whole sequence, opening up into 3D using what looks like the houses on the outskirts between Liverpool and Runcorn I passed on the train every day for four years where it looks far more one-dimensional than the real thing, is easily the best in the film and proves how hard people involved in this project are trying even when they didn't need to be!) However The Beatles were never fussed about yesteryear and probably couldn't remember writing songs two years old or more. In fact it's a wonder they still remembered 'Peppers' by the time this album was discussed around 'Magical Mystery Tour' time, at such a fast rate did The Beatles move back then. 'Yellow Submarine' is a rare example of the band looking back to see where they'd been and enjoying the unity of group freak-out sessions and 'All Together Now' before moving on to the eclecticism and splintering of 'The White Album'. While you can see why all four new tracks weren't released, actually they've lasted the test of time (and the sea of production and societal holes?) in better nick than the hit singles at the beginning and end, both of which sound far more dated today. All these songs needed for release was a little bit of psychedelic seasoning away from their parent LPs: some 'pepper(land)' in fact!

Wrapped around a 'Yellow Submarine Sandwich' are two songs we've already covered in our book/website - see http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-6-beatles-revolver-1966.html  for a review of 'Yellow Submarine' the song (although it's worth pondering here - due to a slightly longer running time this is the only Beatles album where Ringo gets more to sing than Paul!)

Next up is 'Only A Northern Song', the song I often use to test any new hi-fi equipment (the weirder the result, the better the equipment!) Which is odd because this is actually George Harrison in grumpy 'Taxman' mode again, complaining that no one is listening to anything he writes or cares about his contributions to the Lennon-McCartney publishing company 'Northern Songs'. Very much feeling like a 'number two driver', George then takes his grumpy lyrics and musically goes in the other extreme - the fact that nobody is listening to him also means freedom, not entrapment and he can get away with anything! So he does, with a backing track slathered with echo, Paul McCartney picking up a trumpet for the first time in over a decade and clearly having forgotten how to play, lots of Lennon mumblings and disconnected singing going on buried right at the bottom of the mix and a xylophone that sounds as if it's in the middle of a grade nine earthquake. It's all completely outrageous: which is precisely the point. Throughout the lyrics George tells us not to worry, in scenes reminiscent of someone going on their first drug trip where everything is a little unusual: the chords, the 'time of day', George's clothes and hair-colour - none of it 'matters', at base level because who the hell listens to George's songs anyway (or so the Beatle fumes) but at another level because life is all an illusion and none of it is 'real'. In a way this song is closer to its 'Peppers' replacement than people generally claim, given that both are disputing about what it means to be alive in a world when your head has worked out the power of illusion and is already thinking about the next one, but like the school-kid on the back row George's initial re-action to the Indian texts he's been consuming is to laugh at the idea - and himself. Though often painful to listen to (Macca's trumpet really does take some getting used to!) and featuring George's usual period one-note drone of a melody rather than the tender rise-and-fall of 'Something' or 'Here Comes The Sun' (George is still clearly thinking in terms of sitars first and foremost), there's a certain casual brilliance about 'Only A Northern Song' that makes it more than just a sourpuss joke. John and Paul were said to have hated it, which is why the track got booted off 'Peppers' being perhaps defensive of where George's barbs were being aimed (and you can tell neither is taking this song seriously, whereas George only has half his tongue in his cheek), but it would have made a fair addition to the Beatles' biggest 1967 work, especially if it was used alongside the 'comedy' McCartney songs 'Lovely Rita' and 'When I'm 64'.

'All Together Now' is another joke that gets a little out of hand. Ever competitive, John and Paul loved the thought of getting one up over the other when they were asked to provide a song for the 'Our World' broadcast around the world. Their responses say much about the different authors: both sings about unity and go for the 'simple' slogan, but you have to say John really beat Paul this time round with 'All You Need Is Love' (scoring his first outright Beatles 'A' side since 'Ticket To Ride' in the process), which manages to be simple yet profound. 'All Together Now' just manages to be irritating. It would have made a fair B-side though as the pair go well together, with 'love' here more about pulling together and being at one with each other than Lennon's multi-meaning take on 'love'. While Lennon's song is also vaguely adult, McCartney has written the most childish song in is catalogue (from the days before he has children of his own anyway), clearly imagining the broadcast as a chance for a pub singalong with children in tow like his own family get-togethers rather than the sermon Lennon had in mind. Featuring verses that count up to ten, go from A to D and throw in a whole range of colours seemingly at random, this is a song made for the nursery - like many a psychedelic song. The idea was, back when drugs were new and weren't thought to do you harm if you were careful, that taking them allowed you to go back to your childhood - or at least the part of your childhood when everything was 'new' and experienced with awe for the first time, instead of the 10,000 days on when all adults become jaded, even those as young as The Beatles (Paul is all of 26 remember). That's why Syd Barratt equates psychedelia to childhood pets and bikes (bicycles turn up on a lot of psychedelic songs, being a child's earliest 'trip' away from home in many cases), why Jefferson Airplane and John Lennon both  turned 'Alice In Wonderland' into songs and why The Moody Blues wrote a two-part suite entitled 'Eyes Of A Child'. McCartney is too grown-up to fully wallow in childhood nostalgia the way that his comrades do though (and 'Penny Lane' is similarly more about other people than 'Strawberry Fields' takes Lennon back to his own past) and the result is a little too jovial, with the adult 'can I take my friend to bed?' the sound of a man whose only pretending to be young again and wouldn't really want to go back in time. The chorus is particularly clumsy, repeated over and over without anything new really to say, while only Lennon's acerbic middle eight catches the ear with its toddler tantrum ('Skip the rope, look at me!') Most children hate this song, much more than adults, because it seems to be laughing at them and their world, not with them - by contrast most grasp 'Eleanor Rigby' and other grown-up sons very early on, while only adults (and football fans) profess to like this piece.

Lennon's 'Hey Bulldog' swipes away all that artificialness with a song that seems equally gibberish when studied but 'feels' a little deeper. John is by now really growing into his role as Yoko's 'partner' in all meanings of the word. In one way she's encouraged him to speak his mind and speak up, something he hadn't dare do since the world got the wrong end of the stick about the 'Bigger Than Jesus' debacle (which wasn't what he meant at all). She's also encouraged him to be 'himself', to reveal his doubts, guilts and fears in song for the first time in ages, making this pained song the 'reallest' Lennon had written since 'She Said She Said' ('Lucy' and 'Mr Kite' are pretty paintings, while 'A Day In The Life' has Lennon passive; even 'Good Morning Good Morning' was more a trip through the mind and heart than a physical one). On the other hand, though, Yoko also taught John that any idea he had, even when it didn't seem to make sense, was really 'about' him. We're back in 'I Am The Walrus' territory, with John another animal, exploring his inner psyche and revealing that he isn't who we 'think' he is ('You think you know me but you avant garde a clue' he jokes later on). One of his better period tunes, it's angry and pointed, seemingly a dismissive adult's response to 'Strawberry Fields' style childhood musings, as if Lennon is laughing at his younger pre-Yoko self ('Frightened of the dark' is a child who should have grown out of fears that still haunt him and he knows he should have moved on from like the kids down the road, the way adults are haunted by pressures of having families and wage-packets as good as their peers) 'No one understands!' he mocks like some impassioned teen, while 'what makes you think ). Lennon doesn't feel he's so special anymore, but his response to it is what makes him so special, especially his desperate middle eight where the mood in the room suddenly lifts as John pleads 'You can talk to me, if you're lonely you can talk to me!' A song that mixes his shame at carrying around all the childhood hurts (which aren't exorcised yet - see the 'Lennon/Plastic Ono Band' LP of 1970), with the relief at the fact that Yoko actually understands them and shares them (thanks to a similarly traumatic upbringing that involves war, atomic bomb, divorce and poverty), Lennon can't wait to spread a listening ear to the many millions of people listening to this song too. It's an early therapy session from someone who didn't believe in them until much later in life, albeit still couched defensively in forms where this can be a 'joke'. The fact that Lennon didn't care what animal he really meant can be seen by the many changes this song went through, a first draft calling the song 'Hey Bullfrog' and John eagerly accepted Paul's mis-hearing of the line 'Some kind of innocence is measured out in years' as 'measured out in you'. Musically too this is the perfect setting: the  heavy-handed bass piano line that see-saws around two notes, as if trying to break the cycle of the treble, which keeps bashing away relentlessly, poking fun and joining in simultaneously, is exactly what John and Paul are doing here. McCartney in fact excels on this song even more than Lennon, adding an even more 'nagging' voice and co-ercing his partner to ever more wild screams over the fade, evidence of just how much love and regard there was between the pair even at this late stage. Paul's quip 'What do you mean man, I already have grandchildren?' shows that he truly 'gets' this song and it's fears about being a kid in an adult's body, still brooding over past hurts, while his dog howls are impressive. Spare a thought for the poor animators though, who had to animate this mad tale and somehow fit it into the plot - despite being easily the best 'new' song, it's the scene from the film that nobody much liked at the time and which got cut early on from most screenings, with a sub-plot about a Blue Meanies' dog. The animators had already got away with the band's less literal fair (they must have had a hard time thinking up 'Lucy In The Sky' too), so it's a shame they didn't just do the same here.

George's 'It's All Too Much', a 'Magical Mystery Tour' outtake, suffers from the same lethargy as the song that did make that soundtrack EP 'Blue Jay Way'. However here that sense of being lost and aimless is a strength, with a technicolour rollercoaster ride that souds like lots of layers unfurling all at once. On the one hand there are handclaps, plus a noise that years later sounds more like someone locking and then unlocking their car over and over (technology that wasn't around in 1969). On another George has clearly been listening to the San Franciscan music scene with a guitar that defies rhythm and logic, floating across the song drenched in a lot more feedback than usual on a 'tidy' Beatles LP. Then there are the sudden interruptions of drums, oboe, bass, organ, brass and a zillion sound effects, not to mention McCartney harmonies that pull and tug around George's lead, sometimes doubling and sometimes burying him. Lyrically it's a simple love song but one with the twist that at times George feels overwhelmed. We could of course just ascribe the track to Patti - she was a very overwhelming girl as Eric Clapton would agree. However this track sounds in the context of what came later like an early attempt for George to try to describe what 'God' feels like to him. George knows that there is no such thing as time or space anymore, just love as felt by everyone everywhere if only think of God in the right way - which makes this in a funny kind of way 'his' go at writing a universal themed song for the 'Our World' broadcast too (nobody bothered asking George for one!) The whole song sounds a little like disappearing into a black hole where tempo, chords and sense all come unravalled, with this not just the longest Beatle track up to that point by accident but one that's designed to sound like it too, as if time is stopping still at times. Goodness only knows what fans might have made of it on 'MMTour' - or what graphics could have been put to it! As the one great Beatle freak-out though it's a lot of fun, with a cheeky steal from 'The Merseybeats' 'Sorrow' thrown into the mix, as if perhaps to show that 'God' can manifest in human form or musical form or simply that the world no longer works the way The Beatles and fellow Merseybeatsd bands thought it did back in 1964 when that single first came out. Was it really only three years ago? It's all too much!

There is, however, not all that much on this album and that's us done for the Beatles tracks, apart from a special reminder that our review for 'All You Need Is Love' can be viewed here: http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/news-views-and-music-issue-45-beatles.html
To finish, here's a quick summary of George Martin's film score, which filled out the entire second side of the original LP and only runs two minutes shorter than the total Beatles music. 'Pepperland' is bright and breezy, like 'I Want To Hold Your Hand' if re-written for string quartet and about placid romanticism not sex. Meant to resemble the utopia of Pepperland, it's successful in the film but less so on the record where it sounds very staid and old-fashioned. 'Sea Of Time' begins with the sitar opening to 'Within You Without You' before George Martin pulls off a similar trick with the strings, creepily slurring up the notes semitone by semitone before he gets bored and reverts back to a more Western approach. The most atmospheric part of the score by a country mile, it's also the most psychedelic before slowly building up into a haunting and pretty tune, luscious and warm as the Yellow Submarine escapes its fate. 'Sea Of Holes' mixed 'cascading' notes and a clever undewatery feel with a haunting minor key refrain that suggests - in most films - that a shark would be on the protagonist's tale. Only this being 'Yellow Submarine', of course, it's a whole world of weird creatures with one stamping foot! 'Sea Of Monsters' adds some wah-wah guitar to the mix but doesn't have much of a tune, suddenly veering from ugly brass crescendos to ruffled strings to perky woodwind but the track never sits still - this track is the most film-score like and least musical of the lot. There's a bad edit in the string part at around 1:05 too, which seems an odd lapse from a producer usually at his best when editing sections of a song together. 'March Of The Meanies' is catchy, with some 'Psycho' style stabbing strings and a repetitive xylophone, but again other than an urgent sense of menace the most you get out of this track is a brief flurry of brass that sounds like a well-behaved version of the score from 'Good Morning Good Morning'. 'Pepperland Laid Waste' is meant to be sad and sorrowful, with brooding strings and dancing harmonicas, but never quite settles down into a full song, sounding more like The Beach Boys than The Beatles. But then that's film scores for you. Finally 'Yellow Submarine In Pepperland' ought by rights to have given a credit to Lennon and McCartney given that they, you know, wrote the entire tune. All George Martin has done is dress it up in marching band music! That said there's a lovely lilting oboe section in the middle that's pure Martin, slowing down the tune so that it sounds more emotional and more serious. You wonder what the producer would have done if the film had been based around, say, 'Tomorrow Never Knows' or 'I Am The Walrus'!


Overall, then, you only need maybe three tracks from this album which makes 'Yellow Submarine' the most costly Beatles album to have in terms of songs and minutes. However given that one of the songs lasts six and a half minutes (and seems longer somehow!), while 'Hey Bulldog' is one of The Beatles' best serious songs and 'Only A Northern Song' one of their best comedies, that's still better for value than most albums out from the period. Though the psychedelia felt slightly out of step with a cold dark January of a year about to experience more international civil unrest than there had been for years, this is a tougher record than many fans expect it to be too, with an aggression unusual for this period Beatles (even 'The White Album' only went there some of the tine, usually on John's songs). It's tempting to dismiss it from the true Beatles canon, but given the occasional brilliance of what's here, surely you'd have to be a blue meanie to do just that. 

Other Beatles articles from this site you might be interested in reading:


'Rubber Soul' (1965) http://www.alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/the-beatles-rubber-soul-1965-album.html

'Revolver' (1966) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-6-beatles-revolver-1966.html

'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band' (1967) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/the-beatles-sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts.html

'Magical Mystery Tour' (1967) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/news-views-and-music-issue-45-beatles.html

'The Beatles' aka 'The White Album' (1968) http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2008/07/review-25-beatles-beatles-aka-white.html


The Best Unreleased Beatles Recordings http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/what-we-want-to-see-on-beatles.html

A Complete AAA Guide To The Beatles Cartoons http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/an-aaa-guide-to-beatles-cartoons.html

The Beatles: Surviving TV Appearances http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-beatles-surviving-tv-appearances.html

A 'Bite' Of Beatles Label 'Apple' http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/a-bite-of-apple.html

The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part One: 1958-63 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-beatles-non-album-songs-part-one.html

 The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part Two: 1964-67 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-beatles-non-album-songs-part-2-1964.html

The Beatles: Non-Album Songs Part Three: 1968-96 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-beatles-non-album-songs-part-three.html

The Beatles: Compilations/Live Albums/Rarities Sets Part One: 1962-74 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/the-beatles-compilations-live-sets-and.html

The Beatles: Compilations/Live Albums/Rarities Sets Part Two: 1976-2013 http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/the-beatles-compilations-live-albums.html

Beatles Bonuses: The Songs John and Paul Gave Away To The World/To Ringo! http://alansalbumarchives.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/beatle-bonuses-songs-given-awayringos.html


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