Yellow Submarine is the tenth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles, released on 13 January 1969 in the United States and on 17 January 1969 in the United Kingdom. It was issued as the soundtrack to the animated film of the same name, which premiered in London in July 1968. The album contains six songs by the Beatles, of which "Yellow Submarine" and "All You Need Is Love" had both been previously released. The remainder of the album was a re-recording of the film's orchestral soundtrack by the band's producer, George Martin.
The project was regarded as a contractual obligation by the Beatles, who were asked to supply four new songs for the film. Some songs were written and recorded specifically for the soundtrack, while others were unreleased tracks from other projects. The album was issued two months after the band's self-titled double LP (also known as the "White Album") and was therefore not viewed by the band as a significant release. Yellow Submarine has since been afforded a mixed reception from music critics, some of whom consider that it falls short of the high standard generally associated with the Beatles' work. It reached the top 5 in the UK and the US, and has been reissued on compact disc several times.
Background and recording
The album arose from contractual obligations for the Beatles to supply new songs to the soundtrack to United Artists' animated film Yellow Submarine. Having recently completed their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in April 1967, the group showed minimal enthusiasm for the project. Along with the music for their Magical Mystery Tour TV film, the Yellow Submarine soundtrack was part of a period that author Ian MacDonald later described as the band's "regime of continuous low-intensity recording ... it had a workaday quality about it – an intrinsic lack of tension which was bound to colour the resulting material."
There was a commitment for The Beatles to do four songs for the film. Apparently, they would say, this is a lousy song, let's give it to Brodax.
– Al Brodax
, producer of the Yellow Submarine
Only one side of the album contains songs performed by the Beatles; of the six, four were previously unreleased. "Yellow Submarine" had been issued in August 1966 as a single, topping the UK chart for four weeks, and had also been released on the album Revolver. Following the Beatles' performance of the song on the Our World international television broadcast, "All You Need Is Love" had also been issued as a single, in July 1967.
Of the unreleased tracks, the first to be recorded was George Harrison's "Only a Northern Song", taped in February 1967 but rejected for inclusion on Sgt. Pepper. The group performed overdubs on this basic track in April, immediately after completing the stereo mixes for that album. Among the sounds added during what Beatles historian Mark Lewisohndescribes as "a curious session", were trumpet, glockenspiel and spoken voices.[a] Harrison's lyrics reflect his displeasure at being merely a contracted songwriter to the Beatles' publishing company, Northern Songs.
"All Together Now" was recorded in a single session on 12 May 1967, specifically for the film project. The title came from a phrase Paul McCartney had heard as a child, to encourage everyone to sing music hall songs. He later described the song as "a throwaway".
The band recorded Harrison's "It's All Too Much" in late May 1967 at De Lane Lea Studios in central London. Inspired by its author's experimentation with the drug LSD, and originally running to over eight minutes in length, the song reflects theSummer of Love philosophy of 1967 and makes extensive use of guitar feedback. As with the later recorded "All You Need Is Love", the track includes musical and lyrical quotations from other works – in this case, a trumpet passage from Jeremiah Clarke's "Prince of Denmark's March" and a lyric from the Merseys' 1966 hit "Sorrow".
John Lennon's "Hey Bulldog" was recorded on 11 February 1968 and evolved from an initial intent to shoot a promotional film for the single "Lady Madonna". Like "All Together Now", it was specifically recorded with the film soundtrack in mind. The track's ending featured a jam session after the point where a fade-out was intended in the final mix, which was kept in the finished version.[b] Lennon later described the song as "a good-sounding record that means nothing".
George Martin orchestrations
Side two of the album contained George Martin's orchestral score for the film, leading with "Pepperland
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Side two features a re-recording of the symphonic film score composed by the Beatles' producer, George Martin, specifically for the album. The recording took place with a 41-piece orchestra over two three-hour sessions on 22 and 23 October 1968 in Abbey Road, and edited down to the length on the LP on 22 November.
In some of his arrangements, Martin referenced his past work with the Beatles; for example, "Sea of Time" includes what MacDonald terms "an affectionate quotation" from the Indian-styled "Within You Without You", from Sgt. Pepper, and "Yellow Submarine in Pepperland" reprises the film's title track. In "Sea of Monsters", Martin adapted part of Bach's Air on the G String, while in other selections he parodies works by Stravinsky.
The film received its worldwide premiere in London in July 1968, by which time the Beatles were busy working on their eponymous double album, The Beatles, commonly called "the White Album". Ultimately, the Beatles were enthusiastic about the finished film, and did more to associate themselves with it after release. Having been delayed so that it would not clash with the release of The Beatles, and to allow for the re-recording of Martin's contributions, Yellow Submarine was issued byApple Records on 13 January 1969 in the US and on 17 January in the UK. The album was issued in stereo only in the US, while the UK album was available in both stereo and mono, although the mono version is simply a fold-down (a combination of two stereo channels into one mono) rather than a specific mix. Since "All You Need Is Love" had been rush-released a single, it did not have an official stereo mix. Although the track was released on the US LP Magical Mystery Tour, an official stereo mix of the track was not made until 29 October 1968 for the album. In the US, 8-track tape versions featured "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" as an extra song on side two.