They needed a Ringo song. It’s early summer 1966, and The Beatles are grappling with their most experimental, musically ambitious and radically different LP to date, Revolver. The band began to use the studio as an instrument, conjuring up sounds that couldn’t be reproduced live, like the echoing tape loops of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and the backwards guitar solo of “She Said She. Said ”. The band embraced psychedelia, expansive thinking, and pushed the limits of not only their personal musical abilities, but also expectations of what a rock band could do. But the business was still a business, and the Beatles business commissioned a Ringo song.
It might seem a little odd to consider now, but Ringo Starr was by far the most popular Beatle during the band’s heyday of the early ’60s touring, especially in America. The scene in A hard day’s Night where John, Paul and George get a bunch of fan letters while Ringo gets a whole bunch of them? It was based on real life. The other three Beatles were tall, had striking features, could write great songs, and were amazing singers. Ringo was the affable common man: short, clumsy, limited in his musical range, and often the most approachable and endearing Beatle. His songs weren’t world-changing number one or genre-defying opuses; they were classic covers or children’s arias.
Ringo’s popularity, along with the band’s dedication to the unity of the band, required a rock and roll tune from the past to be included in an album’s tracklist. Otherwise, Lennon and McCartney had to conjure up an idea that wasn’t too difficult to sing along to and that also played with the drummer’s natural strengths. In the past this has included “Boys”, “Act Naturally”, “I Wanna Be Your Man”, “What Goes On” and “Honey Don’t”. Even though the group had cut ties with their teeny-bopper past by offering more mature and contemporary compositions, the formula of a Ringo song never really changed throughout the group’s recording career.
As was often the case with the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership, “Yellow Submarine” combined two separate pieces from each author. McCartney had the basis of the idea: a children’s song for Ringo about a yellow submarine. He came up with the simplest, most singing chorus he could think of, one that could feature backing vocals from everyone to help support Starr’s unique bray. Lennon came up with the melody for the verse, and the duo began working on the song’s lyrics with the help of folk singer-songwriter Donovan, whose more flowery language was highlighted in the line “sky of blue and sea of green ”.
“I remember lying in my bed one night,” recalls McCartney as part of The Beatles Anthology, “At that moment before falling asleep – that little twilight moment where a silly idea occurs to you – and thinking of ‘Yellow Submarine’: ‘We all live in a yellow submarine …” good children’s things; I love children’s minds and imaginations. So it didn’t seem cool to me to have a pretty surreal idea that was also a childish idea. I also thought that with Ringo who was so good with kids – a great kind of uncle – maybe it wasn’t a bad idea for him to have a children’s song, rather than a song. very serious. He didn’t really like singing.
How a yellow submarine became the central motif of the song is uncertain. McCartney claims that a yellow Greek dessert locally called a “submarine” was the inspiration, while Lennon recalls seeing the titular nautical vessel on his first LSD trip. Regardless of his origins, Starr’s role as captain of the submarine predates his later role as The Conductor on Thomas the Tank Engine and probably set the first precedent for his calming storytelling abilities in this regard. In fact, an opening monologue that was cut from the intro of the song bears a striking resemblance to the style of storytelling that Starr would suit this show perfectly.
Compared to other sessions of Revolver, the recording of ‘Yellow Submarine’ was less stressful and more lively. Stories of endless takes and perfectionism did not permeate the recording of “Yellow Submarine”. Instead, a jovial atmosphere of kitschy experimentation with noises and songs to sing along was found at Abbey Road’s EMI Studios. Roadie, Mal Evans, strapped a marching band bass drum to his chest and led a conga line made up of EMI staff, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Marianne Faithful, and Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd around the live space for the final chorus of the song. The spirit of the session revolved around a concept: fun.
In this regard, producer George Martin was able to indulge in his previous career as a comedy record producer. Having expertise in creating a lively and silly atmosphere, Martin suggested looting EMI’s closet to create lots of sound effects. Whistles, chains, cans, and even trash cans were used to create the cacophony of sounds, and Lennon was able to ring the bubbles by simply blowing bubbles into a drink using a straw.
When the band finished, what they had in their hands was an extremely light and wacky end product. It would make the perfect B-side for the much more solemn and serious “Eleanor Rigby”. But that was the time when the Beatles were pushing the concept to the Double-A side, and so “Yellow Submarine” was pushed into this format as well, although it largely remained the flip side of the DJs who played the single. The song reached number one on the UK Singles Chart, mostly thanks to the success of Eleanor Rigby.
In America, however, there was a problem. On the Beatles’ last tour, Lennon made his infamous “greater than Jesus” comments that caused a stir among religious conservatives. Capitol Records was reluctant to push the religious reference “Eleanor Rigby” and instead chose “Yellow Submarine” as the rated A side. This would be Ringo Starr’s first and last original single with the Beatles during their active careers (Capitol released the band’s version of Carl Perkins’ “Matchbox” with Ringo as lead singer as a single two years older. early). He would reach number two on the Billboard Hot 100, held in the lead by “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes.
The song was always meant to be a non-serious children’s song, but that hasn’t stopped commentators from trying to put a number of political, religious, or even psychological interpretations on the tune. But the real legacy of “Yellow Submarine” has been to push Ringo Starr’s wacky appeal to its limits. Remnants of her performance can be found in ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’, ‘Good Night’, and the song’s spiritual sequel, ‘Octopus’s Garden’. The concept of the song was loosely adapted in the group’s animated film. Yellow submarine and he remains a live favorite of Starr during his concerts with his All Starr Band. And all because there always had to be a Ringo song.