Recording "Yellow Submarine"

Thursday, May 26, 1966 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Revolver (UK Mono) LP.
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Songs recorded


1.

Yellow Submarine

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 1


2.

Yellow Submarine

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 2


3.

Yellow Submarine

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 3


4.

Yellow Submarine

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 4


5.

Yellow Submarine

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 4


6.

Yellow Submarine

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape reduction take 4 into take 5

Staff

Musicians on "Yellow Submarine"

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Backing vocals
Ringo Starr:
Lead vocals, Maracas, Drums
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Acoustic guitar
George Harrison:
Tambourine, Backing vocals

Production staff

Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Phil McDonald:
Second Engineer

About

This was the 23rd day of the recording sessions for the “Revolver” album. From 7 pm to 1 am, The Beatles started recording “Yellow Submarine“, a Paul McCartney-penned song intended to be the track to be sung by Ringo Starr on the new album.

Producer George Martin was absent due to illness and engineer Geoff Emerick was therefore the de-facto producer.

I have a clear memory of them doing the rhythm track of ‘Yellow Submarine’, because George Martin was off with a bad bout of food poisoning and he sent his [soon-to-become] wife Judy along instead to keep an eye on things, and I suppose to make sure we all behaved ourselves! She sat in George’s place at the console making sure that the Beatles got everything they wanted.

Geoff Emerick – From The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn, 2004

The basic music track on the song was recorded without George Martin’s supervision. He had a touch of flu for several days and we decided to go ahead and record ourselves.

John Lennon – From “The Beatles: Off The Record” by Keith Badman, 2008

The Beatles spent much of the afternoon and evening rehearsing the song. They recorded a series of rough takes before four proper takes of the rhythm track, with John Lennon on acoustic guitar, Paul McCartney on bass, George Harrison on tambourine and Ringo Starr on drums. Three of those takes were complete. Take 4 was deemed the best.

The first overdubs were then added onto take 4. Ringo added his lead vocals and the three other Beatles added backing vocals, using varispeed (meaning those were recorded at a slower than normal tape speed, to be played back at nearly a semitone higher in pitch). The backing vocals were then double-tracked and Ringo added some maracas.

At the end of the session, a tape reduction (named take 5) was then performed to free up two tracks, in anticipation of the next overdubs.

When Paul first ran the song down on piano, it sounded to my ears more like a children’s song than a pop track, but everyone was enthused and got down to work. As it happened, George Martin was out sick with food poisoning the night we began work on it; he sent his secretary, Judy, along to keep an eye on things while I took the helm. George’s absence clearly had a liberating effect on the four Beatles — they behaved like a bunch of schoolboys with a substitute teacher filling in. As a result, there was a lot of clowning around that evening — silliness that George Martin would not have tolerated — and so rehearsals took up a lot more time than the session itself.

It was Lennon who finally got over his attack of the giggles and took on the role of responsible adult, admonishing the others, “Come on, it’s getting late and we still haven’t made us a record!” This, of course, only had the effect of sending everyone into another fit of laughter. But eventually they settled down and began recording the backing track. Then Ringo and the others added their vocals, with the tape slightly slowed down so that their voices would sound a little brighter on playback.

Ata certain point, John decided that the third verse needed some spicing up, so he dashed into the studio and began answering each of Ringo’s sung lines in a silly voice that I further altered to make it sound like he was talking over a ship’s megaphone. The verse begins, “And we live / A life of ease,” but you don’t actually hear John’s voice until the third and fourth lines. In fact, I had recorded him repeating the first two lines also, but a few days later, Phil McDonald accidentally erased the beginning of them — one of the few times his usually accurate drop-in skills failed him. From his station in the machine room, he got on the intercom and let George and me know of his gaffe while the Beatles were out of earshot. I could hear the distress in his voice and could sympathize — almost every assistant had made a similar mistake at one time or another.

John realized the line was gone the next time we played the multitrack — nothing ever got by him — and he wasn’t too happy about it, but rather than pin the blame on Phil, George and I quickly concocted a story about needing the track for one of the overdubs. We all tended to close ranks and protect one another at times like that, and I know that Phil was very relieved that he didn’t have to face John’s wrath.

After that first night of working on “Yellow Submarine,” the Revolver sessions were suspended for nearly a week because of George Martin’s illness.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006

Work on “Yellow Submarine” would continue on June 1, 1966.

Last updated on October 20, 2022

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