- Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Revolver (UK Mono) LP.
- EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road
More from year 1966
Some songs from this session appear on:
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The Beatles dedicated their 1 June session to adding the song’s sound effects. For this, Martin drew on his experience as a producer of comedy records for Beyond the Fringe and members of the Goons. The band invited guests to participate, including Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Harrison’s wife Pattie Boyd, Marianne Faithfull, Beatles road managers Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall, and Alf Bicknell, the band’s driver. The studio store cupboard was sourced for items such as chains, bells, whistles, hooters, a tin bath and a cash till.
Although effects were added throughout the track, they were heavily edited for the released recording. The sound of ocean waves enters at the start of the second verse and continues through the first chorus. Harrison created this effect by swirling water around a bathtub. On the third verse, a party atmosphere was evoked through a combination of Jones clinking glasses together and blowing an ocarina, snatches of excited chatter, Boyd’s high-pitched shrieks, Bicknell rattling chains, and tumbling coins. To fill the two-bar gap following the line “And the band begins to play”, Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick used a recording of a brass band from EMI’s tape library. They disguised the piece by splicing up the taped copy and rearranging the melody.
The recording includes a sound-effects solo over the non-singing verse, designed to convey the submarine’s operation. Lennon blew through a straw into a pan of water to create a bubbling effect. Other sounds imitate the whirring of machinery, a ship’s bell, hatches being slammed, chains hitting metal, and finally the submarine submerging. Lennon used the studio’s echo chamber to shout out commands and responses such as “Full speed ahead, Mr Boatswain.” From a hallway just outside the studio, Starr yelled: “Cut the cable!” Gould describes the section as a “Goonish concerto” consisting of sound effects “drawn from the collective unconscious of a generation of schoolboys raised on films about the War Beneath the Seas”. According to Echard, the effects are “an especially rich example of how sound effects can function topically” in psychedelia, since they serve a storytelling role and further the song’s “naval and oceanic” narrative and its nostalgic qualities. The latter, he says, is “due to their timbre, recalling radio broadcasts not only as a contemporary experience but also as an emblem of the near-distant past”, and he also sees the effects as cinematic in their presentation as “a coherent sonic scenario, one that could be diegetic to an imagined series of filmic events”.
In the final verse, Lennon echoes Starr’s lead vocal, delivering the lines in a manner that musicologist Walter Everett terms “manic”. Keen to sound as if he were singing underwater, Lennon tried recording the part with a microphone encased in a condom and, at Emerick’s suggestion, submerged inside a bottle filled with water. This proved ineffective, and Lennon instead sang with the microphone plugged into a Vox guitar amplifier.
All the participants and available studio staff sang the closing choruses, augmenting the vocals recorded by the Beatles on 26 May. Evans also played a marching bass drum over this section. When the overdubs were finished, Evans led everybody in a line around the studio doing the conga dance while banging on the drum strapped to his chest. Martin later told Alan Smith of the NME that the band “loved every minute” of the session and that it was “more like the things I’ve done with the Goons and Peter Sellers” than a typical Beatles recording. Music critic Tim Riley characterises “Yellow Submarine” as “one big Spike Jones charade”.
It must have been one of the most unusual Beatles sessions ever. It was more like the things I’ve done with The Goons and Peter Sellers. The boys loved every minute of it. We needed all kinds of sound effects, and sandbags were bumped about while John blew bubbles and George made swirling sounds with the water. I think it worked out very well. There was also a brass band. This wasn’t a sound effect on tape, the band was right there in the studio, not to mention a massed chorus made up of anybody and everybody who happened to be around at the time. This means that you don’t just hear Ringo and the other Beatles singing ‘Yellow Submarine’, you also hear Patti Harrison, studio staff, sound engineers and The Beatles’ faithful road managers Mal and Neil. Incidentally, John isn’t speaking through a bottle when he repeats Ringo’s words in the song. This original idea didn’t work out, so Mal Evans evolved an ingenious method by which the words were spoken by John through his guitar amplifier.George Martin – From “The Beatles: Off The Record” by Keith Badman, 2008
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
Last updated on September 19, 2022
The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.
We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!
The second book of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC)-nominated series, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 2: Help! through Revolver (1965-1966)" follows the evolution of the band from the end of Beatlemania with "Help!" through the introspection of "Rubber Soul" up to the sonic revolution of "Revolver". From the first take to the final remix, discover the making of the greatest recordings of all time.
Through extensive, fully-documented research, these books fill an important gap left by all other Beatles books published to date and provide a unique view into the recordings of the world's most successful pop music act.
If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.