The Paul McCartney Project

It's All Too Much

Written by George Harrison

Album This song officially appears on the Yellow Submarine (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1969
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

It’s All Too Much” is a song by the English rock group the Beatles from their 1969 album Yellow Submarine. Written by George Harrison in 1967, it reflects the ideological themes of that year’s Summer of Love. The Beatles recorded the track in May 1967, shortly after completing their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was one of four new songs they then supplied for the 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine, to meet their contractual obligations to United Artists.

Harrison wrote “It’s All Too Much” as a celebration of his experiences with the hallucinogenic drug LSD, although he subsequently found the same realisations in Transcendental Meditation and denounced LSD after visiting Haight-Ashbury in August 1967. The song features Hammond organ, which provides the track with a drone-like quality typical of Indian music, electric guitar feedback, and an overdubbed brass section. Largely self-produced by the band, the recording displays an informal approach that contrasts with the discipline of the Beatles’ previous work, particularly Sgt. Pepper. The song’s sequence in the Yellow Submarine film has been recognised for its adventurousness in conveying a hallucinogenic experience.

Although several Beatles biographers dismiss the track as aimless, “It’s All Too Much” has received praise from many other commentators. Peter Doggett considers it to be “one of the pinnacles of British acid-rock“, while Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone rates it among “the top five all-time psychedelic freakouts in rock history“. Former Gong guitarist Steve Hillage adopted the song during his early years as a solo artist in the late 1970s. Journey, the House of Love, the Grateful Dead and the Church are among the other artists who have recorded or performed the track.

Background and inspiration

[A]lthough it has a down side, I see my acid experience more as a blessing because it saved me many years of indifference. It was the awakening and the realisation that the important thing in life is to ask: “Who am I?”, “Where am I going?” and “Where have I come from?” – George Harrison, in The Beatles Anthology (2000)

It’s All Too Much” reflects George Harrison’s experimentation with the hallucinogenic drug Lysergic acid diethylamide, commonly known as LSD or “acid”. Author Robert Rodriguez describes the track as “gloriously celebratory“, with a lyric that conveys “his acid revelations in a childlike way“. Rather than the song being purely drug-related, Harrison states in his 1980 autobiography that the “realisations” brought about by his LSD experiences were also applicable to meditation.

Together with his Beatles bandmate John Lennon and their wives, Harrison first took acid in March 1965. He likened the heightened awareness induced by the drug to “a light-bulb [going] on in my head” and “gaining hundreds of years of experience within twelve hours“. In addition, he credited LSD with being the catalyst for his interest in Indian classical music, particularly the work of Ravi Shankar, and Eastern spirituality. By the time Harrison wrote “It’s All Too Much“, in 1967, the Indian sitar had temporarily replaced the guitar as his main musical instrument, as he received tuition from Shankar and one of the latter’s protégés, Shambu Das. As with his other songs from this period, however, such as “Within You Without You” and “Blue Jay Way“, Harrison composed the melody on a keyboard instrument. In the case of “It’s All Too Much“, his use of Hammond organ allowed him to replicate the drone-like sound of the harmonium commonly heard in Indian vocal pieces.

Coinciding with the counterculture’s preoccupation with enlightenment, 1967 marked the period when LSD use had become widespread among rock musicians and their audience. In a 1999 interview with Billboard magazine, Harrison said his aim had been “to write a rock’n’roll song about the whole psychedelic thing of the time“.

Composition and musical structure

The song is in the key of G major and the time signature throughout is 4/4. The melody is restricted within a G pedal point, with a simple melodic emphasis on scale notes 2 (A) and 7 (F#). As a defining characteristic of Indian classical music, such minimal harmonic movement features in many of Harrison’s other Indian-style compositions, including “Within You Without You” and “Blue Jay Way“.

Aside from the song’s intro and extended ending (or coda), the composition is structured into three patterns of verse and chorus, with the second and third patterns separated by an instrumental section. The song originally contained a fourth verse–chorus combination, but this would be omitted from the officially released recording. Among musicologists discussing “It’s All Too Much“, Walter Everett describes it as a two-chord composition, whereas Alan Pollack contends that the song’s sole chord is G major, although he concedes that transcribers may well list fleeting changes to C major over the choruses. In Pollack’s opinion, these sections appear to employ IV (C major) and ii minor (A minor) chords yet, rather than formal changes, “it all boils down to neighbor tone motion in the inner voices superimposed on to the pedal tone of G in the bass.

AllMusic contributor Tom Maginnis writes that the lyrics “reflect the idealist optimism of the soon-to-be-labeled ‘summer of love’ and the kind of chemically enhanced mind-expanding euphoria that pervaded the new ‘hippie’ youth culture“. Author Ian Inglis views Harrison’s mention of “the love that’s shining all around here” and “Floating down the stream of time” as especially reflective of the philosophy behind the Summer of Love, while theologian Dale Allison identifies the singer’s “emerging religious worldview” in the first of those phrases.

The song quotes a line (“With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue“) from the Merseys’ “Sorrow“, and at one point on the recording, the trumpets play part of Jeremiah Clarke’s “Prince of Denmark’s March“. The Beatles’ use of quotations here pre-dates “All You Need Is Love“, which was written by Lennon and recorded in June 1967 for the group’s appearance on the Our World television broadcast. While noting the similar ideological theme behind the two compositions, Inglis writes of Harrison and Lennon “presenting alternative accounts of the same subject” in the manner of French Impressionists such as Monet, Renoir and Manet, each of whom painted their own interpretations of sites in Paris and Argenteuil.

Production

Recording

The Beatles began recording “It’s All Too Much” on 25 May 1967 at De Lane Lea Studios, located on Kingsway in central London. With producer George Martin not in attendance that day, nor for the subsequent session, on the 26th, the band produced the recording themselves. The song had the working title of “Too Much“, a phrase that journalist Robert Fontenot terms “beatnik vernacular for an experience that was exceptionally mindblowing“. The group taped four takes of the basic track, the final version of which extended to over eight minutes, with Harrison playing Hammond organ, Lennon on lead guitar, Paul McCartney on bass, and Ringo Starr on drums. The following day, they added overdubs, comprising vocals, percussion and handclaps. In addition, according to authors Ian MacDonald and Kenneth Womack, Harrison also played lead guitar on the track.

George sang a couplet from “Sorrow” … John and Paul’s backing, meanwhile, started to waver a little, the chanted “too much” eventually becoming “tuba” and then “Cuba”. It was that sort of a song. – Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, commenting on the relaxed and spontaneous approach to the recording

MacDonald characterises the 25–26 May sessions as “chaotic” and typical of the group’s drug-inspired efforts after completing their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band late the previous month. On the Sunday following the sessions for “It’s All Too Much“, the four Beatles attended a party at their manager Brian Epstein’s house in Sussex, where Lennon and Harrison introduced music-industry publicist Derek Taylor to LSD. The band returned to De Lane Lea on 2 June, with Martin now participating. That day, the trumpets and bass clarinet parts, played by four session musicians and conducted by Martin, were added to the track.

Maginnis describes the opening of the song as “a burst of howling guitar feedback and jubilant, church-like organ“, adding: “The atmosphere hints at Harrison’s fascination with Indian music and Hindu philosophy at the time, having a distinct, Eastern-flavored, droning undercurrent.” Following the intro to “I Feel Fine” in 1964, “It’s All Too Much” is a rare example of the Beatles’ use of feedback on a recording and suggests the influence of Jimi Hendrix. Womack credits this guitar part to Harrison, who played his Epiphone Casino using “the instrument’s Bigsby [tremolo] bar in searing, full vibrato force“. Harrison later rued the prominence of the brass accompaniment, saying: “To this day I am still annoyed that I let them mess it up with those damn trumpets. Basically, the song’s quite good but, you know, messed up with those trumpets.

Mixing

The Beatles carried out final mixing on “It’s All Too Much“, again at De Lane Lea, on 12 October 1967, while completing work on their Magical Mystery Tour EP. In the months since recording the song, Harrison had sworn off acid after visiting the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in August, with Pattie Boyd, Taylor and others. He said he found himself disillusioned at how, rather than an enlightened micro-society, Haight-Ashbury seemed to be a haven for dropouts and drug addicts. On 29 September, Harrison and Lennon appeared on David Frost’s weekly television show, during which they publicly disavowed LSD, and espoused the benefits of Transcendental Meditation.

The Beatles considered the song for inclusion in their 1967 TV film Magical Mystery Tour. Instead, they selected it later that year for the soundtrack to the Yellow Submarine animated film (1968), to meet their contractual obligations to supply United Artists with four new songs for the project. The version used in the film was a heavily edited version of the track, shortened to 2:22 through the inclusion of just two of the original song’s four verses and only the start of the long coda.

It’s All Too Much” was remixed for inclusion on the Yellow Submarine album on 16 October 1968. The vocals and handclaps were processed using automatic double tracking, so allowing these parts to be split across the stereo image. For this version, the song was edited down from the original eight minutes to a running time of 6:28, making it the longest officially released Beatles track written by Harrison. The edit was achieved by cutting a 35-second portion from around the three-minute mark, thereby removing the third chorus and the fourth verse (the last of which had appeared in the film), and by fading out before the final minute of the coda.

Appearance in the Yellow Submarine film

Discussing the various underground influences in Yellow Submarine, author Stephen Glynn identifies the segment featuring “It’s All Too Much” as being among the film’s “most daring sequences“. Led by art director Heinz Edelmann, the animation for the song reflects the influence of psychedelic artists such as Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, who in turn were inspired by the work of the nineteenth-century illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. Referring to London’s UFO Club, for which the Hapshash team designed promotional posters, Glynn considers the scene to be a cinematic version of Unlimited Freak Out – “a ‘happening’ that sought to create a totalising mind-expanding environment involving music, light and people“.

The song appears during the climax of the film, following Lennon’s defeat of the Chief Blue Meanie’s enforcer, the Flying Glove, through the power of the word “Love“. In Womack’s description, in the sequence for “It’s All Too Much“, the Beatles “vanquish the evil Blue Meanies and celebrate as the colorful beauty of friendship and music have been restored to Pepperland“. Author George Case describes the same victory scene as “a psychotropic cartoon dreamscape” and an example of the Beatles’ more overt allusions to the hallucinogenic experience. Speaking in 1999, Starr said of “It’s All Too Much“: “that’s the [track] that really sets the mood of the movie … that’s where the music and the movie really gel.

The film represented the final episode in the Beatles’ psychedelic period, although the band had already returned to making more roots-based music at the start of 1968. Referring to the drug-inspired imagery that led Rank to pull Yellow Submarine from its UK cinema run, Glynn writes: “Indeed, the imagery accompanying [Harrison’s] ‘Only a Northern Song‘ and ‘It’s All Too Much’ only ‘makes sense’ when read as attempting an audio-visual recreation of the hallucinogenic state …

Release and reception

An EP containing “It’s All Too Much” and the three other new soundtrack songs had been scheduled for September 1968, but a full album was created instead. With the addition of the previously issued “Yellow Submarine” and “All You Need Is Love” to fill out side one of the LP, George Martin’s orchestral pieces from the film made up the second side. Viewed as a secondary release beside the band’s recently issued double LP, The Beatles, the Yellow Submarine album appeared in January 1969, six months after the film’s London premiere. In January 1996, “It’s All Too Much” (backed by “Only a Northern Song“) was issued on a jukebox-only single, pressed on blue vinyl, as part of a series of Beatles releases by Capitol Records’ CEMA Special Markets division.

Recalling the release of Yellow Submarine in his book The Beatles Forever (1977), Nicholas Schaffner described “It’s All Too Much” as the only one of the new songs that appeared “to have taken more than a few hours to write“. He added: “[its] highlights include some searing Velvet Underground feedback and an unusually witty epigram that just about sums up the Spirit of ’67: ‘Show me that I’m everywhere, and get me home for tea.’” Rodriguez recognises the timing of the song’s release on its public perception. While he notes that the recording was “positively anarchic” in mid-1967, by 1969, when it received widespread release, the song was “slightly less groundbreaking and a little more reactionary to the psychedelic movement that the band itself had helped popularize“.

Among the contemporary reviews of the album, Beat Instrumental described “It’s All Too Much” and “Only a Northern Song” as “superb pieces” that “redeem” side one. In his lengthy assessment of the track, Barry Miles of International Times wrote: “Endless, mantric, a round, interwoven, trellised, tessellated, filigreed, gidouiled, spiralling is It’s All Too Much [–] George’s Indian-timed, with drums fading-in-and-out, spurts of life to a decaying note, multi-level, handclapping number … High treble notes flicker like moths around the top register. Happy singalong music.” In his 1998 book The Beatles Diary, Miles praised it further as “the most striking piece of psychedelia The Beatles ever recorded” and concluded: “Discordant, off-beat and effortlessly brilliant, the song was (alongside ‘Taxman‘) Harrison’s finest piece of Western rock music to date.” […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] stereo 17 Oct 1968. edited.
    UK: Apple PCS 7070 Yellow Submarine 1969.
    US: Apple SW 153 Yellow Submarine 1969.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46445 2 Yellow Submarine 1987.
  • [a1] mono made from [a] 1968. edited.
    UK: Apple PMC 7070 Yellow Submarine 1969.

An excerpt of an 8:25 mono mix made 12 October 1967 was used only in original film prints of Yellow Submarine. The portion used includes a verse not included in [a]. The additional material includes another verse and chorus (the original third chorus and fourth verse) and runs longer at the end. This has been bootlegged in mono.

In the stereo mix, most of the sound that is not placed center is placed using ADT to both left and right, so it sounds very dense.

Last updated on May 7, 2017

Lyrics

It's all too much, It's all too much

When I look into your eyes, your love is there for me
And the more I go inside, the more there is to see

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around you
Everywhere, it's what you make
For us to take, it's all too much

Floating down the stream of time, of life to life with me
Makes no difference where you are or where you'd like to be

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around here
All the world's a birthday cake,
So take a piece but not too much

Set me on a silver sun, for I know that I'm free
Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea

It's all to much for me to see
A love that's shining all around here
The more I am, the less I know
And what I do is all too much

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around you
Everywhere, it's what you make
For us to take, it's all too much

It's too much...It's too much

Too much too much too much

Officially appears on


Yellow Submarine (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1969

6:25 • Studio versionA1 • Mono • Mono made from [A]

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Harrison:
Hammond organ, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
David Mason:
Trumpet
Paul Harvey:
Bass clarinet
Dave Siddle:
Engineer

Session Recording:
May 25, 1967
Studio:
De Lane Lea Music Recording Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
May 26, 1967
Studio:
De Lane Lea Music Recording Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Jun 02, 1967
Studio:
De Lane Lea Music Recording Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Oct 16-17, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Yellow Submarine (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1969

6:25 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Bass, Harmony vocals
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Tambourine
John Lennon:
Harmony vocals, Lead guitar
George Harrison:
Hammond organ, Vocals
George Martin:
Producer
David Mason:
Trumpet
Paul Harvey:
Bass clarinet
Dave Siddle:
Engineer

Session Recording:
May 25, 1967
Studio:
De Lane Lea Music Recording Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
May 26, 1967
Studio:
De Lane Lea Music Recording Studios, London, UK

Session Overdubs:
Jun 02, 1967
Studio:
De Lane Lea Music Recording Studios, London, UK

Session Mixing:
Oct 16-17, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Yellow Submarine Songtrack

Official album • Released in 1999

6:28 • Studio version

Bootlegs


Yellow Submarine Sessions

Unofficial album

8:20 • Outtake • RM1 From Take 2 Mono


Yellow Submarine Sessions

Unofficial album

2:38 • Outtake • RS From Takes 4 & 2 V1 Stereo


Yellow Submarine Sessions

Unofficial album

6:26 • Outtake • RS From Takes 4 & 2 V2 Stereo


Birds Sing Out Of Tune Vol. 3

Unofficial album • Released in 2016

0:41 • Studio version • backing track alternate mix fragment

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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Nina 2 years ago

Ok, Paul most likely plays the guitar on this song, I don't know why people keep assuming it's John. George himself says in a 1999 Rolling Stone interview, when asked about the feedback in the song that Paul played it, because he, George, was playing the organ. All under George's direction but he played it. Think about it, would George credit Paul something if it wasn't true? No. There is no reason to doubt George's word on this. Mark Lewisohn does make mistakes.


The PaulMcCartney Project 2 years ago

Thanks Nina for your educated comment ! Will update this post accordingly !