The Paul McCartney Project

Yellow Submarine

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Revolver (UK Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1966
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Yellow Submarine” is a 1966 song by the Beatles, written by Paul McCartney (credited to Lennon–McCartney), with lead vocals by Ringo Starr. It was included on the Revolver album and issued as a single, coupled with “Eleanor Rigby“. The single went to number one on every major British chart, remained at number one for four weeks and charted for 13 weeks. It won an Ivor Novello Award “for the highest certified sales of any single issued in the UK in 1966“. In the US, the song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and became the most successful Beatles song to feature Starr as lead vocalist.

It became the title song of the 1968 animated United Artists film, also called Yellow Submarine, and the soundtrack album to the film, released as part of the Beatles’ music catalogue. Although intended as a nonsense song for children, “Yellow Submarine” received various social and political interpretations at the time.

Composition

McCartney was living in Jane Asher’s parents’ house when he found the inspiration for the song: “I was laying in bed in the Ashers’ garret … I was thinking of it as a song for Ringo, which it eventually turned out to be, so I wrote it as not too rangey in the vocal, then started making a story, sort of an ancient mariner, telling the young kids where he’d lived. It was pretty much my song as I recall … I think John helped out. The lyrics got more and more obscure as it goes on, but the chorus, melody and verses are mine.” The song began as being about different coloured submarines, but evolved to include only a yellow one.

In 1980, Lennon talked about the song: “‘Yellow Submarine’ is Paul’s baby. Donovan helped with the lyrics. I helped with the lyrics too. We virtually made the track come alive in the studio, but based on Paul’s inspiration. Paul’s idea. Paul’s title … written for Ringo.” Donovan added the words, “Sky of blue and sea of green“. McCartney also said: “It’s a happy place, that’s all. You know, it was just … We were trying to write a children’s song. That was the basic idea. And there’s nothing more to be read into it than there is in the lyrics of any children’s song.

Recording

Produced by George Martin and engineered by Geoff Emerick, “Yellow Submarine” was finished after five takes on 26 May 1966, in Studio Two at Abbey Road Studios, with special effects being added on 1 June. George Martin drew on his experience as a producer of comedy records for Beyond the Fringe and The Goon Show, providing an array of zany sound effects to create the nautical atmosphere. On the second session the studio store cupboard was ransacked for special effects, which included chains, a ship’s bell, tap dancing mats, whistles, hooters, waves, a tin bath filled with water, wind and thunderstorm machines, as well as a cash register, which was later used on Pink Floyd’s song “Money“.

Lennon blew through a straw into a pan of water to create a bubbling effect, McCartney and Lennon talked through tin cans to create the sound of the captain’s orders, at 1:38-40 in the song, Ringo stepped outside the doors of the recording room and yelled like a sailor acknowledging “Cut the cable! Drop the cable!“, which was looped into the song afterwards, and Abbey Road employees John Skinner and Terry Condon twirled chains in a tin bath to create water sounds. After the line, “and the band begins to play“, Emerick found a recording of a brass band and changed it slightly so it could not be identified, although it is thought to be a recording of Georges Krier and Charles Helmer’s 1906 composition, “Le Rêve Passe“. The original recording had a spoken intro by Starr, but the idea was abandoned on 3 June.

When the overdubs were finished, Mal Evans strapped on a marching bass drum and led everybody in a line around the studio doing the conga dance whilst banging on the drum.

Yellow Submarine” was mixed on 2 and 3 June, and finished on 22 June. The mono and stereo versions differ significantly in three parts: the beginning of the track, the “waves” sound effect at the end of the instrumental break and John’s “echoing” vocals on the last verse. In the mono version, the guitar starts at the very beginning (“In the town…“), the waves fade out quickly and John begins the echo vocals at “a life of ease“. In the stereo version, the guitar begins on the word “town“, the waves fade out more gradually and the echo vocals start at “Everyone of us…“.

Release

The “Yellow Submarine” single was the Beatles’ thirteenth single release in the United Kingdom. It was released in the UK on 5 August 1966 as a ‘double A side’ with “Eleanor Rigby“, and in the United States on 8 August. In both countries, the album Revolver (which also featured both songs) was released on the same day as the single.

Reception and interpretations

The single went to number 1 on every major British chart, remained at number 1 for four weeks and charted for 13 weeks. It won an Ivor Novello Award for the highest certified sales of any single issued in the UK in 1966. No promotional film clip was made, so some TV programmes (including the BBC’s Top of the Pops) created their own clips from stock footage.

In the United States, the single reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 1 in Record World, and number 2 in Cashbox, where it was held off number 1 by the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love“. The single was released during the controversies about the “Butcher Cover” (the Yesterday and Today album cover) and Lennon’s remarks about Christianity, which are cited as part of the reason the song failed to reach number 1 on all US charts. It sold 1,200,000 copies in four weeks and earned the Beatles their twenty-first US Gold Record award, beating the record set by Elvis Presley.

Although intended as a nonsense song for children, “Yellow Submarine” received various social and political interpretations at the time; music journalist Peter Doggett wrote that the “culturally empty” song “became a kind of Rorschach test for radical minds.” The song’s chorus was reappropriated by schoolchildren, sports fans, and striking workers in their own chants. At a Mobe protest in San Francisco, a yellow papier-mâché submarine made its way through the crowd, which Time magazine interpreted as a “symbol of the psychedelic set’s desire for escape“. American poet Amiri Baraka criticized the song as an arrogant, solipsistic boast of White people’s isolation from the real world. A reviewer for the P.O. Frisco wrote in 1966, “the Yellow Submarine may suggest, in the context of the Beatles’ anti-Vietnam War statement in Tokyo this year, that the society over which Old Glory floats is as isolated and morally irresponsible as a nuclear submarine.” Writing for Esquire, Robert Christgau felt that the Beatles “want their meanings to be absorbed on an instinctual level” and wrote of the interpretations, “I can’t believe that the Beatles indulge in the simplistic kind of symbolism that turns a yellow submarine into a Nembutal or a banana—it is just a yellow submarine, damn it, an obvious elaboration of John [Lennon]’s submarine fixation, first revealed in A Hard Day’s Night.

During an interview on The Howard Stern Show on 2 May 2014, Donovan describes his interpretation of the meaning of the song, having been with McCartney during the song’s inception: “it’s not really a submarine, it’s really about the life that they had been forced into living inside their own lives in the white tower called ‘Beatle fame’ and not really having any contact with reality out there anymore, and we all live in a yellow.. we are insulated from the outer world.” […]

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

I remember lying in bed one night, in that moment before you’re falling asleep – that little twilight moment when a silly idea comes into your head – and thinking of Yellow Submarine: ‘We all live in a yellow submarine…’

I quite like children’s things; I like children’s minds and imagination. So it didn’t seem uncool to me to have a pretty surreal idea that was also a children’s idea. I thought also, with Ringo being so good with children – a knockabout uncle type – it might not be a bad idea for him to have a children’s song, rather than a very serious song. He wasn’t that keen on singing. […]

I was thinking of it as a song for Ringo, which it eventually turned out to be, so I wrote it as not too rangey in the vocal. I just made up a little tune in my head, then started making a story, sort of an ancient mariner, telling the young kids where he’d lived and how there’d been a place where he had a yellow submarine. It’s pretty much my song as I recall, written for Ringo in that little twilight moment. I think John helped out; the lyrics get more and more obscure as it goes on but the chorus, melody and verses are mine. There were funny little grammatical jokes we used to play. It should have been ‘Everyone of us has all he needs’ but Ringo turned it into ‘everyone of us has all we need.’ So that became the lyric. It’s wrong, but it’s great. We used to love that.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 3 Jun 1966.
    UK: Parlophone R5489 single 1966, Parlophone PMC 7009 Revolver 1966, Parlophone PMC 7016 Collection of Oldies 1966.
    US: Capitol 5715 single 1966, Capitol T 2576 Revolver 1966.
    CD: EMI single 1989.
  • [b] stereo 22 Jun 1966.
    UK: Parlophone PCS 7009 Revolver 1966, Parlophone PCS 7016 Collection of Oldies 1966, Apple PCS 7070 Yellow Submarine 1969, Apple PCSP 717 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.
    US: Capitol ST 2576 Revolver 1966, Apple SW 153 Yellow Submarine 1969, Apple SKBO-3403 The Beatles 1962-1966 1973.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46441 2 Revolver 1987, EMI CDP 7 46445 2 Yellow Submarine 1987, EMI CDP 7 97036 2 The Beatles 1962-1966 1993.
  • [b1] mono made from [b] 1968.
    UK: Apple PMC 7070 Yellow Submarine 1969.
  • [c] stereo 1995.
    CD: Apple C2 8 58544 Real Love 1996.

The guitar comes in right away in mono [a] but after “in the town” in stereo [b]. At the start of verse 3, a splash sound effect is faded away quickly in mono [a] as the vocal starts, but continues over “and we live a life” in [b]. John is heard repeating the vocal after the first line of verse 3 (“life of ease”) in mono [a] but not until the next line (“all we need”) in [b]. The last line of verse 3 sounds like “in our yellow clubmarine” in mono [a] but “slubmarine” in [b]. The official lyric is just “submarine”.[c] is deliberately different, and starts by fading into an intro not used elsewhere before a hard edit to the standard version. The first guitar strum is missing as in [b]. The mix inverts [b] by having the vocal and rhythm tracks centered, and the sound effects, including some not heard elsewhere, to the left and right and relatively louder. John’s “life of ease” is heard in verse 3, and Ringo says “slubmarine”.

Last updated on May 10, 2016

Lyrics

In the town where I was born,
Lived a man who sailed to sea,
And he told us of his life,
In the land of submarines.

So we sailed on to the sun,
Till we found a sea of green,
And we lived beneath the waves,
In our yellow submarine.

We all live in a yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine.
We all live in a yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

And our friends are all aboard,
Many more of them live next door,
And the band begins to play...

We all live in a yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine.
We all live in a yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

Full speed ahead, Mr Boatswain, full speed ahead
Full speed ahead it is, Sgt.
Cut the cable, drop the cable,
Aye, aye, sir, aye, aye
Captain, captain

As we live a life of ease (life of ease)
Every one of us has all we need
(Every one of us has all we need)
Sky of blue and sea of green
(Sky of blue, sea of green)
In our yellow submarine
(In our yellow submarine, aha)

We all live in a yellow submarine,
A yellow submarine, yellow submarine.
We all live in a yellow submarine,
A yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

We all live in a yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine.
We all live in a yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine.

Officially appears on


Revolver (UK Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:39 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Martin:
Backing vocals, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Backing vocals, Engineer
Mal Evans:
Backing vocals, Bass drum
Neil Aspinall:
Backing vocals
Pattie Harrison:
Backing vocals
Brian Jones:
Backing vocals
Marianne Faithfull:
Backing vocals
Alf Bicknell:
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
May 26, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 01, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 03, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Revolver (US Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:42 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Martin:
Backing vocals, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Backing vocals, Engineer
Mal Evans:
Backing vocals, Bass drum
Neil Aspinall:
Backing vocals
Pattie Harrison:
Backing vocals
Brian Jones:
Backing vocals
Marianne Faithfull:
Backing vocals
Alf Bicknell:
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
May 26, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 01, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 03, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Revolver (US Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:40 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Martin:
Backing vocals, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Backing vocals, Engineer
Mal Evans:
Backing vocals, Bass drum
Neil Aspinall:
Backing vocals
Pattie Harrison:
Backing vocals
Brian Jones:
Backing vocals
Marianne Faithfull:
Backing vocals
Alf Bicknell:
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
May 26, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 01, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 22, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Yellow Submarine / Eleanor Rigby

7" Single • Released in 1966

2:41 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Martin:
Backing vocals, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Backing vocals, Engineer
Mal Evans:
Backing vocals, Bass drum
Neil Aspinall:
Backing vocals
Pattie Harrison:
Backing vocals
Brian Jones:
Backing vocals
Marianne Faithfull:
Backing vocals
Alf Bicknell:
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
May 26, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 01, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 03, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


A Collection of Beatles Oldies (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:36 • Studio versionA • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Martin:
Backing vocals, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Backing vocals, Engineer
Mal Evans:
Backing vocals, Bass drum
Neil Aspinall:
Backing vocals
Pattie Harrison:
Backing vocals
Brian Jones:
Backing vocals
Marianne Faithfull:
Backing vocals
Alf Bicknell:
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
May 26, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 01, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 03, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


A Collection of Beatles Oldies (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:36 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Martin:
Backing vocals, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Backing vocals, Engineer
Mal Evans:
Backing vocals, Bass drum
Neil Aspinall:
Backing vocals
Pattie Harrison:
Backing vocals
Brian Jones:
Backing vocals
Marianne Faithfull:
Backing vocals
Alf Bicknell:
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
May 26, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 01, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 22, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Revolver (UK Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1966

2:39 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Martin:
Backing vocals, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Backing vocals, Engineer
Mal Evans:
Backing vocals, Bass drum
Neil Aspinall:
Backing vocals
Pattie Harrison:
Backing vocals
Brian Jones:
Backing vocals
Marianne Faithfull:
Backing vocals
Alf Bicknell:
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
May 26, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 01, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 22, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Thingumybob

7" Single • Released in 1968

Studio version

Paul McCartney:
Producer

Yellow Submarine (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1969

2:40 • Studio versionB1 • Mono • Mono mix made from [B]

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Martin:
Backing vocals, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Backing vocals, Engineer
Mal Evans:
Backing vocals, Bass drum
Neil Aspinall:
Backing vocals
Pattie Harrison:
Backing vocals
Brian Jones:
Backing vocals
Marianne Faithfull:
Backing vocals
Alf Bicknell:
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
May 26, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 01, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 22, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Yellow Submarine (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1969

2:40 • Studio versionB • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Vocals
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Tambourine
George Martin:
Backing vocals, Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Backing vocals, Engineer
Mal Evans:
Backing vocals, Bass drum
Neil Aspinall:
Backing vocals
Pattie Harrison:
Backing vocals
Brian Jones:
Backing vocals
Marianne Faithfull:
Backing vocals
Alf Bicknell:
Backing vocals

Session Recording:
May 26, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 01, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 22, 1966
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road


Bootlegs


Acoustic

Unofficial album

1:05 • Outtake




Lumpy Trousers

Unofficial live

1:13 • Studio version


Revolver Sessions

Unofficial album

0:49 • Alternate take • Take 1 Partial stereo


Live performances

“Yellow Submarine” has been played in 16 concerts.

Latest concerts where “Yellow Submarine” has been played



Antwerp • Sportpaleis

Mar 28, 2012 • Part of On The Run Tour




Sold On Song

Jul 27, 2005 • United Kingdom • London • Abbey Road Studios • Radio show



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