"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 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."
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, and has since evolved into a popular modern-day nursery rhyme for children.
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."
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 1966. 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 onPink 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 1966.
"Yellow Submarine" was mixed on 2 and 3 June, and finished on 22 June 1966.
The "Yellow Submarine" single was The Beatles' thirteenth single release in the United Kingdom. It was released in the UK on 5 August as a 'double A side' with "Eleanor Rigby", and in the United States on 8 August. TheRevolver album was released the next day.
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". A contributing factor may have been the "Bigger than Jesus" controversy.
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 programs (including the BBC's Top of the Pops) created their own clips from stock footage.
The single was released during the controversies about the "Butcher Cover" (the Yesterday and Today album cover) and John Lennon's remarks about Christianity, which are cited as part of the reason the song failed to reach number 1 on all US charts. Despite this, it sold 1,200,000 copies in only four weeks and earned The Beatles their twenty-first US Gold Record award, beating the record set by Elvis Presley.
An interesting note is that John Lennon repeats Ringo's line of "A life of ease!" as he does with all the other lines in the final verse. The line can be heard on the single and the soundtrack release, yet in all other releases, John's line is missing.
- Ringo Starr –vocal, drums
- Paul McCartney –backing vocal, shouting, bass guitar
- John Lennon – backing vocal, shouting, acoustic guitar
- George Harrison – backing vocal, tambourine, acoustic guitar
- Mal Evans – backing vocal, bass drum
- George Martin – backing vocal, producer
- Geoff Emerick – backing vocal, engineer
- Neil Aspinall – backing vocal
- Alf Bicknell –sound effects (rattling chains)
- Pattie Harrison – backing vocal
- Marianne Faithfull – backing vocal
- Brian Jones – backing vocal, sound effects (clinking glasses)
A 51 feet (16 m) long yellow submarine metal sculpture was built by apprentices from the Cammell Laird shipyard, and was used as part of Liverpool's International Garden Festival in 1984. In 2005 it was placed outside Liverpool's John Lennon Airport, where it remains.
In 1968, Apple Records issued a single by the Black Dyke Mills Band, which featured a cover version of "Yellow Submarine" as the B-side. In 1966, Maurice Chevalier recorded a version in French ("Le Sous-Marin Vert"); this translates to "The Green Submarine". The song was also covered by Roots Manuva in 2002, on his Badmeaningood 2 album. It has entered popular usage as a children's song, such as in Fun Song Factory, when it was once combined with colourful props and actions, and on Sesame Street, where a group of Anything Muppets sang the song inside a yellow submarine (resembling the one from the animated movie). Raffi sang this song on the album Let's Play.
Polish football team Lech Poznan uses a cover of the song translated into Polish as its anthem.