"Yellow Submarine" is a McCartney composition featured on the Yellow Submarine LP and in the film of the same name. Lennon added a small number of impromptu lyrics during the recording session. In a Playboy interview, McCartney said that, "I wrote that in bed one night. As a kid's story. And then we thought it would be good for Ringo to do." In ABC's Beatles Anthology, he added that the images for the song came to him in the twilight stage of falling asleep, a time when odd pictures enter the mind. Lennon said that Donovan Leitch helped out with the lyrics.
The song was released in the UK on August 5, 1966 as the B side to "Eleanor Rigby." It was released in the United States on August 8, 1966, climbed to No. 2 on the Top 40, and remained in the top forty for eight weeks.
McCartney admitted he anticipated that the song would inevitably be ascribed drug connotations given the cultural time period in which it was released and the surreal nature of the lyrics and subsequent film. He also said, however, that if he heard children singing the song years later, it would have been worth it. (This has indeed proven to be the case. The song has been covered by numerous artists and has been featured on several compilations and CDs of children's music, including a cover by noted children's singer Raffi.) As McCartney said, "Kids will understand it easier than adults."
Many critics believed that the song was about war and the fate of mankind to one day live underwater, but Starr echoed McCartney's sentiments. "It's simply a children's song with no hidden meanings."
Citing that the Beatles always liked to try new things in the studio, producer George Martin said that it was a fun track to work on and "made life a bit more interesting" with features such as chains rattling and the sound of bubbles being blown into a tank.
John placed a hand mike into his Vox amplifier and spoke through it, saying, "Full steam ahead." Recording engineer Geoff Emerick said that, "For certain things, such as background vocals on 'Yellow Submarine,' we always used to use live chambers. EMI did have echo plates, but we never used them."
The track was recorded on May 26, 1966 at Abbey Road. The song's special effects were overdubbed on June 1.
Starr sings lead vocal, with Harrison, Lennon, and McCartney providing backing vocals (on the chorus). Lennon and McCartney play acoustic guitar, Harrison tambourine, and Starr drums. Session musicians played the brass band section. On the fadeout, the chorus included Neil Aspinall, Mal Evans, George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Patti Boyd Harrison, and studio staff members. Lennon blew bubbles through a straw, and Harrison swirled water in a bucket. The submarine crew speaking in the middle of the song was mainly comprised of Lennon and McCartney.
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