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“Yellow Submarine”

Listen to “Yellow Submarine”

Music video by The Beatles performing Yellow Submarine.

PAUL 1966: “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.”

JOHN 1972: “Paul wrote the catchy chorus. I helped with the blunderbuss bit.”

JOHN 1980: “‘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.”

PAUL 1984: “I wrote that in bed one night. As a kid’s story. And then we thought it would be good for Ringo to do.”

PAUL circa-1994: “I was laying in bed in the Asher’s garret, and there’s a nice twilight zone just as you’re drifting into sleep and as you wake from it– I always find it quite a comfortable zone. I remember thinking that a children’s song would be quite a good idea… 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. 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.”

GEORGE 1999: “Paul came up with the concept of ‘Yellow Submarine.’ All I know is just that every time we’d all get around the piano with guitars and start listening to it and arranging it into a record, we’d all fool about. As I said, John’s doing the voice that sounds like someone talking down a tube or ship’s funnel as they do in the merchant marine. (laughs) And on the final track there’s actually that very small party happening! As I seem to remember, there’s a few screams and what sounds like small crowd noises in the background.”

About “Yellow Submarine”

“Yellow Submarine” , the 6th track on album Revolver, was also issued on a double A-side single, paired with “Eleanor Rigby“. It was written as a children’s song by Paul McCartney and John Lennon and sung by drummer Ringo Starr. It reached the top of the charts in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, as well as several other European countries. In 1966, it won an Ivor Novello Award for achieving the highest certified sales of any single written by a British songwriter. Billboard Hot 100 charted the song at number two in the US.

“Yellow Submarine” was recorded during a period of experimentation in the recording studio. In late May 1966, they recorded the basic track and vocals, then overdubbed nautical sound effects, party ambience, and chorus singing, recalling George Martin’s previous work with the Goons. Combined with “Eleanor Rigby“, a song that lacked any rock instrumentation, the single represented a radical departure for the group. As the opening track to Yellow Submarine’s soundtrack album, the song inspired the 1968 animated film.

Yellow Submarine was released during the controversies surrounding Lennon’s “More popular than Jesus” remarks – which led some radio stations to ban the Beatles’ music – and the band’s public opposition to the Vietnam War. The song has been interpreted socially and politically in a variety of ways. During Vietnam War protests, the counterculture adopted it as an anti-authority statement, and it was also used in strike actions and other forms of protest. Listeners viewed the song as a code for drugs, especially the barbiturate Nembutal that came in yellow capsules, or as a symbol of escapism. The song “Yellow Submarine” is more than just a children’s favorite; it has become a staple of the All Starr Band’s tour schedule, with Starr often playing the song on his tours with the band.

Meaning of “Yellow Submarine”

The meaning of “Yellow Submarine” can be interpreted in several ways. On the surface, the lyrics describe a group of individuals residing in a yellow submarine, embarking on a fantastical journey through an imaginary underwater world. The song recounts their colorful adventures and encounters with various creatures. However, beyond its literal narrative, “Yellow Submarine” can also be seen as a metaphor for escape, joy, and unity. The submarine becomes a symbol of carefree, happy-go-lucky attitudes that offer respite from the troubles of the world. The song’s cheerful melody and simple, repetitive lyrics give it a childlike quality, endearing it to both children and adults.

Given the song’s release during the height of the psychedelic movement, some interpret it as influenced by the counterculture and drug experiences. The vibrant, surreal imagery in the lyrics could be viewed in this light. While “Yellow Submarine” is a lighthearted song, it was released during a period of significant social and political upheaval. Some listeners have seen it as a message of peace and unity in a time of strong anti-war sentiment. Additionally, the songwriting partnership of Lennon-McCartney, though primarily McCartney’s work, showcases the collaborative spirit that defined their songwriting.

In essence, “Yellow Submarine” is a multi-dimensional song, offering enjoyment on various levels. Its catchy melody, whimsical lyrics, and positive message have contributed to its enduring popularity. The song’s adaptation into an animated film and accompanying soundtrack album further solidified its place in popular culture.


The Beatles

  • Ringo Starr – lead and backing vocals, drums, shouting
  • John Lennon – acoustic guitar, backing vocals, sound effects (bubbles), shouting
  • Paul McCartney – bass guitar, backing vocals, shouting
  • George Harrison – tambourine, backing vocals, sound effects (waves)

Additional contributors

  • Neil Aspinall – backing vocals
  • Alf Bicknell – sound effects (rattling chains), backing vocals
  • Pattie Boyd – laughter, backing vocals
  • Mal Evans – bass drum, backing vocals
  • Marianne Faithfull – backing vocals

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