Magical History Tour: The Beatles In YELLOW SUBMARINE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Magical History Tour: The Beatles In YELLOW SUBMARINE

Chris Morley lives in.... Oh, you know the rest...

In our journey through the cinematic adventures of the Fab Four, we now move from the Magical Mystery Tour bus into the considerably more cramped Yellow Submarine, a first venture into animation for The Beatles, although not the first time the Liverpudlian quartet had been seen animated.

Directing Yellow Submarine for TVC London was George Dunning, who had also previously been involved in the creation of a US-exclusive animated series for the Fab Four on ABC, the band themselves not involved beyond lending the use of their music. Dunning's work would go on considerably longer - eleven months spent supervising a team of over 200 artists! Unlike the early mop-top days featured in the animated series, the cue for The Beatles' respective looks for Yellow Submarine was taken from the video for Strawberry Fields Forever, though somehow Paul loses his moustache!

And so where voice actors Paul Frees and Lance Percival had gone before, the two of them giving life to the animated John & George and Paul & Ringo respectively, John Clive, Peter Batten, Geoffrey Hughes & Paul Angelis stepped up to lend their dulcet tones to John, George, Paul & Ringo for the descent beneath the waves to Pepperland & its liberation from the music - loathing Blue Meanies...

Their weapons of choice, apples, are a nod to the Beatles' own Apple company. It was another such entity, though, that was giving them grief. Having signed a three film deal with United Artists, The Beatles were reluctant to make it a hat-trick having reportedly given the finished Help! a resounding four thumbs down. It was manager Brian Epstein who managed to find a fix for this particular hole. He had a word with Al Brodax, producer of the aforementioned Stateside cartoon series, to establish if a feature-length animation could be put together. Though his clients had hated the original series itself, at least if it went ahead they'd hardly have any involvement in it at all.

Bar a short sequence at the end that is...

The Beatles reprise one of the four new songs written for the film, Paul McCartney's All Together Now serving as a nice little singalong for what was seen as its intended audience of children. Its simple rhyming echoing the title track as first heard on Revolver.

The writer of the title song, McCartney again, would recall,
"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 Yellow submarine itself provided a handy means of escape from the besieged Pepperland for Young Fred, who goes to get help from Ringo, with the drummer then making a lonely trip to “The Pier” in a section using Eleanor Rigby and featuring short scenes from possibly the strangest Merseyside derby match fans of Liverpool & Everton had ever clapped eyes on!

This could be a reference to the fact that a late Forties/early Fifties Liverpool player, forward Albert Stubbins, appears on the cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band long after his 75 goals from 159 games for the Reds between 1946 & 1953 having decided to move to Anfield from Newcastle on the toss of a coin - his other suitors being Everton themselves.

No time for even the quickest of jumpers for goalposts kickabouts for Ringo, though. He decides to answer Young Fred's desperate appeal for help & rounds up John, Paul & George for a journey to Pepperland, passing through the temporally unreliable Sea of Time as well as further such watery abodes of Science and Monsters.

The song heard in the Sea of Science is George Harrison's Only A Northern Song, and was actually the first new composition recorded for the film itself. A dig at the group's publishing company, Northern Songs, over what he saw as an unjust sort of junior songwriter status next to Lennon & McCartney, the track was also inspired by the fact that after its 1965 listing on the London Stock Exchange as a sort of tax dodge designed to protect its principal songwriters, the various shareholders made more money from his music than he did!
And it doesn't really matter what chords I play
What words I say
Or time of day it is
As it's only a Northern song
If that weren't enough, George's original voice actor, Peter Batten, had to be replaced by Ringo's Paul Angelis for the second half of recording dialogue for the film of Yellow Submarine after it was discovered that he was a deserter from the West Germany-stationed British Army Of The Rhine, bringing the animated four down to a three from about halfway through what became the final product.

A John Lennon original composition, Hey Bulldog, was cut from the film prior to its cinematic release as it was felt its inclusion would mean Yellow Submarine would overrun. But it was then reinstated in time for a 1999 re-release, with an accompanying video making use of footage actually shot for an intended Lady Madonna promo piece & simply re-synchronised to fit the change in songs.

After the bulldog got its day once more, next came Its All Too Much, accompanied by possibly the trippiest sequence of the whole film as George reflected on the first flush of his experience with LSD. As he said in a Beatles Anthology interview
“Although 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?”

Where The Beatles were headed though was unfortunately a messy creative divorce, captured in Let It Be as something of a last hurrah, which we'll get back to next time.

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