Saturday, September 12, 2009
Glancing at the cover of this colorful soundtrack LP, you'll notice that the cartoon John Lennon seems to be thoroughly enjoying the Dio concert that he's attending in his mind.
Fifteen years before that band was even formed!
Quite a visionary.
Contractual obligation reared its ugly head once again in the form of a film commitment. This time out, the band would not even have to act naturally. (or talk, as actors voiced their parts) United Artists and King Features produced an animated film based on the perceived image of the lads circa 1967. Yellow Submarine was a huge smash with critics and fans in the summer of 1968 and still holds up as a pretty entertaining flick. The Beatles were only marginally involved in this project, appearing briefly at the end in a short (cheesy) scripted segment.
Their musical contribution was also slight, to say the least, as they dug up three rejected tunes from sessions dating back to spring/summer of ’67. The fourth "new" song, cut at the same time as the “Lady Madonna” single in February 1968, is the highlight. "Hey Bulldog" is an excellent, off the cuff Lennon tune with a cutting solo courtesy of Harrison’s SG. The brooding, bluesy piano /guitar riff and some wild vocal improvisation at the end make this a fun tune to listen to. McCartney's bass lines are first rate.
Georges Harrison and Martin feature prominently on this record, with the whole second side devoted to the orchestrations of the latter. Harrison ’s two tunes don’t amount to much, though I do love the bass work on “Only A Northern Song”, which was rejected for inclusion on Sgt. Pepper. Somewhat cynical in tone, the lyrics reflect the malaise associated with his diminished role within the group during that time. “It’s All Too Much” has a terrific feedback-laden intro and then proceeds to drone on for a while with the over simplistic summations of one who is entranced by the lysergic experience, but doesn’t quite know how to put the whole thing into words. The whimsical and childlike appraisal of the sensory disruption caused by acid seemed to be much more prevalent in the approach of English writers. Syd Barrett's work on "Piper At the Gates of Dawn" is very much in this vein.
Show me that I'm everywhere and get me home for tea
Adding “Yellow Submarine” and “All You Need Is Love” really didn’t amount to anything of value for collectors, although the stereo master for John’s anthem was used here instead of the poor, “electronically reprocessed stereo” copy that landed on the US version of Magical Mystery Tour.
Word has it that a five song EP release was originally planned, which would have used the four new songs, plus “Across the Universe”. This actually reached the mastering stage before it was decided to include additional material and release the whole mess as a full length album, with “Universe” scratched from the list.
This project was not something that was taken seriously by the group. When initially informed about it, their response was to file any garbage that they recorded and set it aside for the soundtrack.
Curiously, the late 90s saw a major reconstruction of all of the Beatle tracks that were originally featured in the movie. The work involved both remixing and remastering these tunes, ditching the George Martin instrumentals and putting out a new CD (Yellow Submarine" Songtrack") that would serve a s a compliment to the refurbished digital re-release of the movie.
Time well spent.
There are two distinct differences between the original US and UK issues and their corresponding album cover art. What are they? Did this LP hit number one?