Welcome to "Every Little Thing", a blog discussing all 214 songs released by the Beatles from 1962 to 1970....by Daniel Seth Levine.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

#108: Yellow Submarine

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released: August 5, 1966
Appears on: Revolver
Lead vocal: Ringo

In the town, where I was born
Lived a man, who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines...

...Thus starts one of the most fun songs the Beatles ever recorded. Sure its a children's song and Ringo's vocal confirms that, but it's still infectious beyond belief. The song is 44 years old and yet if you listen to it today, you'll still get that chorus stuck in your head for days on end. WE ALL LIVE IN A YELLOW SUBMARINE, A YELLOW SUBMARINE...A YELLOW SUBMARINE!!!! 
It was the first time the Beatles had an opportunity to essentially record a party and release it. Singer Marianne Faithful, Stone Brian Jones, roadies Neil Aspinall & Mal Evans, George Martin, engineer Geoff Emerick and George's wife Patti can all be heard contributing backing vocals. Mal also plays the bass drum on the track, augmenting the sparse instrumentation by the Beatles themselves. The only guitar on the track is John's acoustic, with George playing tambourine, Ringo on drums and Paul on bass. 
As for the lyrics...well, what is there to say about a story about sailing on a yellow submarine? I guess you could say that there's some universal, philosophical message that we all live on earth, our very own 'yellow submarine'. Paul wrote the song specifically with Ringo in mind and John and Donovan helped polish it. (Donovan supposedly just came up with the line sky of blue, sea of green, which must have been so difficult.)
"Yellow Submarine" and "Eleanor Rigby" were released as a double A-Sided single on the same day as Revolver's release and the single stayed at the #1 position on all the major UK charts for 4 weeks. It was the only Ringo vocal to be released on either side of a single in the UK (in the US, Capitol released several of Ringo's songs as B-Sides). 
The song's child-like nature made it a natural choice to be used as a launching point for an animated Beatles movie, which happened in 1969. I'll talk more about that when we get to the songs that premiered in that film. Also, the song has been on several compilations, including A Collection Of Beatles Oldies, the original Yellow Submarine soundtrack, 1962-1966 (where it and "Eleanor Rigby" were the only representatives for Revolver), the UK 20 Greatest Hits, Reel Music, Yellow Submarine Songtrack and 1.


Friday, May 28, 2010

#107: Here, There And Everywhere

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released: August 5, 1966
Appears on: Revolver
Lead vocal: Paul

"Here, There And Everywhere" is a top-tier Beatles song. A top 10 list of Beatles tracks without it is one not to take seriously. This is a song only Paul could write, with an immortal opening couplet (To lead a better life/I need my love to be here...) and while Wikipedia tells me that the song is "noted for its simplicity", I have to disagree. Paul's lyrical structure is ingenious if it is anything. The title phrase does not come in until the very last line because each verse leads up to it, as if they are pieces in a puzzle. The first line in every verse mentions another word in the title (Here, making each day of the year...There, running my hands through her hair...I want her everywhere...) and it's just so brilliant. I would think that any girl would instantly fall in love with a man who would present these words to her. 
The instrumentation for the song is the only part that is simple. The song's acoustic sound (the only electric instrument is George's lead guitar) and heavy, Beach Boys-esque* harmonies are rarities on an album that is dominated by technical wizardry. This makes it stand out even more than it would have if it was on any earlier Beatles record. Still, its lyrics set it so far apart from things like "And I Love Her" and "I'll Follow The Sun". It's much more sophisticated and all the more lovelier. 
The song appeared only on Love Songs and The Beatles Ballads outside of Revolver. "Here, There And Everywhere" is just another example of how the Beatles didn't have to release a song as a single for it to become immensely popular.  

*The Beach Boys influence on the song should hardly be surprising. Bruce Johnston, who was still not a full-fledged Beach Boy at the time, but had been working with the group since 1965, had brought an early master of Pet Sounds over to England to play at parties, one of which the Beatles attended. The album wowed them and Paul quickly wrote "Here, There And Everywhere", inspired by "God Only Knows". It's just another example of how musicians really played off each other in the 1960s. I think even then, everyone realized they were all creating special stuff.   

Thursday, May 27, 2010

#106: Love You To

Written by: George Harrison
Released: August 5, 1966
Appears on: Revolver
Lead vocal: George

Before listening to this song, it's a good idea to listen to "Norwegian Wood", which had been recorded less than a full year before. Even someone who has no idea how to play a sitar could clearly hear how rudimentary George's playing is on that song. Yet, by the time "Love You To" comes around, George seems like a virtuoso. George had time to take lessons from his new friend and sitar master, Ravi Shankar, which worked wonders on his ability to play the instrument. Unlike "Taxman", George is able to dominate his own song. Ringo, playing tambourine, is the only other Beatle on the recording. (Anhil Baghwat, who plays tabla, is actually credited on the cover, making him and Alan Civil, the French horn player on "For No One", the first outside musicians credited on a Beatles record.)
The song is marked by an extended introduction, before George's rather mundane and obvious lyrics come in. At first glance, you might think these lyrics are philosophical, especially with the other-worldly music backing it up. I will suggest here though that George doesn't mean to really go beyond a regular boy/girl relationship with his lyrics. He uses the rest of the world as an example as to why he needs his girl to Love me while you can. It's pretty clean cut - George says that everyone else is evil (They'll fill you in with all their sins, you'll see) so just fall in love with me and all will be right in the world. Still, the song's drone-like Indian sound makes it one of the more unique tracks in the Beatles' canon. It has a more upbeat feel than George's other sitar-based songs ("Within You Without You" and "The Inner Light"), making it much easier to listen to on a regular basis. 
The song's extended intro was used to introduce the George Harrison character in Yellow Submarine. Therefore, it made its first appearance outside of Revolver on 1999's Yellow Submarine Songtrack

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

#105: I'm Only Sleeping

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney
Released: August 5, 1966
Appears on: Revolver
Lead vocal: John

John's first appearance on Revolver is probably his most laid-back, meaningless song for the Beatles (save for plenty of his contributions later in their career). It is, in many ways, a perfect Beatles song. Paul & George's vocal harmonies and Ringo's tapping along are perfect to a 't'. John's tired, dreary vocal works incredibly well with the song's subject. That bridge is fantastic, too. Keeping an eye on the world goin' by my window! Takin' my time! The rest of the lyrics are fantastic, too, meaning that John could make an activity as mundane as sleeping interesting. 
"I'm Only Sleeping" feels like it could have easily fit on Rubber Soul, seeing as it is completely dominated by an acoustic sound that is hardly anywhere else on the album. However, when those backwards guitar riffs from George come in, you suddenly know we're in new territory. Sure, "Rain" had a backwards fade-out, but that was with the vocals. Here, it's with the lead guitar and again, that's definitely something that was taken for granted throughout the latter half of the 1960s and early 1970s. I think many people who aren't Beatles die-hards like to think that they weren't as influential as they really are, in some sick way to downplay their popularity, but facts are facts. The Beatles influenced Jimi Hendrix, Cream and the rest of the big British Blues explosion (which the fab four even parodied) almost as much as the blues trailblazers.  
The song was one of three songs released early in the States on Yesterday And Today, although in a duophonic, fake stereo mix. All three of the songs were John songs, leaving the US Revolver with just two John songs! "I'm Only Sleeping" never appeared on any other album, though. It was never issued as a single.