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
I'm not going to beat around the bush: "Yellow Submarine" is a bad song.
Actually, "Yellow Submarine" is a terrible song. (Not as bad as Michelle and When I'm Sixty-Four, but terrible nonetheless.)
That shouldn't comes as a surprise. After all, the Beatles released a lot of bad songs. (Fully half of the "White Album" sucks, as does virtually all of side one of Abbey Road. The less said about Let It Be, the better.)
"Yellow Submarine" was a nonsense song, written for children. "There's nothing more to be read into it than there is in the lyrics of any children's song," said Paul McCartney, who wrote it.
But somehow the song became what Time magazine called a "symbol of the psychedelic set's desire for escape."
Music journalist Peter Doggett called it "a kind of Rorschach test for radical minds":
On picket lines in Britain, striking workers sang, "We all live on bread and margarine." The folk magazine Sing Out! printed an anti-Vietnam War interpretation, with the refrain: "We're all dropping jellied gasoline [napalm]."
Radical poet LeRoi Jones (who changed his name to Amiri Baraka) bloviated nonsensically about "Yellow Submarine":
The Beatles can sing "We all live in a yellow submarine" because that is literally where they, and all their people (would like to) live. In the solipsistic pink and white nightmare of "the special life," the artifactbeings [sic] worshiping their smells frozen in glass and gaudy jewelry.
|Amiri Baraka (né LeRoi Jones)|
The George Martin-produced recording of "Yellow Submarine" incorporates a number of wacky sound effects, including the cash register that Pink Floyd later used in "Money."
"Yellow Submarine" was the best-selling single in the UK for 1966, and stayed at #1 on the British charts for four weeks. In the United States, the record made it only to #2, behind "You Can't Hurry Love," by the Supremes.
"Yellow Submarine" was released about the same time that John Lennon famously said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, and some people believe that is why it never made it to the #1 spot. It did sell enough to give the Beatles their 21st U.S. gold record, eclipsing Elvis Presley's mark. (The Beatles were overrated, but they weren't nearly as overrated as Elvis.)
Here's a picture of the "Yellow Submarine" sculpture, which is now located at Liverpool John Lennon Airport:
Here's "Yellow Submarine," with footage from the eponymous movie:
Click below to buy the movie soundtrack from Amazon: