Friday, November 29, 2013

The Beatles' Voices: Piecing Together The Meaning Of "Yellow Submarine"

In the November 23, 1966 edition of the British magazine Punch, our Paul was discussing his song, "Yellow Submarine":
"'The idea was just to do a children's song'" McCartney said, smiling calmly though perhaps a tiny bit peeved by people who insist on elaborate interpretations.  'But there is a Yellow Submarine place.  It's real even if it is only a hallucination.'"
It sounds as though if Paul was saying there was any complex interpretation of his song possible, it would be a drug-involved one.  But, of course, it wasn't simple and it also wasn't drug-inspired.  Paul was trying to get a message to his fans and had to hide it to the powers-that-be behind innocence or the p-t-b's drug pusher mentality.  Remember, the new, new Beatles who replaced our Paul and our John were pushing drugs hard and heavy to the Baby Boomer generation.

So what was the song about?  I reversed the song and heard the following:
     -  At ~ 0:05-0:30 into the reversed song you hear marching sounds and "Near a bus, alack" repeated 3 times.
     -  Beginning at 0:30-0:45 you hear:  "Here a bus . . . Here de water . . . Here battalion . . ."
     -  Again, beginning ~1:07-1:22 you hear "Near a bus, alack" and marching sounds repeated twice.
     -  In the forward song, Ringo introduces what I believe will be the Sergeant Pepper band with, "And the band begins to play."  At 1:24-1:27 you hear the reversed band music.
     -  Finally, at 1:41-1:46, the bus, alack and marching sounds are repeated two more times.

Geoff Emerick, the Beatles' recording engineer wrote a book in 2006 called, Here, There, and Everywhere:  A Life Recording The Beatles.  He went into a detailed discussion of "Yellow Submarine".  John wrote a spoken word introduction to the song that Emerick called medieval sounding.  The "alack" in the reversed song is taken from the medieval exclamation of sorrow, "Alas and Alack."  The intro was supposed to be a take-off on a much-publicized walk by an English woman between the two farthest points on the British mainland.  But Emerick said the intro couldn't be successfully worked into the song and was dropped. In the reversed song the "alack" is combined with marching sounds which implies the then Beatles (or some of them) were probably being marched out of the group.  Remember, the forward song sounded convivial and party-like.

Later, in the reversed song, they talk about a bus, the water and a battalion, like some of The Beatles were going to be taken away.  Was the B/Featles' Magical Mystery Tour a reference to that, and not--as some have said--just a compilation of English working class experiences?

The definitions for battalion according to the online Oxford English dictionary are:
1.)  A large body of troops ready for battle, especially an infantry unit forming part of a brigade typically commanded by a  Lieutenant Colonel.
2.)  A large, organized group of people pursuing a common aim or sharing a major undertaking.  

I believe the second meaning of battalion and Paul's statement in the magazine interview that a happy group enjoying the ride was an illusion were Paul's rueful comments on The Beatles.

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