Beatles By Day

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Song facts: Yellow Submarine, Eleanor Rigby

Yellow Submarine is a Beatles' song written by Paul McCartney in 1966. Paul wrote it specifically for Ringo to sing; it was released on the band's Revolver album and features heavily in their Yellow Submarine cartoon film. The song was also issued as a double A-sided single with Eleanor Rigby.

Paul composed the song while drifting off to sleep one night at Jane Asher's parents' house.

"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 range-y 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." - Paul McCartney
Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby double A-sided single, 1966. 

Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby double A-sided single, 1966. 

Recording

The Beatles recorded Yellow Submarine, with George Martin at the helm producing, on May 26th 1966 at Abbey Road. The song was recorded in only five takes. 

Effects were later added on June 1st, including Lennon blowing through a straw into a pan of water, and Paul and John talking through tin cans giving the captain's orders. At 1:38 on the song Ringo can be heard saying Cut the cable! Drop the cable!, which he shouted from outside the doors of the recording room. 

The song was fully completed on June 22nd, 1966.

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Personnel

  • Ringo Starr – drums, lead vocals
  • Paul McCartney – bass, backing vocals, shouting
  • John Lennon – acoustic guitar, backing vocals, shouting
  • George Harrison – tambourine, backing vocals
  • Mal Evans – bass drum, backing vocals
  • George Martin – backing vocals, producer
  • Geoff Emerick – backing vocals, engineer
  • Neil Aspinall – backing vocals
  • Alf Bicknell – sound effects (rattling chains)
  • Pattie Boyd – backing vocals
  • Marianne Faithfull – backing vocals
  • Brian Jones – backing vocals, sound effects (clinking glasses)
  • Brian Epstein – backing vocals

Chart success

The double A-sided single was released on August 5th 1966, the same day Revolver was released in the UK; it reached number one on the UK Singles Chart on August 20th 1966. In the US the single peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. 

Eleanor Rigby

Eleanor Rigby was written by Paul McCartney in 1966 and released on The Beatles' Revolver album. It was the first Beatle song to contain no guitar. In fact none of The Beatles played any instruments on the track. Producer George Martin employed a classical double string ensemble for Paul's melancholy ballad. George Harrison and John Lennon provided backing vocals. 

The original protagonist for the song was not Eleanor Rigby, but Daisy Hawkins. Paul came up with the song's melody while experimenting on his piano and all four Beatles contributed lyrics to the song while at John Lennon's home in Kenwood. Harrison came up with the line Ah, look at all the lonely people, Starr contributed the line writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear.

"I thought, I swear, that I made up the name Eleanor Rigby like that. I remember quite distinctly having the name Eleanor, looking around for a believable surname and then wandering around the docklands in Bristol and seeing the shop there. But it seems that up in Woolton Cemetery, where I used to hang out a lot with John, there's a gravestone to an Eleanor Rigby. Apparently, a few yards to the right there's someone called McKenzie. 
I was sitting at the piano when I thought of it. The first few bars just came to me, and I got this name in my head ... "Daisy Hawkins picks up the rice in the church". I don't know why. I couldn't think of much more so I put it away for a day. Then the name Father McCartney came to me, and all the lonely people. But I thought that people would think it was supposed to be about my Dad sitting knitting his socks. Dad's a happy lad. So I went through the telephone book and I got the name McKenzie". - Paul McCartney

The Real Eleanor Rigby

There was an Eleanor Rigby born in Liverpool on August 29th, 1895. She married a man named Thomas Woods on Boxing Day 1930, but tragically died of a brain haemorrhage at the age of 44. 

It is unclear as to whether or not this woman was the inspiration for the song, but Beatle fans on a pilgrimage to Liverpool often visit the graveyard of Rigby.

Personnel

  • Paul McCartney – lead and harmony vocals
  • John Lennon – harmony vocal
  • George Harrison – harmony vocal
  • Tony Gilbert – violin
  • Sidney Sax – violin
  • John Sharpe – violin
  • Juergen Hess – violin
  • Stephen Shingles – viola
  • John Underwood – viola
  • Derek Simpson – cello
  • Stephen Lansberry – cello
  • Peter Halling - cello
  • George Martin – producer, string arrangement
  • Geoff Emerick – engineer

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