If you’re familiar with The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” you probably think it’s a whimsical children’s song, brimming with silly sound effects and happy choruses.
But a newly discovered studio recording, featured on an extended 1966 reissue Revolver, reveals that the song was originally composed with a much darker vibe in mind: on it, John Lennon plays the chords and sings the melody for the verses of “Yellow Submarine”, but his guitar and smooth vocals give the song a slow and melancholy form. Instead of the playful lyrics Beatles fans are familiar with, Lennon sings a despondent chorus:
In the place where I was born
Nobody cared, nobody cared
And the name I was born
Nobody cared, nobody cared
Paul McCartney wrote the final lyrics to “Yellow Submarine” and Ringo Starr sang it, so Lennon’s debut role is surprising. The new album’s producer, Giles Martin, who is the son of longtime Beatles producer George Martin, was also surprised.
“I had no idea until I started going through the holds,” says Martin rolling stoneit’s Rob Sheffield. “It was a Lennon-McCartney thing. I said to Paul, ‘I always thought it was a song you wrote and gave to Ringo.’ »
The origin of “Yellow Submarine” is one of the many surprises packed into the new Revolver. The reissue features newly mixed versions of all 14 tracks and 2 singles from the album, as well as all the originals. It also includes a number of unpolished studio recordings that offer insight into the band’s creative process.
Revolver is the fifth Beatles album that Martin has remixed and developed. It follows remixes of sergeant. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (2017), The Beatles (2018) (also known as “The White Album”), Abbey Road (2019) and So be it (2021).
Originally published in 1966, Revolver was a turning point for the Beatles. They had begun to transform from a boy band in suits and ties into a psychedelic experimental rock project with the 1965s rubber core; on Revolver, this transformation seems complete. Among its 14 tracks, the album includes the politically charged “Taxman”; orchestral and heartbreaking “Eleanor Rigby”; and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the swirling LSD anthem that opens with the lyrics “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.”
However Revolver finds The Beatles evolving into avant-garde songwriters, the technology used to record it was still fairly mundane. The album is a mono mix, not a stereo mix, which means that all the instruments and vocals of a given song have been combined into a single sound stream, as opposed to the modern approach of recording them on different tracks . For a long time it made the prospect of remixing Revolver– or anything that came before it – seems impossible to Martin and his team.
But a technological breakthrough occurred during the production of the Peter Jackson documentary Come back, released last year. The film follows the Beatles as they record what would become their final album, So be it, and give their latest performance together. To do this, Jackson’s team developed technology that allowed them to split mono tracks into their separate parts: guitar on one track, vocals on another, and so on.
The new technology relies on artificial intelligence and machine learning, Martin told BBC News’ Mark Savage. “He has to learn what John Lennon’s guitar sound like, for example, and the more information you can give him, the better he gets.”
Martin himself doesn’t quite understand the process, he admits Varietyis Chris Willman. “I don’t know how it’s done!” he says. “It’s like I give them a cake and they give me flour, eggs, milk and sugar.”
New Revolver also shares thematic similarities with Come back: Both projects lift the curtain on some of the Beatles’ most beloved songs, humanizing the four men who rose to divine status in the eyes of so many fans.
On the reissue, listeners hear George Martin and Paul McCartney debate whether the strings of “Eleanor Rigby” should have vibrato, ultimately deciding that they shouldn’t. They hear the backing track to “Rain”—which was slowed down for the final version of the song—played at top speed. In one of the album’s happiest moments, listeners follow along as the band struggles to complete a recording of “And Your Bird Can Sing.” Why? They can’t stop laughing.