Recording: Yellow Submarine

Studio Two, EMI Studios, Abbey Road
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Geoff Emerick

Having recorded the backing track on 26 May 1966, The Beatles and friends added sound effects and backing vocals for ‘Yellow Submarine’ on 1 June.

Two tracks were remaining on the tape, and The Beatles raided the trap room at Abbey Road to find suitable instruments and effects. Onto the first the following sounds were added, in rough order of appearance:

  • John Lennon blowing bubbles into water using a straw
  • George Harrison swirling water in a metal bathtub
  • Two ships’ bells being rung
  • A noisemaker being rattled
  • Low-level voices for a party atmosphere
  • An ocarina, played by The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones (heard during the third verse)
  • A propeller being wound and put into water
  • Coins being scattered
  • A foghorn
  • The final singalong

Yellow Submarine/Eleanor Rigby single artwork - Italy

The fourth track contained similar effects, again in the order in which they appear:

  • Chains being rattled in the bathtub
  • Clinking glasses
  • More party chatter
  • A brass band
  • Lennon, recorded in the studio echo chamber, shouting naval phrases into a microphone connected to his Vox guitar amplifier. “Full speed ahead, Mr Boatswain, full speed ahead!”
  • Whooshing sound effects
  • Lennon’s “life of ease” vocals
  • A marching band drum played by Mal Evans

The brass band was made up of session musicians booked especially for the session, although their names remain unknown. The final chorus, meanwhile, was sung by anyone on hand in the studio, including Mal Evans, Neil Aspinall, George Martin, Geoff Emerick, Pattie Harrison, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithfull, and The Beatles’ chauffeur Alf Bicknell.

Ringo Starr also recorded an unused introduction, a brief spoken word passage accompanied in part by the other Beatles:

…yellow submarine. And we will march till three the day to see them gathered there. From Land O’Groats to John O’Green, with Stepney do we tread. To see us yellow submarine. We love it.

The words were in reference to Land’s End and John O’Groats, the southernmost and northernmost parts of the United Kingdom. Underneath the vocals was the sound of a box of coal being shaken, in an approximation of marching feet.

This spoken passage was left out of the Revolver mixes, but was included on the ‘Real Love’ single in 1996. The new mix created for the single also brought many of the effects to the fore.

Last updated: 28 November 2022
Ringo Starr is photographed for The Beatles Book
Recording, mixing: I Want To Tell You, Yellow Submarine
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