A combination of two unfinished Lennon-McCartney song fragments, ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ was recorded in a single day and issued as the b-side to ‘All You Need Is Love’.

The first song recorded specifically for The Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine, ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ segued together John Lennon’s falsetto verses and Paul McCartney’s bouncy, chanting chorus.

That’s a combination of two separate pieces, Paul’s and mine, put together and forced into one song. One half was all mine. [Sings] ‘How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people, now that you know who you are, da da da da.’ Then Paul comes in with [sings] ‘Baby, you’re a rich man,’ which was a lick he had around.
John Lennon
All We Are Saying, David Sheff

Lennon’s section was originally titled ‘One Of The Beautiful People’. It was possibly inspired by the 14-Hour Technicolour Dream, a ‘happening’ which took place on 29 April 1967, shortly before the song was recorded. John Lennon attended the event, which was headlined by Pink Floyd.

Paul McCartney’s chorus, meanwhile, mostly centres on a single note. Its lyrics, like Lennon’s verses, contain sufficient psychedelic nonsense to suit the times.

The lyrics are thought to relate, at least in part, to The Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. Indeed, it has been claimed that Lennon sang “Baby you’re a rich fag Jew” in the studio.

Lyrics for Baby You're A Rich Man, transcribed by Mal Evans

Although originally intended for the Yellow Submarine soundtrack, ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ was included on the ‘All You Need Is Love’ single, which was rush-released following The Beatles’ appearance on the Our World satellite link-up.

On 7 August 1967, George Harrison visited San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Accompanied by his wife Pattie, Neil Aspinall and Derek Taylor, he strummed a few bars of the song on an acoustic guitar for the assembled beautiful people in Golden Gate Park.

In the studio

This curiously sparse recording was completed in a single session on 11 May 1967. It took place at Olympic Sound Studios, in Barnes, London, between 9pm and 3am the following morning.

‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ was the first Beatles song recorded and mixed entirely away from Abbey Road. According to studio manager Keith Grant, who also engineered the session, The Beatles were unaccustomed to working to such a fast pace in 1967.

I do a lot of orchestral work and you naturally push people along. The Beatles said that this was the fastest record they’d ever made. They were used to a much more leisurely pace. We started the session at about 9pm and it was finished and mixed by 3am, vocals and everything. They kept on playing, version after version, then we spooled back to the one they liked and overdubbed the vocals.
Keith Grant
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

John Lennon played a clavioline, a three-octave monophonic keyboard which was sped up to give an oboe-like effect. He also played piano, and sang lead and backing vocals, along with McCartney and Harrison.

Paul McCartney also played bass guitar and piano, George Harrison contributed lead guitar, and Ringo Starr performed percussion. Eddie Kramer, an engineer on the session, reportedly also played a vibraphone.

Mick Jagger was present at the ‘Baby You’re A Rich Man’ session, and one of the tape boxes noted his name alongside The Beatles’, suggesting he also sang backing vocals during the later choruses.

Previous song: ‘Penny Lane’
Next song: ‘All You Need Is Love’
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