It’s All Too Much

Yellow Submarine album artworkWritten by: Harrison
Recorded: 25, 31 May; 2 June 1967
Producer: George Martin
Engineer: Dave Siddle

Released: 17 January 1969 (UK), 13 January 1969 (US)

George Harrison: vocals, Hammond organ
John Lennon: harmony vocals, lead guitar
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass
Ringo Starr: drums, tambourine
David Mason and three others: trumpets
Paul Harvey: bass clarinet

Available on:
Yellow Submarine
Yellow Submarine Songtrack

Written while under the influence of LSD, It's All Too Much was the second song by George Harrison to feature on the Yellow Submarine soundtrack.

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It's All Too Much was written in a childlike manner from realizations that appeared during and after some LSD experiences and which were later confirmed in meditation.
George Harrison

Based on a droning G chord, the song transposed the continuing influence of Indian music onto a psychedelic setting. The lyrics combined the cosmic philosophy favoured by Harrison with some nursery rhyme-style whimsy.

It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around here
All the world's a birthday cake,
So take a piece but not too much

Sail me on a silver sun, for I know that I'm free
Show me that I'm everywhere, and get me home for tea

It's All Too Much contained a couplet from The Merseys' 1966 hit single Sorrow: "With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue". The trumpeters, meanwhile, performed a motif from Jeremiah Clarke's Prince of Denmark's March, also known as Trumpet Voluntary.

I just wanted to write a rock 'n' roll song about the whole psychedelic thing of the time. Because you'd trip out, you see, on all this stuff, and then whoops! you'd just be back having your evening cup of tea! 'Your long blond hair and your eyes of blue' - that was all just this big ending we had, going out. And as it was in those days, we had the horn players just play a bit of trumpet voluntarily, and so that's how that Prince of Denmark bit was played. And Paul and John just came up with and sang that lyric of 'your eyes of blue'.
George Harrison

The version used on the film soundtrack was 6'28" long. An eight-minute mix, meanwhile, has appeared on Beatles bootlegs, and contains a verse which also featured in the Yellow Submarine film.

Nice to have the time
To take this opportunity
Time for me to look at you
And you to look at me.

In the studio

Recording began with the working title Too Much, at De Lane Lea Studios in London. On 25 May 1967 The Beatles recorded a number of rehearsal run-throughs before taping four takes of the rhythm track - Hammond organ, lead guitar, bass and drums.

On 31 May they returned to De Lane Lea, adding percussion, lead and backing vocals, and handclaps.

John and Paul's backing, meanwhile, started to waver a little, the chanted 'too much' eventually becoming 'tuba' and then 'Cuba'. It was that sort of a song.
The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

It's All Too Much was completed on 2 June, with the addition of four trumpets and a bass clarinet. The session took place between 8.30pm and 2am. One of the trumpet players was David Mason, who also performed on Penny Lane, A Day In The Life, Magical Mystery Tour and All You Need Is Love.

132 responses on “It’s All Too Much

  1. Ethan

    Given that all the guitar-playing Beatles were wonderful in their own ways, if you consider their styles, it becomes obvious that Paul plays the lead guitar on It’s All Too Much. In the 60s, Paul tended to solo in confidently improvisatory bursts and favored a wiry, stinging treble tone. Compare the tone and style here with his bits on Taxman, Sgt Pepper’s LHCB (the song), Good Morning Good Morning and The End. He’s pretty consistent. If you consider John’s style, he tends to play aggressive but fairly static chordal solos, as in You Can’t Do That, Yer Blues or The End – or else fairly simple licks as on Get Back or The Ballad of John and Yoko. John certainly never recorded anything in the 60s or 70s that sounds like the soloing on It’s All Too Much, even if he used feedback on I Feel Fine. George also frequently favored a trebly sound but his solos tended to be more organized and thought-out, with almost a loping gait or a swing to them, as on their rockabilly covers or, say, Fixing a Hole. George also never took a solo like this in any of his other recordings.

    They were all great musicians and fully capable soloists, but It’s All Too Much is Paul all the way.

    (Odd that the lead line drops out after a few minutes, don’t you think?)

    1. speffley bass

      @Ethan, your insightful explanation is the best I’ve seen regarding the lead guitar mystery of this song. This is the most compelling mystery of instrumentation to me due to the expressive character of the lead guitar throughout the recording. I agree with all of what you suggest above, especially when comparing with Paul’s relative guitar work during this recording period (spring 1967). In addtion, the events before and after May 25, 1967 are very interesting: all four members went to see Procul Harum perform the night before recording the basic tracks. Then, the night after this first recording session there was a party which Paul only did not attend, where John was still buzzing on Procul Harum. And finally after all sessions complete on this song, there was another concert attendance, only this time it was Paul and George to see Hendrix. All this considered, I’m leaning toward Paul laying down this expressive, exploratory lead guitar – feedback to lead fills (all one guitar) – and John on the rudimentary, droning bassline. Still surprising there is so little said about this extraordinary guitar recording!

    2. Ben Smith

      As much as I love the guitar on this song, can I bring up the drums? For some reason, Ringo’s drumming during the Revolver/Sgt. Pepper’s era is absolutely astounding as we see here. It’s whirling and innovative, but it goes unnoticed by many it seems. Unfortunately, the original mix of this song featured on the Yellow Submarine is incredibly subpar and undermines the instrumental majesty on this song. Give me the Yellow Submarine Songtrack remix any day. It has so much more depth and really lets the guitar and drums shine.

    3. Tom

      Clearly it’s Lennon’s voice shouting “TO YOUR MOTHE” instruments kick in. That is definitely not George’s style and Lennon’s voice is easily recognizable.

      1. Spiro Nicolet

        Your right it is not George on lead but rather John…See my comment on John’s guitar influence and experimentation with feedback on this tune. Too bad George Martin didn’t encourage more free flowing instrumentals. He was absent for this session and the band came together as they used to play live with intensity and vigor! Going to see Paul in Milwaukee at Summerfest on Friday!

    1. JPM-Fangirl

      Funny, I never noticed. But when you listen for it, it’s quite obvious. Sussing out who the culprit is, is easy enough: it very much sounds like Paul.

  2. dogbert0360

    @turnedoutfine…The first words heard at the begining after feadback is George saying, ” To your mother!…” as something of aggressive statement because this is a rocking, in your face kind of song.

    If anybody knows of a more biting and cleaned up version of this song please let me know. The original mix is a bit muddy and would like to see the rhythm backing more up front and the feedback at the begining more prominent and stinging.

  3. Cristian Almanza

    I think You Know My Name (Look Up The Number) takes the cake for most underrated Beatles song. I this song though. Does anyone know what that whooping sound is that sounds like clapping but really distorted is? It really adds to the song. Imagine if this song made it on Sgt. Pepper, that would’ve been amazing along with Only A Northern Song.

  4. castironshore

    Does anyone know why this wasn’t recorded at abbey road ? It seems a pretty “loose” track and i’m not certain that george martin was particularly involved (also stated in “revolution in the head”)

    I’ve always loved this tune though, the bottom end is out of this world good and trippy. The version on the yellow submarine remaster is a big improvement.

  5. Luke

    I have a theory that the guitar is played in open G. Not sure if Paul ever dealt with different timings, but George was familiar and John was from his youth learning banjo. It’s prob between those two if that’s the case.

  6. SaxonMothersSon

    On my fantasy re-worked Pepper album, 64 and Pepper Reprise are dropped. It’s All Too much precedes Day in the Life. Just as it fades out, Day fades in quietly. Would have been a flawless segue. But that’s just me…

  7. revolt1983

    I may have to disagree with George. I think the trumpet was a good break from the guitar overload… It was very well incorporated in the song, it made it more alive.

  8. Graham Paterson

    Asset to “Yellow Submarine” album and film. George Harrison’s song written and recorded in 1967 epitomizes the Summer of Love. Though it was released some time later. I love the line “and get me home for tea”.

  9. Rickenvoxer

    I read somewhere a theory that the intro is John yelling “To Jorma!,” as in Jorma Kaukonen, lead guitarist with the Jefferson Airplane. Jorma had been around John days earlier, as I recall reading.

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