Part of George Martin’s original score for the Yellow Submarine animated film, ‘Sea Of Monsters’ was released in early 1969 on the second side of the soundtrack LP.
It was recorded, along with the other orchestral pieces, over two sessions at Abbey Road on 22 and 23 October 1968, after The Beatles had completed work on the White Album.
The 41-piece George Martin Orchestra was conducted by the composer himself, with John Burgess and Ron Richards co-producing.
As with the rest of the Yellow Submarine score, the music for ‘Sea Of Monsters’ was tied in to the visuals in the film. For George Martin, this necessitated some experimentation with recording the orchestra.
Yellow Submarine saw some pretty strange experiments, too. In one sequence, in the Sea Of Monsters, the yellow submarine is wandering around and all kinds of weird little things are crawling along the sea floor, some with three legs. One monster is enormous, without arms but with two long legs with wellington boots on, and in place of a nose there is a kind of long trumpet. This is a sucking-up monster – when it sees the other little monsters, it uses it’s trumpet to suck them up. Eventually it sucks up the yellow submarine, and finally gets hold of the corner of the screen and sucks that up too, until it all goes white. I felt, naturally, that scene required special ‘sucking-up’ music – the question was how to do it with an orchestra!
Suddenly, I hit upon the obvious – backwards music. Music played backwards sounds very odd anyway, and a trombone or cymbal played backwards sounds just like a sucking-in noise. So I scored about 45 seconds for the orchestra to play, in such a way that the music would fit the picture when we played it backwards. The engineer working at CTS at that time was a great character named Jack Clegg, and when I explained the idea to him he said, ‘Lovely! Great idea! I’ll get the film turned ’round, and you record the music to the backward film. Then, when we turn the film ’round the right way, your music will be backwards.’ It sounded like something from a Goon script.
All You Need Is Ears
In addition to the various effects, Martin also included a section from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Air on the G String towards the end of ‘Sea Of Monsters’.