Friday, May 24, 2013

The Beatles - Yellow Submarine (album and film)

There's a couple repeats on this album and the second half of it is all instrumental, so we'll quickly go through these and get to talking about the film.

  1. "Yellow Submarine" - See my Revolver review
  2. "Only a Northern Song" - The lyrics are pretty weak and the music is pretty slow and sleepy.  There's a couple interesting bits in there with the horns, but overall I'm not really impressed.
  3. "All Together Now" - Really meant to be more of a children's song than anything else, I feel like this could fit easily on Sesame Street or something like it.  It's repetitive but it's cute, and it's enjoyable for what it is.
  4. "Hey Bulldog" - I don't own this album, so when I got The Beatles Rock Band, I was essentially hearing this song for the first time.  It was great, because it meant I got to fall in love with a Beatles song like I hadn't in ages.  It's a simple bluesy number, but the shouting exchange between John and Paul makes this song so much fun.
  5. "It's All Too Much" - I find myself having a hard time finding anything to say about this one.  There's just nothing to it and nothing particularly special about it.
  6. "All You Need is Love" - See my Magical Mystery Tour review
  7. "Pepperland"
  8. "Sea of Time"
  9. "Sea of Holes"
  10. "Sea of Monsters"
  11. "March of the Meanies"
  12. "Pepperland Laid Waste"
  13. "Yellow Submarine in Pepperland"
Instead of analyzing all the instrumental tracks together, allow me to just say this: George Martin is a fantastic composer and musical arranger.  He was clearly as adapt at arranging orchestral instruments as he was the rock music. Listening to these tracks his influence on other Beatles' works like "A Day in the Life" and "Eleanor Rigby" becomes obvious.  I once watched a clip of atheist Penn Jillette talking about how a friend  told him the Beatles existence was proof of God, because the four of them together made something greater than any of them ever did individually.  His snarky response was "So you're saying George Martin is God."  I fully believe he is right in as much that Martin is the reason that the four of them were better together than they ever were alone.

Perhaps understandably, Magical Mystery Tour was panned by critics and not well received by the public.  As such, the Beatles weren't too enthusiastic about making another film, but were still contractually obligated to United Artists to make another one.  They're attempt to get out of it was Yellow Submarine.

The story was written by Lee Minoff taking large amounts of inspiration from various Beatles songs, "Yellow Submarine" being the most obvious.  It's animated and the characters are not voiced by the Beatles themselves.  The film is of course a musical, and while the plot is somewhat loose it's stronger than Magical Mystery Tour.  Pepperland has been attacked by the Blue Meanies, and so they send Old Fred out in the yellow submarine to get the Beatles to come help them.  They pass through several seas and pick up a real nowhere man before finally arriving in Pepperland and saving the day.  It ends with a very brief scene of the Beatles in live action that is absolutely adorable.

I didn't see this film until I was a teenager, and when I did I found myself really confused.  I basically thought that the filmmakers had to have been on drugs when they made it.  I recently asked around trying to see if anyone I knew had watched the film as a child and what they had thought of it.  I got two different responses, one telling me they had thought of the film as a moving storybook as a child, and another person telling me it was her daughter's favorite movie at the age of 2.  For me personally, I think if I had watched this film as a kid it would have given me nightmares.  There's just a lot of really bizarre imagery going on here.

But as an adult I've come to appreciate the film a lot more.  There's some fun wordplay to be had and of course all the songs used are great.  The moments where we're first introduced to each Beatle in turn are very cute and play very well to their established personas.  I also think having "When I'm 64" playing while they age and de-age in the Sea of Time is a very cute idea.

The highlight of the movie for me though is definitely Jonathan Hillary Boob.  Now that's a fun name to say!  He speaks in wordplay and despite the insults they throw at him, seems to be the smartest character in the movie.  It's interesting how culture changes over time.  In A Hard Day's Night we got Paul's grandfather insulting Ringo for reading a book instead of going out and experiencing life, and now we see the Beatles chiding Jonathon for being a well studied expert in so many fields without actually experiencing anything.  While there's certainly a valid point there, I think we can all agree that people could stand to read a bit more and take their schooling more seriously these days.  And I think well read people are a little more respected now than they were then.  At least I hope so.

While this is a children's film, I think there is enough to enjoy as an adult thanks to both its artful look and clever script.  It's not really a classic, and I'm not sure modern children could entirely appreciate this older style, but I think it's worth checking out.

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