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“Yellow Submarine” is the tenth studio album by the Beatles in the United Kingdom, released on Apple Records. It was issued as the soundtrack to the film of the same name, which premiered in the United Kingdom seven months prior to the album’s release.
Only one side of the album contains songs performed by the Beatles; of the six, four were previously unissued. “Yellow Submarine” had been simultaneously issued in 1966 as a single and on the album Revolver, and “All You Need Is Love” had been issued as a single in 1967. The second side features the symphonic film score composed by George Martin, in versions recorded specifically for the album.
“All You Need Is Love” appeared in either mono or rechannelled stereo (‘fake stereo’), on the US LP Magical Mystery Tour. It debuted in a true stereo mix on LP for this album.
Only four new Beatles songs appeared on the album, and two were recorded specifically for the film: “All Together Now” and “Hey Bulldog”. “Only A Northern Song” had been recorded during the sessions for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but was set aside from the final running order. “It’s All Too Much,” like similar numbers recorded immediately following the Sgt. Pepper sessions, was not intended for a specific project. “Hey Bulldog”, recorded on 11 February 1968, evolved from an initial intent to shoot a promotional film for the “Lady Madonna” single.
“Baby, You’re a Rich Man” was also originally intended for the film soundtrack, but was released as the B-side to “All You Need Is Love” instead and was not included on the Yellow Submarine album.
In contrast to how the film was received, “Yellow Submarine” is usually considered the Beatles’ weakest release. It was one of the few Beatles releases not to top the charts in either the United Kingdom or the United States, although it made No. 1 on the RPM national albums chart in Canada for two weeks, knocking their own “The Beatles” album off a 12-week residency at the top spot. In the US, it reached #2, kept from the top by the same album, which had been released two months before. The Beatles themselves did not consider it a proper studio album, since they had little involvement in the project, and the four previously unreleased tracks on it were taken hodge-podge fashion from various sessions in 1967 and early 1968.
After mixed response to the album upon its release, the Beatles considered releasing “Yellow Submarine” as a five-track mono EP, without the film score but including the then-unreleased “Across the Universe” as a bonus track. The EP was mastered but never issued. The Beatles had previously released popular songs from their LPs as EPs in the British market.
Although the essential artwork on the album covers issued in the United States and the United Kingdom are similar, there are a few subtle differences on the sleeves. The front of the British jacket contains the words “NOTHING IS REAL” (taken from “Strawberry Fields Forever”) in green print just below the album’s title. This subtitle had been omitted from the American album cover. Also, the US cover says on the top right corner “Selections by the Beatles plus original film music”.
On the back of the cover, the British album contained a review of the “White Album” written for The Observer by Tony Palmer. The review was introduced by a few liner notes by Apple press officer Derek Taylor. The American cover contained a fictitious illustrated biography of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which the ensemble’s battle with the Blue Meanies was compared to three other epic struggles in the history of the English-speaking world: Beowulf’s struggle to save the Heorot mead hall, King John’s signing of the Magna Carta and Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the Declaration of Independence.
The two album covers (and record labels) also differ in the fact that the British version recognises seven tracks from the film’s score on side two, while the American version only recognises six tracks, treating the songs “Sea Of Time” and “Sea Of Holes” as a single track, titled “Medley: Sea Of Time & Sea Of Holes”.
One final difference is that the American album was only released in stereo, while the British album was available in both stereo and mono, though the mono version is simply a fold-down of the stereo version and not a true mono mix (a fold-down is two stereo channels combined into one channel; see more at The Beatles in Mono). The mono LP does not include the true mono mix of “Only A Northern Song” and instead includes a fold-down of the fake stereo version that appeared on the stereo LP.