Friday, March 7, 2014

Music Review - Yellow Submarine Soundtrack

The Beatles already had a weekly cartoon series, mostly aimed at impressionable young children. At one point the decision was made to have them in an animated feature film but instead of the cheap animation style of the television cartoon the creators were able to up the ante with improved writing and experimental, psychedelic animation techniques. They aimed to reach higher and in doing so created a classic. This movie was one of my first introductions to The Beatles. Way back when, one of my brothers friends had a Betamax player (well, his dad did) and recorded the movie when it played in the middle of the night on the local independent station, WFFT 55, back when they played movies. Oddly they aired the movie without commercial breaks which is a good thing because there was barely enough tape left on the cassette. Now that I think about it, I don't remember ever watching the movie at their house, just being told of this amazing score.

The accompanying soundtrack to this movie was butter for my musical bread. Much like putting on a story record from Disney ("When you hear this tone BEEP turn the page") listening to this album was like watching the movie but without the movie because, you know, back in those days hardly anyone had a VHS or Betamax player and absolutely no one had blue ray or streaming video from Netflix.

I rather enjoyed the four obligatory original songs. The organ-drenched "Only A Northern Song" was weird yet melodic and I liked weird yet melodic. Still do. Only later did I learn that it was a jab at their publishing company*. I can't hear "All Together Now" without thinking about all those faces in bubbles robotically moving their mouths to the words. "It's All Too Much" isn't worth all that much to my mind (but it does have plenty of cowbell) but "Hey Bulldog" is pure gold! So enamored was I of this driving, rocking piano song that I made a pep band arrangement as part of a music theory class assignment in high school. Since our mascot was the bulldog you would think that the band director would have at least given it a run through, if not put it into our repertoire. Rejected! Or perhaps in 1988 it was considered too esoteric.

However it might be side B that has left the largest impact on my brain. This was my introduction to orchestral music, giving me an appreciation and understanding of how music can convey emotions without the use of words. “Pepperland” is cheerful with a hint of melancholy thanks to French horns while “Sea of Time” starts mysterious and pensive, later giving way to a bout of serenity before ushering in a tide of sweeping strings. “Sea of Monsters” was especially invigorating to my imagination with sawing cellos, serene flutes, weird percussion noises, a quote from the famous “Air on G String” by Bach and unusual melodic shifts. Plus I really liked monsters back then. “March of the Meanies” is total tension in two minutes twenty-two teconds.

In 1999 they redigitized and cleaned up all the proper Beatles songs on the soundtrack and rereleased the album. You can read the review I wrote back then here.

* If you know what a publishing company is then you can officially call yourself a music nerd.

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