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The Beatles convened today to work on “Yellow Submarine,” written by Paul to serve as Ringo’s vocal showcase on the new album. George Martin was out for the day with food poisoning, and though for some reason he sent his fiancee to the studio in his stead, she wasn’t in a position to exert much control over the proceedings. The overall vibe seems to have been that of a class running wild under the supervision of a substitute teacher.

Says Mark Lewisohn,

Whether it was because of George’s absence or not, rehearsals — not recordings — took up most of the session. Just before they launched into take one proper John Lennon, ever the impatient Beatle in the studio, exclaimed “Come on. It’s 20 to 10 [ie 9.40] and we still haven’t made us a record!

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that some marijuana may have been smoked in the course of the day. I’m picturing a lot of giggling and horseplay, with Miss Judy (for that was her name) gently admonishing the boys for their naughty behavior.

This spirit is reflected in the song, one of The Beatles’ most whimsical and lighthearted. According to Steve Turner’s A Hard Day’s Write,

Paul used only short words because he wanted it to be learned quickly and sung by children. While writing it he visited Donovan at his flat in Maida Vale. “We were in the habit of just dropping in on each other,” remembers Donovan. “I was just waiting for the release of my album Sunshine Superman and so we played each other our latest songs. One of the songs Paul played me was about a yellow submarine but he said he was missing a line or two…. I left the room for a bit and came back with ‘Sky of blue and sea of green.’ ”

In its original form, “Yellow Submarine” also had a spoken intro, probably written by John:

And we will march ’till three the day
To see them gathered there
From Land O’Groats to John O’Greer with Stephney do we tread
To see us yellow submarine
We love it

“The Land O’Groats to John O’Green bit might have come about because there was a doctor,” Geoff Emerick explains, “Barbara Moore I think her name was, who had walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats for charity. Everyone was talking about her then.”

For whatever reason, the intro was cut, but you can hear it here. There will be more to say about “YS” when recording continues in a few days…but that’s enough for now.