There was some illumination today on why the need was felt for a new mix of “Only a Northern Song.” According to The Beatles Bible, this was being done so the song could be used in the Yellow Submarine movie.

It was news to me that the deal for the movie had even been made at this point; this is the first mention of it, chronologically speaking, in any of the sources I usually consult. The exact timeline is hard to pinpoint. Bill Hardy’s Beatles Encyclopedia says that “Hungarian-born Al Brodax originally had the idea of using the Beatles in a Fantasia-like full-length cartoon in 1966.” The Beatles, meanwhile, were keen to fulfill their contractual obligation for a third movie in a way that involved as little effort on their part as possible. But I can’t find any information about when the deal was struck, when work began on the script, or how it came to pass that “The film producers were wandering around the studio” today (according to Paul) as the band overdubbed bass, glockenspiel, whistling, trumpet, piano, timpani, Mellotron, and organ on the existing tracks of “Northern Song.”

We do know for sure that the movie was not released until July 1968. We also know that the dour “Northern Song,” with its inside-baseball complaints about publishing deals, was sort of an odd choice for a lighthearted animated romp. But the labor-intensive recording methods that The Beatles had been using in recent years meant that there was not a lot of unreleased material sitting around. So the movie producers had to take what they could get, which I’m sure delighted George Harrison, the song’s author. Actually, I wonder if he was happy because it would see the light of day, or annoyed because it was in a cartoon. Perhaps we should have a seance and ask him.


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