George Harrison said everything inspired The Beatles, even songs they hated. He pointed to “Yellow Submarine” as an example of this.
George Harrison revealed that the song “Yellow Submarine” took a good deal of inspiration from the songs he listened to growing up. Some of these were songs he liked, while others were tunes he admitted to hating. He said that this was part of why The Beatles were successful. They were willing to listen to and take inspiration from songs that they didn’t particularly enjoy.
George Harrison said ‘Yellow Submarine’ took inspiration from music he disliked
All of the Beatles were avid music fans growing up. They listened to a variety of genres and took inspiration from the various songs. For this reason, Harrison had a hard time understanding people who only listened to one genre.
“I don’t understand people who say, ‘I only like rock’n’roll,’ or, ‘I only like the blues’ or whatever,” Harrison said in The Beatles Anthology. “Even Eric Clapton says he was influenced by ‘The Runaway Train Went Over The Hill.’ As I said in my own book, I Me Mine, my earliest musical memories are things like ‘One Meatball’ by Josh White, and those Hoagy Carmichael songs and others like it.”
Harrison said that they even took inspiration from songs they disliked. “Yellow Submarine,” for example, sounded a bit like songs from the 1940s and 1950s.
“I would say that even the crap music that we hated — that late Forties, early Fifties American schmaltz records like ‘The Railroad Runs Through The Middle Of The House’ or the British ‘I’m A Pink Toothbrush, You’re A Blue Toothbrush’ — even that has had some kind of influence on us, whether we like it or not,” he explained. “All that is in me somehow, and is capable of coming out at any point. It shows in the comic aspect of some of our songs, like the middle of ‘Yellow Submarine.’”
George Harrison didn’t think ‘Yellow Submarine’ was particularly good
Given that Harrison didn’t like the inspiration behind the song, it’s not exactly surprising that he didn’t think “Yellow Submarine” was a masterpiece. He thought the album as a whole was weak in comparison to the rest of The Beatles’ work. Still, he agreed to reissue the album in 1999 because he understood that there was an audience for it.
“I think because it’s the same when people were 9 or 16 back in the ’60s,” he told Billboard. “They liked it then, and they like it now for the same basic reasons: The songs are catchy, they’re fun, and they still have whatever it was then. It’s in those grooves, and it’s boom. Also they’re a bit of light relief after all this drum machine stuff that we’ve been having for the last 15 or 20 years. So I thought I’d cash in on the craze [laughs] and put out all my old tracks!”
The Beatles made a movie based on ‘Yellow Submarine’
In 1968, the band released the animated film Yellow Submarine. It featured their singing and original songs, but actors voiced their characters. It received widespread acclaim, but Harrison had a different reason for liking the film.
“Actually, the thing that I like most about the movie was we didn’t really have to do anything to it,” George said in an interview with VH1. “They just took the music, we met with them, and they talked about basically what they were going to do.”
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