Sunday, December 21, 2008

'66 -- Beatles, Cher

The Beatles -- Yellow Submarine

Though it was by no means a trend -- some of their biggest hits such as "Hey Jude" and "Get Back" were yet to come -- the Beatles slumped ever so slightly in 1966, as only one of their three A-sides released that year, "Paperback Writer," hit Number One. The other two, "Yellow Submarine" and "Nowhere Man" stalled at #2 and #3 respectively on Billboard, though "Submarine" snagged #1 in the Record World chart. Over the years, though, Billboard has come to be the, er, gold standard.

"Submarine" was Ringo Starr's 2nd lead vocal on a Capitol Beatles 45 A-side, after "Matchbox" in 1964; he preceded George Harrison (though Capitol of Canada had already put a George lead, on "Roll Over Beethoven" on an A-side in 1964). George would have to wait until his "Something" in 1969, and even that was on a double-A side with John's "Come Together." "Submarine" was a pure Paul McCartney lark; his intention was to write a children's singalong tune that was easy to sing, and Ringo, with a game but limited range, was the natural choice to sing it. Donovan, enjoying peak popularity in 1966, contributed the line "sky of blue and sea of green." 

"Submarine" is one of the Beatles' most intricately produced songs, employing plenty of sound effects from the Abbey Road Studio library. The basic music and vocal track was laid down first (May 26, 1966) , and on June 1st, Abbey Road engineer Geoff Emerick added the distinctive additions: chains, ship's bell, whistles, hooters, wind and thunderstorm machines, and, though I can't make it out, the cash regsiter noise later used by Pink Floyd as the intro to "Money" (the Floyd also recorded at Abbey Road). Studio staff and visitors such as Brian Jones, Patti Harrison and Marianne Faithfull joined in the fun, while John Lennon sat in the studio's echo chamber and called out "Full speed ahead, Mister Captain" and echoed several of Ringo's vocal lines. 

"Submarine" exists in 4 official released versions: a mono version, a stereo version, a mono dubbed from the stereo version, and a special stereo version released in 1995 in association with The Beatles' Anthology CD collection and TV special. The main difference between the mono and stereo is that in the mono, John is heard repeating "a life of ease" after Ringo sings it, while it was mixed out in the stereo version. The 1995 version appeared as the B-side to "Real Love" and is worth seeking out, since it restores sound effects not previously heard, as well as a spoken intro by Ringo:

"And we will march to free the day to see them gathered there, from Land O' Groats to John O'Green, from Stepney to Utrecht, to see a yellow submarine... we love it!"

"Submarine" hit #2 on September 17, 1966, beaten out by The Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love." The song has not been covered very often, though Maurice Chevalier did a version in French.

Cher -- Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)

Cherilyn Sarkisian's first big solo smash and first solo Top 5 hit, though she would have to wait until 1971's "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" for her first Number One, with or without Sonny Bono. Cher may have always been a vamp, but she's hardly camp -- despite her sometimes outrageous outfits, on stage and off, she is one of the great ladies of pop and her staying power may yet be exceeded only by Madonna. Beginning in 1965, Cher has had hits in five decades and counting, and has been an acclaimed movie actress, with poignant and/or hilarious turns in Moonstruck, for which she won a Best Actress Academy Award, Mask and Silkwood.

The Russian-flavored "Bang Bang," which features some fevered fiddling, was written by Sonny during a lull in the duo's fortunes; though Cher was initially reluctant to record it, it became her fastest-selling solo hit to date. It was soon covered by Nancy Sinatra in a version later used by Quentin Tarantino in the opening scenes of Kill Bill Volume 1; and her father, Frank, made it a staple of his concert appearances, also recording it twice. The song has also been covered by Stevie Wonder, Petula Clark, Vanilla Fudge in their signature slowed-down style, The Jam's Paul Weller, and Carla Bruni, the first lady of France. Cher has continued to perform it in nearly all her concert tours.

"Bang Bang" hit #2 April 23, 1966, exceeded on the Billboard chart only by the Righteous Brothers' ("You're My) Soul and Inspiration."


Joe Hedio said...

Here's a cover version of "Yellow Submarine" done by Los Shakers, the premier 60s Latin American beat group, preceded by one of their snazzy originals & one head-scratching interval ("Yellow Submarine" comes in about 4:36):

Have a Merry Chrimble & A Gear New Year

Anonymous said...

Yellow Submarine is pure
Psychedelic 60s. smoke a joint and enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed. LOL.

Tyler said...

Nice to see Cher get some respect and appreciation in your blog post. If you want you can post my videos I made for Bang Bang, there are 4 different versions.


Andy Baum said...

Did you include the version of "Yellow Submarine" found on the 1999 compilation, "Yellow Submarine Songtrack"? This version is different from the one found on Anthology. Remastered and remixed (panning of background vocals across the stereo spectrum), it includes " of ease" but dispenses with the extra sound fx found on the '95 Anthology version. The album is worth a listen - everything from "Eleanor Rigby" and "Nowhere Man" to four cuts from "Sgt. Pepper".
Speaking of "Nowhere Man" - that was only released as a single in the U.S. There were no single releases from "Rubber Soul" in the U.K. - a fact that was not lost on Brian Wilson.
OK - I'm starting to sound like a pop-geek. Later!