31 May 2023

Reupload - Rhys Eye - Yellow Submarine/ I Just Can't Lose That Tune


Fascinating but sombre reading of the jaunty Beatles tune

Label: Epic
Year of Release: 1975

"Yellow Submarine" is probably one of the less analysed Beatles songs in their oeuvre, despite being one of the best known. At my infant school, it was wheeled out for sing-a-longs in school halls that whiffed of chips and baked beans, and it was a track I was used to hearing soundtracking cartoons or during intervals at local children's theatre shows. Marrying upbeat melodies to nonsense lyrics, it seemed like the very definition of "harmless fun".

Clearly not everybody thought that way, though. Paul Phillips, who would later on find brief fame as Driver 67, was troubled by the sense it was an "other-worldly excursion into all sorts of sub-conscious emotions that I couldn’t put my finger on". When he eventually had gainful A&R employment at CBS he was surprised to find someone who agreed with him turning up to an audition.

Peter Bennett, who recorded and wrote under the name Rhys Eye, dropped by insisting he had a fantastic idea, but if he simply told Phillips what it was there was every possibility he would be cut out of the picture and find it being used by another artist on CBS. Phillips arranged for a legal waiver to be signed stating that whether he accepted or rejected the idea, it would remain the intellectual property of Mr. Eye.

And this, amazingly, was it - something that confirmed Phillips wasn't the only one bowing his head solemnly to Ringo's honking about strangely coloured submersible warships. Bennett's idea was a heartfelt, bluesy, troubled take on a Beatles song most listeners haven't really bothered to read much into. In Rhys Eyes' hands, "Yellow Submarine" becomes reflective and regretful, sounding like a hymn to lost childhood, lost friends and perhaps lost innocence - or, more than that, a nostalgia for absurd, exaggerated things that were never truly as the singer believed them to be eating away at him like a slow poison. 

Whether it works is something not everyone is going to agree on, but it certainly fits the modern music business model of finding opportunities for plaintive, melancholy expression in the most unlikely source material. If an advertising executive from John Lewis hears this and doesn't use it in their next Christmas campaign, then I'll be lost for words.

Sadly, despite the faith of both Bennett and Phillips, the record failed to get any airplay and sold poorly, and was swiftly forgotten about. If you want to read more background information about this record, Paul Philips blogged about it in some detail (including mentioning John Lennon's apparent objections) here.

Apologies for the pop and crackles on this record. They're not too intrusive, but the single is pressed so quietly they might be noticeable here and there. I did give the vinyl a deep clean before ripping the audio, but sadly that didn't completely restore it. It did take me years to find a copy of this single, so frankly anything's better than nothing. Driver 67 has a much clearer version available on Soundcloud if you want to go and listen there. 

And if the previews below aren't working properly, please do just go straight to the source


bekirk said...

The drumming also made me think of Long, Long, Long off The White Album too.

john r said...

not for me