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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

We all live in a Blu-Ray Submarine

I have been diagnosed with Entomofabomania - apparently it's quite a common affliction that troubles one in maybe every three of us. The illness manifests itself with the urge, the need, to buy new Beatle product even if you already have it. The illness is better known as CBBD - compulsive Beatle Buyer Disorder. 

And that's what's wrong with me...

Which is why I now own the Beatles Yellow Submarine on VHS, DVD and now after todays' purchase on super new restored Blu- Ray. Yeah, yeah, yeah the Beatles 1968 animated feature is now out on Blu-Ray - frame by frame restoration means that the songs are even punchier, the visuals crystal clear and the Blu-Ray Meanies even blue-er. Mind you the special features are better than the original DVD release and these include a commentary, though sadly not by any Beatles.

Still let's talk about the movie.

Many years ago when the world was fab, four young lads did set out to sail for Pepperland to aid Old Fred in his battle against the Blue Meanies who had enslaved his world and turned the normal psychedelic landscape quite blue. With animation by King's Features and the Beatles voices supplied by a group of actors, one of which included Coronation Street's Eddie Yates, and the real fabs having no real involvement other than supplying the songs for the groovy soundtrack, nothing much was expected of the movie which was only being made to fulfill a movie contract - by 1968 the real Beatles were less of a cohesive whole and more a fractured collective who had developed in totally different ways and quite often didn't like being around each other. The movie did, however capture the spirit of the times and is a timeless masterpiece. You know my eight year old daughter Georgia, named after the quiet one who passed away the year she was born, loves the movie and sings along to Eleanor Rigby which she calls, all the lonely people and of course the title track - we all live in a Yellow Submarine.

Contract filler it may have been - but the submarine emerged from the waters of the Mersey as an intelligent, witty and edgy movie that has lost none of its powers in these far less magical times. The music is forever current and will never age and the storyline  captures the essence of Beatledom in a far better way than even the Beatles of 1968 could manage.

Nothing is Beatleproof.

Ahh look it's a pair of Kinkyboot beasts.

In 1967 the Beatles manager Brian Epstein died and the Beatles were left floundering. They had no choice but to manage themselves. Paul during this period adored being a Beatle and wanted to keep things going but George and John didn't give a shit for the band and Ringo was busy enough being Ringo and going along with whatever the others decided. Without Epstein's restraining influence the band were off the leash and free to run wild.

And run wild they did.

To fully appreciate the period it is worth remembering that the band were little more than boys when they first shot to fame, and they were kept working so hard during the initial Beatlemania years that they didn't seem to know what was going on. Old interview footage with them often shows four young men who appear to be in shock, and even when they quit touring in 1966 the workload didn't let up  during a two year period they produced the classics, Revolver and Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The genesis of Yellow Submarine goes back to 1966 when Brian Epstein was approached by Al Brodax a brash New Yorker who had joined the American animation studio, King's Features. United Artists were growing imaptient with the Beatles who had failed to complete their three picture deal following A Hard Day's Night and Help and so Brodax's plan for a full length animated feature that would complete the Beatles contract and require little input from the band themselves, seemed like a good one.

'13 illegitimate children and several marriages.'

The problem was that no one had an idea of a storyline until it was decided to base the movie around the transatlantic Lennon/McCartney hit, Yellow Submarine. Paul McCartney told the production team that he wanted a movie with monsters, while the other Beatles were not fussed one way or the other. The voice actors were cast but finding someone to play George was proving problematic until a young man Peter Batten was suggested by one of the production girls. Peter proved to be a great choice until he was arrested by military police for deserting from the British army. The entire production was a mix of chaos and mishaps - there were over 150 young ladies working on the production and Jack Stokes, the production manager told Mojo magazine that the production was responsible for thirteen illegitimate children and several marriages.
Stoned Fabs - 1968

Once the shoot was close to completion the Beatles themselves filmed their live action appearance for the end of the movie And although all four of the band saw rough cuts of the film they each moaned that their own voices were wrong but thought the others sounded just like them. Paul took the most interest in the movie and he wasn't at all pleased with it, moaning that it should have been more like Disney. Thankfully Paul didn't get his own way here and the resulting movie is both of its time and of a time yet to come.

Producer Brodax later said that Paul, George and Ringo were very pleasant about the movie but John was a real pain in the arse.

The end result was a movie which showed the Beatles as a firmly bonded whole, when in reality the Apple antics were just about to begin. But the movie was born in a time of optimism and wild creativity and it is, like most Beatle product, excellent. Well worth buying for the umpteenth time.


Davieboy said...

"Now whatever you do, don't touch that button..."

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

Can't help it - I'm a born button pusher