John Lennon ‘Wasn’t Too Happy’ to Learn His Voice Had Been Erased From Part of a Popular Beatles Song

A Beatles engineer said nothing ever got past John Lennon. He noticed a minor change to a Beatles song because his singing was missing.

According to a Beatles audio engineer, John Lennon paid close attention when listening back to songs. Even though he derided some of The Beatles’ music after the band broke up, he was careful in the studio. While listening back to “Yellow Submarine,” Lennon realized that someone had made a mistake. His voice was missing from a part where it was meant to appear.

John Lennon realized his voice was missing from part of a Beatles song

The Beatles spent a good deal of time messing around in the studio while recording “Yellow Submarine.” Still, Lennon tried to keep them focused. He put a great deal of thought into the song and made several alterations. Not all of these made it into the song’s final version, though.

“At a certain point, John decided that the third verse needed some spicing up, so he dashed into the studio and began answering each of Ringo’s sung lines in a silly voice that I further altered to make it sound like he was talking over a ship’s megaphone,” audio engineer Geoff Emerick wrote in his book Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles. “The verse begins, ‘And we live/ A life of ease,’ but you don’t actually hear John’s voice until the third and fourth lines.”

Emerick explained that Lennon had recorded the first lines, but an engineer accidentally erased his voice.

“From his station in the machine room, [Phil McDonald] got on the intercom and let George [Martin] and me know of his gaffe while the Beatles were out of earshot,” Emerick wrote. “I could hear the distress in his voice and could sympathize — almost every assistant had made a similar mistake at one time or another. John realized the line was gone the next time we played the multitrack — nothing ever got by him — and he wasn’t too happy about it…”

The Beatles’ engineers protected each other

In the face of Lennon’s anger, Emerick and Martin decided to protect McDonald. They knew how particular Lennon could be and didn’t want McDonald to face his temper.

“[R]ather than pin the blame on Phil, George and I quickly concocted a story about needing the track for one of the overdubs,” Emerick wrote. “We all tended to close ranks and protect one another at times like that, and I know that Phil was very relieved that he didn’t have to face John’s wrath.”

The Beatles released a demo of John Lennon singing the song

While Lennon’s voice was missing from part of the song, engineers saved a demo of Lennon singing “Yellow Submarine.” The demo was slower and far more melancholy than the final version. “In the place where I was born, no one cared, no one cared,” he sang.

Paul McCartney added a more jubilant chorus and they had Ringo Starr brighten it up when he sang it.

“The boys used to write a song for me and they’d present whatever they thought would be good for me. They had this song and they decided to liven it up,” Starr told USA Today. “I think Paul thought of (a yellow submarine). It could have been in a green submarine, but a yellow submarine is much better. Or a deep purple submarine, that would have been like, ‘What are they talking about now?’ But, yeah, it was a Ringo song, like ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ was a Ringo song.”

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