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"BABY, YOU'RE A RICH MAN"
(John Lennon – Paul McCartney)
With their masterpiece “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” in the can, The Beatles found themselves somewhat inspirationally spent. They poured their hearts into the making of that album, the project being the result of their new-found freedom from touring and movie making. They wanted desperately to extricate themselves from other mundane pop star activities in order to concentrate on their art. And on April 21st, 1967, the album, their greatest artistic expression, was complete and being readied for release.
Although they had no plans to make a full-length feature movie as they had in previous years, they still had a movie contract with United Artists to fulfill. A decision was made to have an animated movie created in The Beatles' name that featured their music, the resulting film entitled “Yellow Submarine.” The movie's story line was to be based loosely on popular Beatles songs with very little input from the group needed. This thrilled them, the plan being to fulfill their movie contract without having to learn lines or be on any movie set. The movie would be done by professional animators and story-writers.
However, The Beatles agreed to be involved in the making of this film by doing what they did best; providing a few new original songs to be used in the movie. Apart from a brief cameo appearance at the end of the film, and maybe a story-line idea thrown in here or there, this is all The Beatles had to do. With this in mind, John and Paul put their individual ideas together to create a song intended for this movie, the result being “Baby, You're A Rich Man.”
Ian MacDonald, in his book “Revolution In The Head,” makes an astute observation regarding what most likely was the initial inspiration for “Baby, You're A Rich Man.” He states: “The 'beautiful people' was what the West Coast hippies called themselves. The '14-Hour Technicolor Dream,' an all-night festival at Alexandra Palace on April 29th, 1967 which Lennon attended, was the first tribal gathering of the British "beautiful people." This, and the fact that the session for 'Baby, You're A Rich Man' was arranged at short notice, suggest that the song was inspired by the event.”
This was one of the probable inspirations for John to start writing a song entitled “One Of The Beautiful People.” Paul, in his book “Many Years From Now,” relates another of John's inspirations: “There was a lot of talk in the newspapers then about the beautiful people. That was what they called them...the question then was, 'how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?'” In fact, the word "beautiful" was becoming a habitual word in Beatles language at this time. “At the back of my mind somewhere,” Paul stated in interview to International Times in January of 1967, “there is something which tells me that everything is beautiful...that everything's great and there's no bad ever if I can think of it all as great.”
John himself clarifies the writing process that became “Baby, You're A Rich Man” in his 1980 Playboy interview. “That is a combination of two sperate pieces, Paul's and mine, put together and forced into a song. One half was all mine (singing): 'How does it feel to be one of the beautiful people, now that you know who you are, da da da da...' And then Paul comes in with (singing): 'Baby, you're a rich man...' because he just had this 'Baby, you're a rich man' around.”
The verses may initially have been written by John and the chorus by Paul, but there was some battering around of ideas at a writing session between the two. “'Baby, You're A Rich Man' was co-written by John and me at Cavendish Avenue,” Paul explains. “'Tuned to a natural E' is a line I remember us writing, a slight pun on the word 'naturally' – 'natural E.'”
Although never verified, the “rich man” referred to in Paul's section of the song is rumored to refer to their manager Brian Epstein. “The point was,” stated John, “stop moaning. You're a rich man and we're all rich men, hey, hey, baby!.”
The question/answer lyric writing that John had just put to good use in the recently written “With A Little Help From My Friends” saw a reprisal in this song. Lennon's “vague witticisms,” as described by Tim Riley in his book “Tell Me Why,” are once again on display: “How often have you been there? / Often enough to know” and “What did you see when you were there? / Nothing that doesn't show” being prime examples of continuing the “What do you see when you turn out the light? / I can't tell you but I know it's mine” from the previous song.
Olympic Studios, London
“The Beatles couldn't get into the studio for the next couple of nights,” explains Geoff Emerick in his book “Here, There And Everywhere,” “which forced them to record 'Baby You're A Rich Man'...at Olympic Studios...It was around this time that The Beatles began frequenting outside studios more and more, for a variety of reasons.”
Geoff Emerick goes on to explain what these reasons may have been: “Perhaps they simply had cabin fever and were sick of staring at the same four walls. There weren't really any amenities at Abbey Road: there were no couches or armchairs in our cramped control rooms, just a couple of uncomfortable, hard chairs. In contrast, when they went into Olympic...there would be large control rooms with plush leather sofas and comfortable chairs to sit in, all accented by low lighting and a modern décor...In addition, by mid-1967, every other major studio in London had an eight-track machine, and we still had only four-track, which really made us seem like we were lagging far behind...There was also a much more relaxed attitude toward drugs in other studios, and it wouldn't surprise me if the staff at those facilities would partake with clients, so perhaps The Beatles related to the other engineers better...I imagine they thought it was really cool to share a joint with the control room staff. In contrast, we must have seemed really straight and square.”
In any event, on May 11th, 1967, just days after the contracts were signed for the new “Yellow Submarine” film project, The Beatles entered Olympic Sound Studios for work on the first new song to be used for this movie. “Olympic was one of the top independent studios in Britain,” Mark Lewisohn explains in his book “The Beatles Recording Sessions,” “turning out many hit records. The Rolling Stones had taken to recording there, even though studio manager Keith Grant was equally keen to promote the venue's valuable film soundtrack work.”
George Martin was still used as producer of the session, although the aforementioned Keith Grant oversaw engineering duties. “The Beatles said that this was the fastest record they'd ever made,” Grant relates. “They were used to a much more leisurely pace. We started the session at about 9 pm.”
Twelve takes of a rhythm track were recorded first with the instrumentation being John on piano, Paul on bass, George on electric guitar and Ringo on drums. Keith Grant remembers, “They kept on playing, version after version, then we spooled back to the one they liked and overdubbed the vocals.” Take 12 was deemed the best rhythm track, onto which John sang lead vocals with Paul and George singing backing vocals. (Legend has it that John sings “Baby, you're a rich fag jew” as a reference to Brian Epstein toward the end of the song...listen carefully to see if you can detect it!) Other overdubs included Paul playing an additional piano, Ringo on tambourine and then maracas, George and Ringo adding handclaps, John double-tracking his lead vocals in spots, and Eddie Kramer (future producer for Jimi Hendrix and Kiss who happened to be 2nd engineer on the session) adding a little vibraphone. A droning sound resembling a tamboura is also present on the finished recording, undoubtedly played by George.
Attending this session was friend and fellow musician Mick Jagger, who may have contributed something to the proceedings as well. Author Mark Lewisohn, while listening to the tape in preparation for his book “The Beatles Recording Sessions,” spotted the following notation on the tape box: “The Beatles + Mick Jagger?”. It has been speculated that he could have joined in on the singalong choruses of the song, although this has not been verified.
One other overdub at this session was a very interesting instrument called a Clavioline which was played by John. Eddie Kramer explains: “We wanted to make sure that they walked out of (Olympic Studios) being completely blown away. Which they were...There was a Clavioline that happened to be in the studio, and John played it. This was a French electronic instrument with a small keyboard. It had a little strip which you put your thumb on and moved it up and down the length of the keyboard as you played, to get vibrato.”
Andy Babiuk, in his book “Beatles Gear,” gives more detail about this instrument. “The Clavioline was a monophonic keyboard – meaning only one note sounded at a time, precluding chords. It was in effect a predecessor of modern synthesizers...The instrument consisted of two units: the keyboard, with built-in valve (tube) sound generator; and the separate amplifier-and-speaker box...A built-in octave transposer switch gave the keyboard's single oscillator a five-octave range. The overall volume was controlled by a knee-operated lever. The Clavioline's unusual sound, heard whirling intermittently through 'Baby You're A Rich Man,' had also been evident on 'Telstar,' a bit hit for the British group The Tornados on both sides of the Atlantic in 1962.”
As for John Lennon's use of the instrument on this day, one apocryphal story suggests that he achieved his rapid-fire wail by rolling an orange up and down across the keyboard. This, or course, has not been verified, but makes for an interesting anecdote when relating the details of the recording session on this day.
As far as the vocals were concerned both Keith Grant and Eddie Kramer discussed this evening's session with engineer George Chkiantz, who related: “They were both amazed at John Lennon's voice. They'd long been wondering what it would be like to record and they were saying how great it was. They couldn't believe anyone could sing that well.”
After all overdubs were complete, everyone stayed a little longer to put it all together. A tape reduction was deemed necessary so two attempts at this were done, the second one considered the better one. Then the one and only mono mix of the song was made, making “Baby, You're A Rich Man” the first Beatles song to be recorded and mixed for record entirely outside of Abbey Road. Keith Grant explains: “It was finished and mixed by about 3 am.” Paul himself remembers this day in his book “Many Years From Now” as “a rather exciting recording session at Olympic, in Barnes, where Keith Grant mixed it, instantly, right there. He stood up at the console as he mixed it, so it was a very exciting mix, we were really quite buzzed. I always liked that track.”
“Whenever they did a track at an outside studio,” relates Geoff Emerick, “I usually had to do a lot of repair work to the tapes because they simply couldn't achieve the sound they were used to anywhere else. This time around, though, they actually got the entire song done – including the final mix – in a single session...It had been a long time since they'd been so efficient. I had to admit that the results were pretty good...Keith Grant did the session himself and he knew what he was doing. In addition, Olympic's mixing console was a totally different design than ours and was capable of passing lower frequencies, so there was quite a smooth bass sound, which I thought was great.”
The next time attention was given to the song was on August 22nd, 1968, when George Martin made a copy of this mono master in the control room of EMI Studio Two. It was reportedly taken away by George Martin for some unknown reason.
Since the song was only released in mono as a single, a stereo mix wasn't made until October 22nd, 1971, by George Martin and Geoff Emerick at his AIR Studios in London. Certain differences are evident, most noteworthy is the presence of George Harrison's guitar part which is not as prominent in the mono mix. The end of a vocalized “eleven” which is present at the very beginning of the mono mix (possibly someone attempting to identify what take it was) was faded out of this stereo mix. Also, there is an effect referred to by some as a “spin” that appears at strategic places in the verses of the song (such as after the lines “eye can see” and “enough to know”). These “spin” effects are missing in the stereo mix. This stereo mix is also nine seconds shorter than the mono mix. In the US, this stereo mix was first heard on the CD release of the album “Magical Mystery Tour.”
A further stereo mix of the song was made in 1999 in preparation for the release of the album “Yellow Submarine Songtrack.” The engineering team working on this project comprised Peter Cobbin, Paul Hicks, Mirek Stiles and Allan Rouse. The technology of the 1990's made for a cleaner and more vibrant version of the song, the excitement of the recording session coming through very well for the listener.
Song Structure and Style
The structure of "Baby You're A Rich Man" is quite standard for Beatles compositions, namely a 'verse/ verse/ chorus/ verse/ chorus' format (or aabab) with an introduction and repeating conclusion added on.
The introduction is eight measures long and consists of the basic rhythm track of piano, guitar and drums with the overdubbed tambourine throughout all eight measures. Interestingly, George's guitar thumps propel the beat of the song nicely in this introduction, even slightly overshadowing Ringo's usual time-keeping role in the early moments of the song. The overdubbed maracas appear at the beginning of the second measure, Paul's bass emerges in the middle of the third measure, John's "snake-charming" Clavioline appears first at the very end of the third measure, and then the handclaps come in in the fifth measure. All these elements are brought in one at a time as if to build up the arrangement layer by layer.
The first eleven-measure verse then appears as the Clavioline fades from view and John and Paul's unison vocals appear, sung partially in falsetto. The instrumentation of the introduction continues throughout the verse with the Clavioline filling in the open spaces of the lyrics in measures five and nine. John and Paul sing in unison during the entire verse except for two lines, namely “what do you want to be” (measure six) and “far as the eye can see” (measure ten) which are sung by John solo. Another feature is the two breaks that appear in the verse; the first is in measure seven with only a slight piano being heard along with all percussion, the second in measure eleven which cuts out all percussion and only features piano chords playing an eighth-note rhythm that swells in volume as the measure ends.
The second verse begins immediately afterwards. Noteworthy differences include Ringo's drum fills in the first two measures and Paul's first harmony in the third measure on the word “people.” John's solo lines “often enough to know” and “nothing that doesn't show” are both mimicked by George on guitar this time around. The final piano swell in the eleventh measure is this time accented by a vibrant drum fill from Ringo in anticipation of the first chorus that follows.
The high point of the song is then reached in this first twelve-measure chorus with John and Paul repeating the song's title for the first three measures in an excitedly high pitch in unison. Paul swings into harmony in the fourth measure for the word “too.” John's vocals are sung solo but double-tracked in the fifth through eighth measure while his Clavioline appears in the open spaces in measures four, seven and eight. Full instrumentation, as previously heard in the verses, continues throughout this chorus until the twelfth measure where another break occurs, the only elements present is the piano swell, a tambourine and a stray hand clap at the beginning of the measure.
Then comes the third verse, which this time features a very mellow first line sung single-tracked by John until Paul joins in on the third measure with a harmonized “people.” Ringo plays some meandering "lead drums" in the first two measures while the Clavioline appears in measures five, seven and nine this time. A droning sound which very much resembles a tamboura is heard quite prominently throughout this verse as well, undoubtedly played by George as he did in the song “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” which was recorded two months prior. Ringo ends this verse with a snare drum fill to usher in the following chorus.
This second chorus is identical to the first in most respects, the most notable differences being more appearances of the Clavioline (measures four, seven, eight, nine, ten and twelve) and an extemporaneous extra “baby” from Paul in the eighth measure. There is no break at the end of this chorus, the instrumentation continuing in full force with Paul yelping out a “Oh-oh-oh-oh” in the final measure.
This moves directly into the conclusion of the song which is a continual repeat of the first four measures of the chorus sung with energetic spontaneity until it fades out. Full instrumentation appears throughout this conclusion, including uninterrupted Clavioline noodling from John. The conclusion in the stereo mix extends only eight measures until it is faded away while the mono mix is extended for eleven measures.
All four Beatles were fully involved in the making of this song, playing on the rhythm track as well as multiple overdubs. With team spirit abounding, they all played in top form; John on piano and his wild Clavioline, Paul on bass and piano, George on guitar and possibly tamboura, and a very spirited Ringo on drums and percussion. This post “Pepper” track may not have been as masterfully written or recorded, but one thing that is obvious is the fun atmosphere of the recording session that easily comes through to the listener. Everyone involved was undoubtedly having a blast recording this song. And the undeniable hook of the chorus can't help but get you to singalong, even if you have no idea why anyone would keep all their money “in a big brown bag inside a zoo!”
Shortly before “All You Need Is Love” was broadcast on live television on June 25th, 1967, it was decided to release the song as the next Beatles single immediately afterwards. Although “Baby You're A Rich Man” was designated for a future release with the “Yellow Submarine” film, a B-side to “All You Need Is Love” was required in order not to delay the single's worldwide release. Therefore, the recently recorded “Rich Man” was an easy solution.
“Baby You're A Rich Man” was first released as a single in the US on July 17th, 1967, paired with the landmark recording “All You Need Is Love.” With the buzz of the long-awaited “Sgt. Pepper” album in the air, it just being released on June 2nd, 1967, great attention was given to this new single that was NOT on that album. After a seemingly long absence, The Beatles had a tremendous amount of material to unleash on their fans.
While “All You Need Is Love” made it all the way to the top of the charts, “Baby You're A Rich Man” managed to peak within the top 40 of the Billboard charts as well, at number 34 (although the magazine mistakenly listed the song as “Baby You're A Rich Man Now”). Interestingly, Capitol Records inadvertently gave “Rich Man” a suffix number one digit lower (45-X46047) than “All You Need Is Love” (45-X46048), something that would normally indicate which was the A-side of the single. This confusion resulted in “Rich Man” being printed on the “full-Apple” side of the single when it was eventually released on Apple Records in the 70's, “All You Need Is Love” being relegated to the “sliced-Apple” side.
Just over four months later, on November 27th, 1967, the song was included on the US album “Magical Mystery Tour,” an album Capitol concocted to flesh out the six songs The Beatles recorded for their British television special of the same name. Since a stereo mix of the song didn't exist at the time, a fake-stereo version of the song appeared on the stereo copies of this album. This was replaced by a true stereo mix when the album was released on compact disc on September 21st, 1987, this CD being remastered and re-released on September 9th, 2009.
On June 30th, 1992, the CD box set entitled "Compact Disc EP Collection" was released which featured a bonus disc that also contained the true stereo version of "Baby You're A Rich Man."
In February of 1994, the “Baby You're A Rich Man” single was re-released by Capitol Cema as a jukebox single on pink vinyl, which is quite a collectible today.
The November 20th, 2006 released compilation album "Love" featured snippets of “Baby You're A Rich Man” on two of its selections. John Lennon's distinctive Clavioline playing was included on the track “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and vocals from the song are featured on the track “All You Need Is Love.”
On September 9th, 2009, the box set “The Beatles In Mono” was released which contained the entire mono Beatles catalog in a newly remastered condition, “Baby You're A Rich Man” being among the collection.
George Harrison in a park at Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco, August 7th, 1967
The Beatles were well passed their touring life at this stage, but there is one known time that “Baby You're A Rich Man” was performed by a Beatle. On August 7th, 1967, just three weeks after the single was released in the US, George Harrison and entourage decided to make a brief visit to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, California, to visit the highly publicized “beautiful people” of the area.
According to David Swanson of the San Francisco Chronicle, “A young man was entertaining a crowd of about twenty hippies. Harrison and his wife listened for a minute and then Harrison asked, 'Can I borrow your guitar?' The young man said, 'Sure.' Harrison took the guitar and started to play...hippies clambered down hills, dropped from trees and sprang from behind bushes. A sizeable crowd formed. Harrison played for about ten more minutes and then shouted, 'Let's go for a walk'...And off they went. Harrison strumming the guitar with the hippies following along.” George relates, “We walked into a park and it just became a joke. All these people were just following us along.” At this point, as outlined in Steve Turner's book “A Hard Day's Write,” “George sat on the grass, listened to other people's songs and then started to sing 'Baby You're A Rich Man.'”
Other than a few seconds of the song appearing in the movie “Yellow Submarine,” which was released in the US on November 13th, 1968, “Baby You're A Rich Man” has never again been performed by any Beatle.
It has been postulated that the Lennon/McCartney collaboration efforts had disintegrated as the years progressed, resulting in John and Paul writing individually and, at best, allowing the other to put in his two-cents after the song was otherwise completed. While this has proven to be true, even disintegrating into not bothering to include the others' input toward the end of the partnership, in 1967 they were beginning to experiment in their collaborative efforts. One would have a partial song written, the other would have another partial song written, and they would piece them together. Earlier this year, the masterful “A Day In The Life” was written this way, as was 1969's “I've Got A Feeling.” In this same way, “Baby You're A Rich Man” came to fruition, resulting in a lighthearted romp of psychedelia that was just as fun for them to create as it is for us to listen to.
“Baby You're A Rich Man”
Written by: John Lennon / Paul McCartney
- Song Written: May, 1967
- Song Recorded: May 11, 1967
- First US Release Date: July 17, 1967
- US Single Release: Capitol #5964
- Highest Chart Position: #34 (b-side to "All You Need Is Love")
- First US Album Release: Capitol #SMAL-2835 “Magical Mystery Tour”
- British Album Release: Parlophone #PCTC 255 “Magical Mystery Tour”
- Length: 3:07 (mono) 2:58 (stereo)
- Key: G major
- Producer: George Martin
- Engineers: Keith Grant, Geoff Emerick, Eddie Kramer
- John Lennon - Lead Vocals, Piano (Steinway Grand), Clavioline (Selmer Concert)
- Paul McCartney - Bass (1964 Rickenbacker 4001 S), Piano (Steinway Grand), backing vocals
- George Harrison - Guitar (1965 Epiphone Casino ES-230TD), handclaps, backing vocals, tamboura?
- Ringo Starr - Drums (1964 Ludwig Super Classic Black Oyster Pearl), tambourine, maracas, handclaps
- Eddie Kramer - Vibraphone
- Mick Jagger - Backing vocals ?
Written and compiled by Dave Rybaczewski