Latest News:  

English>>Life & Culture

Old Yeller--The Beatles were back

By Jonny Clement Brown (Global Times)

13:22, January 18, 2013

The submarine that launched a psychedelic cartoon movement. (GT/

Coming back from a very long and intoxicating voyage of self discovery, a weary-eyed John Lennon called for an emergency meeting of The Beatles at their Apple Records headquarters in London. The year was 1968.

"I've got something very important to tell you," Lennon said. "I'm Jesus Christ. I have come back again. This is my thing."

Lennon's frank declaration of demi-deity may help give an idea of just how elevated The Beatles' pop culture status was in '68 when the fantastical cartoon Yellow Submarine was released.

The title track of the film comes from a song of the same name. You may have heard it. "Yellow Submarine" (the song) was originally released as a single in 1966 and as track 6, side A on the band's seventh studio album, Revolver - also released in '66. The song was re-released with the accompanying soundtrack album to the film of the same name on January 17, 1969.

Today therefore marks the 44th anniversary of the Beatles' 10th studio album, Yellow Submarine. To pay tribute, the finest in Beijing tribute bands, the Beijing Beatles, will do a performance tomorrow, preceded by a Yellow Submarine screening at VA Bar in Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng district.

How the song will be played tomorrow depends on the breakdown of attendees, says Beijing Beatle Troy Reilly, aka Jorge Arrowsmith, 37, a social consultant from Melbourne, Australia.

"If there's more Chinese people in the audience, then we will sing the chorus in Chinese," says Arrowsmith, who channels George Harrison on lead guitar and vocals.

"We have performed the song many a time," says Arrowsmith. "We thought the chorus sounded hilarious in Mandarin and that it might encourage Chinese audiences to get involved."

Not that a Chinese audience won't be acquainted with the easily chanted, childlike chorus of "We all live in a yellow submarine." In fact, this is the intended appeal of the song, written by Paul McCartney as a children's tune to be sung in the dulcet baritones of drummer Ringo Starr - who later cemented his kid appeal when he narrated Thomas the Tank Engine. The song has proven to be fertile grounds for chart success by a plethora of Chinese diaspora singers.

Here in Beijing, the karaoke machines that litter Tango KTV in Dongcheng district are stocked full of Beatles songs, including "Yellow Submarine." However, one sausage finger mis-dial on the display screen and you might find yourself bamboozled, trying to sing along to a 2001 version of the song by Hong Kong rock band Beyond.

According to Arrowsmith, Beyond dominated the Cantopop scene in Hong Kong back in the '90s, which often featured comic renditions of western music.

"Perhaps this explains why the song appealed to Beyond from both a comedy perspective and the ease in which the childish cover could be reproduced," he opines.

But has anyone ever sung this highly-comical version at KTV? Probably, but it's not 21-year-old college student Wang Qian, who says she first heard the original in high school English class.

"To me, it means a laid-back life style. I once sang [The Beatles' version] in KTV, with only the sound and subtitles," she says. But, looking back, she finds her amateurish rendition that night "disappointing."

For Arrowsmith, the mass appeal of the song in Asia-pacific is explained by its sing-ability for children wanting to improve their English in a fun way.

One Weibo user perhaps sums up the appeal for young Chinese: "I just like its melody a lot. It feels so fresh and free. But it doesn't mean anything to me."

Teachers who use the song as a teaching tool may want to consider what the lyrics signify, as they were conceived in the midst of The Beatles' most trippy period of musical output. Nevertheless, it's one of the catchiest tunes to ever invade the airwaves.

The Beatles: innovators, global entertainment juggernauts, architects of '60s zeitgeist. But Jesus Christ? According to legend, the emergency meeting was promptly adjourned, and our Dear John never mentioned it again. Lennon, you complete maniac.

All together now: "Women dou zhu zai yige huangse de qianshui ting / huangse de qianshui ting / huangse de qianshui ting."

When: 8 pm, Friday
Where: No. 13 Wudaoying Hutong, Dongcheng district
Tickets: 30 yuan (advance), 40 yuan (door)
Contact: 5844-3638

We recommend:

Top 10 most dangerous structures in the world

Bikini show at an elevation of 3,600 m

Come! Top 10 ski resorts in China

Mask fashion in those hazy days

Top 10 happiest cities in China of 2012

Charming figures display Chinese style bikinis

What you should know about food packaging

Aesthetic silhouette in TV series

Complete methods of making Chinese dumplings


Related Reading

Leave your comment0 comments

  1. Name


Selections for you

  1. WZ-8 armed helicopters in training

  2. UN's equipment verification

  3. Mumbai in lens

  4. Lanterns fly from low to high

  5. Photos: Chinese Style in 2012

  6. They made 2012 warm and beautiful

  7. Miss Chinese Africa beauty contest

  8. Scenery of Wuyuan at dawn after rainfall

  9. Most transparent multinationals

  10. Cute animals enjoy thier toys

Most Popular


  1. What election means to Israel
  2. Beijing economy expected to grow
  3. London's Great Smog has lessons for Beijing
  4. Top 10 news items for Chinese firms in 2012
  5. Inflation rise 'on the horizon'
  6. Software gives travelers advantage
  7. Will Rahul Gandhi secure a 3rd term in power
  8. U.S. sends wrong signal over Diaoyu Islands issue
  9. Labor shortage hits cities as holiday nears
  10. Reaching out to sympathetic Japanese

What’s happening in China

Sanitation worker, environmental protector in city

  1. Beijing population tops 20.69 mln
  2. Evidence may clear inmates jailed 16 years
  3. 'One day, wolves may attack humans'
  4. Drivers buy license plate before the car
  5. Workers assured of wages ahead of festival