Every few years I dig deep into the Beatles, the songs, the culture around them and their legacy. It’s stunning how many aspects to 4 creative guys one can find. After 15 years of this cycle I still hadn’t watched any of their actual movies. I’d seen snippets via the Anthology documentaries, and one of my group home clients used to like “Help!” and had a VHS tape he watched of it, but I suppose I wasn’t interested in seeing musicians act (which is the same way I approach all musicians I love who dabble in acting or screenwriting- something like Bono’s “Million Dollar Hotel” is unwatchable).
The “Yellow Submarine” cartoon is something of a different animal, a super-focused period specific work of animation that the Beatles had next to nothing to do with. It’s really an interpretation of an era in the same way the great music videos of the 90s were. It also seemed like a good way to interest my kids in the Beatles, and we already had 2 of the action figures (John and Paul) that they had been playing with.
When we finally got around to seeing the cartoon last November, I found it was something special that has stuck with me enough to make art and video pieces taken straight from it. I’ve researched the Beatles enough to have drugs, cheating, and band in-fighting as things I think about when listening to the songs, and it really shouldn’t be that way. The salacious details are intriguing but they overlook the main points- songs about love and peace, extraordinary creative measures in the studio, solid songwriting. I can enjoy the Yellow Submarine film because it distills all the bad and leaves only the good in this highly visually appealing freebase of color and love.