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The Beatles Songs: It's All Too Much

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The Beatles Songs: It's All Too Much

The climactic "Yellow Submarine" scene featuring "It's All Too Much"

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It's All Too Much

Working title: Too Much
Written by: George Harrison (100%)

Recorded: May 25 and 31, June 2, 1967 (De Lane Lea Studios, London, England)
Mixed: October 12, 1967; October 16-17, 1968
Length: 6:24
Takes: 4

Musicians:

John Lennon: harmony vocals, rhythm guitar (1965 Epiphone E230TD(V) Casino), handclaps
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S), cowbell, handclaps
George Harrison: lead and harmony vocals, lead guitar (1965 Epiphone E230TD(V) Casino), organ (Hammond RT-3), handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig), tambourine
David Mason, unknown: trumpets
Paul Harvey: bass clarinet

Available on: (CDs in bold)

Yellow Submarine (UK: Apple PMC 7070, PCS 7070; US: Apple SW 153; Parlophone CDP 46445 2, "Songtrack": Capitol/Apple CDP 7243 5 21481 2 7)

History:

  • After wrapping up the basic recording of their landmark Sgt. Pepper, the Beatles found themselves with unprecedented time on their hands -- not having to go on tour or make a movie, and still on a creative high from their masterwork, the Fab Four visited various studios between the end of April and beginning of June 1967, beginning work on several ideas they'd recently come up with. Paul recorded "Magical Mystery Tour," a title song for a shelved concept that would only be revisited later in the year after the death of manager Brian Epstein; both Paul and John worked on ideas for a fitting song to use in the first satellite international broadcast One World, resulting in McCartney's "All Together Now" and Lennon's "All You Need is Love"; Harrison continued to work on the rejected "Only a Northern Song," John began workshopping a Four Tops parody/homage called "You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)," while Paul came up with yet another '20s throwback called "Your Mother Should Know," and Lennon also worked on a new track called "Baby You're a Rich Man." In the middle of all this, George, inspired by recent LSD trips, introduced a new song he'd written called "Too Much." ("Too much" had been beatnik vernacular for an experience that was exceptionally mindblowing.) Typical of George, the song stayed rooted in one main chord with few changes, giving it a drone-like quality.
  • For reasons unknown, perhaps because of unavailable studio time at Abbey Road, the boys ventured to a basement studio in Soho called De Lane Lea, founded by a French expatriate after WWII expressly to dub English films into his native language. Nevertheless, it had become quite well known by London rockers; both Jimi Hendrix and the Yardbirds had recorded there, and in 1971 Queen would lay down their first ever set of demos at the studio. The band ran through several dozen rehearsals of "It's All Too Much" on May 25, 1967, with John on guitar, George on organ, and Paul and Ringo in their usual roles. Four takes of the song were then laid down; the next day, lead and backing vocals were added, as well as extra percussion. On June 2, session musicians were brought in for brass and woodwinds. The original recorded version devolved into a jam lasting nearly half and hour, but this was wisely pared down to 8:25. That version also featured an extra verse and chorus, but two minutes were edited out in the final mix. Like other of the post-Pepper, experiments, "It's All Too Much" found its way into the soundtrack of the band's animated 1968 film Yellow Submarine; with its psychedelic excess and extended outro, this one was slotted for the film's climax, where the "Beatles" defeat the evil "Blue Meanies" and restore "Pepperland" to its original happy state.
Trivia:
  • Perhaps in a nod to "All You Need is Love," the final version of "It's All Too Much" features two unlicensed song quotes: the trumpets play a fanfare attributed to Jeremiah Clarke's "Prince of Denmark March (Trumpet Voluntary)," while George sings the first line of the Merseys' 1966 UK hit "Sorrow" ("With your long blond hair and your eyes of blue," which some see as a nod to his wife, Pattie Boyd).
  • David Mason, who played the piccolo trumpet solo on "Penny Lane," plays the lead trumpet lines on this song.
  • The extra verse and chorus, only present in an early cut of the film but widely bootlegged since, goes like this:
    It's so nice to have the time
    to take this opportunity
    Time for me to look at you
    and you to look at me

    It's all too much for me to take
    There's plenty more for everybody
    The more you give, the more you get
    The more it is and it's too much

  • George liked this song quite a bit and wanted to include it on the band's "White Album," however, he'd tired of the group squabbles by the time sequencing came around for that album, and so it went on "Submarine" instead.
  • John opens the song with some wild feedback, which cuts off a phrase he's muttering somewhat angrily. Some hear this phrase as "To your mother!" Others hear it as "Sue your mother!" Paul and John's backing vocals, which repeat "Too much! Too much!" eventually devolve into "Tuba! Tuba!" and then "Cuba! Cuba!"
Covered by: Grateful Dead, Journey, The Church, Steve Hillage, Yukihiro Takahashi, Senator Flux, The Violet Burning, Rich Robinson, Jeremy Morris, Yonder Mountain String Band, All About Eve, Paul Gilbert, The House of Love
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