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Baby, You're A Rich Man

The history of this classic Beatles song

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The original US 45 sleeve for

The original US 45 sleeve for "Baby, You're A Rich Man"

source: ebay.com

Baby, You're A Rich Man

Working title: One Of The Beautiful People
Written by: John Lennon (60%), Paul McCartney (40%) (credited as Lennon-McCartney)
Recorded: May 11, 1967 (Olympic Sound Studios, London, England)
Mixed: May 11, 1967; October 22, 1971
Length: 3:07
Takes: 12
Musicians: John Lennon: lead vocals (double-tracked), piano (Alfred E. Knight), clavioline
Paul McCartney: harmony vocals, bass guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S), piano (Alfred E. Knight)
George Harrison: harmony vocals, rhythm guitar (1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster), handclaps
Ringo Starr: drums (Ludwig), maracas, tambourine, handclaps
Eddie Kramer: vibraphone
First released: July 7, 1967 (UK: Parlophone R5620), July 17, 1967 (US: Capitol 5964); b-side to "All You Need Is Love"
Available on: (CDs in bold)
  • Magical Mystery Tour (UK: Parlophone PCTC 255, US: Capitol (S)MAL 2835, Parlophone CDP 7 48062 2)
  • Yellow Submarine "Songtrack": Capitol/Apple CDP 7243 5 21481 2 7))
Highest chart position: US: 34 (July 29, 1967)
History:
  • Along with other classics like "A Day In The Life," "We Can Work It Out," and the later "I've Got A Feeling," this song is one of a handful in Beatles history formed by welding together one of John's unused songs with one of Paul's -- in this case, Paul's chorus of the same name with John's verses, a song called "One Of The Beautiful People."
  • This was the first track completely recorded and mixed away from the band's home base of Abbey Road Studios; recorded a month before the sessions that produced the a-side, "All You Need Is Love," it essentially functioned as a dry run for the single.
  • This was recorded during the first sessions for what would become the Magical Mystery Tour album, though this song was intended from the beginning to be featured instead in the upcoming Beatles animated film Yellow Submarine. Oddly enough, it was barely audible in the final version of the film, and did not appear on the original soundtrack, but was remixed and revived for the expanded YS "songtrack" released in 1999.
  • The odd, spiraling sound heard throughout the song is made by a clavioline, a primitive synthesizer of sorts which allowed the waveforms of sounds to be manipulated through a series of knee pedals and knobs. John played the instrument here on an oboe setting, although his performance mainly serves to make the setting sound like a Middle Eastern instrument.
  • Bob Spitz's biography The Beatles cites several sources claiming that, at the end of this song, John Lennon sings "Baby, you're a rich fag Jew," a reference to band manager Brian Epstein, who was Jewish and a closeted homosexual. (That he was rich should be obvious.) Although the evidence for this slur is all anecdotal, John can be heard bearing down hard on the title phrase during the fade-out, exactly as he would do if engaging in such an insult. Some have also claimed that this song was written about Epstein as a typically Lennonesque brand of harsh advice; John himself claimed at the time that it was a gentle poke at rich people who have trouble enjoying their success. However, since the chorus was Paul's separate song, it seems unlikely that this was John's concept.
Trivia:
  • Because the tape boxes for this session claim that Mick Jagger was present at the recording session, it is often claimed that he sings on the song, coming in hard with John at the end, supposedly on the slur in question. No evidence has been found to support this theory, though it appears he did attend the session.
  • "Baby, You're A Rich Man" was remixed in stereo in 1971, along with several other tracks from this period, for a German version of Magical Mystery Tour. The odd silences as the end of each verse are the result of a missing echo effect that reverberated into the next line (for example, after "far as the eye can see"); the stereo version is now the accepted standard, meaning that the original effect is largely lost to history.
  • The clavioline does not, as some claim, make its first appearance in a pop song here: created in 1947, it had already been featured on half a dozen pop and jazz singles by this time, including the Tornadoes' 1962 smash "Telstar," and Del Shannon's "Runaway" (although keyboardist Max Crook modified the instrument severely, so much so that he renamed it the "musitron"). [li[Many of the crew that worked on the Beatles' recordings went on to have successful careers after the group disbanded; Olympic Sound Studio's Eddie Kramer for example, who plays vibes on this track, would go on to engineer Led Zeppelin's and Jimi Hendrix' classic albums, as well as producing Kiss' most popular work.
Covered by: The Fat Boys, Kula Shaker, The Presidents of the United States of America
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