Carrying on from Todds excellent Albums under a microscope series of threads I wanted to carry things on with individual songs, and look at them in a bit of depth (but not chronologically like Todd did).
I decided to start with Baby Your A Rich Man (for no apparent reason), hopefully this may create some discussions between us as in the albums threads.
Around 1967, the term "beautiful people" was invented to describe rich, young hippie pretenders. In his book "Shout" Philip Norman said that is what Brian Epstein was like in the last few months of his life. He started wearing hippie clothes instead of suits, increased his drug intake and grew his hair. John Lennon supposedly noticed that, and asks him, in this song "How does it feel to be one of the "beautiful people"?
Maybe, maybe not..
Its a great song though, typical John Lennon psych of the period, strange distorted instrumentation, a bit Indian sounding, I believe Mick Jagger helps with backing vocals towards the end of the ending (coda).
Two song fragments were combined to create "Baby, You're a Rich Man". The verses from "One of the beautiful People" by John Lennon were combined with Paul McCartney's previously unaccompanied "Baby, you're a rich man …" chorus.
The song was recorded and mixed (in mono) on 11 May 1967 at Olympic Sound Studios. The music featured an unusual oboe-like sound which was created with a clavioline (an early forerunner of the synthesiser) and a spin-echo (feed back delay) effect which was used to fill from the end of one line of the verse to the start of the next.
According to Mark Lewisham, these are the personel on the song.
John Lennon – double-tracked vocal, clavioline, piano
Paul McCartney – harmony vocal, piano, bass
George Harrison – harmony vocal, guitar, handclaps
Ringo Starr – drums, tambourine, maracas, handclaps
Eddie Kramer – vibraphone
George Martin – producer
Keith Grant – engineer
"Baby, You're a Rich Man" was released as the B-side of the single "All You Need Is Love" on 7 July 1967 in the United Kingdom and on 17 July 1967 in the United States. Later that year, against the Beatles' wishes, it was included on the US album Magical Mystery Tour (made available in both mono and ‘mock stereo’) but for a 1971 German release of the Magical Mystery Tour album, George Martin and recording engineer Geoff Emerick created the first true stereo mix of the song; unable to recreate the spin-echo effect that had been included at the mixing stage of the original recording, they simply omitted it.
Interestingly then it wasnt available in true stereo until 1971.
Eventually and curiously the song ended up being on versions of 2 compilation albums Magical Mystery Tour and Yellow Submarine Songtrack.
What a wonderfully recorded track though, I love the way John asks questions in a falsetto voice and answers them in a normal singing voice, the song is in the key of G and has a kind of drone feeling throughout (similar to Rain), harmonically it isnt complex, basically G,C, F with a B7 or something thrown in, tempo wise its quite strange, as are a lot of Johns songs........a wonderfully creative bassline (Rickenbaker ?) from Paul dominates quite a bit although the clavioline is very high in the mix and features often, Ringo's drumming is basic but it sounds to me like theirs some nice figures just before each chorus.
The piano is quite dominant to and sounds like it heavily phased or miked in some strange way.
If you have the remasters and some good headphones you can hear practically everything that going on.
The chorus is basically a chant and I believe in the studio John was singing 'Brian your a rich f** Jew' (rumour) which is typical of Johns humour and sarcasm.......I am convinced the song was about Brian though, particularly when John mentions keeping his money in a big brown bag etc, there were rumours that Brian accepted payments in paper bags when they were on tour.
On the whole I love this song, its very much of its time and when I listen it conjours up a kind of musical pastiche of sound and feeling, I remember at the time, (and even though it came as a sort of footnote to Sgt Pepper) thinking there had been nothing quite like this before, it was 'strange' and exotic but somehow familiar and safe.......its not a classic, in the way Strawberry Fields is, but a superb period piece that was just what we all wanted in 1967.....typical of the brilliance of John Lennon.