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Author Topic: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man  (Read 5810 times)

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nimrod

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Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« on: July 28, 2011, 03:03:54 AM »

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.
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tkitna

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2011, 04:57:23 AM »

No credit for Brian Jones playing the oboe? Hmm.

Was never one of my favorites, but I like it. The one thing that always brought me down about it was the production. I always felt it was a muddy sounding song. I like Ringo's drumming in it. I think he does a good job.

I do enjoy it in the context of Magical Mystery Tour though now that I think about.

tkitna

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2011, 04:59:34 AM »

Excellent review too Kevin. This will be some good stuff.

Bobber

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2011, 06:16:52 AM »

I have always found this b-side much more interesting than its a-side. I'll try to dig up some more about the strange sond effect.
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nimrod

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2011, 06:57:00 AM »

No credit for Brian Jones playing the oboe? Hmm.


I dont think theres an oboe on it Todd
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tkitna

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2011, 07:41:24 AM »

I always heard he played an oboe on this song, but after looking on the internet, there's no credible sites that I would trust to post. Wiki and a few others say the samething, but again, nothing i'd put my name behind so your probably right. Lewisohn would know better than anybody.

Bobber

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2011, 09:10:44 AM »

I have always found this b-side much more interesting than its a-side. I'll try to dig up some more about the strange sond effect.

Indeed clavioline. They wanted to make it sound like an Arabian flute.
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Hombre_de_ningun_lugar

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2011, 04:07:58 PM »

I've always liked this one. The first time I listened to it was in the Yellow Submarine movie, just the first lines, and from that moment I was interested in this song. It will never be considered as one of the best Beatles songs, but it's still a very fun recording to listen to.
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nimrod

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2011, 11:06:13 PM »

Excellent review too Kevin. This will be some good stuff.

Thank you Todd  ;)
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Ged

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #9 on: August 03, 2011, 03:58:22 PM »

One of my faves. Beatles songs with a bit more going on in them rather than the basic instrumentation of the early years always interests me, especially the more unusual instruments in the likes of this, Strawberry fields, It's all too much, Walrus etc.
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Walrus

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2011, 02:44:39 AM »

Magical Mystery Tour is one of my favorite albums, and Baby You're A Rich Man is my currently favorite Beatles song. I love the "...now that you know who you are. What do you want to be?"
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TomMo

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #11 on: June 04, 2012, 08:34:25 PM »

I am almost totally in agreement with you on your review. Of all Beatles songs, I have the most personal affinity with it. So I'm somewhat protective of it when someone offers a lame interpretation. Fortunately, there is little that you and I disagree on. But for the sake of carrying on a discussion, here are my thoughts:

"Beautiful People" - Having lived through the 60's (and still remember it), the so-called "Beautiful People" were, in fact, those people before the pretenders (or plastic people, as we used to say) took over. Essentially, they used various means, drugs or otherwise, in search of enlightenment, comic consciousness, or whatever term you might choose. John, at the time he wrote the verses for "One Of The Beautiful People" might very well have considered himself one. Here's an analogy: Compare the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival with the 1969 Woodstock videos. In two years, LSD had become a recreational drug instead of a path toward some spiritual growth. Both John and George would become disenchanted with the "Beautiful People" later in 1967.

Yes, Brian did go through changes in late '66/early '67, not unlike the Lads, and that includes his first use of LSD. And so, John's verses included questions asked of Brian, as a way of welcoming him to the "Beautiful People." Questions like "How often have you been there?", "What did you see when you were there?", and, "Now that you've found another key, what are you going to play?" If you have the time and patience to track down druggie slang from the 60's (not the 70's), the word "there" referred to that state one reaches at the height of an LSD experience. "Far as the eye can see."

Mick Jagger - in a 1993 interview, Mick confirmed he was there and joined in at the coda. I don't hear him, but I'll take his word for it.

Clavioline, yes. Oboe, no. Too many people think Brian Jones played oboe on this track. They must be confused with his playing sax on "You Know My Name." Even if Jones was there, no way could he play oboe that well. Yes, he could "play" many instruments, but in my humble opinion, he wasn't that great playing the recorder, dulcimer or sitar on Stone's tracks. He was okay on sax, but only because it was his first instrument before guitar and blues harp.

Paul's chorus - It is true that Brian Epstein was a rich man (too), but that's not enough. Several references to Brian's "bag" appear here and there. The only reference to a brown bag was connected to their last world tour, which included the Philippines. Yes, Brian carried the concert receipts in a bag. It is also rumored that he carried the Beatles's drugs in the bag. Supposedly, the Beatles were delayed after the "Marcos snubbing" from leaving Manila. Both Brian and Mal Evans were forced off the plane, and according to the story, Brian was "relieved" of his brown bag by the authorities before he, Mal, and the Beatles were free to head to their next stop, India.

Zoo - Pure conjecture on my part: Zoo, besides being a convenient rhyme with "do" and "too", could also refer to Beatlemania, in general, much like John's description of being in the "eye of a hurricane". Picture the Beatles locked up in hotel rooms, allowed to come out only for public appearances, like animals in a zoo. Better yet, what if the zoo was the Manila airport where the Beatles (and Brian) were pushed around and beaten by the soldiers like animals? Or what if the animals were the soldiers themselves?

So, "You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo, what a thing to do". Could this be Paul's way of saying, "Thanks, Brian. for going through all that crap for us?" Remember, that incident happened less than a year before and was still fresh on their minds.

Now for the tag at the fade out: People who listen to the track today claim they can't hear it. I don't blame them. I can't hear it either. But I have one advantage over them. I bought the mono single, first pressing, the day of its release in July, 1967. On the first play of the track, I HEARD it. Clear as a bell: "Baby, you're a rich f** Jew". Only one voice speak-singing it and it sure did sound like John. As much as I DON'T hear it today on the 2009 remaster, that's how much I DID hear it in 1967. All you have is my word.

On subsequent remixes on vinyl (MMT, YS), it is very muddled...VERY muddled! The consonants don't pop out of the speakers during the fade. On the 2009 remastered version, it is almost non-existent, even if the vocal track is isolated.

To rap things up, here's my theory, take it or leave it: Both John and Paul decided to write a song in honor of Brian. Starting separately, they wrote their parts, compared notes, and saw a way to meld the two. And to make sure Brian would be absolutely sure that the song was about him, John threw in one of his anti-Semitic, homophobic jibes at the end. Brian was accustomed to that verbal abuse from John in the past. Vicious by today's politically correct standards, but typical for John and his friendship with Brian.

Why the change? The song was released in July, 1967 (and I bet it had Sir George's approval). Brian died in August, 1967. What was regarded as a private, inside joke in July was probably considered tasteless by the end of August. Thus the gradual masking of the "rich f** Jew" line over time. Compare the length of the original mono vs. the stereo mix. Nine seconds difference. Hmmm. Only with modern digital equipment could the line be virtually eliminated.

By the way, I'm willing to consider other theories. For example, Al Brodax, producer of the Yellow Submarine movie was at that session and claims the song was about him. Why? Because he had a brown bag with him. Take that with how ever many grains of salt you desire.
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nimrod

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #12 on: June 04, 2012, 11:23:02 PM »

Thanks for the input TomNo and for reviving the thread, Yes I agree the Jew tagline has been edited out, as we know John was a bit of a rebel and his humour could be cutting, Im sure Brian took it with a pinch of salt but the world is much more pc these days and many would be offended by it.

( although its ok in rap to say things like ' I wanna f--k that b**** so bad'  ha2ha)

Its an amazingly interesting song, I categorise it like I do 'She Said She Said' in that mysterious otherwordly mode with interesting musical textures and tempo's, I loved how The Beatles could come up with straight ahead fabulous but conventional songs in common time like Hey Jude and then blow your mind with the unusual and daring.
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Dcazz

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #13 on: June 24, 2012, 09:51:21 PM »

I have always liked this song. Recently I got new Polk Audio speakers for my truck and I can hear two guitars. One right behind the other. They become a little more distinct on the last verse when one becomes more squawky.
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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2012, 08:15:16 PM »

Indeed clavioline. They wanted to make it sound like an Arabian flute.

I've just googled it and found out it's a keyboard...an early synthesizer type instrument. I'd been thiking it actualy was some kind of exotic woodwind instrument! I'd always been imaging John blowing something.
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nimrod

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #15 on: June 26, 2012, 12:57:20 AM »

I've just googled it and found out it's a keyboard...an early synthesizer type instrument. I'd been thiking it actualy was some kind of exotic woodwind instrument! I'd always been imaging John blowing something.

if you'd read my review you would already have known that..lol

'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.'

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7 of 13

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #16 on: June 26, 2012, 05:39:24 PM »

the beautiful people is typical iconoclastic, laconic lennon at his best. what a thing to do.
 ;yes
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zipp

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #17 on: June 29, 2012, 10:23:42 AM »

I like this song too and I've got the original single so I'll give it a listen later to add to the debate concerning the ending.

In the meantime, can someone explain what a 'natural E' is? I just googled it and it could be from mathematics.
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nimrod

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #18 on: June 30, 2012, 12:53:41 AM »

I like this song too and I've got the original single so I'll give it a listen later to add to the debate concerning the ending.

In the meantime, can someone explain what a 'natural E' is? I just googled it and it could be from mathematics.

as far as I know its just the note E, not sharp or flat just natural, a natural is an accidental which cancels previous accidentals and represents the unaltered pitch of a note

Natural notes are the notes A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, and are represented by the white notes on the keyboard of a piano
« Last Edit: June 30, 2012, 12:56:07 AM by nimrod »
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7 of 13

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Re: Songs under a microscope.......Baby Your A Rich Man
« Reply #19 on: June 30, 2012, 05:34:56 PM »

I like this song too and I've got the original single so I'll give it a listen later to add to the debate concerning the ending.

In the meantime, can someone explain what a 'natural E' is? I just googled it and it could be from mathematics.
oh yes it could be from mathematics! well also, perhaps looks like a lennon style wordplay, maybe refers to an open tuning on a guitar, or a concert tuning, or what nimrod said.
 ;yes
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