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  • The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” was inspired by an image that came into Paul McCartney’s head.
  • The track became a big hit once in the United States.
  • The tune was a hit twice in the United Kingdom, where it was released alongside “Eleanor Rigby.”
A snow globe advertising The Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ | DEA / A. DAGLI ORTI / Contributor

A rumor claimed The Beatles‘ “Yellow Submarine” was about a certain drug. This rumor was false. Despite this, there were two reasons why fans thought the tune referenced an illicit substance.

Paul McCartney said The Beatles got into marijuana because it was ‘grown-up’

In the 1997 book Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul discussed The Beatles’ relationship to illicit substances. “The awkward thing about it all is you have to talk about drugs,” he said. “If you don’t you’re being wildly dishonest. The good thing was that it was the first period of people taking drugs, and the first bloom is always the best really. 

“So it was at a time when, having been to America, we started to expand our horizons,” he said. “We’d met people like [Bob] Dylan and we got into pot, like a lot of people from our generation. And I suppose in our way we thought this was a little more grown-up than perhaps the Scotch and Coke we’d been into before then.” 

Yellow pills with writing on them
Yellow pills | Roberto Machado Noa / Contributor

Paul McCartney said The Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’ was inspired by him falling asleep

Paul discussed the appeal of drugs. “What makes people smoke cigarettes when they’re 14?” he asked. “It’s peer pressure. It makes them feel older, it makes them feel a bit groovier and that’s quite valuable, at that age, to feel a bit groovier. And I suppose it was the same kind of thing in our case.”

According to The Guardian, a rumor claimed “Yellow Submarine” was about a drug called Nembutal. Nembutal is yellow and is consumed in a capsule shaped like a submarine. However, in Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now, Paul says the song was simply inspired by an image that came in his mind when he was lying in bed and falling asleep.


John Lennon Said Another Star Helped Paul McCartney Write The Beatles’ ‘Yellow Submarine’

How ‘Yellow Submarine’ performed in the United States and the United Kingdom

“Yellow Submarine” climbed to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for nine weeks. The tune appeared on the album Revolver, making it one of the most accessible songs on the album. Revolver reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for six of its 94 weeks on the chart.

According to The Official Charts Company, “Yellow Submarine” reached No. 1 in the United Kingdom for four weeks, lasting on the chart for 13 weeks in total. The song was a double A-side single with “Eleanor Rigby.” Meanwhile, Revolver peaked at No. 1 in the U.K. for seven of its 34 weeks on the chart.

Subsequently, “Yellow Submarine” and “Eleanor Rigby” got rereleased in the U.K. in 1986. There, the tunes peaked at No. 63, staying on the chart for two weeks.

“Yellow Submarine” became a huge hit even if a famous rumor about it is false.