Meet the Beatles – “Yellow Submarine”

Yellow Submarine/ Rated G/ Running Time: 85 mins

Teaching kids about music in the digital age is a challenge. Today, we can only listen. The other senses have been removed. The tactile pleasure of holding an album cover is gone. Liner notes are a thing of the past. Even music videos have largely disappeared from the mainstream. However, if you are interested in exposing your kids to classic rock, we do have some mighty relics. There was a time when the really big bands made movies.

The biggest band in the land, “The Beatles”, made three very different movies, albeit with the same goofball sensibility. “A Hard Day’s Night” is the best of the bunch, but probably the least accessible to children. “Help!”, on the other hand, must have been the inspiration for 95% of the episodes of “The Monkees”. While that would qualify it as kid friendly, I chose to show “Yellow Submarine” first. It has two main selling points, it’s animated and the theme song is sung by Ringo.

“Yellow Submarine” is about the adventures that John, Paul, George, and Ringo have after being recruited by Old Fred to help save Pepperland from the Blue Meanies. If you don’t know what that last sentence means, don’t even begin to try to decipher it.

The film was released in 1968 and is full of bright trippy visuals. There are crazy sea creatures, flying blue fists, and a Frankenstein monster that morphs into John Lennon. As you would expect, a great deal of the movie would probably work better under the influence of a controlled substance. However, a kid’s mentality will work just as well.

The Beatles had very limited participation in the film. Their characters were voiced by others and they only physically appear in the final scene. However, it is just as much a Beatles movie as the others. The corny sense of humor is the same and, of course, it is driven by their songs. The movie probably works best for kids who have knowledge of Beatles songs going into it.

Earlier, I lamented that we only listen to music today, but that is not entirely true. We are able to play music through video games. The “Guitar Hero” and “Rock Band” series are a good way to introduce kids to a wide range of artists. My kids are familiar with “Beatles: Rock Band”, which gives a broad overview of the band’s career. The game has a lot of the hits, but also showcases lesser known songs, like “Hey Bulldog” (my four year old daughter’s favorite scene in “Yellow Submarine”). In addition to exposing the kids to great music, the game reminded me of one eternal truth. Ringo is the favorite Beatle of the pre-school set.

“Octopus’s Garden” was my favorite song at age four and it was the first song my kids wanted to hear. What is it about Ringo that attracts the kids? Perhaps it is the subject matter of the songs he sings. All kids love octopuses and submarines. But let’s not forget about walruses? Why isn’t “I am the Walrus” a favorite kid song? Maybe Ringo’s songs are easy to sing, whereas “I am the Walrus” is musically complex. Ultimately, it might be simpler than that. Ringo’s songs remind kids of their favorite Fab Four, “The Wiggles”.

Whatever the reasons, the film was a big hit in my house. I have shown my kids pieces of other rock movies, such as “The Last Waltz”. However, I will wait to delve into many more. A great deal of rock is just inappropriate for children. Why show them edited pieces of “Woodstock” when they will miss the purpose of that great movie. I look forward to the day when we can watch “The Song Remains the Same” or “The Wall” together. For now, I will stick with the Beatles, and that’s not a bad place to be.

Have suggestions for other ways to introduce kids to classic rock?

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