Ringo held out his hand to help Jeremy Hilary Boob climb down the last rung of the ladder.
"So this is a submarine?" Jeremy asked as he surveyed his surroundings. "It is a splendid thing to see. A wonder of machinery!"
Paul nudged John and whispered in his ear. "Does he never stop with the rhymes?"
John shrugged and turned towards Old Fred. "So tell me, Lord Admiral. How much further must we go to reach that unearthly paradise called Pepperland? Surely we must have traveled eighty thousand leagues beneath the sea by now."
"It's been quite the magical mystery trip," Paul agreed. "We've sailed through that school of rainbow fish and that bevy of bubbles with bloated faces. We even worked our way through that trench filled with underwater volcanos."
"Those weren't volcanos," Ringo corrected him. "Those were cephalopods squirting clouds of black ink into the water. We were in an Octopus's Garden!"
Fred check his nautical map. "We've passed through the Sea of Time, the Sea of Science, the Sea of Monsters and Nowhere Land. Now all we have to do is sail on to the sun till we find the Sea of Green. But we must be careful not to fall into the Sea of Holes along the way."
"The Sea of Holes?" George challenged. "Surely a Sea of Holes couldn't hold water."
"Perhaps the rain gets in because no-one has been fixing it," Paul suggested.
Fred nodded. "Of course we could take a short cut through the Foothills of the Headlands, but I wouldn't recommend it."
"The Headlands?" repeated Ringo. "Are you telling me there's a land full of heads under the sea?"
"Maybe the rain that's falling through the Sea of Holes makes everyone run and hide their heads," proposed John.
Ringo looked askance at John. "Do you mean that literally? That people living in the ocean take off their heads and hide them behind the foothills?"
John shrugged. "Just sayin'."
Paul leaned towards his drummer. "Pay him no mind. He's off his head."
Jeremy jumped up and twiddled his toes. "Merfolk lack feet – they've tails instead. But on their necks they still have heads."
"My head is filled with things to say," George groused, throwing an irritated look at Jeremy. "But when he's here, all those words just seem to slip away."
Paul patted George's back sympathetically. "There will be times when all the things he said will fill your head."
George rubbed his temples. "Oh, God, please no. Anything but that!"
"I never lack for things to say," Jeremy piped in. "Why, I could chatter on all day!"
Ringo peered through the periscope and laughed. "Hey all! We're back in that Octopus's Garden!" He stepped away from the eye-piece so that Fred could inspect the view.
"Looks more like we're back in the Sea of Monsters," Fred corrected him. "I recognize that giant octopus-shaped creature. Her name is Ursula, but she's better known as The Sea Witch."
"The Sea Witch?" John exclaimed. "Like in the Hans Christian Anderson story 'The Little Mermaid'?"
"The one and the same," answered Fred. "Have a gander. It looks like she's having a tête-à-tête with a pretty little mermaid just now."
"I just have to look," John said, pushing Fred out of his way. "Having read the book."
John adjusted the focus on the periscope to accommodate his glasses, then sighed. "That poor thing. This isn't going to end well for her."
"What do you mean?" Ringo asked. "I don't know the story."
John looked back at his friends. "At the beginning of Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, the Little Mermaid swims to surface and rescues a handsome prince from drowning. She falls in love with him on the spot, though he's too busy coughing up sea water to return the favor. So she asks the Sea Witch to turn her into a human so she can go back to the land and try to win his heart. But the Sea Witch makes her exchange her beautiful voice for a pair of human legs, so the poor girl can't speak to the pompous prince once she comes ashore. He quickly loses interest in her and marries someone else."
"What happens to our girl then?" asked George, sounding worried.
"She becomes the foam that rests upon the waves," answered John in a sad voice.
"Bad bit of luck, that," Paul noted.
"I say we go help the poor lass," Ringo proposed. "We're singers after all, aren't we? If the girl can't use her own voice to woo this lousy landlubber, we can set the mood with our words and melodies!"
"You're such a softie, Ritchie," George said with a smile.
"Better let the three of us do the singing though," Paul suggested. "You stick to your drums, Ringo."
"A worthy cause to undertake," Jeremy declared. "You'll sing for the mute mermaid's sake!"
"It's settled then," said John. He turned back to the periscope. "We'd better hurry! Her tail just split into two and she's rising to the surface! Boys, let's bring this submarine up!"
Ringo reached for a lever.
Old Fred rested his hand on top of Ringo's. "Not so fast, we don't want to get the bends!"
"Well, raise us as quickly as you can, Admiral," John admonished him. "I'll keep an eye on the girl while you lads work."
"Typical," noted George with a scowl.
"That's odd," John said as he adjusted the focus on the periscope once more. "The scenery is transforming. Instead of looking like a Peter Max-inspired, pop-art wonderland, the world outside is starting to resemble a Disney cartoon."
"Corporate America has its fingers in everything these days," George noted dryly. "They're chopping down the forest for McDonalds and the Burger King. Eating cows with such persistence, doesn't offer much resistance to this cockamamie business."
Ringo narrowed his eyes at George. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
"In metaphors your friend does speak," suggested Jeremy. "But never mind, we've sprung a leak!"
A spout of water burst out from one of the seals in the submarine's hull.
"To hell with the bends!" shouted Old Fred. "Let's take her up, full speed ahead!"
Fred pulled a lever, and the Yellow Submarine lifted the surface at jet speed. When it reached sea level, John called to his friends from his station at the periscope. "I see the mermaid! She's lying on the sand, and, oh Christ, she's naked! Damn, she's beautiful! But here comes someone…a man with a dog…a sheepdog, just like your pet Martha, Paulie!…and now some seagull is flying over the girl…it's dropping a torn bit of a sail on the beach…the girl's wrapping herself in it…and, just in time, the bloke and the dog are cresting a sand dune…they see the girl! The girl and the bloke are smiling at each other. They're giggling…and now, bullocks, that was fast! They're holding hands and he's leading her away from the beach…it looks like they're heading towards that castle on the hill. That lad must be the prince."
"That didn't take long," observed Ringo.
"It seems like they're off to a good start," added George. "Love comes to everyone!"
John looked away from the periscope with an exasperated expression. "Is there anybody going to listen to my story? I'm telling you, this is not going to end well. The prince will ditch her in a matter of days. C'mon, lads, let's grab some instruments, go ashore, and play a concert at the castle!"
"What instruments?" challenged Paul. "We didn't bring any instruments."
"Just push some buttons on the control panel," suggested Ringo. "This sub is equipped with everything, just like one of those James Bond Aston Martins."
"Righto," said Paul. He set to work pushing buttons.
"Will one of you stay and help me patch up the hole in the sub?" asked Old Fred.
"I'd love to help you fix the ship!" exclaimed Jeremy. "Just let me calculate the slip."
John frowned at Jeremy. "The slip?"
"Ship slip is the difference between the speed of the engine and the actual observed speed of the ship," Fred answered in Jeremy's defense. "I think this little Boobie here actually knows what he's talking about! There might be something wrong with our motor."
"Indeed I do! I'm very nautical," Jeremy insisted. "I'm expert in all things aquatical!"
"Great," said Paul. He pushed the last button on the board. A panel in the ceiling of the submarine's inner chamber opened up. A Hofner bass, two electric guitars, three Vox amps, four microphones and a five-piece drum kit fell to the floor with a clang. "Now we just have to figure out how to get these instruments to the castle!"
John snuck a peek at the happy couple while he tuned his guitar. "She cleaned up real nice, didn't she?"
Paul scrutinized the former mermaid's puffy pink dress and frowned. "I don't know. That frock is a bit too frou-frou for me. I would have liked to have seen her in the sail."
George tightened his high E-string. "It was nice of the King to let us play tonight. I thought he might have balked at allowing four uninvited musicians into his palace. But he even offered to pay us!"
"How much are eight Kroners worth in Pounds Sterling?" asked Ringo.
"Doesn't matter," replied John. "It's an easy amount to divide by four."
"It's rather fun, isn't it?" laughed Paul. "Playing a make-shift gig for pocket change, just like in the old days? I say, after we finish this cruise on Old Fred's Yellow Submarine, I think we should go back on tour again. But just play small venues this time, not giant stadiums. We can pack our things inside Neil's van, drive around the countryside, and see if we can't just play some spontaneous concerts!"
"You're daft, you are," grumbled George.
John sighed. "We'll discuss it later. Now look, the happy couple is walking towards the dance floor. Let's play something romantic."
"I'll go first," insisted Paul. He leaned into his mic and sang the first few notes of his song a cappella before the band kicked in with their instruments:
Close your eyes and I'll kiss you,
Tomorrow I'll miss you,
Remember I'll always be true…
The girl and the prince tried to dance along to the beat, but kept tripping over each other's feet.
"Right," said John after Paul's song came to an end. He leaned into his mic. "We're gonna slow things down now, so you two can catch your breath. This was our third single, and I'll switch it up a little by starting with the middle eight!" He strummed a few chords, then started to sing:
I've got arms that long to hold you
And keep you by my side.
I've got lips that long to kiss you
And keep you satisfied! Ooh!
Paul jumped in with the harmony as John transitioned back to the first verse. The prince and the mermaid locked eyes for a long moment as the song came to an end, then turned towards the Beatles and applauded.
John bowed in appreciation, then elbowed George. "Thanks, you two. But that's not quite the response we were looking for. So now I'll turn the spotlight over to my mate George and see what romantic number he can come up with."
George threw John a dirty look, then turned back towards his small but rapt audience. "Okay. I'd like to play a little waltz for you. It's a golden oldie that my parents used to love, but I hope you'll like it too. It's by an American bloke named Cole Porter, and it goes like this." George strummed a few measures of a three-quarter rhythm, then started to sing:
I give to you, and you give to me
True love, true love,
And on and on it will always be
True love, true love.
For you and I have a guardian angel
On high, with nothing to do…
But to give to me and to give to you
Love forever true!
The prince and the mermaid waltzed gracefully around the dance floor, but their lips remained chastely apart throughout the song.
Ringo played a soft rat-a-tat on his hi-hat cymbal to bring the tune to an end. Then he rolled his eyes at George and started addressing the young couple.
"Great, you two look lovely out there!" he declared. "But there's something I think His Royal Highness needs to know!" He counted in a song, then started to sing:
I've been told when a boy kiss a girl,
Take a trip around the world,
His bandmates chimed in with a chorus of "Bob-bop-shoo-ops!" while Ringo pounded out a manic beat and continued singing the next verse:
My girl says when I kiss her lips
Gets a thrill through her fingertips,
The prince and the mermaid bopped along with the bob-bob-shoo-ops so enthusiastically that they had to leave the dance floor when the song came to an end to fetch glasses of water.
John leaned closer to Paul. "What is wrong with that royal? Doesn't he know how to kiss a girl?"
Paul shrugged, then cracked his knuckles. "Maybe it's a language thing. The girl can't talk after all. Let's try doing a number in Spanish." He waited for the young couple to finish their drinks, then introduced his next number. "This is a song we used to play in Germany, all those years ago, and it's all about kissing!" He nodded to George to play a short introduction, then started to sing:
Besame, besame mucho!
Each time I bring you a kiss I hear music divine!
So besame, besame mucho!
Love me forever, say that you'll always be mine!
The prince resumed dancing with his silent date, but still made no effort to kiss her.
When the song came to an end, John noticed a small red crab crawling up the steps of the stage. He watched in amazement as the crustacean opened its mouth and started to speak with a Jamaican accent.
"You amateurs! I'm supposed to sing the song that brings these two together!" The crab side-stepped over to Ringo, grabbed one of his drumsticks, and started swinging it around like a baton. A crowd of seabirds, turtles, crickets and frogs emerged from out of nowhere and assembled on the stage. The crab called out directions to them, and they fell into song.
"Percussion, strings, winds, words!" the crab intoned. Then he started to sing:
There you see her, sitting there across the way.
She don't got a lot to say, but there's something about her.
And you don't know why, but you're dying to try
You want to kiss the girl!
The Beatles listened to the animal orchestra in rapt astonishment, then smiled to each other and started accompanying the crab as he sang his next verse:
Yes, you want her; look at her, you know you do.
Possible she wants you too, there is one way to ask her.
It don't take a word, not a single word,
Go on and kiss the girl!
To John's delight, the prince held his partner in a tighter and tighter embrace with each passing measure of the song. When the crab finally brought his tune to a close, the prince leaned down and kissed his beloved's lips. The Beatles broke into cheers. The animals whooped in delight. And then the former mermaid opened her mouth and cried out, "Halleluiah! My voice is back!"
Paul nudged John. "We did it. We changed the ending to that story of yours!"
"Not my story," John insisted. "Hans-fuckin-Christian-Anderson's bloody story."
"You changed the ending?" the crab groused. "Why, it was my song that convinced that boy to pucker up his lips and…"
Ringo stood up from his stool and jumped off his platform to join his bandmates. "Never mind who did it. What matters is that the boy finally came to his senses and kissed the mermaid. But now, I think it's time we go back to our submarine to finish our other quest."
John, Paul and George nodded in agreement.
"I'm gonna fight me a blue meanie!" shouted George.
"I'm gonna rescue the citizens of Pepperland!" shouted Paul.
"I'm gonna try to convince the producer to include my new song about the bulldog!" shouted John.
His bandmates turned towards him with puzzled expressions.
"I have it on the best of authority that 'Hey Bulldog' ends up on the cutting room floor," John whined.
George, Paul and Ringo shrugged in unison, then clasped hands with John.
"All together now!" they shouted. "Beatles to battle!"
They jumped off the stage, waved goodbye to the kissing couple and smug red crab, and ran towards the exit.
As soon as they reached the beach, they saw the periscope of the Yellow Submarine in the distance. They jumped up and down to flag it to shore. The vessel started moving towards them.
"I guess Jeremy and the Lord Admiral must have patched up the leak," John surmised.
"I hope so," Ringo added with a nod. "I don't fancy riding in a leaky submarine. Even if my friends are all aboard."
"Pity we had to leave in such a hurry," Paul said wistfully. "I rather fancied those instruments. We should have struck set properly and brought them back to the sub."
"Instruments, shrinstruments," George whined. He rolled his eyes and hit his forehead with the palm of his hands. "We forgot to collect our eight Kroners!"
Inspired by the story "The Little Mermaid" by Hans Christian Anderson (1837), and by the films "Yellow Submarine," screenplay by Lee Minoff, Al Brodax, Jack Mendelsohn, Erich Segal and Roger McGough (1968) and Disney's "The Little Mermaid," screenplay by Ron Clements and John Musker (1989).