Revisiting The Beatles “Revolver”

The first experimental adventure of The Beatles

Revisiting The Beatles “Revolver”

The predecessor for “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” and The Beatles first flirt with Psychedelia was released on August 5th, 1966, “Revolver” is one of The Beatles best albums, a turning point on their musical direction. In many ways, “Revolver” it’s more experimental than “Sgt. Peppers”, some songs are less polished and the raw use of a variety of music instruments and machines to create the sound effects present throughout the album makes it the first truly revolutionary Beatles album.  The band recorded it during the initial period they were abandoning live concerts, this is an important factor to be taken in consideration as most of the tracks weren’t playable live due to the complexity and effects used on it’s composition, such as “Love You To” or “I’m Only Sleeping”.  “Revolver” was critically acclaimed when it was first released, however there was some skepticism from some of their older public that preferred the “classic” Beatles early sound that they were used to, simple songs and tunes. Despite that, it was commercially successful and reached No. 1 on September 10th, 1966.  The album starts with George Harrison’s “Taxman”, a guitar based song that some consider to be one of the Punk songs predecessors,  “Eleanor Rigby” one of the album’s most memorable songs and hits, an unique and revolutionary moment in Pop music, featuring only strings and McCartney’s vocals. “I’m Only Sleeping” it’s classic Lennon, a smooth soft psychedelic song with lyrics about alienation, a theme that Lennon would go back more than once during the rest of his carrier.  “Love You To” marks George Harrison’s initial path into the Hindu music that would be repeated in their next album, the closest the band had experimented with Hindu music had been on “Rubber Soul” on the song “Norwegian Wood” with the prevalent sitar.  McCartney’s “Here, There And Everywhere”, a ballad that he got inspiration from The Beach Boys “God Only Knows”, features the classic McCartney style that is easily recognized on this beautiful song. “Yellow Submarine”, one of the biggest hits from the album, it’s Ringo’s lead vocals moment, inspired by children’s songs, it’s one of the first songs where the bands used brass instruments, lyrically the song had the collaboration of folk singer and poet Donovan and musically the non-credited back vocals from guests such as  The Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones and Marianne Faithful. Side 1 closes with “She Said She Said” one of the albums most Psychedelic songs, the lyric were inspired in part by a conversation that Lennon and Harrison had with actor Peter Fonda in Los Angeles in August 1965, while all three, along with Starr and members of the Byrds, were under the influence of LSD. During the conversation, Fonda commented: “I know what it’s like to be dead” (Fonda was accidentally shot as a child). Side 2 opens with another McCartney “Good Day Sunshine”, an upbeat and positive song that contrasts in some ways to the album’s somber or darker tone. “And Your Bird Can Sing”, with Lennon on lead vocals is a dual guitar track, with both Lennon and Harrison’s guitar playing contrasting.  “For No One” a soft ballad done by McCartney that features a beautiful french horn section. “Dr. Robert”, “I Want To Tell You” and “Got To Get You Into My Life”are all strong tracks but the album’s most epic moment it’s “Tomorrow Never Knows”, a truly revolutionary song done by Lennon, the recording includes reverse guitar, processed vocals, and looped tape effects, accompanying a strongly syncopated, repetitive drum-beat. One of The Beatles most experimental songs, “Tomorrow Never Knows” it’s one of the first mainstream appearances of electronic music, but, respecting Music History, British producer Joe Meek already had recorded in 1960 his concept album “I Hear A New World”, using the same kind of techniques however limited to the technology available at the time as well as to his budget resources.

Cover Art and Packaging

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The cover for Revolver was created by German-born bassist and artist Klaus Voormann, one of the Beatles’ oldest friends from their time in Hamburg during the early 1960s and collaborator, he would later become the bass player for Lennon Ono Plastic Band. Voormann’s artwork was part line drawing and part collage, using photographs mostly taken over 1964–65 by Robert Freeman. Voormann drew inspiration from the work of the 19th century illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, who was the subject of a long-running exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum in 1966 and highly influential on fashion and design themes of the time. Voormann placed the various photos within the tangle of hair that connects the four faces. Turner writes that the drawings show each Beatle “in another state of consciousness”, such that the older images appear to be tumbling out from them. Voormann’s aim was to reflect the radical departure in sound represented particularly by “Tomorrow Never Knows”, and his choice of a black-and-white cover was in deliberate defiance of the preference for vivid colour.  The back cover show’s a black and white photo of the band taken by Robert Whitaker on Abbey Road and demonstrated the Beatles’ adoption of fashions from boutiques that had recently opened in Chelsea, rather than the Carnaby Street designers they had favored previously.

Legacy

“Revolver” still has to this day a strong music and cultural impact, it’s a superior album that shifted the direction of Pop music, although many bands of that period were experimenting back then, The Beatles had on their side George Martin, who as usual, understood exactly what was in the band’s head at the time and their concept which made it easier for them to project it through the sound and music.  A final note, the difference between the Stereo and Mono mixes of “Revolver” are well audible, the Mono version, is indeed the best way to listen to it.

Side 1
1 “Taxman”
2 “Eleanor Rigby”
3 “I’m Only Sleeping”
4 “Love You To”
5 “Here, There And Everywhere”
6 “Yellow Submarine”
7 “She Said She Said”

Side 2
8 “Good Day Sunshine”
9 “And Your Bird Can Sing”
10 “For No One”
11 “Dr. Robert”
12 “I Want To Tell You”
13 “Got To Get You Into My Life”
14 “Tomorrow Never Knows”

Personnel:
John Lennon: lead, harmony and backing vocals; rhythm and acoustic guitars; Hammond organ, harmonium; tape loops, sound effects; tambourine, handclaps, finger snaps
Paul McCartney: lead, harmony and backing vocals; bass, acoustic and lead guitars; piano, clavichord; tape loops, sound effects; handclaps, finger snaps
George Harrison: lead, harmony and backing vocals; lead, acoustic, rhythm and bass guitars; sitar, tambura; tape loops, sound effects; maracas, tambourine, handclaps, finger snaps
Ringo Starr: drums; tambourine, maracas, cowbell, shaker, handclaps, finger snaps; tape loops; lead vocals on “Yellow Submarine”

Additional Personell:

Anil Bhagwat: tabla on “Love You To”
Alan Civil: French horn on “For No One”
George Martin: producer; mixing engineer; piano on “Good Day Sunshine” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”; Hammond organ on “Got to Get You into My Life”; tape loops of the marching band on “Yellow Submarine”
Geoff Emerick: recording and mixing engineer; tape loops of the marching band on “Yellow Submarine”
Mal Evans: bass drum and background vocals on “Yellow Submarine”
Neil Aspinall: background vocals on “Yellow Submarine”
Brian Jones: background vocals on “Yellow Submarine”
Pattie Boyd: background vocals on “Yellow Submarine”
Marianne Faithfull: background vocals on “Yellow Submarine”
Alf Bicknell: background vocals on “Yellow Submarine”
Tony Gilbert, Sidney Sax, John Sharpe, Jurgen Hess: violins; Stephen Shingles, John Underwood – violas; Derek Simpson, Norman Jones – cellos: string octet on “Eleanor Rigby”, orchestrated and conducted by George Martin (with Paul McCartney)
Eddie Thornton, Ian Hamer, Les Condon: trumpet; Peter Coe, Alan Branscombe – tenor saxophone: horn section on “Got to Get You into My Life” arranged and conducted by George Martin (with Paul McCartney)

Recorded during:
 6 April – 21 June 1966, EMI Studios, Abbey Road, London, U.K
Produced by: George Martin
Release Date: August 5th, 1966
Label: Parlophone

Singles:
“Eleanor Rigby” / “Yellow Submarine” Released: 5 August 1966

Strongest tracks:

All

Watch  The Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” clip taken from the movie “Yellow Submarine”

 

Listen to “Revolver” on Spotify

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