Where do they all come from?

Revolver is tough for me to write about it as it is my favourite Beatles album; how do you deconstruct perfection without going gushingly giggly? To me it is the first time they went into a studio having mastered their craft as recording artists, thanks to George Martin, and with Paul’s musical expression having broadened, John’s lyrics having deepened and George’s playing, and confidence, developing rapidly the available palette was riotously colourful; no wonder the sleeve was in black and white. And, after his tour de force on Rain, don’t ignore Ringo’s ego-less contribution throughout the album.

Revolver came out less than one week after England won the the Football World Cup in 1966 and my story is about how Yellow Submarine became a football chant that summer. It was also released a month after my birthday, making the album too expensive to buy out of pocket money, so I had to wait to the Autumn to hear it on Billy’s record player. 1966 was also a great summer for English Pop Music and I was finally picking up a range of Pirate Radio stations, which had suddenly blossomed across Europe, on my transistor, the ipod of its day. The Stones, The Kinks, The Who, Small Faces, Yardbirds were in their Pop Pomp and skidding across the dial in search of the latest trogglodyte amphetamine blast was a glorious pastime; and cheap. Music always thrives when the distribution costs drop.

A sign of the collaboratively creative democracy that had broken out in the Beatles was that George got to open the album with the much misunderstood Taxman. Ringo singing the single and George kicking off the album; you say they wanted evolution well, you know, they are doing what they can! This YouTube video of Taxman is made by someone (Tony Martinger) who rates Revolver as the “bands greatest album”. And there is a YouTube version of this post at A Beatles YouTube Album. Enjoy and return! Taking 3 months, rather than 3 weeks like Rubber Soul, recorded just 4 months earlier, enabled the Beatles to create the distinguishing characteristic of Revolver; each song was built up in the studio on its own terms. Good review of Revolver on the Beatles Bible. On Rubber Soul tracks sound like they have the odd innovation added to the songs towards the end of the recording process to provide colour. Eleanor Rigby, played endlessly on the radio in 66, came from Yesterday but sounds constructed to be the way it is; Ancient and Modern. Paul’s other classic on side one, Here, There and Everywhere was a radio staple almost immediately and here we are halfway through side one and no mention of Lennon; very strange!

Not only did George get to open the album he was also the first to have two songs on it with the extra-ordinarily Indian Love You Too; great track. And with Ringo singing the “not too rangey” Yellow Submarine this is an exceedingly inclusive side one; is this the Beatles Graceland? Actually the critical reception of Revolver was pretty mixed at the time, it was the first Beatles album we didn’t need to make us feel good. Here is the review by Ray Davies of the Kinks; not as good as Rubber Soul with only three good tracks. Revolver was too original, possibly too early for a psychedelic album to be appreciated, and with a studio sound of a quality beyond the range of most people’s equipment. Billy’s record player, our main source of listening, was mono with an old stylus that only rendered his favourite Bob Dylan accurately. Back then we listened to the melody line, the harmonies and the odd trebly guitar line, and Revolver had much more going on than that.

Consequently I heard half of Revolver on the radio first as they also picked up on Paul’s For No One and Good Day Sunshine with Got To Get You Into My Life being a big hit as a cover version by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers. In those days Beatles albums were such a big event that most DJ’s, like Murray the K, would look to play tracks they liked off the album, as it added to their cool. In Germany we also listened to the American Forces Network (AFN) as they played more Beatles than the British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS). So for me, until I bought it, Revolver, like all Beatles albums, was a wash of tracks heard on the airwaves. Some of the more interesting tracks, especially Tomorrow Never Knows, could only be heard if you bought the album. Tomorrow Never Knows seems to be pointing to a more experimental future but was actually recorded first, along with Paperback Writer and Rain, and represents that heutagogic playing with form that characterised the Beatles greatest work. Post war blues were over and new and better men were turning things on their head, and inside out.

Revolver has only become my favourite Beatles album in recent years, I personally needed the CD edition to realise both how good it is musically as an album, and how great it is as a coherent piece of work. For me, more than Sgt Pepper’s (see next week), and more than the White Album, this remains an album to listen to from start to finish. I will definitely be buying a remaster of this! It is really difficult to limit the choices in the poll but here are five, add your own if need be. 

There is a YouTube version of this post at A Beatles YouTube Album.

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2 Comments

  1. Philip Ecclesfield said,

    September 3, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Hey Fred, really liking these extracts and this is certainly looking like a brilliant book. I’m especially liking this chapter about Revolver, although I personally missed the Beatles as a tour-de-force I still find their stuff great to listen to. I definitely agree with you about the Taxman, a personal favourite, no least because it was one of the first songs I learnt to play on the bass but also because it pushed pass playing to something more than a basic support for the rhythm guitar which is a trait that music seems to have unfortunately fallen back in to.

    Peace, Phil

    • fred6368 said,

      September 3, 2009 at 8:31 pm

      Hey Philip,
      thanks, you can vote for it too! 🙂
      fred


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