The BEATLES – ” Revolver ” Released August 5th in 1966 – 54 Years Ago Today

Posted: August 7, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The-Beatles-Revolver

(It was 50 years ago today! August. 5th in 1966: The Beatles ‘Revolver’ album was released in the UK (August. 8th in the US); it was the band’s 7th studio release featured the likes of “Taxman”, “Eleanor Rigby”, “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Here, There & Everywhere”, “She Said She Said”, “And Your Bird Can Sing” & “Tomorrow Never Knows”; it reached #1 on both the UK (seven weeks) & US (six weeks) charts; in a 1967 article for ‘Esquire’, music journalist Robert Christgau called the album “twice as good & four times as startling as ‘Rubber Soul’, with sound effects, Oriental drones, jazz bands, transcendentalist lyrics, all kinds of rhythmic & harmonic surprises, & a filter that made John Lennon sound like God singing through a foghorn”; Rolling Stone ranked it #3 on their list of ‘The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time’…

“Revolver” is the seventh studio album by the English rock band The Beatles, released on the Parlophone label and produced by George Martin. Many of the tracks on Revolver are marked by an electric guitar-rock sound, in contrast with their previous LP, the folk rock inspired Rubber Soul (1965). In Britain, the fourteen tracks from Revolver were released to radio stations throughout July 1966, “building anticipation for what would clearly be a radical new phase in the group’s recording career”. The album was remastered 9th September 2009 for the first time since its 1987 digital compact disc release. the album is often regarded as one of the greatest achievements in music history and one of The Beatles’ greatest studio achievements.

We’d had acid on Revolver. Everyone is under this illusion… even George Martin saying ‘Pepper was their acid album,’ but we’d had acid, including Paul, by the time Revolver was finished. … Rubber Soul was our pot album, and Revolver was acid.  John Lennon, Sept 1971, St. Regis Hotel, NYC

Unlike our previous LPs, this one is intended to show our versatility rather than a haphazard collection of songs. We use trumpets, violins and cellos to achieve new effects. George has written three of the tracks. On past LPs he never did more than two and Ringo sings, or rather talks, a children’s song. This is all part of our idea of being up-to-date and including something for everybody. We don’t intend to go back and revive ideas of twenty years ago. Paul McCartney, 1966

The Beatles had initiated a second pop revolution – one which while galvanising their existing rivals and inspiring many new ones, left all of them far behind.
~Ian MacDonald (Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties) ….. Either way, its daring sonic adventures and consistently stunning songcraft set the standard for what pop/rock could achieve. Even after Sgt. Pepper, Revolver stands as the ultimate modern pop album and it’s still as emulated as it was upon its original release.
~Stephen Thomas Erlewine (allmusic.com)

Recorded on 6th April – 21st June 1966, at EMI Studios, London

All the rules fell by the wayside with Revolver, as the Beatles began exploring new sonic territory, lyrical subjects, and styles of composition. It wasn’t just Lennon and McCartney, either — Harrison staked out his own dark territory with the tightly wound, cynical rocker “Taxman”; the jaunty yet dissonant “I Want to Tell You”; and “Love You To,” George’s first and best foray into Indian music. Such explorations were bold, yet they were eclipsed by Lennon’s trippy kaleidoscopes of sound. His most straightforward number was “Doctor Robert,” an ode to his dealer, and things just got stranger from there as he buried “And Your Bird Can Sing” in a maze of multi-tracked guitars, gave Ringo a charmingly hallucinogenic slice of childhood whimsy in “Yellow Submarine,” and then capped it off with a triptych of bad trips: the spiraling “She Said She Said”; the crawling, druggy “I’m Only Sleeping”; and “Tomorrow Never Knows,” a pure nightmare where John sang portions of the Tibetan Book of the Dead into a suspended microphone over Ringo’s thundering, menacing drumbeats and layers of overdubbed, phased guitars and tape loops…

It may seem like an odd introduction to one of the Beatles’ more important and experimental albums. Written as a children’s song, “Yellow Submarine” made an impression at the time, but my fondness for Revolver only grew as I did and learned about what it really meant, about the impact it had for the band and for music. Now that I’m a music writer and proudly own their albums—on vinyl, Revolver offers an entirely different listening experience. Hearing it now, “Yellow Submarine” doesn’t quite fit, and yet it somehow does. Revolver is an amalgamation of different styles and genres, and the Beatles excelled at all of them.

The band was heavily involved with drugs at the time—the most mild being marijuana with Lennon becoming more interested in LSD—and questioning their musical identities among other more existential inquisitions. Pair that metaphysical exploration with three months in the studio after they retired from touring and the result is an album that defies the limits often ascribed to music genres.

If one thing in particular defines Revolver, it’s the fact that it evades the Western notion of meaning; of a definitive beginning, middle and end. “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the first song the Beatles recorded for the album and the final track on it, served not as the period to a complete sentence but as a pathway back to the start again. As Ian MacDonald noted in his book Revolution in the Head, part of the song’s instrumental break contains Paul McCartney’s guitar solo (chopped up and played backwards) from “Taxman,” the album’s opening track.  However minutely, the album’s last song references its first, and in doing so presents something closer to a cyclical chant that’s meant to go on and on and on.

Even Revolver’s title referred to a continual loop, but with a keener self-referential touch. McCartney observed that albums “revolved,” so Revolver became an album about albums—about making them and defying what that typically entailed. The now oft-quoted lyric from “Tomorrow Never Knows,” “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,” which John Lennon pulled from Timothy Leary’s LSD drug manual The Psychedelic Experience (which itself is an adaptation of The Book of the Dead), presents a challenge to listeners used to albums being a certain way. Are you willing to let go of any preconceptions you have of pop music? Are you willing to do away with any clear categorized notion of “the Beatles?”

How influential was “Tomorrow Never Knows” exactly? It’s always celebrated by rock and pop magazines, but even dance music magazine Muzik ranked it as one of the most influential records of all time, saying “Every idea ever used in dance music exists in this song. ” Again, this is on the same album with “Yellow Submarine,” the string octet of “Eleanor Rigby” and the garage rock of “Taxman.”

By the time of Revolver, Paul McCartney had developed an interest in more classical sounds, which arise in the French horn on “For No One” and the orchestration in “Eleanor Rigby.” But George Harrison went in a different direction. He preferred sounds that lay farther East. “Love You To” integrates Hidustani classical instrumentation and juxtaposes McCartney’s sound at the time as well as the other two songs Harrison contributed to Revolver, “Taxman” and “I Want to Tell You.” Harrison said in 1980, “’Norwegian Wood’ was an accident as far as the sitar part was concerned, but [‘Love You To’] was the first song where I consciously tried to use the sitar and tabla on the basic track.”

That the world’s most popular pop band could explore such varying and digressive ideas in one album signalled the possibilities involved in letting loose rather than keeping an album to one strict idea, be it thematic or melodic. Songs like “Doctor Robert” and “Got to Get You Into My Life” seemed like the natural progression from Rubber Soul, but paired next to such strange and singular songs as “I’m Only Sleeping” and even “Yellow Submarine,” Revolver showed what the Beatles could really do when someone loosened the reigns a little. “We were really starting to find ourselves in the studio,” Starr said of their recording sessions, according to biographer Bob Spitz.

Even though McCartney’s “For No One” feels closer to the typical pop structure the Beatles had followed up to Revolver, it too is an exercise in meditation a la “Tomorrow Never Knows.” At two minutes, it’s the briefest of thoughts with a French horn serving as the harmony John and George would’ve normally provided. Their absence allows McCartney to weave his narrative, but he isn’t concerned with an ending. “And in her eyes, you see nothing/ No sign of love behind the tears, cried for no one/ A love that should have lasted years,” he sings before the horn ends the song. It would make more sense to include an ellipses at the end of his last line, because the fade away is so sudden. There is no grand finale, no punctuative moment that marks its finish. The song merely ends before a silent beat stars the next track and listeners are on to “Doctor Robert.”

For Beatles fans across the globe, “What’s your favourite album?” serves as the ultimate litmus test. No matter the answer, Revolver can’t be ignored, even if, like me, your appreciation for it started off far differently than  it did for a Beatles fan in 1966. It changed the game quite literally for the Beatles and for pop music, and continues to resonate to this day, gaining new fans every year, myself included.

Perhaps if my second grade teacher had played “Taxman” or “Tomorrow Never Knows” (the latter probably would have gotten her in trouble), I wouldn’t have been drawn in at such an early age. And maybe that’s the genius of “Yellow Submarine”: it was an invitation to children, then and now, to enter a world that they would love for the rest of their lives.

Voormann’s history with the Beatles dates to Hamburg, and later living with George Harrison and Ringo Starr in the band’s flat after Lennon and McCartney moved out to be with their ladies.. Voormann who divided his time between graphic arts and playing bass, provided Manfred Mann with a bottom in in the late ’60s, worked as a session musician for Lou Reed, James Taylor and others, and on the Beatles’ Lennon, Harrison and Starr’s solo work. As a graphic artist, he designed a host of album covers for a variety of artists and was enlisted by Lennon to create the cover for the Beatles’ 1966 classic “Revolver.” This is one of the many variations before the final version evolved. His black and white collage style was the perfect complement to the Beatles‘ zany style at the time. Voormann left a lasting mark on the graphic arts and is still busy as he approaches 82. Most people who know his work will forever associate him with his classic “Revolver,” album design.

In the long spectrum of the Beatles’ work, Revolver serves as the dividing line. It marked the boundary between the light-hearted fare that helped the band rise to worldwide fame, and the more serious song writing and experimentation that would define the latter half of their career. Released on August 5th, 1966 in the UK (with the U.S. release following three days later), Revolver signified a meditative moment that would not only change the face of pop music, but continues to impact listeners as powerfully as it did upon its arrival 50 years ago.

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

The-Beatles-Revolver back

Track Listing:

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

Side two
1. “Good Day Sunshine”
2. “And Your Bird Can Sing”
3. “For No One”
4. “Doctor Robert”
5. “I Want to Tell You” (Harrison)
6. “Got to Get You into My Life”
7. “Tomorrow Never Knows”

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