STILL REVOLVING

It is the album that marked the Beatles transition from mop-tops to musicians, from pop princes to progressive boundary-pushers and it has been part of popular culture for half a century. Ringo may well have remarked that ‘tomorrow never knows’, but it actually does. It knows that Revolver was a great album then, now, and probably as long as people enjoy music.

Faced with the impossibility of finding anything even remotely new or original to say about Revolver, I decided instead to trawl through the Vinyl Connection store of printed material to assemble information, observations, responses and analysis that might invite a spray of refracted light through a patchwork window. Here, then, is a variegated commentary on The Beatles seventh LP, released on August 5th 1966. Although the article’s length required it to be divided into two parts, I hope you’ll find the effort worthwhile.

Beatles Revolver Side One

THE SONGS

(Lennon-McCartney unless noted)

SIDE ONE

1. TAXMAN  (Harrison)

If you drive a car I’ll tax the street

If you try to sit I’ll tax the seat

Thursday 21 April 1966

Studio Two, EMI Studios, London

George’s wonderfully sardonic ‘Taxman’ was virtually completed during a 2:30 pm – 12:50 am session, in which the Beatles recorded 11 takes of the rhythm track and then set about overdubbing onto the last of these.

By the end, the song lacked only the final version’s spoken count-in, the ‘Mister Wilson, Mister Heath’ refrain which extended the fame of Britain’s two most prominent politicians right around the world, a cowbell and the distinctive guitar solo outro. (This solo was in fact a copy of the middle-eight piece, edited onto the end of the song during the final mono and stereo mix stage on Tuesday 21 June.) [Lewisohn, p. 218]

George Martin (decided) that this George Harrison composition would hold the oh-so-important position of opening the album. Not only would the guitarist get an unheard-of three songs on the album but also the very first cut besides. It was an honour that left him ‘dead chuffed’ [Rodrigeuz, p. 128].

2. ELEANOR RIGBY

Eleanor Rigby died in the church 

and was buried along with her name

Nobody came

The only single from Revolver was double A-side ‘Eleanor Rigby’/‘Yellow Submarine’, released on the same day as the album.

Death is a subject  normally avoided in pop music. Consequently the downbeat demise of a lonely spinster in ‘Eleanor Rigby’—not to mention the brutal image of the priest ‘wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave’—came as quite a shock to pop listeners in 1966. Taken together with George Martin’s wintery string octet arrangement, the impact was transfixing [Macdonald, p. 162].

A string-driven lament that even today sounds nothing like pop music [MacDonald, p. 84].

3. I’M ONLY SLEEPING

Please don’t wake me, no, don’t shake me

Leave me where I am, I’m only sleeping

To produce the backwards guitar solos in Lennon’s gloriously lethargic ‘I’m only Sleeping’, Harrison worked out the solos he wanted them to play, wrote them down in reverse order, and then overdubbed them onto  tape running backwards. Complicating matters, Harrison wanted to combine a distorted fuzz guitar and a straight guitar sound, and so recorded two sets of backwards solos. The operation took a full six hours [Kozinn, p. 139].

4. LOVE YOU TO  (Harrison)

A lifetime is so short

A new one can’t be bought

The first product of Harrison’s interest in Indian music, ‘Love You To’ is distinguished by the authenticity of its Hindustani classical instrumentation and techniques [Macdonald, p. 155].

Harrison invited the tabla player Anil Bhagwat to add an improvisatory percussion part to his sitar-centred ‘Love You To’ [Kozinn, p. 142].

The first full-blown fusion of pop and Indian styles [du Noyer].

5. HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE

Each one believing that love never dies

Watching their eyes

And hoping I’m always there

A perfectly satisfying romantic ballad—as fine as Paul would ever craft—it contains the implicit observation the though love seems eternal now, it may not be forever [Rodrigeuz, p. 232].

The song title is amusingly apt for the day the Beatles nailed the song. Robert Rodriguez takes up the story of Thursday 16th June 1966:

Their day began with each receiving a cholera vaccination… Afterward, the foursome and Brian Epstein piled into John’s Rolls-Royce for a trip to the BBC Television Centre for an appearance on Top of the Pops to plug both sides of their new single [p. 145]. The appearance, which depicted John, Paul, and George grouped around Ringo before blazing rings of marquee-style lights, was extensively documented in still photos [p. 164]. Following the live broadcast, they headed back to the [EMI] studio for a late-night session, resuming work on ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ [p. 145].

Arranged to begin at 7:00 pm, they couldn’t have arrived much before 8:30, working through until 3:30 am perfecting (the song) [Lewisohn, p. 226].

6. YELLOW SUBMARINE

So we sailed up to the sun

Til we found the sea of green

And we lived beneath the waves

In our yellow submarine

For ‘Yellow Submarine’, the charming fantasy song that Lennon and McCartney composed for Starr to sing, the Beatles raided EMI’s cupboards in search of sound effects. With the technical staff taking part, they dragged chains through a bathtub filled with water, blew bubbles in a bucket and tried out noises of all sorts [Kozinn, p. 139].

It evoked at once a childlike simplicity and a utopian ideal, with a hint of psychedelic imagery thrown in, making it a perfect fit for the album; all the more so when delivered through Ringo’s Everyman voice, thereby deflating any suggestions of pretension [Rodriguez, p. 65].

7. SHE SAID, SHE SAID

She said “You don’t understand what I said”

I said “No no no you’re wrong

When I was a boy everything was right

Everything was right”

Lennon and Harrison were hanging out with David Crosby and Roger (Jim) McGuinn in LA in ’65, talking sitars and taking acid. Peter Fonda (of Easyrider fame) was there too. As part of the sharing process, Fonda told them about a childhood near-death experience. ‘I know what it’s like to be dead,’ he said. (Background scene-setting summarised from Heylin, p. 40-41)

Lennon brooded about Fonda’s aside for some months before demo-ing a series of fragments called ‘He Said, He Said’, its lyric solely comprising Fonda’s cryptic comment. Out of this would come the song that would conclude the Revolver recording sessions and signal a new phase in Lennon’s songwriting, in which he would become increasingly preoccupied by ‘when [he] was a boy [and] everything was fine’ [Heylin, p. 41].

Paul said (to Barry Miles), ‘I’m not sure but I think it was one of the only Beatle records I never played on. I think we’d had a barney or something’ [Rodriguez, p. 148].

As a performance, ‘She Said She Said’ is the outstanding track on Revolver, emotionally tense and as moving in its unhappy way as ‘Eleanor Rigby’. Whenever the feeling is real, Starr rises to the occasion, and here he holds the track together with drumming technically finer than that of his other tour-de-force, ‘Rain’ [Macdonald, p. 169].

Revolution in the Head MacDonald

Ian Macdonald’s ‘Revolution in the Head’ is the essential Beatles reference.

REFERENCES

Clayson, Alan (2001) George Harrison. Sanctuary, London, UK

Dowlding, William J (1989) Beatlesongs. Simon & Schuster, NY, USA

Heylin, Clinton (2007) The Act You’ve Known For All These Years. Canongate, Edinburgh, Sco

Kozinn, Allan (1995) The Beatles. Phaidon, London, UK

Lewishon, Mark (1992)  The Complete Beatles Chronicles. Pyramid Books, London, UK

MacDonald, Bruno in Dimery, Robert (General Editor) (2005) 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. ABC Books, Sydney, Aus.

Macdonald, Ian (1994) Revolution in the head: The Beatles Records & The Sixties. Pimlico, London, UK

Norman, Philip (2003, Revised and updated ed.) Shout! The True Story of the Beatles. Pan Books, London, UK

Rodriguez, Robert (2012) Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ’n’ Roll. Backbeat Books, Milwaukee, USA

Ross, Alex (2007) The rest is noise. Picador, NY

Du Noyer, Paul (1991) Q Magazine – The Q Sleevenotes: The Beatles Revolver. UK

*

NEXT: Side 2

From: http://www.showbiz411.com/2014/06/01/rock-hall-of-shame-edits-beatles-stones-manager-induction-speech-to-shreds

Courtesy  showbiz411.com 

 

INVITATION

Now you’ve read the distilled wisdom of an ensemble of music writers, it’s over to you.

Spin side one of Revolver in any format and write a comment about any song (or songs) that connect with you.

It’s the personal we’re after here, so say what catches your ear, summons a memory, or elicits a feeling. Whether it’s your first listen or one-thousandth, go with your heart rather than your head and help celebrate this iconic album.

*

27 comments

  1. I often sing my mate Andrew Rigby’s name to the tune of Eleanor Rigby – does that count?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure. What’s the URL for your version on Spotify?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No I’m taking the same stance as Thom Yorke over artists’ royalties and despite their begging I’ve removed all my tracks from Spotify.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Neat idea Bruce – and if there’s an album deserving of being split into 2 posts, surely it’s Revolver!
    I shall participate in the exercise & report back

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Terrific! 50 years seems worth marking, eh?

      Like

  3. ‘Revolver’ has been an album on continual loop since ’66 when this twelve-year-old became even more mesmerized with The Lads due to this groundbreaking LP. Granted, I was stuck with three less tracks here in the U.S. ‘cuz of good ol’ Dave Dexter, Jr. of Capitol, but I was hooked nonetheless. Heck, every so often I’ll get the Capitol-lite version of ‘Revolver’ out and fondly reminisce about sitting in front of the RCA console that dropped it from the spike onto the spinning platter back in the day.

    Even without ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ on side 1, I remember playing it more than a few times before I flipped the LP over cause I thought the Fab Four couldn’t possibly top the sounds and lyrics they were putting out. I’ll save the rest for when you get to side 2, Bruce. Awesome post, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for getting in the spirit of the post, Michael, and sharing a marvellous story of your early Revolutions. I often forget how US fans were cheated by that Capitol shaving process; what a swizz!
      Not long to wait for Side Two.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have an ancient crackly copy of Revolver. It has no cover, just a plain white inner sleeve. It sits at the end of a stack of albums and I play it at least once a month. I may have to stop eventually.
    It belonged to my friend Dan who died on an Indian hillside two years ago. I can imagine him sitting there on that hillside listening to Love You To, waiting for the copy of Dark Side of the Moon that arrived too late.
    Sometimes when I look at that white sleeve I think I should get some colors out and draw the swirls and curlicues it deserves, the funny thing for an album full of color and texture is it came in that classic line drawing cover.
    It was hard to stop at side 1.
    My consistent memory of the album is how good the guitars always sound.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beautiful. Thank you Neil.

      Like

  5. As long as copying from elsewhere is allowed: “”Three Beatles songs that I heard for the first time that weekend really imprinted on me. “I’m Only Sleeping” with its moody bass, eerie backwards guitar fills, and airy backing vocals remains a favorite to this day.””

    https://victimofthefury.com/2013/05/18/dr-robert-hes-a-man-you-must-believe/

    This album’s pretty special to me, although I tend to think of it as a piece with Rubber Soul just because of the way they came to me. Everything was right, indeed.

    Govt Mule’s take on “She Said She Said” is a real winner too if you haven’t heard it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for putting in the link. Your ‘Dr Robert’ story is just great.
      D’you know, my first forays into popular music were recorded from radio onto an old mono open reel tape deck. (sighs nostalgically for the thin, uneven sound and shudderingly abrupt edits).

      As the dialogue with John H, below, shows, Rubber Soul and Revolver are inextricably linked (in a good way), though the latter for me always seems more ‘grown up’.

      Like

  6. I really like this idea, Bruce. I may steal it when I cover one of ‘those’ albums.

    Unfortunately I can’t really join in, though. Don’t really care for The Beatles, y’see.

    I will say this, though: Eleanor Rigby is really special. The kinda special that sticks to someone who isn’t all that keen on the band. I remember hearing it when I was a kid (my ol’ man had the blue and red compilations) and thinking “whoa!” and “oooft!”

    … still a remarkable song.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More than welcome to deploy the idea, James. But be warned, it’s like writing a second year uni essay: a lot more work than simply plopping down off-the-cuff opinions!! Though there were two posts on Revolver, it took about five times as long to prepare. So choose something you really love, eh?

      Like

      1. Of course, yeah – I expect a fair bit of work would be involved! Some albums just have so much already written that it’s hard to avoid repeating stuff. Or at least that’s how I find this writing shenanigans!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. […] Continuing a track by track spin through The Beatles Revolver which began here. […]

    Like

  8. To me, this album is all about one song. It’s a brilliant album, but I always hold my breath until…well you haven’t got there yet!

    Eleanor Rigby was one of the first tunes I sorta learned to play on guitar, but Yellow Sub may well have been the first Beatles tune I ever heard in my life. Possibly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yella Sub has a catchy tune and a very endearing vocal from Ringo. The sound effects are great too. Perhaps that’s why kids of all ages love it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had no idea who the Beatles were at that age. But I saw the Apple logo, and never forgot that! My best friend Bob came from a family that four kids, and his sister was 20 years older than him and didn’t live in the house anymore, but she left behind all her 45’s. That’s how I heard The Mighty Quinn the first time too!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I always felt Rubber Soul was the record that announced the arrival of the “serious artists” Beatles, as opposed to the “Mop Tops” Beatles. With tracks like “Norwegian Wood”, “You Don’t See Me”, “Girl”, and “In My Life” I felt they’d broken through to some serious songwriting(and serious pot smoking as well.) Revolver was where they laid all the cards on the table. They made the studio a part of the band, not just a process.

    Great write up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A strong case can be made for Rubber Soul and Revolver being something of a pair, in songwriting terms. “You don’t see me” into “Got to get you into my life”, “The Word” pointing in the direction(s) of “Tomorrow never knows”, etc. But the studio experimentation and creativity really ramps up for the latter album, as you note, leading to an even more satisfying whole. Couldn’t imagine Revolver without RS, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Everything you said. Perfect.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I was struck by the idea that wearing scarlet coloured socks under the school uniform might help impress the girl in the row next to me … and then Revolver came out.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But when you learned ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ on the ukulele, everything changed and she was smitten?

      Like

  11. My first listen to Revolver was during a cassette recording session at a friend’s house. To save space for more “worthwhile” songs, we left “Love You To” off of the recording. Just skipped right over it. I listened to that cassette dozens of times and didn’t hear “Love You To” again until the CD came out. What a shame.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great story. Really enjoy its reminder that our ‘younger’ selves didn’t get it right ALL the time!

      Like

  12. […] His manager of the time was in no doubt. “I think Don can take over from where The Beatles have left off”. The Beatles had abandoned progress in ’66? Really? […]

    Like

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