Revolver (Beatles album)

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Revolver
Revolver.jpg
Studio album by The Beatles
Released 5 August 1966
Recorded 6 April – 21 June 1966
Studio EMI Studios, London
Genre
Length 34:43
Label Parlophone
Producer George Martin
The Beatles chronology
Rubber Soul
(1965)
Revolver
(1966)
A Collection of Beatles Oldies
(1966)
The Beatles North American chronology
Yesterday and Today
(1966)
Revolver
(1966)
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
(1967)
Singles from Revolver
  1. "Yellow Submarine" / "Eleanor Rigby"
    Released: 5 August 1966

Revolver is the seventh studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 5 August 1966 in the United Kingdom and three days later in the United States. The record spent 34 weeks on the UK Albums Chart, for seven of which it held the number one spot. Reduced to eleven songs for the North American market, Revolver was the last Beatles album to be subjected to Capitol Records' policy of altering the band's intended running order and content. In America, the album topped the Billboard Top LPs listings for six weeks.

Revolver marked a progression from the group's 1965 release Rubber Soul in terms of style and experimentation, and heralded the band's arrival as studio innovators. The album's sounds include the incorporation of tape loops and backwards recordings on the psychedelic "Tomorrow Never Knows", the use of a classical string octet on "Eleanor Rigby", and the Indian-music backing of "Love You To". Aside from methods such as varispeeding, reversed tapes and close audio miking, the sessions for the album resulted in the invention of automatic double tracking (ADT). As with other changes in studio practice introduced by Revolver, this technique was soon adopted throughout the recording industry.

In the UK, Revolver's fourteen tracks were released to radio stations throughout July 1966, with the music signifying what author Ian MacDonald later described as "a second pop revolution – one which while galvanising their existing rivals and inspiring many new ones, left all of them far behind".[1] The sessions also produced a non-album single, "Paperback Writer" backed with "Rain", for which the Beatles filmed their first on-location promotional films. Together with the children's novelty song "Yellow Submarine", "Eleanor Rigby" became an international hit when issued as a double A-side single. The album's US release coincided with the Beatles' final concert tour, during which they refrained from performing any of the songs live. Upon release, Revolver was praised by British critics as a forward-thinking album, although its reception in the United States was initially muted due to the controversy surrounding John Lennon's contemporaneous statement that the Beatles had become "bigger than Jesus".

Revolver's cover artwork, designed by Klaus Voormann, earned the Beatles the 1966 Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts. The album was ranked first in Colin Larkin's book All-Time Top 1000 Albums and third in Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2013, after the British Phonographic Industry had changed its sales award rules, Revolver was certified platinum in the UK. The album has been certified 5× platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Background[edit]

In December 1965, the Beatles' Rubber Soul album was released to wide critical acclaim.[2] According to author David Howard, the limits of pop music "had been raised into the stratosphere" by the release, resulting in a shift in focus away from singles to creating albums of consistently high quality.[3] The following January, the Beatles carried out overdubs on live recordings taken from their summer 1965 US tour,[4] for inclusion in the concert film The Beatles at Shea Stadium.[5] The group's manager, Brian Epstein, had intended that they would then begin work on their third feature film, an adaptation of Richard Condon's novel A Talent for Loving, but the band members vetoed the idea in December 1965.[6][7] With three months free of engagements,[8] the extended layoff allowed the Beatles an unprecedented amount of time to prepare for a new album.[6]

Writing in The Beatles Forever, Nicholas Schaffner cites 1966 as the start of the band's "'psychedelic' period" and adds: "That adjective implies not only the influence of certain mind-altering chemicals, but also the freewheeling spectrum of wide-ranging colors that their new music seemed to evoke."[9] Music journalist Carol Clerk describes Revolver as having been "decisively informed by acid", following John Lennon and George Harrison's continued experimentation with the drug LSD since the spring of 1965.[10] Through these shared experiences, the two musicians developed a fascination for Eastern spiritual and philosophical concepts,[10][11] particularly regarding the illusory nature of human existence.[12] Despite his bandmates' urging, after Ringo Starr had also partaken of the drug, Paul McCartney refused to try LSD.[13] As reflected in the more conventional subject matter of his lyrics on Revolver, relative to those of Lennon and Harrison,[14] McCartney drew his inspiration from the intellectual stimulation he experienced among London's thriving and varied artistic community.[15][16]

In his book Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock 'n' Roll, Robert Rodriguez writes that, while Lennon had been the Beatles' dominant creative force through 1965, with Revolver McCartney attained an approximately equal position with him.[17] The album marks the midpoint in the band's recording career, between the period dominated by Lennon – who was by this time growing increasingly uninterested in his life as a Beatle – and the period dominated by McCartney, who would provide the group's artistic direction for almost every post-Revolver project.[18] In addition, Harrison's interest in the music and culture of India had inspired him as a composer.[19] With Revolver, Schaffner later wrote, "there were now three prolific songwriting Beatles".[20]

Recording history[edit]

Interviewer: What's going to come out of the next recording sessions?
Lennon: Literally anything. Electronic music, jokes ... one thing's for sure: the next LP is going to be very different.[21]

– John Lennon to the NME, March 1966

The Beatles had hoped to work in a more modern studio than EMI's London facility, and so sent Epstein to Memphis in March 1966 to investigate the possibility of their recording at Stax Studio.[22] According to a letter written by Harrison two months later, the group had intended to work with Stax's in-house producer, Jim Stewart.[23] The idea was abandoned after locals began descending on the Stax building, as were alternative plans to use either Atlantic Studios in New York or Motown's facility in Detroit.[22][nb 1]

Harrison, McCartney and Lennon with George Martin at EMI Studios circa 1966

Sessions for the album instead began at the smaller more intimate studio three of EMI's Abbey Road Studios in London on 6 April 1966, with George Martin again serving as producer.[24] The first track attempted was Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows",[25] the arrangement for which changed considerably between the initial take that day and the subsequent remake.[26] The take 1 of "Tomorrow Never Knows", along with several other outtakes from the album sessions,[27] was included on the 1996 compilation Anthology 2.[28] Also recorded during the Revolver sessions were "Paperback Writer" and "Rain", which were issued as the A- and B-side of a non-album single in late May.[29]

The band had worked on ten songs, including both sides of the upcoming single, by 1 May. That day, they performed at the NME's annual Poll-Winners Concert.[30] Held at Wembley's Empire Pool, in north-west London, this was the last concert that the Beatles would play before a paying audience in the United Kingdom.[31] Performing before a crowd of 10,000, they played a set that was perceived as lacklustre.[2] With Lennon and Harrison both publicly expressing their disenchantment with fame and Beatlemania, rumours circulated throughout 1966 that the band were splitting up.[32] The pair also showed their support for Bob Dylan's controversial adoption of an electric sound, urging a disapproving audience at his Royal Albert Hall concert that same month to stop their heckling.[33]

On 16 May,[34] Epstein responded to a request from Capitol Records, EMI's North American counterpart, to supply three new songs for an upcoming US release.[35] The album, Yesterday and Today, compiled tracks that Capitol had omitted from the Beatles' previous US releases with songs that the band had originally issued on non-album singles.[34] From the six completed recordings for Revolver by this point, Martin selected three Lennon-written songs, since the sessions had favoured his compositions thus far.[35] Later in May, the Beatles spent two days making promotional films for the "Paperback Writer" single.[36] The first set of clips was filmed at Abbey Road's Studio 1 on 19 May[37] by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, director of the popular TV show Ready Steady Go! The following day, the group travelled to west London and shot further clips for the two songs in the grounds of Chiswick House.[36] On 16 June, five days before the end of the album sessions, they filmed live performances of "Paperback Writer" and "Rain" for Top of the Pops.[38]

Production techniques[edit]

According to Rodriguez, Revolver marks the first time that the Beatles "deliberately incorporated" the studio into the "conception of the recordings they made", rather than using it "merely as a tool to capture performances".[39] A key production technique that the band began using was automatic double tracking (ADT), which EMI engineer Ken Townsend invented on 6 April. This technique employed two linked tape recorders to automatically create a doubled vocal track.[40] The standard method had been to double the vocal by singing the same piece twice onto a multitrack tape, a task Lennon particularly disliked. The Beatles were reportedly delighted with the invention, and used it extensively on Revolver. ADT soon became a standard pop production technique, and led to related developments such as the artificial chorus effect.[41]

EMI's Abbey Road Studios (pictured in 2005). Most of the sessions for Revolver took place in the complex's intimate Studio 3.

Another EMI engineer, Geoff Emerick, recalled that the Beatles encouraged the studio staff to break from standard recording practices, adding: "It was implanted when we started Revolver that every instrument should sound unlike itself: a piano shouldn't sound like a piano, a guitar shouldn't sound like a guitar."[42] In their search for new sounds, the band incorporated musical instruments such as tambura, clavichord, vibraphone, tack piano and tabla for the first time in their work.[43] Emerick said of the group's eagerness to experiment: "Revolver very rapidly became the album where the Beatles would say, 'OK, that sounds great, now let's play [the recording] backwards or speeded up or slowed down.' They tried everything backwards, just to see what things sounded like."[44][25] The inclusion of reversed tape sounds on "Rain" marked the first pop release to use this technique, although the Beatles had first used it on "Tomorrow Never Knows".[45] The band's interest in the tones that resulted from varying tape speed (or varispeeding) extended to recording a basic track at a faster tempo than they intended the song to sound on disc.[46][47]

Brought in as an assistant to George Martin, Emerick was responsible for several innovations in the studio.[48] Most importantly for the band's sound, he and Townsend recorded McCartney's bass guitar amplifier via a loudspeaker, instead of a standard microphone, so ensuring that the bass was more prominent than on any previous Beatles release.[49] The recording staff employed this technique only on the two songs that were selected for the May 1966 single, however.[50] Emerick also ensured a greater presence for Starr's bass drum, by inserting an item of clothing inside the structure, to dampen the sound,[51] and then moving the microphone to just 3 inches from the drumhead and compressing the signal through a Fairchild Limiter.[52] Author and critic Ian MacDonald writes that, despite Abbey Road being technically inferior to many recording facilities in the United States, Starr's drumming on the album soon led to studios there "being torn apart and put back together again", as engineers sought to replicate the innovative sounds achieved by the Beatles.[53]

During the Revolver sessions, the Beatles also pioneered the use of headphones when recording overdubs.[54] According to authors Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew, the band's use of headphones was one of the nine changes in studio practice, along with techniques such as ADT, backwards recording, and close-miked drums, that the album introduced into the recording world for the first time. Ryan and Kehew quote Emerick as saying: "I know for a fact that, from the day it came out, Revolver changed the way that everyone else made records."[55]

Music and lyrics[edit]

Rodriguez writes that Revolver has been recognised as having "sparked [musical] subgenres with every track", anticipating electronica, punk rock, baroque rock and world music, among other styles.[56] As on Rubber Soul, musicologist Walter Everett credits the Beatles' "experimental timbres, rhythms, tonal structures, and poetic texts" as the inspiration for many of the bands that formed the progressive rock genre in the early 1970s.[57] The album itself covers many genres, including acid rock, chamber music, R&B[58] and raga rock.[59] In Rodriguez's view, the influence of Indian music permeates the album;[60] aside from the sounds and vocal styling used on much of the recording, this influence is evident in the limited chord changes in many of the songs, suggesting an Indian-style drone.[61]

Author and critic Kenneth Womack writes of the Beatles' exploring "phenomenologies of consciousness" on Revolver, and he cites as examples "I'm Only Sleeping"'s preoccupation with dreams, and the references to death found in the lyric to "Tomorrow Never Knows". In Womack's estimation, the songs represent two important elements of the human life cycle that are "philosophical opposites".[62]

Side one[edit]

Harrison wrote "Taxman" as a protest against the high marginal tax rates paid by top earners like the Beatles, which were sometimes as much as 95 per cent of their income.[64][nb 2] The track's opening count-in was overdubbed by Harrison and is out of tempo with the performance that follows,[66] a contrivance that music critic Tim Riley credits with establishing the "new studio aesthetic of Revolver".[67] Harrison's vocals on the track were treated with heavy compression and ADT.[64] In addition to playing a glissandi-inflected bass part reminiscent of Motown's James Jamerson, McCartney performed the song's Indian-style guitar solo.[68] Rodriguez credits "Taxman" with being the first Beatles song written about "topical concerns"; he also cites the track's "abrasive sneer" as evidence of its standing as a precursor to the 1970s punk movement.[69] Completed with input from Lennon,[70] the lyrics refer by name to Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, who were, respectively, the British Labour Prime Minister and Conservative Leader of the Opposition at the time.[71]

Womack describes McCartney's "Eleanor Rigby" as a "narrative about the perils of loneliness".[72] The story involves the title character, who is an ageing spinster, and a lonely priest named Father McKenzie who writes "sermon[s] that no one will hear".[72] He presides over Rigby's funeral and acknowledges that despite his efforts, "no one was saved".[73] Viewed by Schaffner as the only McCartney composition on Revolver that falls outside the bounds of a love song,[20] its lyrics were the product of a group effort, with Harrison, Starr and Lennon all contributing.[74][nb 3] While Lennon and Harrison supplied harmonies beside McCartney's lead vocal, no Beatle played on the recording;[76] instead, Martin arranged the track for a string octet, drawing inspiration from Bernard Herrmann's 1960 film score for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho.[77] In Riley's opinion, "the corruption of 'Taxman' and the utter finality of Eleanor's fate makes the world of Revolver more ominous than any other pair of opening songs could."[78]

"I'm Only Sleeping" was the first of the three tracks cut from the US version of Revolver. Author Barry Miles describes the song as "Half acid dream, half latent Lennon laziness personified."[80] As with "Rain", the basic track was recorded at a faster tempo before being subjected to varispeeding.[81][82] The latter treatment, along with ADT, was also applied to Lennon's vocal as he sought to replicate, in MacDonald's description, a "papery old man's voice".[79] Harrison composed and recorded his backwards (or backmasked) guitar solo with particular attention to how the notes would sound when the tape direction was corrected.[83][nb 4] Beatles biographer Jonathan Gould views the solo as appearing to "suspend the laws of time and motion to simulate the half-coherence of the state between wakefulness and sleep".[84] Everett describes the song as a "particularly expressive text painting".[85]

"Love You To" marked Harrison's first foray into Hindustani classical music as a composer, following his introduction of the Indian sitar on Lennon's "Norwegian Wood" in 1965.[86] Harrison recorded "Love You To" with musicians from the north London-based Asian Music Circle, who provided instrumentation such as tabla, tambura and sitar.[87] Author Peter Lavezzoli recognises the song as "the first conscious attempt in pop to emulate a non-Western form of music in structure and instrumentation".[88] Aside from playing sitar on the track,[89] Harrison's contributions included fuzztone-effected electric guitar.[87] Everett identifies the song's change of metre as being without precedent in the Beatles' catalogue thus far and a characteristic that would go on to feature prominently on the band's subsequent album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.[90] Partly influenced by Harrison's experimentation with LSD,[91][92] the lyrics to "Love You To" address the singer's desire for "immediate sexual gratification", Womack writes, and serve as a "rallying call to accept our inner hedonism and release our worldly inhibitions".[93]

"Here, There and Everywhere" is a ballad written by McCartney and inspired by the Beach Boys' song "God Only Knows".[93] His double-tracked vocal was treated with varispeeding, resulting in a higher pitch at playback.[94] The song's opening lines are sung over shifts in time signature from 9/8 to 7/8 to 4/4;[93] according to Everett, "nowhere else does a Beatles introduction so well prepare a listener for the most striking and expressive tonal events that lie ahead."[95] Womack characterises the song as a romantic ballad "about living in the here and now" and "fully experiencing the conscious moment".[93] He notes that, with the preceding track, "Love You To", the album expresses "corresponding examinations of the human experience of physical and romantic love".[93][nb 5] The Beatles recorded the song towards the end of the Revolver sessions, by which point they were under pressure to complete the album before their scheduled flight to Germany, on 23 June, for a European tour.[97]

McCartney wrote "Yellow Submarine" – a song he later characterised as a "kid's story" – as a vehicle for Starr's limited vocal range.[98] With the help of Martin and Emerick, as well as the Rolling Stones' Brian Jones and Mick Jagger and the roadies Neil Aspinall and Mal Evans, the Beatles attempted to create a nautical atmosphere by mixing the sounds of various instruments, including gongs, whistles and bells, with an assortment of Studio Two's sound effect units.[98] Lennon recorded the track's superimposed voices in Abbey Road's echo chamber, recalling what Womack describes as "a forgotten vestige of a Liverpudlian, seafaring past".[99] Riley cites the track's mix of comedy in the style of The Goon Show with satire inspired by Spike Jones.[100] Riley adds: "'Yellow Submarine' doesn't subvert Revolver's darker moods; it provides joyous distraction from them."[100]

The songs got more interesting, so with that the effects got more interesting. I think the drugs were kicking in a little more heavily on this album ... the grass and the acid. I feel to this day that though we did take certain substances, we never did it to a great extent at the session. We were really hard workers.[101]

– Ringo Starr, 2000

The light atmosphere of "Yellow Submarine" is broken by what Riley describes as "the outwardly harnessed, but inwardly raging guitar" that introduces Lennon's "She Said She Said".[100] The song marks the second time that a Beatles arrangement used a shifting metre, after "Love You To", as the foundation of 4/4 briefly switches to 3/4 with the lyrics.[102] Harrison recalled that he helped Lennon finish the composition, which involved joining together three separate fragments of song.[103] The track was recorded during a single nine-hour session on 21 June, one day before the album's completion deadline.[104] Owing to an argument in the studio, McCartney did not contribute to the recording, leaving Harrison to perform the bass part in addition to the lead guitar and harmony vocals.[105] The lyric was inspired in part by a conversation that Lennon and Harrison had with actor Peter Fonda in Los Angeles in August 1965,[106] while all three were under the influence of LSD.[107] During the conversation, Fonda commented: "I know what it's like to be dead", because as a child he had technically died during an operation.[108]

Side two[edit]

"Good Day Sunshine" was written by McCartney, whose piano playing dominates the recording.[109] Music critic Richie Unterberger describes it as a song that conveys "one of the first fine days of spring, just after you've fallen in love or started a vacation". The verses reflect aspects of vaudeville, while McCartney also acknowledged the influence of the Lovin' Spoonful on the composition.[110] Overdubbed by Martin,[111] the piano solo on the track recalls the ragtime style of Scott Joplin.[112]

Another song first issued on Capitol's Yesterday and Today, "And Your Bird Can Sing" was written primarily by Lennon, with McCartney claiming to have helped on the lyric and estimating the song as "80–20" to Lennon.[113] Harrison and McCartney played dual lead-guitar parts on the recording,[114] including an ascending riff that Riley terms "magnetic ... everything sticks to it".[115] He describes the composition as a "shaded putdown" in the style of Dylan's "Positively 4th Street", whereby Lennon sings to someone who has seen "seven wonders" yet is unable to empathise with him and his feelings of isolation.[116] According to Gould, the song was directed at Frank Sinatra after Lennon had read a hagiographic article on the singer, in Esquire magazine, in which Sinatra was lauded as "the fully emancipated male ... the man who can have anything he wants".[117]

"For No One" was inspired by McCartney's relationship with English actress Jane Asher.[118] Along with "Good Day Sunshine", which similarly dispensed with guitar parts for Harrison and Lennon, Rodriguez cites the track as an example of McCartney eschewing the group dynamic when recording his songs, a trend that would prove unpopular with his bandmates in later years.[119] The recording features McCartney playing piano, bass and clavichord, accompanied by Starr on hi-hat and various percussion. The horn solo was played by Alan Civil, who recalled having to "busk" his part, with little guidance from McCartney or Martin at the overdubbing session.[114] While recognising McCartney's "customary logic" in the song's musical structure, MacDonald comments on the sense of detachment conveyed in the lyrics to this "curiously phlegmatic account of the end of an affair". MacDonald suggests that McCartney was attempting to employ the same "dry cinematic eye" that director John Schlesinger had adopted in his 1965 film Darling.[120]

The third track omitted from the US Revolver LP, "Doctor Robert" was written by Lennon,[121] although McCartney has since claimed co-authorship.[122] A guitar-based rock song in the style of "And Your Bird Can Sing",[123] its lyrics celebrate a New York physician known for dispensing amphetamine injections to his patients.[121][124][nb 6] On the recording, the hard-driving performance is interrupted by two bridge sections where, over harmonium and chiming guitar chords,[126] the group vocals suggest a choir praising the doctor for his services.[127][128]

Harrison said he wrote "I Want to Tell You" about "the avalanche of thoughts" that he found hard to express in words.[129] The song opens with a descending guitar riff as the recording fades in, similar to the start of the Beatles' 1964 track "Eight Days a Week".[130] Rolling Stone critic Mikal Gilmore describes Harrison's incorporation of dissonance in the melody as having been "revolutionary in popular music" at the time.[131] Authors Russell Reising and Jim LeBlanc cite the song as an early example of how from 1966 onwards the Beatles' lyrics "adopted an urgent tone, intent on channeling some essential knowledge, the psychological and/or philosophical epiphanies of LSD experience" to the group's audience.[132]

McCartney's "Got to Get You into My Life" was influenced by the Motown Sound[133] and used brass instrumentation extensively. Although cast in the form of a love song, McCartney described the song as an "ode to pot".[134][nb 7]

There are sounds [on Revolver] that nobody else has done yet – I mean nobody ... ever.[136]

– Paul McCartney, speaking during the Beatles' June–August 1966 world tour

Rodriguez describes "Tomorrow Never Knows" as "the greatest leap into the future" that the Beatles "had yet taken".[137] The group's innovation in the recording studio reached its apex with the Lennon composition, which was an early example in the emerging counterculture genre of psychedelic music,[138] and included such techniques as reverse guitar, processed vocals, and looped tape effects. Musically, it is drone-like, with a strongly syncopated, repetitive drum-beat played over a single chord. The lyrics were inspired by Timothy Leary's book, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The title came via a Ringo Starr malapropism.[139] The song's harmonic structure is derived from Indian music and is based upon a high volume C drone played by Harrison on a tambura.[88] Much of the backing track consists of a series of prepared tape loops,[40] an idea that MacDonald attributes to McCartney, who, influenced by the work of avant-garde artists such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, regularly experimented with magnetic tape and musique concrète techniques at that time.[140] The Beatles each prepared a series of loops at home, and these were then added to the pre-recorded backing track of "Tomorrow Never Knows".[141] The process was carried out live in a single take, with multiple tape recorders running simultaneously, and some of the longer loops extending out of the control room and down the corridor. Lennon was always in search of ways to enhance or alter the sound of his voice, and he gave a directive to Geoff Emerick that he wanted to sound like he was the Dalai Lama singing from the top of a high mountain.[142] To this end, Lennon's vocals were recorded directly through a Leslie speaker, giving his singing an echoing sound.[143]

Cover art and title[edit]

Originally, the cover art for the album was going to be an image created by Robert Freeman (who also took cover photos of previously released Beatles albums) that included photos of each of the Beatles' faces revolving in circles repeatedly in layers, but the band ultimately rejected the idea.[144] Instead, they chose the cover illustration created by German-born bassist and artist Klaus Voormann, one of the Beatles' oldest friends from their time in Hamburg during the early 1960s.[145] Voormann's illustration, part line drawing and part collage, included some photographs taken by Freeman[144] and others by Robert Whitaker,[146] who also took the back cover photographs and many other images of the group between 1964 and 1966, such as the infamous "butcher cover" for Yesterday and Today. To create the Revolver cover, Voormann also used personal photos supplied by the band members, which, in his words, "show their sweet side".[147] Voormann's own photograph as well as his name (Klaus O.W. Voormann) is worked into Harrison's hair on the right-hand side of the cover.[148] In the Revolver cover appearing in his artwork for Anthology 3, he replaced this image with a more recent photograph. Harrison's Revolver image was seen again on the picture sleeve of his 1988 single "When We Was Fab", along with an updated version of the same image.[nb 8] Revolver won a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts.[150][151]

The album's title, like that of Rubber Soul, is a pun[citation needed], referring to both a kind of handgun and the "revolving" motion of the record as it is played on a turntable. The Beatles had difficulty coming up with this title. According to Barry Miles, the name that the four had originally wanted was Abracadabra, until they discovered that another band had already used it. After that, opinion was split: Lennon wanted to call it Four Sides of the Eternal Triangle and Starr jokingly suggested After Geography, playing on the title of the Rolling Stones' recently released Aftermath LP. Other suggestions included Magic Circles, Beatles on Safari, Pendulum and, finally, Revolver, whose wordplay was the one that all four agreed upon. The title was chosen while the band were on tour in Germany in late June.[152] The name Revolver was finally selected while in the Hamburg hotel, as drafts prove.[153]

Release[edit]

Revolver was released in the United Kingdom on 5 August 1966 and on 8 August in the United States.[154][155] The original eleven-song North American LP release, the band's tenth on Capitol Records and twelfth US album, had a reduced running time of 28:20. Due to the exclusion of the three Lennon tracks, there were only two songs for which he was the principal writer, compared with three by Harrison and the rest by McCartney.[156]

"Yellow Submarine" was issued as a double A-side with "Eleanor Rigby".[157] Schaffner writes that as a novelty song and a ballad devoid of any instrumentation played by a Beatle, respectively, each of the two tracks marked a significant departure from the usual content of the band's singles. Schaffner adds: "The only thing 'Rigby' had in common with 'Submarine' was that it sounded nothing like a Beatles record."[158][nb 9] The single was number 1 in the UK for four weeks during August and September.[157] Revolver spent 34 weeks on the UK Albums Chart, for seven of which it held the top spot.[160] On America's Billboard Top LPs chart, Revolver hit number 1 on 10 September, a week after the end of Yesterday and Today's five-week run at the top.[161] Revolver remained at number 1 there for six weeks.[162]

According to Rodriguez, Revolver's release was not the significant media event that Sgt. Pepper's was the following year.[39] There was no accompanying press build-up or conjecture regarding what the group was to offer. To the contrary, the album was "overshadowed" during a period of controversy following the negative reaction in the US to Lennon's remarks about the Beatles being "more popular than Jesus".[163] In Britain, however, EMI gradually distributed songs from the album to radio stations throughout July 1966 – a strategy that MacDonald describes as "building anticipation for what would clearly be a radical new phase in the group's recording career".[164] Schaffner likens the Beatles' 1966 recordings to the moment of transformation in the film Wizard of Oz, "where, when Dorothy discovers herself transported from Kansas to Oz, the film dramatically changes from black-and-white to glorious technicolor".[165]

In his 1969 Pop Chronicles series, John Gilliland stated that Revolver effectively overshadowed the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, released two months earlier, even though both albums shared many of the same innovations.[166] Nevertheless, for the only year between 1963 and 1969, the Beatles failed to win the NME readers' best-band poll, losing to the Beach Boys, while Revolver and Pet Sounds were jointly recognised as the magazine's "Album of the Year".[167] In March 1967, Revolver was nominated for the Grammy Award for Album of the Year.[168]

The release of Revolver marked the last time that Capitol issued an altered UK Beatles album for the North American market. When the Beatles re-signed with EMI in January 1967, their contract stipulated that Capitol could no longer alter the track listings of their albums.[156] The April 1987 CD release of Revolver standardised the track listing to the original UK version. Having been available only as an import in the US previously, the fourteen-song UK version of the album was also issued domestically in the US on LP and cassette in July that year. In January 2014, the Capitol version of Revolver was issued on CD for the first time, both as part of the Beatles' U.S. Albums box set and as an individual release.[169]

Critical reception[edit]

Of course, there seem to be a large number of American individuals who are more interested in the Beatles' political views ... [P]erhaps everyone isn't aware of the musical impact and importance of Revolver – but it is certain that Revolver has fired a shot which will be heard around the globe wherever people really care about the music they are listening to.[170]

KRLA Beat, commenting on the lack of immediate acclaim afforded the album in America

With controversy following the Beatles during their summer US tour, critical reaction there was muted relative to the band's previous releases.[171] KRLA Beat's reviewer described Revolver as "a musical creation of exceptional excellence" while lamenting that, in the wake of the acclaimed Rubber Soul, "it is receiving only a fraction of the attention and respect due", with recognition "occurring with an amazing absence of fanfare and discussion".[170] Writing in the recently launched Crawdaddy!, Paul Williams gave the US version of the album a mixed review, in which he admired "Love You To" and "Eleanor Rigby" but derided "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "Yellow Submarine".[172] In a critique that Rodriguez terms "[a]head of the curve",[172] Village Voice critic Richard Goldstein described Revolver as "a revolutionary record", stating: "it seems now that we will view this album in retrospect as a key work in the development of rock and roll into an artistic pursuit ..."[173]

In Britain, the reception was highly favourable.[174] In their joint review for Record Mirror, Richard Green and Peter Jones found the album "full of musical ingenuity" yet "controversial", and added: "There are parts that will split the pop fraternity neatly down the middle."[175] Allen Evans of the NME highlighted the album's "electronic effects", McCartney's "penchant for the classics" and Harrison's "stunning use of the sitar" as diverse elements that distinguished it as a group effort, such that the four band members' "individual personalities are now showing through loud and clear". Evans concluded: "this is a brilliant album which underlines once and for all that the Beatles have definitely broken the bounds of what we used to call pop."[176][177] Having found Rubber Soul "almost monotonous" at times, Melody Maker lauded the new release[178] as a work that would "change the direction of pop music".[174]

Recalling the release in his book Revolution in the Head (1994), Ian MacDonald writes that, with Revolver, 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".[1] In a February 1967 review, Hit Parader declared: "Revolver represents the pinnacle of pop music. No group has been as consistently creative as the Beatles, though the [Lovin'] Spoonful and Beach Boys are coming closer all the time ... Rather than analyze the music we just suggest that you listen to Revolver three or four times a day and marvel ..."[179] Later that year, in Esquire, Robert Christgau called the album "twice as good and four times as startling as Rubber Soul, with sound effects, Oriental drones, jazz bands, transcendentalist lyrics, all kinds of rhythmic and harmonic surprises, and a filter that made John Lennon sound like God singing through a foghorn".[180]

Retrospective reviews and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[181]
The A.V. Club A+[182]
Chicago Sun-Times 4/4 stars[183]
Consequence of Sound B[184]
The Daily Telegraph 5/5 stars[185]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 5/5 stars[186]
MusicHound Rock 5/5[187]
Pitchfork 10/10[188]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[189]
Sputnikmusic 5/5[190]

Rob Sheffield, writing in The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), said that the album found the Beatles "at the peak of their powers, competing with one another because nobody else could touch them", and concluded that, "these days, Revolver has earned its reputation as the best album the Beatles ever made, which means the best album by anybody."[58] In a 2007 appraisal of the band's albums, Henry Yates of Classic Rock magazine paired it with Sgt. Pepper's as the two "essential classics" in the Beatles' canon, and concluded: "Always the rock fraternity's favourite (and the blueprint for Noel Gallagher's career), Revolver still has the power of a piledriver to the head."[191]

In the Encyclopedia of Popular Music (2006), Colin Larkin wrote that the album was wide-ranging, with Harrison's sardonic "Taxman", melancholic ballads such as "Eleanor Rigby" and "Here, There and Everywhere" by McCartney, and Lennon's drug-inspired songs such as "Tomorrow Never Knows", which "has been described as the most effective evocation of a LSD experience ever recorded".[186] PopMatters said in a 2004 review that the album had "the individual members of the greatest band in the history of pop music peaking at the exact same time".[192][193]

Revolver invented musical expressions and initiated trends and motifs that would chart the path not only of the Beatles and a cultural epoch, but of the subsequent history of rock and roll as well.[194]

– Russell Reising

According to Rodriguez, whereas Sgt. Pepper has been routinely identified as the Beatles' greatest album, Revolver has consistently contested and often surpassed it in lists of the group's best work.[195] He characterises Revolver as "the Beatles' artistic high-water mark", and notes that unlike Sgt. Pepper, it was the product of a collaborative effort, with "the group as a whole being fully vested in creating Beatle music".[39][nb 10] In Riley's view, "Sgt. Pepper is the Beatles' most notorious record for the wrong reasons – a flawed masterpiece that can only echo the strength of Revolver."[196] In the opinion of the musicologist Russell Reising: "However one defines and wherever one ranks Revolver, no one can deny that Revolver's impact was, by any standard of measurement, massive and transformative."[194]

There's a case to be made that the Beatles went on to do Sgt. Pepper's because there was nowhere else to go but too far. With Revolver, they had mapped out the pop universe so perfectly that all they could do next was tear it up and start again.[197]

David Quantick, writing in Q magazine, 2000

Rodriguez praises Martin and Emerick's contribution to the album, suggesting that their talents were as essential to its success as the Beatles'.[198] He describes Revolver as the album that marks the group's waning interest in live performance "in favor of creating soundscapes without limitation".[199] In his opinion, whereas most contemporary music acts shy away from attempting a concept album in the vein of Sgt. Pepper, Revolver's "eclectic collection of diverse songs" continues to influence modern popular music.[199] According to the music critic Jim DeRogatis, Revolver represents a relic "of the first era of psychedelic rock and shining testaments to what can be accomplished in the recording studio when folks are fuelled on the potent drug of rampant imagination".[200] While also highlighting the importance of Martin's role, David Howard writes that Revolver was a "genre-transforming album", as a result of which, combined with the similarly "visionary" work of American producer Phil Spector, "the recording studio was now its own instrument; record production had been elevated into art."[201]

Revolver has frequently appeared high up in lists of the best albums ever made.[202] In 1997 it was named the third greatest album of all time in a Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the United Kingdom by HMV Group, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM.[203] In 2000 Q magazine placed it at number 1 in its list of the 50 Greatest British Albums Ever.[204] In 2001, the TV network VH1 named it the greatest album in history, a position it also achieved in the Virgin All Time Top 1,000 Albums.[205] In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Revolver third on its list of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time".[206][207] In 2006 the album was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best albums.[208] In 2006, Guitar World readers chose it as the tenth best guitar album of all time.[209] In 2010, Revolver was named the best pop album by the official newspaper of the Holy See, L'Osservatore Romano.[210] In 2013, Entertainment Weekly named Revolver the greatest album in history.[211]

In 1999, the album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame,[168] an award bestowed by the American Recording Academy "to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old".[212] In 2013, after the British Phonographic Industry changed their sales award rules, the album was declared as having gone platinum.[213] The album appears in Robert Dimery's book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.[214]

Track listing[edit]

The following track listing is for the original UK release, whereas the US edition omitted "I'm Only Sleeping", "And Your Bird Can Sing" and "Doctor Robert", as they had previously appeared on the North American release Yesterday and Today. The 1987 CD release, the 2009 remastered CD release, and all subsequent LP re-releases conformed with the full, fourteen-song order.

All songs written by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted.[215]

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Taxman" (George Harrison) Harrison 2:39
2. "Eleanor Rigby"   McCartney 2:06
3. "I'm Only Sleeping"   Lennon 3:00
4. "Love You To" (Harrison) Harrison 2:59
5. "Here, There and Everywhere"   McCartney 2:25
6. "Yellow Submarine"   Starr 2:41
7. "She Said She Said"   Lennon 2:37
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. "Good Day Sunshine"   McCartney 2:08
2. "And Your Bird Can Sing"   Lennon 2:00
3. "For No One"   McCartney 2:00
4. "Doctor Robert"   Lennon 2:14
5. "I Want to Tell You" (Harrison) Harrison 2:29
6. "Got to Get You into My Life"   McCartney 2:29
7. "Tomorrow Never Knows"   Lennon 2:57

Personnel[edit]

According to Mark Lewisohn[216] and Ian MacDonald:[217]

The Beatles
Additional musicians and production staff

Charts[edit]

Chart (1966–67) Peak position
Australian Kent Music Report[218] 1
Norway[219] 14
Swedish Kvällstoppen Chart[220] 1
UK Albums Chart[160] 1
US Billboard Top LPs[221] 1
West German Media Control Albums[222] 1

Certifications[edit]

In the US, the album had sold 1,187,869 copies by 31 December 1966 and 1,725,276 copies by the end of the decade.[223]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Rather than security concerns, Harrison's letter cites financial considerations as the obstacle, saying: "too many people get insane with money ideas at the mention of the word 'Beatles', so it fell through!"[23]
  2. ^ According to MacDonald, this was the "price" the four Beatles paid alongside their being appointed MBEs in September 1965.[65]
  3. ^ Lennon later claimed to have written 70 per cent of the lyrics, which McCartney refutes, stating that Lennon contributed "about half a line".[75]
  4. ^ The solo consists of two separate guitar lines played by Harrison. The first part was given a clean sound, while on the second, he played his Gibson SG through a fuzzbox.[83]
  5. ^ In Riley's opinion, the track "domesticates" the "eroticisms" of "Love You To", drawing comparison with the concise writing of Rodgers and Hart.[96]
  6. ^ Although once thought to be Dr Charles Roberts, whose celebrity clients included Edie Sedgwick, the eponymous doctor was Robert Freymann, who was struck off the New York Medical Society's register in 1975.[125]
  7. ^ It was released as a single in the US in 1976, ten years after Revolver, to promote the compilation album Rock 'n' Roll Music, on which it appeared.[135]
  8. ^ Voorman went on to play bass with Manfred Mann, and later on various post-Beatles solo albums.[149]
  9. ^ Despite its origins as an innocent children's song, "Yellow Submarine" was adopted by the counterculture as a song promoting drugs, namely the barbiturate Nembutal.[159]
  10. ^ Rodriguez also comments that, whereas Sgt. Pepper is a "period piece ... inextricably tied to its time", Revolver is "crackling with potent immediacy".[56]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, p. 192.
  2. ^ a b Rodriguez 2012, p. 4.
  3. ^ Howard 2004, p. 64.
  4. ^ Miles 2001, pp. 206, 225.
  5. ^ MacDonald 1998, p. 382.
  6. ^ a b Rodriguez 2012, pp. 7–8.
  7. ^ Miles 2001, pp. 220, 237.
  8. ^ MacDonald 1998, p. 164.
  9. ^ Schaffner 1978, p. 53.
  10. ^ a b Clerk, Carol (January 2002). "George Harrison". Uncut.  Available at Rock's Backpages (subscription required).
  11. ^ Tillery 2011, pp. 35, 51.
  12. ^ Schaffner 1978, p. 55.
  13. ^ Sounes 2010, pp. 132, 184.
  14. ^ Schaffner 1978, pp. 63, 64.
  15. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 71.
  16. ^ Sounes 2010, pp. 140–42.
  17. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 12–14.
  18. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 14–15.
  19. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone 2002, pp. 36–37.
  20. ^ a b Schaffner 1978, p. 63.
  21. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 3.
  22. ^ a b Rodriguez 2012, pp. 103–04.
  23. ^ a b Greene, Andy (25 May 2015). "Read Previously Unknown George Harrison Letter From 1966". rollingstone.com. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  24. ^ Miles 2001, p. 228.
  25. ^ a b Hertsgaard 1996, pp. 177–78.
  26. ^ Liner notes by Mark Lewisohn (1996). Anthology 2 CD booklet. Apple Records. pp. 18–19.
  27. ^ Barber, Nicholas (17 March 1996). "Records: The Beatles Anthology 2 (Parlophone, two CDs/three LPs/two tapes)". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 
  28. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 107.
  29. ^ MacDonald 1998, pp. 174, 176.
  30. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 4, 6–7.
  31. ^ Miles 2001, p. 230.
  32. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 10, 17.
  33. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 165–67.
  34. ^ a b Lewisohn 2005, p. 78.
  35. ^ a b Rodriguez 2012, p. 25.
  36. ^ a b Miles 2001, p. 231.
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  38. ^ Miles 2001, p. 233.
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  45. ^ Reising & LeBlanc 2009, pp. 94, 95.
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  48. ^ Hertsgaard 1996, pp. 179–80.
  49. ^ Hertsgaard 1996, p. 180.
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  76. ^ Hertsgaard 1996, p. 182.
  77. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 203: string octet arranged by Martin; Womack 2007, p. 137: Martin drew inspiration from Bernard Herrmann.
  78. ^ Riley 1988, p. 185.
  79. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, p. 202.
  80. ^ Miles 2001, p. 238.
  81. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 130.
  82. ^ Reising & LeBlanc 2009, pp. 95, 96.
  83. ^ a b Rodriguez 2012, p. 131.
  84. ^ Gould 2007, p. 353.
  85. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 50–51.
  86. ^ Lavezzoli 2006, pp. 171, 174–75.
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  88. ^ a b Lavezzoli 2006, p. 175.
  89. ^ Womack 2014, pp. 583–84.
  90. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 40, 66.
  91. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 66.
  92. ^ Hertsgaard 1996, p. 184.
  93. ^ a b c d e Womack 2007, p. 140.
  94. ^ Riley 1988, p. 186: double-tracked vocals; Womack 2007, p. 140: varispeeding.
  95. ^ Everett 1999, p. 60.
  96. ^ Riley 1988, p. 186.
  97. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 59–60.
  98. ^ a b Womack 2007, pp. 140–41.
  99. ^ Womack 2007, p. 141.
  100. ^ a b c Riley 1988, p. 188.
  101. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 212.
  102. ^ Everett 1999, p. 66.
  103. ^ The Beatles 2000, p. 97.
  104. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 64–65.
  105. ^ MacDonald 2005, pp. 211–12.
  106. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 91, 92.
  107. ^ Tillery 2011, p. 52.
  108. ^ Everett 1999, p. 62.
  109. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 143.
  110. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Beatles 'Good Day Sunshine'". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  111. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 144.
  112. ^ Riley 1988, p. 191.
  113. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 199.
  114. ^ a b Everett 1999, p. 46.
  115. ^ Riley 1988, p. 192.
  116. ^ Riley 1988, pp. 192–93.
  117. ^ Gould 2007, pp. 359–60.
  118. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 79–80.
  119. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 136, 143–44.
  120. ^ MacDonald 1998, p. 182.
  121. ^ a b Womack 2014, p. 231.
  122. ^ Miles 1997, p. 290.
  123. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 121, 123.
  124. ^ Everett 1999, p. 45.
  125. ^ Womack 2014, pp. 231, 232.
  126. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 45–46.
  127. ^ Riley 1988, pp. 195–96.
  128. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 122.
  129. ^ MacDonald 1998, p. 184.
  130. ^ Everett 1999, pp. 57, 58.
  131. ^ The Editors of Rolling Stone 2002, p. 37.
  132. ^ Reising & LeBlanc 2009, pp. 99–100.
  133. ^ BBC News 2002.
  134. ^ Miles 1997, p. 190.
  135. ^ Miller 2011, p. 186.
  136. ^ Schaffner 1978, p. 60.
  137. ^ Rodriguez 2012, p. 7.
  138. ^ Gilliland 1969, show 39, tracks 4–5.
  139. ^ Harry 2004, p. 3.
  140. ^ MacDonald 1998, pp. 168fn, 198–99.
  141. ^ Lewisohn 2005, p. 72.
  142. ^ MacDonald 2005, p. 191.
  143. ^ MacDonald 2005c, p. 191.
  144. ^ a b "The Beatles, Revolver Collage by Robert Freeman • San Francisco Art Exchange". 
  145. ^ Rodriguez 2010, pp. 83, 85.
  146. ^ CloughFallows 2010, p. 60.
  147. ^ O'Gorman, Martin (July 2006). "Painted from Memory". Mojo. p. 77. 
  148. ^ Womack 2014, p. 768.
  149. ^ Eder, Bruce. "Klaus Voormann". AllMusic. Retrieved 17 March 2015. 
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  153. ^ Irvin.
  154. ^ Castleman & Podrazik 1976, pp. 55, 56.
  155. ^ Lewisohn 1992, pp. 350–51.
  156. ^ a b Rodriguez 2012, p. 6.
  157. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, p. 205.
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  159. ^ Rodriguez 2012, pp. 65–66.
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  162. ^ Miles 2001, p. 244.
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  164. ^ MacDonald 1998, p. 170.
  165. ^ Schaffner 1978, p. 54.
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  168. ^ a b Womack 2014, p. 770.
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  172. ^ a b Rodriguez 2012, p. 175.
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  174. ^ a b Rodriguez 2012, p. 176.
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Bibliography[edit]

Preceded by
What Now My Love by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Billboard 200 number-one album
10 September – 21 October 1966
Succeeded by
Supremes A' Go-Go by The Supremes
Preceded by
What Now My Love by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
1–21 October 1966
Succeeded by
Going Places by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
Preceded by
The Sound of Music by Original Soundtrack
UK Albums Chart number-one album
13 August – 1 October 1966
Succeeded by
The Sound of Music by Original Soundtrack

External links[edit]