Friday, May 2, 2008

Beatles 10: Revolver

After a two-albums-a-year routine that lasted three years, The Beatles only released one album of new material in 1966. And it was plenty. Revolver slightly predates the psychedelic era, but is already chock full of weird sounds. And that’s only the American version, which was missing three Lennon songs that had already been siphoned off the British version for the Yesterday And Today collection rushed out a few months earlier.
But even without those tracks, the American Revolver comes the closest of any revision to its British counterpart, with all the remaining songs in the same order, and nothing added in. As a result, it’s been a favorite since its first release. The metallic sheen of the music is constant, and while John’s lunacy has been toned down to the two side-enders, all three of George’s songs make it. No matter which version of the album people had heard, the consensus worldwide was that the Beatles continued to evolve, finding sounds no one else had thought of yet.
The first thing we hear is a strange count-in from George, then it’s right into “Taxman”. It’s a powerful performance, from the harmonies to the guitar solo (played here by Paul). George was also responsible for the painstakingly crafted backwards guitar solo on John’s “I’m Only Sleeping”, one of the first of its kind on record. He takes another step towards nirvana on “Love You To”, which features all Indian instrumentation. And he scores a hat trick on side two with the superb “I Want To Tell You”, with its discordant piano and more harmonies.
While George leaned to India, it sounded like John was on his way to the loony bin. “She Said She Said” is a veiled allusion to an acid trip underneath a power pop arrangement, and “Tomorrow Never Knows”—actually the first song recorded for the album—leaves the listener dizzy, with its tape loops of seagulls and that drum part from Ringo that inspired the future trance movement.
For his reputation as a goody-goody, Paul’s stuff is pretty strong, too. In addition to that burning “Taxman” solo, he contributed “Eleanor Rigby”, a pretty mature statement from a 24-year-old and one of the rare cases where they included a current single on an album released the same day. “Here, There And Everywhere” is another one of his most famous songs, and rightly so. Paul’s also (mostly, as it turns out) responsible for “Yellow Submarine”, one of the best stupid songs of all time and a fun performance all around, starting with Ringo’s perfect delivery. “Good Day Sunshine” is still snappy, just as “For No One” is still heartbreaking. And he still swears “Got To Get You Into My Life” is about pot; we suspect acid.
Revolver is the very model of a desert island disc. And since the CD you can buy today (and should, immediately) is the British version, you can cut out the three songs to get the American experience, if you really want. You’re still getting your money’s worth, with no filler. (The “U.S. Albums” version, finally available in 2014, does offer both the mono and stereo mixes, but only of the 11-track sequence.)
After the final four Beatle studio albums were upgraded for their 50th anniversaries with modern mixes and outtakes, Revolver got similar treatment. To the compilers’ credit, the majority of the included session tracks had been previously unheard or even unbootlegged, while the ones carried over from Anthology 2 were longer, and arguably sounded that much better. However, the set also followed the recent trend of having a CD match a vinyl disc in length, so we pay extra for a four-song EP containing the upgraded stereo and mono mixes of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” that could have been squeezed onto either sessions disc. What’s more, the mono mix, wonderful as it is, of the album could have fit on a single CD with the stereo. But why issue three discs when you can sell five?
Luckily, the music is revelatory. Alternate or working versions of every song on the album (save “Good Day Sunshine”, probably because it was created from a single take) are included, along with the backing tracks for “Paperback Writer” and “Rain”, the latter at its original speed, which sounds just nuts after decades of hearing the single. John’s demo of “She Said She Said” had been circulating, but not his original sketch for “Yellow Submarine” (only the verses, which bemoan how “in the place where I was born, no one cared, no one cared”) nor a later snippet capturing him and Paul whipping it into shape. And of course, the enclosed book provides incredible detail.

The Beatles Revolver (1966)—5
UK CD equivalent: Revolver
2022 Special Deluxe Edition: same as 1966, plus 18 extra tracks (Super Deluxe Edition adds another 20 tracks)


  1. eleanor rigby is probably the best example of how paul could start something wonderful and john could add enough to make it amazing.
    they really were best together.

  2. Unquestionably the very best single body of work by the Beatles - digging yet a little deeper into their possibly drug-induced creative minds. To suggest that Ringo's drum track s on TNK "inspired the future trance movement" is a bit presumptuous - and Paul's defiance regarding "Gotta Get you...."? Had George wrote that song it would have suggested bringing God into his life, but with lyrics like "I was alone, I took a ride,I didn't know what I would find there. Another road where maybe I could see another kind of mind there" This listener is leaning toward a much higher power - LSD!!!
    "She Said" is a monster tune - and if you threw Tomorrow Never Knows as a jam in the bridge - WOW!! I must confess.... I'm not a big Beatles fan - but this album/CD makes a prog rockers ears gasm. SG

  3. the best british album of all time. almost about to be 60 years in the making, this has competed against pet sounds. i think i liked them both when listening them. revolver had psychedelics, pet sounds brings smooth, chamber pop arrangements. 1966 is a great year for the coming of the summer of love. taxman is a heavy pop rocker, elenor rigby is a great story song. love you to is mystical indian music and she said, is so druggy and with wild drumming by starr. tomorrow never knows, with the backwards tapes still was cutting edge and i dare any techno/EDM DJ who wants to one up it. excellent reviews of the 1966 albums.