Guide to British Music of the 1960s

August 1997

CD Review

The Beatles - Revolver

 

 

Released on 5 August 1966, Revolver is one of the Beatles' two classic mid-period albums. In my opinion, Rubber Soul and Revolver are the Beatles' two strongest albums, representing a transition from the pop style of earlier albums to the rock music of later years. The strength of Revolver, like many other albums, lies in the fact that over thirty years later, the songs still sound fresh and innovative. Promise had been shown by the UK and US number one single earlier in the year- Paperback Writer was backed by the excellent and experimental Rain. This was surely a taste of things to come. The first thing to notice is that the cover remains striking. Klaus Voorman's design does not even need to include the name of the group. Furthermore, the black and white is a stark contrast to the colourful, swinging sixties. However, advance orders of one million copies ensured that the album did not go unnoticed. Revolver was released the same month that the Beatles played their last scheduled live performance, again marking a turning point. Immediately before Revolver were the Philippines debacle and the mis-interpretation of John Lennon's remarks. The Beatles needed to bounce back from all this.

"If Rubber Soul had opened minds, then Revolver was to blow them."

Rough Guide to Rock

Revolver is a true showcase of the Beatles' talents. Its 14 tracks were reduced to 11 for the US release. Both John and Paul's songs are mature and distinctive. George continues to improve as a songwriter. Two particularly strong George Harrison guitar riffs can be found in She Said She Said and And Your Bird Can Sing, recreating the electric guitar sound of Paperback Writer. Apart from his vocal on Yellow Submarine, Ringo is highly featured on Tomorrow Never Knows with a repetitive and tribal drum pattern that underlines the nature of the track.

A George Harrison track, Taxman, starts the album. Paul McCartney's bass riff later turned up in the Jam's Start. The song deals with George's frustrations with high levels of income tax, 95% at the top level, making him wonder if earning extra money is really worth it. George also scores with I Want To Tell You and the sitar-laden Love You Too. The variety of musical styles found on Revolver is particularly noticeable on the double A-side single from the album. Eleanor Rigby / Yellow Submarine reached number one in the UK, until replaced by the Small Faces' All or Nothing. Paul's Eleanor Rigby makes extensive use of strings while Yellow Submarine features the Lennon funny voice as well as Ringo's customary singalong vocals. In the USA, Yellow Submarine reached number two and Eleanor Rigby number eleven.

The laid-back I'm Only Sleeping comes next acting as a prequel to Tomorrow Never Knows. John Lennon's Doctor Robert is a steady rocking number about some medical man. Got To Get You Into My Life is Paul McCartney's answer to the Stax horns and was later a big hit for Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers.

The final track points a long way forward. Inspired by John Lennon's first psychedelic trip, he started to write a song called The Void, later to become Tomorrow Never Knows. Producer George Martin was given a tough task. John had asked him to recreate the sound of Tibetan monks chanting from a mountain top or something like that. The lyrics of the song contained some direct quotes from The Psychedelic Experience, itself adapted from The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Overall, I still believe this is the Beatles' strongest album, mixing a maturity of writing and playing with a variety of musical styles. At the same time it was both commercial and experimental. Quite a feat. And then Tomorrow Never Knows.....

mp, July 1997

  • Released: 5 August 1966, Parlophone
  • Highest UK chart position: 1
  • Highest US chart position: 1

Essential Tracks:

  • She Said She Said
  • And Your Bird Can Sing
  • Tomorrow Never Knows

Track Listing:

  1. Taxman
  2. Eleanor Rigby
  3. I'm Only Sleeping
  4. Love You To
  5. Here, There and Everywhere
  6. Yellow Submarine
  7. She Said She Said
  8. Good Day Sunshine
  9. And Your Bird Can Sing
  10. For No One
  11. Doctor Robert
  12. I Want To Tell You
  13. Got To Get You Into My Life
  14. Tomorrow Never Knows

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