Tuesday, February 10, 2015

3 Revolver (1965) The Beatles

Revolver is a turning point (pun intended but not very good) for the career of the Beatles. It's the moment the Fab Four strode into the studio completely unencumbered by the need to produce material that they would have to take on tour. They'd quit their lives as a concert giving band once and for all and would no longer need to spend their time careering around the world performing the same set of songs to a group of people who were shouting too loud to hear the music they were screaming at. The Beatles decided to spend their time making music that was art for its own sake and gave them an outlet for experimentation. Revolver was the first album that saw them go into the studio treating it as their playground, canvas and laboratory. The end result could have sounded like a shambles without form or structure but it sounds like a coherent album. There are definite indications that it might be a group starting to go their separate ways but it's still a band effort and it still holds up well.

You can see why over the years its managed to climb in the esteem of Beatles fans. It started below Abbey Road, The White album and Sgt Peppers but as history has reassessed the Beatles catalogue it's started to climb gradually to the point where it's often held up as not just their greatest work but the best thing anyone has done anywhere ever.


While it might seem a bit offensive to have incredibly wealthy people whine about money issues the problems discussed in Taxman were actually a big deal. The Beatles were living with an incredibly harsh tax system which saw a huge amount of their income taken away by the government. Taxman was a George Harrison song and straight away he's announcing to the record buying public that he's learned a lot in the few shorts months since they recorded Rubber Soul. Touring definitely didn't agree with George who needed time to develop a song and couldn't do it on the fly in hotel rooms like John and Paul. Taxman is better than anything George had written up to that point but only a warning of what was to come.

Eleanor Rigby

John Lennon may have hated this style of song writing from Paul but its hard to deny just how good this is. Rigby is an incredibly catchy piece of pop writing and sounds like a mature and confident song writer enjoying telling stories through his music. John might hate it but he's the only one on the planet who does (or did).

I'm Only Sleeping

After two great opening songs by George and Paul, the pressure was on John to come up with something worthy of the high bar set for the album. Sleeping isn't his finest moment but it's far from a dud. It also shows an inkling of how experimental the Beatles were becoming. Everyone cites the sitar as an example of their boundary pushing but its also worth noting that even in a straightforward song like Sleeping they experimented. George's backwards guitar effect was the sort of thing that casual listeners might never notice but those in the business of creating music heard and said: "How the hell did they do that?"

Love you To

Anyone who put on Revolver expecting a traditional Beatlemania approach had their notions well and truly dispelled by Love you to which features George on sitar accompanied by Ringo on percussion and a tabla player. It's recognisably a pop song but it sounds like a traditional Indian piece. It shouldn't work but it definitely does and marks a moment when George stopped looking like the guitarist following the other two geniuses around and started looking like a guy taking bold new strides and daring his friends to follow him.

Here, There and Everywhere.

After Love you To, Paul's catchy pop song sounds deceptively simple but is actually a more complex piece than it might appear. It's beautiful and haunting and stays with the listener after it stops.

Yellow Submarine

And along comes a children's song. For those of us who grew up with Yellow Submarine and Octopuses Garden serving as our introduction to the Beatles, this comes as no surprise but for those who followed their career chronologically it was a bit of a shock. They were still reeling from the whole sitar and tabla thing of a few tracks before and suddenly Ringo was singing them a kids ditty. It's a great kids song if you like that sort of thing but it wears out its welcome a bit when you've heard it dozens of times before your eighth birthday.

She Said She Said

John does seem a bit absent on Revolver it has to be said. This is only his second contribution to the album and thankfully it's a ripper. It's a dreamy drug song which points the way towards John's future dreamy drug songs. I've often wondered how this song would have fared if its lyrics weren't so dark and impenetrable. "I know what it's like to be dead" isn't really the stuff of most hit singles. If he'd changed the words to be a simple love song would it be better known? I'm not suggesting for a second that he should have but it's something I've often wondered about.

Good Day Sunshine

Almost as an antidote to She Said She Said, Paul comes along with this bright and cheery ditty which opens up side two and gives the listener a spring in their step and a smile on their face. Paul is often accused of being mindlessly sunny and when you hear this you can understand why but it makes me wonder if people have actually bothered to listen to the lyrics of Eleanor Rigby which is about a woman dying all alone and forgotten. How sunny is that?

And your bird can sing

I really like John when he sounds cheery and jaunty and poptastic but writes lyrics that are really anything but. Help is really a cry for help and this is actually quite a spiteful little number from a guy who was in quite a bitter place, but it doesn't sound like it. It sounds like a guy trying to write a good follow up to Good Day Sunshine.

For No One

This is not just the sound of Paul breaking up with his girlfriend, it's the sound of Paul breaking up with the Beatles. Granted it would take a few years before the group was officially dissolved but this is Paul in the studio recording a song pretty much on his own. Ringo plays the drums but Paul could have done them too if he felt like it. John and George did nothing and weren't needed at all for the recording. Paul knew that he didn't need them after the event either because he wasn't writing this to be performed onstage. It was his own work of art and marks a definite step towards a solo career. A love that could have lasted years.

Doctor Robert

You can enter into the debate about who Dr Robert is referring to if you like but personally I don't care I'm having too much fun enjoying the song. It's a really catchy piece of mature songwriting from John and has a structure that seems to be him raising two fingers to the stage. How could you ever hope to pull this off live? It just wouldn't work.

I want to tell you

Probably George's most accomplished composition up to that point. His best song and the first thing he's written which fully justifies its position on a Beatles album.

Got to Get you into my life

The opening horn blasts of this track are some of the most exciting moments on the album and always put a smile on my face. This is really infectious stuff. Paul is definitely a genius and Revolver is quite possibly his finest hour.

Tomorrow Never Knows

So far the finest moments on the album have been Paul's, but John more than makes up for his second place running at the end. Tomorrow Never Knows proves what an incredible talent John was an how the studio was the perfect place for him to show off his abilities. He might have driven the studio staff mad trying to capture the vision that was in his head but what they finally produced was an incredible piece of dream-scape psychedelia which takes the listener on an amazing journey into John's mind. It's a Beatles track that demands to be appreciated in a totally different way than all that went before. The rest of the Beatles catalogue before then is for playing at parties or in brightly lit rooms. It's daytime music. This is for putting on in the dark and absorbing. It's for experiencing and appreciating in full. It sent a loud and clear message to the world: we're done with that moptop thing now. We're adults, we're artists and we've come to shake up your world again.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "It's so dated right now, I can't ever hear any song from it anymore. I would suggest earliler Beatles albums like Help! which is better than this."

-I've read a lot of Amazon reviews saying the Beatles are crap and while I can't understand the viewpoint I can understand them better than this. How does Revolver sound dated by Help doesn't? Who likes one but not the other?

So is this a regular revolver on your turntable? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. My favourite Beatles album used to be Sgt Peppers only because every critic told me it was the best. But when I could put the albums on my walkman this one stood out as having more to like. It also contains my favouite Beatlse track: And Your Bird Can Sing.. Why? And Got To Get You Into My Life finishes about a mkinute too soon. Great album for different reasons to Highway 61, Excile, Sgt Peppers etc.