Two of my favorite artists/groups come from England; David Bowie, and The Beatles. And even though they eat weird shaped muffins across the Atlantic, the English do know a thing or two about making rock music and bands. So I am happy to be covering “Revolver” so early in this project. I’ve now checked two of my top musical acts of the list, which might be a little unfair to my dad since we haven’t covered one Springsteen album yet.
At points in their career, The Beatles were the most experimental band of their time. No album better shows this than “Revolver” where the songs were so intricate and complicated to play that they couldn’t be performed by the original four piece band. In fact, when they toured after releasing the album that year, they didn’t play one song from record.
Here, the creation of wonderfully diverse masterpieces are on full display. The harmonies are excellent, the guitar riffs are tight and fun, and the words to each song explore various themes ranging from love to death.
As a fan of punk rock, one of my favorite songs on the album is “Taxman”. With its British feel and satiric lyrics it not only pokes fun at government spending and collection of money, but the music and chord structure will later influence bands like The Clash. I find the sequence of songs on the album very strange because right after this song comes “Eleanor Rigby” with a string octet which seemingly comes right out of left field. It’s a wonderful song, but throughout “Revolver”, it feels as if the order of the tracks were picked randomly out of a hat. This is understandable, because at the time Capital Records, like other companies, still controlled the cuts, order and flow of a record. Some of my other top tunes are “She Said She Said”, and “Got To Get You Into My Life” which features an awesome brass ensemble.
All around, this is a great album which showcases lots of different sounds in a way that was and still is very forward thinking. It’s interesting to see that songs released 37 years before I was even born can get me excited and it just goes to show that good music will last the test of time.
When I listen to an old album I like to think about where the artist was in their career when it was recorded, the time frame it came from and the other music that was considered current. With the Beatles it’s always a challenge to make sense out of it, as their music progressed so fast and furiously during a period of such cultural change.
In 1966, the year Revolver was released, there was so much music happening –The Beach Boys were putting out Pet Sounds, The Stones released Aftermath, Blonde on Blonde was Dylan’s offering, while Cream, Simon and Garfunkel, The Who, Donovan, The Hollies, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and The Mama’s & Pappas all had albums on the charts. British Rock, Folk Rock, Motown and the California Sound were all happening at the same time. While there were protests of the Vietnam war growing on college campuses, Batman, Star Trek and The Monkees were on TV, the space race with the Russians and Americans was accelerating, Mini Skirts were shortening and an actor named Ronald Regan became governor of California. So it was a lot to process.
The Beatles released about a dozen studio albums in just 7 years, Revolver was right in the middle of that run. Most of the songs are familiar on their own, but I have to admit I had lost track of which Beatles song came from which album. So, it is really interesting when you hear the songs in the context of an album.
This record feels like one giant experiment. The band was trying new things musically and how they recorded, while they were also exploring art, religion, culture, politics, drugs and relationships.
In short they were growing up and maturing as artists and looking to expand as people. Out of this came a crazy compilation of music ranging from quick ditties, to love songs, to traditional Beatles guitar harmony songs, to eastern religious sitar influenced music, to heavily arranged orchestral numbers like “Eleanor Rigby”. Some psychedelic sounds are evident and even a kind of a Motown sound shows up on “Got to Get You into My Life”. There is no common theme or tone. There’s just a lot of diversity that all happens quickly as the album is only about 35 minutes long and interestingly only 2 songs are over 3 minutes length.
All the Beatles contributed to this album and it shows in the spirit of both individualism and collaboration. George seems to be more present on this record than in the past. His tune “Taxman”, kicks off the album with arguably the bands first political song. Ringo takes the lead on Yellow Submarine, which the guys wrote for him. John offers more experiential songs about where he was at the time with “Tomorrow Never Knows”, “And Your Bird Can Sing”, “She Said She Said”, and “I’m Only Sleeping”. But the songs that are truly my favorites on this album are the ones Paul is the lead on, such as the love songs “Here There and Everywhere”, “Good Day Sunshine”, “Got to Get You into My Life” and darker sadder ones like “Eleanor Rigby” and “For No One”.
This is a great album, that made me stop and think about the unbelievable level of creativity and music these guys had in them.
Revolver is ranked # 3 on the Rolling Stone Magazine 500 Greatest Albums list
” And she’s making me feel like I’ve never been born”