“Revolver” by The Beatles - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1966Album Chart of the Decade: 1960s1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die external-link.png

TJR says

“Revolver” was, for me, the greatest album of works in the Beatles discography, with a stimulating variety of stylistic twists, laden with oodles of sonic invention. Notably, Paul and George step up to the mark with vital contributions to match those of John. It’s an album borne of the disparate influences upon the group members at the time; whilst Harrison and Lennon found inspiration through LSD, McCartney drew his from the artsy intellectuals by whom he was surrounded in a thriving London scene.

For the first (and only) time in the Beatles “A-list” discography, it’s a song by George which opens up; the classic mod-rocker, “Taxman”, blasting Harold Wilson’s Labour administration for their aggressive 95% supertax policy, which was directly affecting the group at the time: “let me tell you how it will be, there’s one for you, nineteen for me” sings George, with a biting humour which gets the point across splendidly. Harrison provides another stone-classic shortly thereafter with “Love You To” a paean to wife on the surface, but laid upon a bed of musical revolution, as authentic Asian music is placed firmly on the world’s centre stage.

George’s fascination with the Sitar, and Indian culture in general, first touched upon in “Norwegian Wood” (Rubber Soul, 1965), is fully realised here on this stupendous piece. He created the track with tabla player Anil Bhagwat and other Indian musicians from the Asian Music Circle in London. Sandwiched between those two magnificent contributions was “Eleanor Rigby”, quite possibly, Paul McCartney's finest song writing hour. Inspired by Vivaldi, a string section scored by Beatles producer George Martin consisting of 4 violins, 2 violas and 2 cellos were used in recording. The Beatles didn't play any of the instruments on this – all of the music came from the string players, who were hired as session musicians. “Father Mackenzie” was originally “Father McCartney.” Paul decided he didn't want to freak out his dad and picked a name out of the phone book instead. Speaking in Observer Music Monthly (November 2008) he said: “When I was a kid I was very lucky to have a real cool dad, a working-class gent, who always encouraged us to give up our seat on the bus for old people. This led me into going round to pensioners' houses. It sounds a bit goody-goody, so I don't normally tell too many people. There were a couple of old ladies and I used to go round and say, 'Do you need any shopping done?' These lonely old ladies were something I knew about growing up, and that was what 'Eleanor Rigby' was about – the fact that she died and nobody really noticed. I knew this went on.”

On an album which has an embarrassment of riches to commend it, it’s a monotonous, droning wig-out which emerges as one of thee greatest creations in their entire catalogue. “Tomorrow Never Knows” will sound fantastic for ever and a day, but I often wonder how many teeny boppers were lost for good when this closed “Revolver”? The title came from an expression Ringo used – they chose it to take the edge off the heavy, philosophical lyrics. John Lennon had written it, and described it as “my first psychedelic song.” It was inspired by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert's book “The Psychedelic Experience”, which Lennon would read while tripping on LSD. Each Beatle created strange sounds which were mixed in throughout the recording, often backward and in different speeds. McCartney had the idea for using tape loops to create effects. John Lennon used only one chord in the whole song, creating that amazingly hypnotic feeling. For his vocals, he asked producer George Martin to make him sound like the Dali Lama! They were The Beatles man – bigger than Jesus haven’t you heard? They could do whatever the hell they wanted in 1966 – thankfully. As a result, this work of art was duly delivered.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:39] 9.8.png The Beatles - Taxman (George Harrison) Blues Rock / Soul Rock
A2 [02:07] 10.0.png The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Contemporary Classical
A3 [03:01] 8.8.png The Beatles - I’m Only Sleeping (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Psychedelia
A4 [03:01] 9.3.png The Beatles - Love You To (George Harrison) Desi
A5 [02:25] 6.6.png The Beatles - Here, There And Everywhere (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop Ballad
A6 [02:40] 7.2.png The Beatles - Yellow Submarine (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Psychedelia
A7 [02:37] 9.0.png The Beatles - She Said She Said (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Psychedelia
B1 [02:09] 6.7.png The Beatles - Good Day Sunshine (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
B2 [02:01] 8.0.png The Beatles - And Your Bird Can Sing (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Folk Rock / Americana
B3 [02:01] 8.9.png The Beatles - For No One (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Songwriter
B4 [02:15] 6.9.png The Beatles - Doctor Robert (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Cerebral Pop
B5 [02:29] 6.6.png The Beatles - I Want To Tell You (George Harrison) Cerebral Pop
B6 [02:30] 6.7.png The Beatles - Got To Get You Into My Life (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Pop
B7 [02:57] 10.0.png The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) Psychedelia

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