The Beatles – Revolver
When released in August 1966, not everyone loved The Beatles seventh studio album, Revolver. Published in that week’s issue of the Disc and Music Echo magazine, the Kinks’ Ray Davies wrote a review of the album, tackling each song in a few sentences in which Davies only seems to have liked a few tracks. He called “I’m Only Sleeping,” “a most beautiful song” and “the best track on the album.” He also quite liked “Good Day Sunshine,” writing “this is back to the real old Beatles. I just don’t like the electronic stuff.” And on “Yellow Submarine,” Davies wrote, “is a load of rubbish, really.”
Well, he has a point on “Yellow Submarine.” A silly song, which had Lennon blowing through a straw into a pan of water to create a bubbling effect as well as singing through tin cans, but The Beatles were having fun! The session ended with everybody in a line around the studio doing the conga dance.
There is just so much happening on Revolver, tape loops, backwards guitar solos, Indian sitars and tablas, string quartets and ripe horns. The group’s competitive drive had them, at times, working to match Bob Dylan or Brian Wilson On Revolver they achieved this, no question.
As Rubber Soul was a major turning point in the Beatles writing and recording styles, Revolver (working titles “Abracadabra”, “Magical Circles”, and “Beatles On Safari”) took that attitude of exploration even further. Their first psychedelic masterpiece, Revolver represents the Beatles at their most creative. And in 1966, the band looked fantastic, with longer hair, hipster suits and dark glasses.
The Beatles had taken three months off prior to Revolver, their longest break since the start of their career; Revolver, in the end, is the sound of a band growing into supreme confidence.
The new direction was evident from the very first track recorded: “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Titled simply “Mark 1” at the time recording commenced on April 6, 1966, the song was written by Lennon the product of his experience with LSD, which he’d taken the previous January. Using lines from The Psychedelic Experience, an LSD manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, he wrote the song as a mantra composed of one repeating melody line over driving bass and drum track.
Despite the trippy vibe of the album, it’s not a Beatles album without some mainstream pop. Revolver was McCartney’s maturation record as much as Rubber Soul was for Lennon. McCartney was exploring classical music, training an eye for detail and subtlety in his lyrics, and embracing the orchestral work of Brian Wilson.
Paul scores with what is possibly his finest-ever achievement with “Eleanor Rigby.” Originally called “Daisy Hawkins,” Paul later decided on title character name change. The “Eleanor” was from actress Eleanor Bron, the Beatles’ female co-star in Help!, the Rigby derived from “Rigby & Evans,” a wine shop Paul noticed in Bristol, England. Interestingly, a real-life gravestone of an Eleanor Rigby resides in the cemetery of St. Peter’s Church (St. Peter’s Church is where John and Paul first met, the gravestone is a few hundred feet from the exact spot.) Paul may or may not have glanced the headstone over the intervening years and placed it in his “subconscious mind” for later reference.
McCartney also shines through on three other songs, “Got to Get You into My Life”, “Good Day Sunshine” and “Here, There and Everywhere” which McCartney has said is among his personal favourite of all the songs he has ever written.
John Lennon’s “I’m Only Sleeping” like so many Lennon songs, is basically autobiographical (in a then-recent interview, John had described himself as “the laziest person in England.”) Interestingly, the song also shows John’s deep boredom, monotony, and dissatisfaction with his own life, both within and outside of the Beatles.
“She Said, She Said,” another drug-inspired song, came from John’s adverse reaction to actor Peter Fonda, who kept saying the phrase “I know what it’s like to be dead” over and over during one of John’s LSD trips. Fonda kept saying he “knew what it was like to be dead” because of a self-induced gunshot wound he’d experienced as a boy.
George Harrison also broke new ground on Revolver, for the first time getting to contribute three tunes. “Taxman” the album’s opening track, is George’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to the British tax system, which skimmed 95% of the band’s earnings off the top. “Love You To” was the first Beatles song to fully reflect the influence of Indian classical music, which Harrison wrote partly as a love song to his wife, Pattie Boyd. His third contribution was “I Want To Tell You.”
Revolver, which spent 34 weeks on the UK albums chart took 300 hours of studio time to create, roughly three times the amount allotted to Rubber Soul, and an astronomical amount for a record in 1966.
The album’s Grammy Award-winning cover design was created by Klaus Voormann, one of the Beatles’ friends from their fledgeling years in Hamburg and later the bassist for Manfred Mann.
Winner of the 1966 Grammy for Album of the Year, Revolver was also named the greatest rock and roll album of all time by VH1 in 2001 in their “100 Greatest Rock And Roll Albums Of All Time” series. Q magazine voted it “the #1 greatest British album” in 2000, and Rolling Stone named it #3 on its list of Greatest Albums of All-time in 2003.
Will somebody ask Ray Davies what he now thinks of Revolver?
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April 27, 2019 at 8:31 am
I find it very sad that there has been no mention of the most amazing song ever written “Tomorrow never Knows” Im sure once you realise this you will rectify the error
April 27, 2019 at 3:14 pm
Tomorrow Never Knows is my favorite Beatles song.
April 27, 2019 at 7:06 pm
Greatest Beatles album ever. Set the tone for Seargeant Peppers. Revolver is the Beatles working together wholly as a band!
April 27, 2019 at 7:10 pm
Best Beatles album ever!
April 28, 2019 at 3:47 pm
I don’t think it’s by any means they’re best. I had quit buying Beatle albums for the Stones. When I discovered Bob Marley, I was done with the Stones! When I discovered Black Uhuru and Burning Spear, I was done with Bob Marley.
August 5, 2019 at 7:06 am
I love this LP, I learned how to play music because of the Beatles!
August 5, 2019 at 5:07 pm
The original US edition did not include I’m Only Sleeping, And Your Bird Can Sing, and Dr. Robert. All 3 of those songs were on the previous US release, Yesterday and Today. However, the version of I’m Only Sleeping is a different mix.
August 6, 2019 at 7:00 am
The problem with this dennis is that he has a confused, changeable mind like a child. When he saw something that look like a much sweeter candy, he goes for it. As for me, it’s been 55 years since i heard them over the radio and i was right that they were & still are the best, the greatest ever.
August 6, 2019 at 7:08 am
I like Revolver too, but i prefer Rubber Soul as their best album ever. Who could outdone John’s “Nowhere Man”, “Run for your Life”, “Girl”, and the Song of Songs -“In My Life” in simplicity and wit. Plus Paul’s ” You won’t see me”, ” Michelle”, “I’m looking through you”. And George’s “If i needed someone”..
August 6, 2019 at 3:45 pm
It’s impossible for me to name a one “favorite” album by The Beatles, and pointless to try. They never remained the same “band”, musically speaking for more than a couple of albums at a time, anyway. But I can’t think of another album by them that I loved more than Revolver. It was psychedelic music before there was a name for it. Before all of the wild imagery and fashion of the Summer Of Love. It was an omen of things to come. “She Said She Said” and “Tomorrow Never Knows” (along with “Paperback Writer” and “Rain”-recorded during the same sessions) are some of the coolest songs ever made, by them or anyone else. Completely ahead of their time.
September 3, 2019 at 11:24 pm
The best Beatles album is the one that I am listening to at that given moment.
September 10, 2019 at 3:12 pm
Are there any of us female fans reading and responding, or am I the only one on the planet who went, who saw, who was conquerored? I was at the famous gangplank arrival, “Hello, NY, we’re here to change the world.” And the music began.
“Eleanor Rigby,” forever broken. Made us want to carve our wrists. “Here, There and Everywhere” made us glad we didn’t. Two songs I love.
September 11 is upon us. For the many who perished, a tear.
September 10, 2019 at 11:46 pm
Ray Davies can kiss our collective keisters
September 11, 2019 at 12:02 am
The marginal tax rate alluded to in Taxman was 95%, not 90%:
“There’s one for you, nineteen for me”
“If five percent appear too small, be thankful I don’t take it all”
September 11, 2019 at 6:21 am
Thanks for that info which we have corrected. That was high 95%!
September 14, 2019 at 9:13 pm
If I’m not mistaken, ‘I’m Only Sleeping,” is on the UK version of the LP. Can anyone confirm this?
September 16, 2019 at 5:59 am
Yes it is indeed. It was one of the three tracks that Capitol Records US cut from the album and instead included on Yesterday and Today, released two months before Revolver.
April 2, 2020 at 6:33 am
Run For Your Life is an awful song, perhaps the worst they ever produced.
April 7, 2020 at 12:36 am
Not one mention of “For No One”?
April 27, 2020 at 5:40 am
One of the greatest albums of all time.
April 29, 2020 at 3:44 pm
Had “Rain” and “Paperback Writer” been on Revolver, it may have caused some sort of cosmic breakdown. Just too good.
August 7, 2020 at 2:15 am
Ray Davis is just jealous of the beatles bc he cannot write anything like revolver even though I love the kinks his voice just sucks.
Simon John Livingstone
August 14, 2020 at 10:21 am
Amazing album. Took pop music forward a further notch and great songs to boot. With a little more development on these short (2-3 minute) songs it would have been out of reach.
April 7, 2021 at 12:35 pm
who’s ray davies ?
April 8, 2021 at 9:30 pm
Loved this album. It shows how talented and able to sing everything they could. It came along at a time when the Beatles were revolving into a true rock and roll/pop band. I have loved the Beatles since I was 13 yrs. old and I am now 70 and still have to listen to them every day. Beatlemania forever !
April 29, 2021 at 9:47 am
John, Paul, Ringo and George. Their collective influence on music classifies them as genius. Individually, pretty good!
August 5, 2021 at 8:16 pm
Although Rubber Soul and even Help prior to that started heading in the direction of increased artistry and experimentation, this album changed everything!