Musings of the Past

When The Beatles’ Revolver Turned 50

The other day, fellow blogger Max from PowerPop blog featured I Want to Tell You, a George Harrison tune from Revolver, rightfully noting the great opening riff and calling it very unrated. This reminded me of a post I originally published in August 2016 about the then-50th anniversary of what is widely considered one of the best albums by The Beatles.

I was about six weeks into my blogging journey. The blog was very bare-bones at the time with no embedded images or video clips in the posts. While my writing was also still evolving, I felt the content of this early post deserved to be republished. Unlike previous Musings of the Past installments, which essentially were straight reposts, I decided to enhance the Revolver post with both multi-media and some additional text at the end. I also slightly amended the headline. Here we go.

When The Beatles’ Revolver Turned 50

It was 50 years ago yesterday (Aug 5): The Beatles released Revolver in the UK, an album that is considered a leap from predecessor Rubber Soul, introducing more experimentation and innovative recording techniques.

On Aug 5, 1966, The Beatles released Revolver, their seventh studio album in the UK. Just the other day, a good friend of mine told me many experts consider it the best album of the Fab Four. Yesterday, I noticed a number of related articles from music sources like Rolling Stone and others commemorating the occasion. So I decided to take a closer look on this mold-breaking album.

On RevolverThe Beatles started experimenting with various new recording techniques, including tape loops, backwards recordings and varispeeding. The most significant innovation was Artificial Double Tracking (ADT), which was invented by Ken Townsend, a recording engineer at Abbey Road Studios. The technique essentially combines an original audio signal with a delayed copy of that signal. Previously, the effect could only be accomplished by natural doubling of a voice or instrument, a technique called double-tracking.

The invention of ADT mainly was spurred by a request from John Lennon who during the Revolver sessions asked for a less tedious alternative to double-tracking. ADT was soon adopted throughout the recording industry.

Revolver was also remarkable for other reasons. The title, by the way, had nothing to do with guns but was derived from the verb revolve. One of the album’s highlights is the string arrangement on Eleanor Rigby, which was written by George Martin. Otherwise, the tune was primarily penned by Paul McCartney. Blending classical and pop music broke conventions. It would take another four years before another British band, Electric Light Orchestra, would take this concept to the stratosphere.

Revolver also saw George Harrison take on a bigger role in song-writing and shaping the band’s sound: TaxmanLove You To and I Want to Tell You were all written by him. Love You To featured Indian classical instruments, which George had introduced on Rubber Soul with his use of the sitar on Norwegian Wood. On Revolver, he also introduced the tambura, another instrument used in Indian music, on John’s Tomorrow Never Knows. Another interesting tidbit I read: The guitar solo on Taxman was played by Paul after George had made multiple unsuccessful attempts.

Apart from the above, Revolver included other gems like Here, There and EverywhereGood Day Sunshine and Got to Get You into My Life. The sessions to the album also yielded the non-album single Paperback Writer with Rain as the b-side.

In the U.S., Revolver was released on August 8, 1966. The release coincided with The Beatles’ third and final concert tour in the U.S. and Toronto. Except for Paperback Writer, the band did not perform any of the songs from the Revolver sessions.

Revolver won the 1966 Grammy for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts. The cover artwork was designed by Klaus Voormann, who had known The Beatles since 1960 when he met them during their time in Hamburg. While Revolver was well received in the UK, the initial reception in the U.S. was less enthusiastic due to John’s controversial statement that The Beatles had become bigger than Jesus. Eventually, the album was certified 5 times platinum in the U.S. and platinum in the UK.

– End –

The original post, first published on August 6, 2016, ended here. Following is some additional content about two songs that are among my favorites on Revolver.

First up: Taxman. According to Songfacts, George was a fan of the 1960s American television series Batman. The music for Taxman was inspired by the Batman Theme, written and first recorded by conductor/trumpeter Neal Hefti. It was subsequently covered in early 1966 by The Marketts, an American surf rock group. “‘Taxman’ was when I first realized that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes,” Harrison said. Subsequently, he changed his stance about money, telling BBC Radio in 1969, “No matter how much money you’ve got, you can’t be happy anyway. So you have to find your happiness with the problems you have and you have to not worry too much about them.”

Let’s wrap up with John Lennon tune And Your Bird Can Sing. From Songfacts: “Bird” is British slang for “Girl.” One theory is that this song is a scolding by John Lennon of his buddy Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, who loved to brag about his bird – Marianne Faithfull – who was great, green (jealous/young) and could sing. John made it clear that Mick and the Stones wear great but could never ever match up to John and the other Beatles...The signature dual-harmony electric lead guitar parts were played live (without overdubbing) by Harrison and McCartney. Lennon played the rhythm in the “D major” position with the capo on the second fret (to account for the song being in the key of E)...John Lennon said this was a throwaway song with random words of psychedelia added in designed to sound like it meant something. He considered it one of his worst songs. Not bad for a “junk tune”!

Last but not least here is a Spotify link to Revolver:

Sources: Wikipedia; The Beatles Bible; Songfacts; YouTube; Spotify

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21 thoughts on “Musings of the Past”

  1. John always got on my nerves when he talked bad about And Your Bird Can Sing…the riff alone is awesome. It’s a difficult riff to play…the song is a quintessential mid-sixties representation. It’s not my favorite album (thats the White Album)…but quality wise… I think it could be their best.

    Thanks for the mention Christian!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yea he loved to catch people off guard. I really don’t think he liked it that well…he said the same thing in 1970…which surprised me.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love all the little factoids you got here that I never knew before, like the cover was done by bassist Klaus Voorman. Never knew that, or about the thing called ADT. I know that Revolver had a lot of advancements in record making and sound, but I didn’t know all that specific stuff. I actually prefer Rubber Soul to Revolver, but there’s no denying how well made it is. And it was also the warm-up to the amazing production on Sgt. Pepper. I always thought it was a shame that Paperback Writer and Rain aren’t on Revolver, cuz I think they’re both better than anything on the album. Since they were from the same sessions I wonder why they didn’t make it to the final album and were put out as a single instead. Same thing with We Can Work it Out/Day Tripper, which also came out as a single that same year. Can you imagine how great Revolver would have been if it had those four songs??

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks and agree those tracks would have been great additions. I feel the same about “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” not being included on “Sgt. Pepper”. But EMI insisted that they issue these two gems as a double-A single. Of course, The Beatles had a bunch of other non-album singles.

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  3. A good writeup and classic album. To me, probably only their fourth best album …but it would be the best of the career for any other band of the ’60s I’d say. I listened to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ just a few days back and really took in the whole sound and realized just how astounding it was…both for the actual song but also for swimming entirely against the tide… it was basically a classical music piece with the singing over top. What other rock band would have dared to do that in that time?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I’ve volunteered to some of our fellow bloggers, I’m generally ranking challenged – perhaps I’m also overthinking it! 🙂

      When it comes to The Beatles, “Sgt Pepper” is my no. 1. “Abbey Road”, “Let It Be”, the “White Album” and “Revolver” would be in my top 5. But don’t ask me to put them in order! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mine goes like this:
        1. Abbey Road
        2. Sgt Pepper
        3. Magical Mystery Tour
        4. Rubber Soul
        5. Revolver

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  4. I think Revolver is the best one. I think side one of Abbey Road is pretty overrated, which I know is a bit of an oddball opinion. Leaving Rain and Paperback writer off and still making a classic album is impressive.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank goodness we don’t always have the same opinions. That would be pretty boring!

      While I feel the medley on side two of Abbey Road is the album’s highlight, I also dig tracks from Side one like “Come Together”, “Something” and “I Want You”.

      You’re certainly not alone with the opinion “Revolver” is the best Beatles album. To me, it definitely ranks among their top five.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re absolutely right, there are lots of gems on that album. Since Side 2 really is a collection of singles, I always regarded this record as more of a compilation album. But this doesn’t change the fact it’s great music!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It certainly is underrated. I always think of Magical Mystery Tour as like Part 2 of Sgt Pepper , or like an extension or a sequel. Same sound, same type of songs, same type of album cover, same quality, pretty much everything more or less.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Here’s a more oddball opinion: the best songs on side one of Abbey Road are Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Octopus’ Garden, they are brilliant. And the worst track on Abbey Road is I Want You.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a good question. Are I Want You and She’s So Heavy considered two different songs, or is She’s So Heavy just a subtitle, in parentheses?? Cuz I love the instrumental second half of the song, but not the first half. I think one is great and one is awful. I never thought of it as two separate songs put together, but it’s better when you think of it that way.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That IS a good question, and you’re pretty much right.

        According to the Beatles Bible, The Beatles recorded a first version of the tune during the Get Back/Let It Be sessions in Jan 1969 and gave it the working title “I Want You”. It further evolved over time, and in August 1969, it was renamed “‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”, and Paul and John recorded the part with the repeated “She’s so heavy” harmony vocals.

        https://www.songfacts.com/facts/the-beatles/i-want-you-shes-so-heavy

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      3. Interesting. thanks for the link. I thought it was gonna be the kind of thing where nobody really knows for sure. ha

        Liked by 1 person

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