The Beatles - Revolver

by Ljubinko Zivkovic Rating:10 Release Date:1966-08-05

Here we are, 50 years after The Beatles Sgt. Pepper album hit the shelves across the world, the celebrations that included a series of lavish reissues all around us, and we are discussing Revolver, the album that preceded it as one of the albums that defined the Sixties. Did any of these Beatles albums define just the Sixties? Which one is better?  While the answer to the first question is practically undebatable as far as pop/rock music is concerned, it is also undebatable as the modern music of any kind is concerned. But what about the other one?

Leaving the answer to that one for a moment, let us see what we are dealing with here as far as track by track is concerned first:

Taxman is probably the best George Harrison rocker he has written. Ever. It also probably signals the largest Harrison involvement in any of The Beatles albums as his touch could be heard in some other Lennon/McCartney compositions on the album (I’m Only Sleeping, for example). His grievances about the taxing system remain some of the most referred to in modern music.

Eleanor Rigby is probably the pinnacle of McCartney’s use of his feelings, touch, and knowledge of classical music and composition. It was supposedly inspired by the orchestration used by Brian Wilson on The Beach Boys Pet Sounds album, but McCartney nowhere or in any way emulates Wilson and his approach but brings something that was not used to that extend in pop before.

Although more or less everybody touts Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds as the ultimate pop song dealing with drug experience, that title definitely goes to I’m Only Sleeping. Lennon’s lazy melody and vocals underpinned by Harrison’s sitar perfectly describes the daze and drug induced daydreaming.

Love You To is Harrison in his Indian exploration mood and it is at least on par with the excellence of Pepper’s Within You, Without You.

And then comes Here There And Everywhere, probably one of the best three ballads in modern music. Period. Again, this song was also supposedly inspired by the brilliant Brian Wilson tune Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), but then, who cares? And if it is, the accent could solely be put on giving an idea on how to construct a perfect ballad.

Many discard Yellow Submarine as a joke given as a token singalong to Ringo, disregarding the fact that it is one of the harbingers of the things to come, namely the Sgt. Pepper album. Usually it is the same people that vehemently insist that Pepper is the best Beatles album.

She Said, She Said has probably one of the most complicated song structures imaginable and is coupled with some of the best harmonies The Beatles came up with. Simple and complicated at the same time, it came up with perfection.

Good Day Sunshine sees the band at full ease at what they have done so far in crafting their art. Perfect melody, instrumentation and vocals, no more no less.

And Your Bird Can Sing trumps She Said, She Said in coming up with a complicated melody line that sounds so deceptively simple. Some so called progressive bands like Yes would probably kill to have come up with a song like that.

For No One is a kind of a McCartney answer to Lennon’s Here There And Everywhere, one of the best ballads around, the brief brass embellishment and piano backing just prove the point that almost always less is more.

Doctor Robert is yet another proof that The Beatles always had all the element of what constitutes a brilliant rock song in their small fingers, with impeccable harmonies that at moments bring in their knowledge of soul too.

I Want To Tell You says more about what psychedelic pop should sound like than a dozen other songs, bands like Spirit built great albums like Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus inspired by it.

Got To Get You In My Life could freely be cited as the inspiration for the so called brass rock craze that came a few years along the way, on which bands like Chicago built their careers.

Tomorrow Never Knows is the perfect sign of the psychedelic times with its backward tapes and Harrison sitar, representing a perfect closer to an absolutely perfect album.

The debate on whether Revolver is better than Sgt. Pepper album will rage on, even though, for many reasons, it is useless. As the band said themselves, the title Revolver has more to do with the revolving of musical and lyrical ideas than with a weapon. On the other hand, in many ways, it represented a shot from a revolver. It spearheaded the innovation in rock music based on what The Beatles did beforehand themselves, particularly on the Rubber Soul album, but also getting inspiration from the musicians that brought innovation themselves (Wilson).

The fact is that Revolver is not only one of the best albums ever, but the best Beatles album that is a collection of individual songs. And in effect, it was their last collection of individual songs. Sgt. Pepper was a concept album and could be the best, as such.

The important thing to have in mind is that of the three key and best Beatles albums, Revolver is the only one that is complete in the sense that it includes all the songs that it was supposed to. Due to the itch of the manager to come up with singles while the band was not touring and busy in the studio recording, both Rubber Soul and Sgt. Pepper are missing some of the key songs intended for those albums - Paperback Writer/Rain were omitted from Rubber Soul and Strawberry Field Forever/Penny Lane did not end up on Sgt. Pepper as they were intended to (check out Howard Goodall’s brilliant BBC documentary on the creation of Sgt. Pepper). If this would have found their way on the intended albums, the debate on which The Beatles album is the best would have a different shape, but would certainly not see an end to it.

All that went on afterwards was either a patch-up job of The Beatles effort as a group (Magical Mystery Tour) or a number of brilliant albums by individuals that still called themselves The Beatles. For proof, some songs that were recorded during the sessions for The White Album not only ended up on the remaining two albums under The Beatles name, but on solo albums by both McCarney (Junk on his first solo album) and Lennon (Child of Nature with different lyrics ended up as A Jealous Guy on Imagine).

While the debate may never end, the magnitude of the shot The Beatles delivered with Revolver will never be diminished. 

Overall Rating (1)

5 out of 5 stars