2020 Album Draft- Round 2 Pick 8- Hanspostcard selects- The Beatles- Revolver.
I am delighted to be able to select in round 2- my favorite Beatles album – Revolver. In Round 1 it was down to Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Revolver- I opted to go with Astral Weeks. I have long said that my two favorite albums were those two and that it went back and forth. I think I am not firmly in the Astral Weeks as my favorite but Revolver is just a gnats eyelash behind.
I wouldn’t have said that until the late 1980’s though. Back in the mid 70’s when I was turned on to The Beatles the first two Beatles studio albums I bought were Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Revolver. They were the most famous of Beatles albums. My third was the American version of Revolver. It was certainly a fantastic album but it wasn’t until the British versions were released on CD in America in the late 1980’s that it shot up to #1 as far as my favorite Beatles album and a solid contender for Greatest Album Ever.
1966 on paper looks like the slowest of The Beatles years. There were only two singles released- “Paperback Writer”,”Rain” and “Yellow Submarine”, “Eleanor Rigby” and one album- the one I am featuring ‘Revolver.” “Revolver” was recorded from April 6 to June 21st, 1966- before all hell broke loose for The Beatles. The Beatles went on what would be their final tour- with protests and the burning of albums especially in the southern part of America, threats on their lives and finally the last straw- the Philippines which convinced them that their touring days were over- they would become a studio band the remaining years as a group. This has always in my thinking been a dividing point in The Beatles career.
Revolver was released on August 6, 1966- nearly two weeks before their final scheduled concert which took place at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
Even though when Revolver was recorded The Beatles hadn’t made the decision to end their touring- they had already become a studio group. They would play none of the songs on Revolver on that last tour. A lot of the songs on this album simply couldn’t be played live.
Badfinger20 in the review of his first pick- The Beatles White Album spoke of the variety of music on that album as a reason for choosing it. I would say the same for Revolver. There is something on this album for everyone.
Of all The Beatles albums I think this one has aged the best. It still sounds fresh. Sgt. Pepper sounds like an album the psychedelic year of 1967- Revolver sounds like it could have been recorded at any point in the past 50 plus years.
Before I forget the contributions of producer George Martin- aka The Fifth Beatle should be noted. The Beatles were now a studio band and George knew how to get the sounds that The Beatles were aiming for. I think his influence was greatest in the middle era period- “Rubber Soul” to “Sgt.Pepper.”
A note before getting into Revolver the album- The Beatles practice at the time was not to include singles on the albums- “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” recorded during the same time period would both have fit in perfectly on Revolver. Of course a vinyl album has space limits but a couple songs could have been dropped and those songs added to the album. That single is one of my favorites and “Rain” is one of my favorite Beatles songs. If it had been included on Revolver- it would have been my favorite song on the album.
Side 1- “Taxman”- one of three George Harrison written/sung songs on this album starts it all off. “Taxman” is the first Beatles protest song. At the time in England top earners- and The Beatles certainly were that- were taxed 95% of their income above the top threshold. George’s best song to date.
“Eleanor Rigby”- One of my favorite Paul McCartney Beatles songs. A song about loneliness- an aging spinster Eleanor Rigby and a lonely priest Father McKenzie who writes sermons that no one will hear. A masterpiece.
“I’m Only Sleeping”- They have said that Rubber Soul- The Beatles previous album was a pot influenced album and Revolver was an LSD influenced album- at least some of John Lennon’s songs seem influenced by LSD. John once said he was the laziest person in the world. I’ve always kind of thought of this song and “Watching The Wheels” from his final solo album Double Fantasy as kind of brothers.
“Love You Too”- George’s second song on Revolver- Hindustani classical music with sitar and tabla with Indian musicians featured. The Beatles musical influences continue to expand. Groundbreaking.
“Here, There and Everywhere”- A beautiful love song from Paul. In the early days of The Beatles while both John and Paul were writing great songs- it was more of a John dominated band- in the middle years- Rubber Soul- Revolver period it was pretty even- with Paul really upping his game. Mojo magazine in 2004 ranked this the 4th greatest song of all time. Paul wrote this late in the Revolver sessions- and has said he was influenced by hearing The Beach Boys “God Only Knows.”
“Yellow Submarine’- Ringo’s vocal on the album- and the first Beatles song I remember hearing. A kiddie sing-a-long song written by John and Paul for Ringo. A perfect fit for Ringo.
“She Said She Said”- finishing up side 1- this is a John song influenced by acid. The “I know what its like to be dead” came from actor Peter Fonda. The Beatles were hanging out in Los Angeles during their tour in August 1965- and had rented a house in Beverly Hills [swimming pools, movie stars} The Byrds were hanging out with them so was Peter Fonda. John was on an acid trip and Fonda kept talking about knowing what it was like to be dead- annoying Lennon. The last song recorded for the album.
Side 2: “Good Day Sunshine”- Another Paul song- an upbeat happy summer song dominated by Paul on the piano
“And Your Bird Can Sing”- Lennon. There is speculation he wrote the song aimed at Frank Sinatra after reading an article about him. A great sounding song.
“For No One”- another beautiful Paul song and another Paul song influenced by his relationship with actress Jane Asher. The only Beatles appearing on this song- Paul and Ringo. Alan Civil’s french horn a highlight. One of the most underrated Beatles song.
“Doctor Robert”- John’s song about a drug supplier.
“I Want To Tell You”- George’s third contribution on the album written about having an avalanche of thoughts he had but found hard to express in words. The overall strength of this album- not only the great highly acclaimed songs like “Eleanor Rigby”, “Tomorrow Never Knows”, “Here, There and Everywhere” etc- but also in the songs that don’t get the acclaim. There are no throwaway tunes on this album that just fill up a needed space. I can’t imagine this album without -every song that is on it.
“Got To Get You Into My Life”- another Paul song- all of the Paul written songs are standouts on Revolver. This was a Motown influenced song. It would be released as a single in the mid 70’s long after the break up to help promote a compilation album- but could easily have been a #1 hit if it had been released as a single in 1966.
“Tomorrow Never Knows”- the final track on Revolver- is my favorite. The title doesn’t appear in the song- it came from one of Ringo’s malapropisms. This has been called the greatest leap forward in The Beatles recording history to this point. One of the things that made The Beatles- The Beatles is they were always one step ahead of the crowd- they didn’t stick with proven formulas.They kept challenging their listeners. This isn’t a song that could be performed in concert-this was a creation of the studio. There would be more of this to come in the future.
When I first became a Beatles fan in the mid 70’s- the general consensus seemed to be that the two greatest Beatles albums were Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road- with I think the introduction of the British version of Revolver being issued in the US in the late 1980’s- that has changed- many including myself now consider Revolver to be not only the greatest Beatles album but one of the greatest albums ever- if not the greatest. I have gone back and forth from Astral Weeks to Revolver as the GOAT- and I am delighted to have both of them on my desert island!