The Beatles were one of the most, if not the most, popular rock bands in music history. Though they have been around for almost sixty years now, they remain as popular as ever, with older fans, as well as young fans also. It amazes me how many young fans, some of whom are barely teens, have developed an interest and a love for the Beatles music. They transcend time and cultural differences with the same relevance they had all those years ago when the world was a very different place. The reason that I begin reviewing the Beatles at Revolver, is because of the significance that it has as being arguably the first ever truly psychedelic record. This particular record is considered by many to be the very beginning of the psychedelic music genre. Though I enjoy all of the Beatles records, Revolver begins a dramatic shift from music made to entertain, to music with a message, beyond that of falling in love, or having a good time, or hanging out with friends. This is where music takes a turn to attempt to explain what is going on in people’s lives in the particular time of the middle to late sixties, a beginning of the counterculture. And the music still holds up.
With the release of Revolver in August of 1966, first in the United Kingdom, then three days later in the United States, the Beatles opened the door for new ways that bands could record. Revolver was all about experimentation, and even though the Beatles began the process of exploring new ways to record with their previous album Rubber Soul, Revolver really got their creative juices flowing. Many of the processes used on this album would be the first ever used in a recording studio, and would be used by other bands in the future, eventually becoming standard practice. By this time the Beatles were all basically done touring, so they could put their total effort and concentration in the recording studio.
The album starts out with Taxman, George Harrison’s complaints about how high tax rates were forced to be paid by wealthy earners, some of which were as much as 95%. And because the Beatles fell into this category, this song was a rebellion against what was considered to be an unsustainable way to live. Harrison wrote three songs on Revolver, more than on any previous Beatles record.
The next song was Eleanor Rigby, a song about loneliness. The lyrics make this very apparent, and it is a good song and was one of the hits of the record. Next came one of my favorite songs on the album, I’m Only Sleeping, with smooth vocals by John Lennon and some of the new recording techniques that were used on the record. I get the feel that this song is talking about the similarities between sleep and dreaming and the effects of LSD that were a relatively new found experiment that some of the Beatles partook in at the time of this recording. It could be said that this was one of the experiments that gave the album it’s psychedelic flare.
Some of my favorite, and most innovative songs on Revolver, is the use of instrumentation that are a staple of Indian music, such as tambura and sitar. These are Harrison’s contributions to the record, and they are some of the first uses of this type of instrumentation used in rock and roll. Harrison used the sitar on the previous album, Rubber Soul, that was his beginning of the use of these eastern instruments on the song Norwegian Wood. It was the use of these instruments, obscure to western ears until the Beatles use of them in the middle sixties, that made Revolver so unique.
Then there is Ringo Starr’s contribution to the record, written by Paul McCartney, Yellow Submarine. A song I vividly remember listening to when I was four or five years old. That is how much of an impression the Beatles had on me, even at such an early age.
The remainder of Revolver has great material, with my favorite song being the last one, Tomorrow Never Knows. This song uses much of the experimentation stated before, and is considered by some, as well as me, as the most complex and innovative song in the Beatles catalog up to this point in their career. This brings the album full circle as a statement of ingenuity and experimentation that will continue to be used by musicians to this day.
Due to copyright issues, finding original Beatles songs on Youtube is tough to do. Therefore we must either listen to the radio, or purchase their music on other forms of media.