Revolver represents the biggest leap into the unknown that The Beatles ever undertook. The gulf between it and Rubber Soul is larger for me than that between any other consecutive albums they released. But was it a leap forwards? To me, it was a diagonal jump into unchartered, experimental territory: the result was perhaps their most fascinating, curious, daring – and yet, to my mind, over praised – collection of recordings. As stepping stones go it is a stupendously impressive piece of work. But as I said on the Rubber Soul thread, it disjointedly pulls in different directions, explores and then retreats from tantalising open doors, and lacks the coherent, thematic feel of the albums which preceded and followed it. A real curate’s egg in my opinion.Taxman
was a splendidly spiky opener. I always feel that the count in is a sly nod back to their debut LP’s opening...a hint that we are about to experience a sort of rebirth for the group. And so it proves. George’s biting lyrics and wonderfully sour vocal bemoaning the exorbitant income tax levels in the UK at the time encompass a sarcastic sideswipe at leading politicians, complemented by terrific harmonies from John and Paul and with a truly jaw dropping lead guitar solo from McCartney. Add to that John’s rhythmic influence and some exemplary dovetailing between Paul’s bass and Ringo’s wonderfully stuttering drumbeat pulse (and the pleasingly continued presence of the tambourine, which had been used to such wonderful effect throughout Rubber Soul) and the result is perhaps more of an ensemble effort than is sometimes acknowledged, although composer George rightly takes the main credit for the impact of this crackling track.Eleanor Rigby
is justifiably lauded as a Beatles standard in my opinion. Paul’s forte – inventing characters and then colouring intriguing little chapters of their lives within the format of a song – was never better realised than here, with its disturbing (almost creepy) references to faces in jars, unheeded priests and a doom (spiritual or otherwise) from which no one was saved...this was impressively mature social commentary with a cutting edge, saved from morbidity by a lyrical conscience and wrapping the potent message of loneliness and abandonment in a fragile, frosty blanket of orchestral strings... once again the influence of George Martin elevates a great song into a true classic. The lyrics are sublime (easy to forget that McCartney was just 23 years old when he wrote this!)... Paul embraces their grim fatalism with a masterly vocal performance and the overlapping refrain at the finale was a masterstroke.I’m Only Sleeping
- a shiveringly somnolent double tracked vocal triumph from John, embellished with George’s dreamily slurred backwards guitar parts, a hypnotic, sleepwalking drum and hushed cymbals by Ringo and a wonderfully drowsy, tip-toe bass line from Paul; all in all one of the album’s stronger and most distinctive tracks. This song has an almost fairytale quality and casts a sonic web from which I always find it impossible to escape. An altogether enchanting piece of brilliance and a strong contender for my personal favourite Revolver track, although I’ve never been completely happy with the jumbled, varispeed, Indian flavoured fade out. Love You To
– love you to what? Always puzzled me that! I’m not a big fan of Harrison’s Indian music but his dour vocal succeeds in threading its way deftly through some rather hypnotic tabla and sitar, providing a curiously spellbinding drone around which a truly absorbing tapestry of Eastern sound develops. There are some intriguing shifts in tempo but I find this track rather weak in comparison to the three previous numbers. Commendable in introducing us to his new fascination with Eastern mysticism – and featuring some fairly profound lyrics (a sort of spiritual ‘Think For Yourself’) this track leads us off on a tangent. Not bad but not great.Here There And Everywhere
– yes it’s beautiful – gorgeous in fact - and a finer example of combined three part vocal harmonies is hard to find amongst the Beatles’ catalogue. Love the quiet little finger clicks. Paul succeeds in delivering a charming lead vocal albeit for my taste a little too near the top end of his impressive range. It never does get cloying but it strays a little too close for comfort here and there (but not everywhere!
). Once again I feel I am being led off in another direction (it does rather slow the momentum as tkitna says) and the cleverly spun threads of the three powerful opening tracks are being dissolved and unwound. This lovely song (yes, John adored it.. and I have also read that Paul himself claimed it as his own favourite from his formidable canon of work) would have been so much more at home on Rubber Soul (or would the sugary overload have been a little too much alongside ‘Michelle’ and ‘Girl’?)... it always feels a bit misplaced and too conventional for this outrageously experimental album.The volume pedal guitar tone at the end rounds it off nicely. Yellow Submarine
– the obligatory SingalongaRingo number had to be slotted in somewhere but sandwiched between a fragile, romantic McCartney lullaby and a blistering slice of Lennon psychedelia, the bumpy rollercoaster of Revolver side one is almost derailed by this jaunty children’s anthem. It’s The Beatles, so I won’t knock it...but it sits uncomfortably amidst the polished and cutting edge bedfellows of this eyebrow raising LP. The nautical sound effects – crashing waves, jangling chains, bubbled water, various bells and hooters, plus John’s zany Pythonesque vocal echo on the last verse conjure up a mild, temporary distraction from that eventually grating, repetitive chorus. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a kids’ song, and only Ringo could get away with it I suppose. I’m still fed up with it though.She Said She Said
– a real tour de force and a superb climax to side one of the album. Ringo’s drumming is awesome on this one – did he ever better it? Lennon’s acid soaked paranoia manifests in a spectacular, soaring vocal against some quite breathtaking lead guitar playing from George, whose harmony vocal lends real texture to the song and perfectly complements John’s lead. A whirligig of jangling guitars, thunderous drums, and lyrics which grapple with profound concepts of fear and mortality combine to deliver us one of the very best tracks from Revolver.Good Day Sunshine
– The Beatles could no longer be accused of dishing up “filler” material any more – even ‘Yellow Submarine’ was consciously rolled out as light relief, a deliberate nod and a wink towards puncturing the growing profundity – and yet ‘Good Day Sunshine’ ranks alongside the Ringo track as the weakest song on the album for my money. I get irritated at those who disparage the so called simplicity of the early radio-friendly, catchy love songs of The Beatles (‘She Loves You’ was a pop masterpiece, and I defy anyone to say otherwise) but by the time of Revolver we really expected more than “I love her and she’s loving me” and “I’m in love and it’s a sunny day”. Lyrically embarrassing it fails to be redeemed by a catchy tune – instead we have a plodding, plink-plonk piano, a bland vocal and a very very
irritating chorus. Its inclusion severely dents the credibility of Paul’s overall contribution to the album in my opinion. This – even more than 'Here There And Everywhere' – is what signals McCartney’s reluctance to launch headlong into the refreshingly adventurous soundscapes opening up in the studio. John’s self absorbed yet charismatic “up yours” streak which increasingly prompted him - irrespective of mainstream popular tastes - to dabble with things which pleased and fascinated him
rather than his fans (thereby paradoxically attracting legions of admirers, George Harrison among them) was counterbalanced by Paul’s more cautious and pragmatic work ethic and a need to be loved (he’s always underrated himself and tried too hard to please, in my opinion). The man capable of sublime brilliance like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ could do so much better than ‘Good Day Sunshine’.And Your Bird Can Sing
– fascinating how some people regarded this one as filler (including John himself by all accounts). For me it could easily be held up as the quintessential track on the album – not the best track, but the one which most succinctly distils the overall flavour of the LP. When I think of “Revolver” this is usually the song that first springs to mind. Why? Well, it has those densely intricate jangling guitars which are a trademark of (Lennon’s cuts on) this album, and indeed are the most overridingly memorable sound signature of Revolver. A lovely tune (if we can agree that Paul is an underrated lyricist -and I still believe he is, despite my dislike of the previous track) then John was always capable of melodies the equal of anything Paul could offer. There is a beautiful lilt to this song, (actually more evident in the earlier takes from Anthology and elsewhere) and John’s vocal, together with Paul’s harmony, are superb as usual. The lyrics are suitably oblique but I love the way John knowingly sings “You don’t ‘get’ [as in ‘understand’] meeeeee” – quite brilliant. Another fairly ambiguous ending, the tune kind of fizzles out at the finish.For No One
– I will admit to being fairly ambivalent towards this track. The French Horn solo really boosts it and adds real poignancy and depth. And the song pinpoints the forlorn hopelessness of a dead relationship with almost painful precision. The trouble is it does its job too well... lacking the torment and anguish of other songs which chronicle broken relationships (notably ‘Ticket To Ride’) the song itself has an appropriately hollow, loveless feel to it and is just too numb, cold and empty to engage me. Hard to put my finger on, but I suppose it treads too fine a line between being a haunting elegy...and a miserable dirge. It doesn't really fail, yet it never quite triumphs either. It’s no more despondent than ‘Eleanor Rigby’ yet it lacks that song’s compassion. Once again, the song concludes hanging in mid-air...becoming something of a trademark on Revolver and indicative of the album’s curious habit of leaving doors ajar and hinting at what might lie beyond.... Doctor Robert
– I am mystified as to why this one appears to be so unpopular with so many of you. Apart from on this forum I have never encountered anything but praise for it. Once again it combines Revolver's calling card vibrant guitar and gliding lead vocal (I’m less keen on Paul’s high offbeat harmonies here). Love the way the “Well well well...” interlude snaps back into the main theme - an infectiously funky rhythm which for me means it can confidently hold its own alongside any of the other Lennon tracks on Revolver.I Want To Tell You
– George returns for a hitherto unprecedented third outing on a Beatles LP. It’s a celebration of enlightenment (similar to ‘The Word’) successfully conveying the frustration of the quiet Beatle who actually had a lot to say. His rapidly expanding consciousness struggled to keep pace with and digest the accelerating cascade of influences and inspirations now coming through thick and fast...and about to take George to new horizons towards which the other Beatles would follow him with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It’s no classic but it’s a decent track, lyrically intriguing. I do like the way it fades in. It’s better than ‘Love You To’ but not up there with ‘Taxman’ for me. Again I’m not keen on Paul’s deviant vocal harmony at the end, and the piano jars somewhat. Got To Get You Into My Life
– Macca meets Motown...and Paul is confidently back at the top of his game. A superb slab of gutsy soul music, complete with blistering brass and killer sax, this has to be one of the LP’s highlights and aside from the double A sided single, is probably the most familiar and widely covered track on the album. It’s a barnstorming performance by Paul with a thrilling vocal which builds over a tautly mounting verse before erupting into a booming chorus. One of the coolest tracks the Beatles ever recorded. Tomorrow Never Knows
– Although it commits the cardinal sin (for a Beatles' number) of failing to be instantly addictive on first hearing, I can’t dispute that, in terms of breaking new ground and opening up new vistas this track is remarkable. Ringo’s hypnotic, booming war drum and those quite spectacular tape loops (all four Beatles contributed them) with the mellotron set as a flute and that flock of alien seagulls wheeling back and forth... it's pretty breathtaking when you stick the headphones on and close your eyes. I never regard it as a song... nor a tune... more of a chant, and thanks to John's vision, the improvisational brilliance of George Martin and the application of studio wizardry with compression, masses of echo and automatic double tracking we are left with an undeniably astonishing “soundscape”...
In its own way, ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is as overrated as ‘Yesterday’ in my opinion. No other Beatles recording attracts more pretentious “Emperor’s Clothes” style overblown bullsh*t and blinkered praise than this one. Even its position as closing track on the album is reverentially held up (in hushed awe) as “pointing the way” to the future. In fact it was a bored, drug-addled Lennon’s LSD drenched attempt to set Timothy Leary and the Tibetan Book Of the Dead to music, and peered over the edge of oblivion (remember its working title was ‘The Void’) before thankfully retreating and not going back there. Very "different" I will admit. But noisy, at times monotonous... and I dislike John’s over amplified yet annoyingly muffled vocal. The Spike Milligan type piano fade out was a suitably confused ending to an album which never really decided exactly where it was going.
1966 was a curious, schizophrenic year for The Beatles. They were still topping the charts whilst some radio stations banned and burned their records. The crowds still screamed yet the tours were becoming shambolic. On the one hand they were still trotting around the world on tour, singing old chestnuts like ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’, ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘I Feel Fine’ in matching stage suits and delivering cheeky sound bites at witty press conferences, or miming to their latest number one hit on ‘Top Of The Pops’. On the other hand they were taking LSD and holed up in the studio recording backwards tape loops and concocting futuristic sonic masterpieces about death, politics and mystical philosophy with violinists and Indian musicians. Like their year, Revolver itself was an equally unsettling chimera... a patchwork quilt where sentimental ballads and goofy singalongs rubbed shoulders with echo-laden drug references, tablas and droning sitars... a real mixed bag if ever there was one. Things were evolving apace and something really would have to give.