In all honesty, what is there to say about The Beatles? Really. Well, for this week’s edition of Classics Revisited, I’m going to see if there is anything else to legitimately say. We have Revolver this week which, by many opinions is (mine most importantly, because I make a ton of money doing this) the seminal point in The Beatles’ career. The point at which they truly began experimentation, and the point where George Martin truly became the important cog in The Beatles machine that the average listener will typically glance over. This is the point where the studio became an instrument.
Revolver opens with the brilliant Taxman, which falls in at #3 on my list for best song on the album. This Harrison piece is an interesting look into the mind of the band at this time. Seeing as, the entire point of the tune is a crusade against (at the time) The Labor Party’s increase in taxation, and The Beatles disliked the idea of much of their royalties, etc. being taken out of their pockets, and going off to the government. Regardless, Taxman shows the increase in maturity The Beatles (specifically George; you can find more out about him later) had taken into their writing (fun fact: Many think it’s George on the solo, but it’s Paul playing the initial solo in forward motion, and then having it played backward during tracking). Taxman, after a moment of silence (fitting, I suppose), moves into Eleanor Rigby. This is my bubble pick for top three songs on the album, but I digress. The beauty behind this song is what isn’t there. The fact that McCartney (Yes, John Lennon yankers, this is truly a McCartney song. Deal with it.) came up with this depressing helping hand to the loneliest of people, and then had strings as the backing to the vocals, is truly a work of art, and continues to prove how far ahead of their time The Beatles were.
I’m Only Sleeping, the first proper incarnation of Lennon on the album, is…. interesting. Not nearly one of my one of my favorite tracks, by a long shot, but again, it gives a bit of insight into the head of John Lennon during the writing at this point in time of their career. The song suggests, as I’m sure many of you are well aware, “…please don’t wake me, no don’t shake me, leave me where I am…” Given this is the portion of time when The Beatles were beginning to question consistent touring, you can tell the feelings have begun to seep into Lennon’s writing. Love You To is another Harrison song (We’re up to TWO!) for Revolver. Additionally, this is further proof in The Beatles expansion into more sonic experimentation. Harrison, in a fit of Rain Man-like learning, having mastered sitar, goes forth to prove his multi-instrumental abilities having learned from the best, Ravi Shankar. Finally, this little mid-album trio is filled out with Here, There & Everywhere. Another McCartney creation (Paul was beginning to put on his big boy songwriting pants), this furthers his ballad writing skills from Yesterday, even more. To say this is a beautiful musical creation would be an understatement. So, you can come up with your own words for this track, and listen to it over and over. Please make sure you use it as a first dance song at your wedding, or if you’re married, take your wife outside, and dance with her to this song (lock your bedroom door, if you have kids, after this outing).
One of the… best known tracks for the uninspired listener pops up here: Yellow Submarine. It’s a Ringo creation. So… yeah. It’s a Ringo song, and they ended up developing a film by the same name. I really don’t rank this song. In fact, this is the mere reason I don’t consider this the best Beatles album. The only really neat fact about this song is that while recording in Abbey Road, the ‘underwater submarine voices’ were recorded from the tunnel-like entry way about 30 feet from the recording booth. That’s really all I have. However, and you’ll rarely hear me say this… “Thank you, John Lennon.” She Said, She Said is one of the beautiful introspective tracks on Revolver that continues the idea of maturity in the writing as time continued to pass for the band. Honestly, if it wasn’t for this track, I wouldn’t be able to get through Yellow Submarine, and I mean that sincerely.
I tried to make this shorter, but the rest of this album has some of my favorite songs by The Beatles. So, we’ll do this… Good Day Sunshine, a great McCartney number is nearly a precursor to the upbeat, near melancholic songs McCartney would be able to write later in his career. And Your Bird Can Sing is one of my favorites by The Beatles (however, not the best on the album), merely because of the liberating sense the song gives. It’s a very “Hey, thanks for keeping me down, but I’ll go about my own business,” kind of song, and I really love that about this band. Additionally, much of the instrumentation on this track are some of the best in The Beatles’ catalogue (If you get to listen to the remasters, listen to Ringo on his hi-hat… he implored).
For No One again fits into the melancholic balladry that McCartney could literally do in his sleep. It’s almost unfair. The fact that they commissioned a french hornist to play on this piano based track is a beautiful touch, and the sudden slow up, into the ending nice touch, especially if this is your first time listening, you’ll be expecting more lyrical magic from McCartney. Doctor Robert is another Lennon song that I find unnecessary, but a song like this is needed on this album. The song itself doesn’t even take itself seriously, and I think that’s the beauty of it (listen to Come Together, none of the verse lyrics make sense aside from one or two lines. Lennon once said he would write nonsense, and he knew it would be a hit because people would listen to it since they were The Beatles). Following this, George Harrison penned I Want To Tell You… Basically putting into song form, everything any person ever could think about mentioning something they dread to someone they find important.
Got To Get You Into My Life is another bubble choice for top three songs on the album. No other band would have been legitimately successful at taking an upbeat 4/4 song, and tossing a bright brass horn section, and mixing it with lyrics that sound as if they are talking about a true love. However, Got To Get You Into My Life is quite the opposite, in terms of lyrical content. This was McCartney’s first foray into writing about drugs. He has even admitted that this song is specifically about marijuana (Thanks, Bob Dylan for turning them on).
And finally, Tomorrow Never Knows. Honestly, try to take 2-3 minutes for yourself, and attempt to describe, or even properly understand this song. Every time I listen to this, I find little nooks and crannies that haven’t even been explored yet. The beauty, and centerpiece, of the caboose of Revolver, is Lennon’s vocals. With lyrics based on The Tibetan Book of The Dead, Lennon’s voice was siphoned through a rotating leslie speaker. This gives the ethereal sound we all know and love about this song (not to mention their major foray into tape loop play). The reasoning behind the leslie speaker? Lennon hated the sound of his own voice, and would literally find any way to alter it. Luckily for us, it turns out George Martin held his hand through most of his vocal hatred, and made it interesting for listeners then, and now, to tune in, turn on, and drop out (I fully understand that is not the proper usage of that ‘cliche’).
So, you’re saying to yourself, “Drew, I’ve listened to Revolver dozens of times, you’re not telling me anything new.” And I’m saying back to you, “Reader, I fully understand that! GIVE ME A BREAK.” However, I’m furthering the point that then, and now, this album is an enormous step in the direction of brilliant production (Fuck you, Phil Spector), and continued the path The Beatles walked down through their career of being originators and innovators with their music (AND FUCK YOU, ROLLING STONES). If you’ve never heard this album, why in the hell are you reading this? It’s like finding out Harry Potter dies at the end of the books without reading them!