Revolver at 50: The Most Important Beatles Record

On the official 50th Anniversary of the release of the sixth studio record by The Beatles, Revolver (EMI, 1966), SFN‘s Editor-in-chief Jack Cinnamond gives his overall opinion on the legendary record and why he thinks it was the Fab Four‘s most important record. 

When time came for The Beatles to record their sixth record named Revolver, they had changed in significant ways personally to reflect on the music. They now had three primary great songwriters, especially now with George Harrison‘s interest with Indian and other world culture and The Beatles‘ fascination with hallucinogenic drugs like LSD and acid.

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The Beatles recording the album in Abbey Road studios, early 1966.

The album defines what the later Beatles sounded like, especially as a pre-cursor of the late sixties rock, most importantly how psychedelia would increase within music following Revolver. From the sarcastic Harrison penned “Taxman” to the Lennon psychedelic-tinged “Tomorrow Never Knows”, it’s a mass varied album with almost every style The Beatles would ever tackle on one record.

“It’s a song that goes regardless if it’s the sixties, seventies, eighties or nineties,”

The opening song, “Taxman”, a psychedelia-tinged “attack” song on the high-rate taxes of mid-sixties England and written by George Harrison no-doubt. It’s a eternal song, as noted by Harrison when he started to include it in his last setlists, “It’s a song that goes regardless if it’s the sixties, seventies, eighties or nineties”. Overall however, “Taxman” is one of the most complete Beatles song in their mass-catalogue, especially in Paul McCartney‘s. His bass work is airless, tight and is magnificent throughout but the band played along with an early fact that they’d never play live again (well, not until the Apple gig), Paul also played the high lead guitar and even included a slight-nod to Indian themes with his solo, just for George.

The album took a straight turn from “Taxman” with the slow, double string-quartet (arranged by the now-late George Martin) for the slow, gloomy song about the fate of the elderly, “Eleanor Rigby”. It’s a song later known by everyone, as can be consider one of The Beatles‘ most-known, but it itself proves why the band reached far more than a standard pop audience with it’s strong theme. It’s possibly the most important song on the album, it marks the shifting sands that showed The Fab Four move from their live performance style to a straight-forward studio act that played around with every tool they had.

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The middle of the album, featuring “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Love You Too”, “Here, There and Everywhere” and “Yellow Submarine” is very similar to the second side of the penultimate Beatles record Abbey Road (EMI, 1969) it flies by when listening through with a series of songs that aren’t held up as-often as they should, excluding the ever-lasting “Yellow Submarine”, Ringo Starr‘s only effort on the album and featured a host of uncredited guests from Brian Jones (leader of the Rolling Stones) to Donovan to The Beatles‘ chauffeur Alf Bicknell.

Following that foursome comes “She Said She Said”, a psych powered song about the time The Beatles, The Byrds and Peter Fonda did LSD. For those who always throw their hat into the ring saying that “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” is their LSD-led song, that’s untruthful, “She Said She Said” safely falls under that category.

The song is followed by the happy “Good Day Sunshine”, obviously inspired by songs such as “Daydream” by The Lovin’ Spoonful just spreads good feelings for two short minutes. It’s not an overbearing “classic” by the Beatles, but shows their skill of effortlessly creating music so charming. “And Your Bird Can Sing”, the pop-heavy song written as a “throwaway” by Lennon, who later dismissed the song, it’s very memorable for the duel-melody of guitars by Harrison and McCartney and it’s cryptic lyrics often referring to incidents and gatherings between The Beatles and people like Mick Jagger (of the Rolling Stones), Bob Dylan and others.

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Photograph via NME.

The poignant “For No One” and the psychedelic songs “Doctor Robert” and “I Want To Tell You” follow nicely, continuing to show the album’s varied cause. “Got To Get You Into My Life” is the second-last on the record, showcasing the simple rock that the Beatles were known for early on, but this time with a large brass section.

Ending the album was the experimental, psychedelic standard titled “Tomorrow Never Knows”. With Lennon‘s voice placed through a loudspeaker made for organs, Ringo Starr‘s all-over-the-place constant drum pattern and Harrison‘s sitar playing with a backwards guitar solo from McCartney. It’s a standard in the catalogue of the Beatles, and is often shown as one of the first of the incoming psychedelic rock scene.

Overall, Revolver could be the most important album in the Beatles history, showcasing the sudden change from songs that work live to a full studio sound with experimental ideas and contributions from the band members that weren’t Lennon-McCartney, especially a push for George Harrison who strived to prove he could write songs just as-good as they could. The record pushed that psych envelope also, a brand new idealism based around hallucinogenic drugs that allowed The Beatles among many other bands explore a new sound held together by their own shrinking-and-growing minds.


Words by Jack Cinnamond, Featured Artwork by an unknown artist via The Beatles Art

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