The summer of 1966 was a glorious time to be in England. British Rail initiated full-electric passenger train services, football was becoming easier to sit through, and The Beatles released the album that sealed their status as the greatest band in the land. For drummer Ringo Starr, Revolver represented something of a personal triumph. “For me, it’s Revolver,” Starr admitted in 2014 when he was asked to nominate his favorite Beatle album. “That’s where the change happens.”
Yes, Revolver proved something of a watershed for the band, as they brought with them a series of spiraling hooks, soaring strings, and a drum-heavy monster coated with tape loops. John Lennon rarely wrote better, but the album also proved the moment when guitarist George Harrison proved he was a viable musical force unto himself, presenting songs soaked with the influence of Indian music. And then there was Paul McCartney who was opening up by presenting both the glories and failures of love.
A new reissue shows that, in 2022, Revolver holds up better than Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, largely because the band wasn’t chasing the zeitgeist, but leading it. With their rapier-sharp wit and approach to songcraft, The Beatles were growing out of the moptops that had endeared them to so many, with a newer, more sophisticated image.
Yes, drugs played a part in their creative process, but the band was so tapped into their immediate environments, they could have come up with gold without any aids.
“Here, There & Everywhere” is a gorgeous track, relying steadily on a heartfelt message and a simple strum of the guitar, while “I Want To Tell You” ached for a live stage, such was the vibrancy of the piano and bass.
That said, the band was wise to make use of the studio while they could, which is why listeners were treated to symphonic elegies (“Eleanor Rigby”), and an exotic sitar painting (“Love You To”).
For the highly-anticipated reissue, Giles Martin returned to the recordings with a keen ear but wisely lets the music do the talking. What Martin adds isn’t hindsight, but rather detail, tuning into the instrumentation to realize the performances for a younger, arguably more discerning, audience. The slap of the drums on “Taxman” against the backdrop of guitar adds an undercurrent of urgency.
But no one benefits quite like Harrison, who emerges from the remaster a changed man. Never the flashiest of guitarists, Harrison’s great strength was in his ability to recognize the little moments that change a strong ballad into a stellar recording.
From the bass that anchors the jaunty “Good Day Sunshine” to the choppy guitar hooks that center “Got To Get You Into My Life”, Harrison’s contributions were every bit as important as McCartney’s (not forgetting Starr, who — on “Tomorrow Never Knows” — channels a thunder comparable to John Bonham).
This reissue demonstrates the many contributions by Harrison that were unfairly overlooked during his lifetime. By staying true to the principles of 1966, Martin lets the band shine, and for many, including this writer, that is more than enough.
Inevitably, the box set comes with a collection of outtakes, and although some of them are rudimentary (there really are too many takes of “Paperback Writer” which didn’t make the final cut of Revolver) the album does present demos of Harrison and Lennon fleshing out their work on acoustic guitars. The ideas are there, albeit in a fragmented form. More impressively, the re-issue features a snippet of Lennon singing “Yellow Submarine”, which offers an interesting “what if” for those who like to play a game of Beatle switcheroo.
The eagerly-awaited special edition of Revolver is out on Oct.28.
Hey man, you didn’t mention Dr.Robert!
Well spotted, Vincent. Well spotted.
Yeah man, sloppy. But nice piece.
Nothing sloppy about it, just a cool guitar piece.
I was saying the writer was sloppy. The song is genius.
Or the great sounding blu-ray with all of its inventiveness….oh yeah, no bluray this time…my 7.1 sounds mighty grand, powers that be……
This is the benchmark. This album.
When these musicians became the greatest Rock Group we will ever know.
I don’t know man…Steely Dan were good too….
Damn RIGHT they were brother!
You can’t compare any band to the The Beatles. I don’t care how good they sound. The Beatles are beyond comparison.
No argument, Revolver was the definitive turning point. But the road leading to that game changer was Rubber Soul, which I’d argue is among their three best.
I am FIRMLY in this camp, too, Amanda. RS proclaimed to the universe, “We are not content to be your little lovable mop tops.”
Brace yourselves, cosmos.
I agree with Rubber Soul which was incredible. When I bought my copy of ‘Revolver’ and listened to it the first time the dis-chord of ‘I Want To Tell You’ bothered me for a long time.
There were sure some ‘game changers’ in it. I enjoyed MOST of it though. I don’t think I ever bought an album, Beatles or otherwise, where I loved every cut though…
Rubber Soul? It has Run For Your Life, which is about killing women. Yuck!
Yeah, but it also has In My Life, which is the nicest thing they ever recorded.
It’s my favourite album by them.
No, man, Sgt Peppers is the best. And I don’t think it’s cool that you mocked the album in your piece.
I agree with Vincent. Peppers is the best for a reason. We studied it in Tipperary.
Why does every writer of this generation seem to undervalue the significance of John Lennon? Everyone wants to be sad for George or make it seem like Paul WAS The Beatles-it’s simple: no John no Beatles. I love them all but time seems to have erased what John Lennon was- the coolest rocker ever.
Respectfully, John received plenty of love early on, whereas George received almost none. He was the ‘Quiet Beatle’, and compared to John and Paul both received a sliver of the musical attention or appreciation, even though his work was just as good, only not as prodigious as that of his two mates. Time isn’t erasing John’s contribution (as if that was possible!) as much as it is making things right.
Some of my all time favorite ‘Beatles’ songs were written by ‘George Harrison’!
Are you trying to sell us? He had a few gems. John and Paul had 100 each. George had 25. Wanna compare now?
I agree why does everyone pity Harrison. He learned how to write from the best two song writers in pop music history and it took him five years to match them.
Lennon deserved all the live he got cause he earned it. He formed the band for zgod sakes and dominated much of the writing on the early hits. He let Paul take over after Brian died. They were a team. Why must they be compared.
I didn’t pity George, until he was stabbed.
Lennon cheated on Cynthia. He doesn’t deserve respect.
No Stuart Sutcliffe, no Beatles.
Respectfully, I did write “Lennon rarely wrote better..”
Lennon wrote well until his death
Double Fantasy was garbage, dude.
Double Fantasy was gorgeous
Hi Eoghan, this is Manuel, from Spain. Nice article. By saying “John Lennon rarely wrote better”, do you mean his songs on “Revolver” were amongst his best? Thank you.
Hi Manuel, como estas?
Gracias por leer .
To answer your question, yes, I think the songs are among his best.
Thank you for your kind reply, Eoghan.
Yeah, yeah, yeah..
Great drumming on the album.
Paul gave us For No One, Here/There/Everywhere, Eleanor Rigby, & Got to Get You into My Life, all from this one great 33.
I know, he was on fire during this period.
Paul was on fire from 1966-1970
And from 1970 until 1982. Things went badly for Paul after that.
Well, I quite like the Flowers In The Dirt project. And Chaos and Creation is a superb album.
Don’t forget Lennon who wrote I’m Only Sleeping, Doctor Robert, And Your Bird Can Sing and Tomorrow Never Knows.
The writer is clearly a Harrison fan, not a Beatles fan.
“Revolver”. Inspiring quite the lively repartee, aye, EL? ;}
It’s my most commented on piece for CS
Cool. Then I say pour a Guiness, kick back and rock righteously to Revolver, lad.
And never mind the bollocks. ;}
Imagine Pete Best on Tomorrow Never Knows.
Never even gave it a thought.
Pete Best didn’t have the skill to be in the best band of all time. With him they wouldn’t have been. Thats why he was canned. They all knew including Martin where they were headed.
I didn’t know Best auditioned for Led Zeppelin.
He didn’t audition for Led Zeppelin. He was never on Jimmy Page’s radar.
George got as much attention as he deserved. He was definitely the junior partner and struggled to contribute meaningfully to Lennon and McCartney’s masterpeices. That’s not to say he wasn’t talented or didn’t play an important role–he was an key spice in the stew, but he wasn’t the meat.
History has revealed how many of his parts were covered by John and Paul. Even the beloved solo to Taxman was Paul in one or two takes because George couldn’t nail it.
Not true: George was delighted by Paul’s efforts, and could have played the solo himself.
Yea right.. He stormed out if the studio and didn’t return for hours. Thats what happens when you play with the best. Mccartney could do anything better.
And Paul stormed out during She Said, the fool.
George could have played the solo? Are you joking? He could only play the fool.
Guys, if any Beatle album is George album, this is it. His guitar is everywhere, and his three songs kick ass!
This writer hates Lennon. I’ve read some of his other work. He called Imagine a “poor” album. How can it be poor if it changes my life?!
“(there really are too many takes of “Paperback Writer” which didn’t make the final cut of Revolver)”
This is not correct. Paperback Writer / Rain was released as a single before Revolver was finished. The Beatles did the same with other albums. A single was released that never appeared on the LP. Strawberry Fields Forever / Penny Lane (from the Sgt. Pepper sessions) is another example. It had nothing to do with the song not making “the final cut”.
And Paul played guitar on it.
I’m surprised this review doesn’t mention the fact that Paul played bass on She Said.
Eleanor Rigby is a tune!
I love this album.
Since it came out in 1966, I’ll be the 66th comment.
Hey man, nice piece.
Let’s make it seventy!