Revolver: Tomorrow Never Knows

What Revolver did was literally shoot a bulls-eye through the very notion of what pop music was supposed to be.

1966 was a pivotal year for The Beatles. The Fab Four would release their most accomplished work to date with Revolver. Released on August 6th 1966, Revolver, like Rubber Soul, had focused on the album as a cohesive whole versus releasing three singles and the rest with filler. “Revolver” is ground breaking on many levels. From a songwriting perspective Revolver was The Beatles strongest set of songs to date. From a production standpoint the album broke new ground as to what could be done within the confines of a recording studio.

Revolver, to me, is the sister album to Rubber Soul. Rubber Soul was largely acoustic and folk influenced, Revolver is mostly rock-n’-roll driven with electric guitar feathered predominantly throughout. As with most of The Beatles’ work that would precede Revolver, we are presented with a melodically diverse album ranging from Mod-Rock with “Taxman” to bittersweet love songs a la “Here, There and Everywhere” that are followed by Lennon-esque psychedelic tracks such as “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

Revolver opens with Harrison’s track “Taxman” about Britain’s rigid tax laws. At this point in the group’s career, they were being taxed for anything and everything. The lines in “Taxman” say it all, “should five percent appear too small… Be thankful I don’t take it all.” “Taxman” proved to be Harrison’s first definitive statement as an emerging songwriter.

Track 2. “Eleanor Rigby” features a solo spot courtesy of McCartney. Originally written on acoustic, George Martin suggested that “Eleanor Rigby” be augmented by a string section. Paul felt that he wanted the string section to have a biting, rather ominous sound to help capture the mood of loneliness. By closely miking the string section and having the studio musicians play sharp jagged notes versus smooth melodic ones the string section supplies a rhythmic pulse that replaced that standard of a percussive acoustic guitar track.

Track 3. “I’m Only Sleeping” is a dreamy track written and sang by Lennon. “IOS” features the use of backwards guitar, most notably the first time backwards guitar had appeared on a popular recording. Written from the perspective of escapism, Lennon sings about sleeping the day away in order to avoid the humdrum and mad-dash of daily life. At this point in The Beatles career there was plenty of chaos to be had. Lennon naturally would pass the time by sleeping the day away.

Track 4. “Love You To” was Harrison’s first recording to feature a predominantly eastern sounding backing track, with quasi-eastern mysticism featured lyrically throughout the track. Harrison first introduced the use of sitar on Rubber Soul’s “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown.)” “LYT” proved to be the natural progression past the lone sitar of NW to the full on eastern backing band on “LYT.”

Track 5. “Here, There and Everywhere” is a bittersweet love song written and performed by McCartney. With the tracks sweeping melody and saccharine backing vocals, “Here, There and Everywhere” sounds eerily like a lost Beach Boys track. McCartney has always been an avid supporter as well as fan of the Beach Boys, specifically their chief songwriter Brian Wilson. “Here, There and Everywhere” is very much McCartney’s tribute to the influence that the Beach Boys had on The Beatles own music thus far.

Released a year before the summer of love, Revolver presaged the musical explosion that would be presented throughout 1967. Up until the release of Revolver, pop music was still mainly focused on throwaway 3 minute tracks about love and loss. With the release of Bob Dylan’s groundbreaking Highway 61 Revisited, as well as The Beach Boys Pet Sounds, musical acts begun to take notice and plot to expand pop music’s lexicon.

What Revolver did was literally shoot a bulls-eye through the very notion of what pop music was supposed to be, with raucous Rock ‘N’ Roll (Taxman), bittersweet ballads (Here, There and Everywhere), psychedelic mantras (Tomorrow Never Knows) children’s songs (Yellow Submarine), power pop (And Your Bird Can Sing), the caustic wit of Lennon (I’m Only Sleeping), and the storytelling genius of McCartney (Eleanor Rigby).

After the release of Revolver, things would never be the same for The Beatles, as well pop music as a whole.

Sgt. Pepper has often enjoyed the lofty claim as The Beatles best album, however within the past few years Revolver has now taken the top spot at The Beatles cannon. Sgt. Pepper might have been rock’s first concept album, but Revolver proved to be rock’s first experimentally eclectic statement released to the general public.

Musical trends come and go, newer sounds emerge from old styles, and inspiration is found from varying stylistic risks taken from past groundbreakers; Revolver remains an influential and timeless piece of pop art that is as relevant as well as influential today as the day of release.

Sgt. Pepper, released in ’67, would be the last album that The Beatles would record as a band. The Fab Four would go onto release what I claim to be Revolver’s natural successor with Abbey Road, which would be the death knell of the group. The four would go onto successful solo careers, however the unity displayed on Revolver would never be felt again by us as listeners and by The Beatles themselves.

The Beatles gave us a lot of love during their reign over pop music’s golden decade, and we never failed to give it back. I will close with McCartney’s infamous goodbye at the end of Abbey Road.

“The love you take is equal to the love you make.” ~ The End

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