Why 56 years later, the Beatles Revolver still amazes us | Music | Entertainment

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison of The Beatles in 1966 (Image: Getty)

In a year of landmark events, the release of the Beatles’ seventh album had to take its turn in the spotlight. Mini-skirts, thanks to Mary Quant, had become fashionable. Carnaby Street has opened its first store. A 17-year-old Cockney, Lesley Hornby, was reimagined as Twiggy and instantly became the face of young Britain.

Photographer David Bailey became a cinema legend thanks to Italian director Antonioni and his film Blow-Up. The first Star Trek episode aired and the first general purpose credit card was issued in the UK.

Famous 1960s columnist Ray Connolly says that 1966 was “the most glorious year to be British. To be young then and lucky enough to live in Britain was, in words borrowed from Wordsworth,” heaven “”.

At the center of the universe were the Beatles – now in their fourth year of fame and the world’s biggest pop phenomenon. They had conquered the world, from Japan to America, from Germany to Australia, and had won all the gold records.

Their appearance at Buckingham Palace to receive the Queen’s MBEs was a turning point in recognizing that Britain, no longer a colonial force, still had ways to conquer the world. But for John, Paul, George and Ringo, the question was: what next?

Until then, you could say the Beatles were just another boy band – the best boy band, undeniably – but not much more than smart who weaved their charm and plays them with unprecedented musicality.

It was time for a change, however, in this pivotal year and they did not disappoint. Revolver – which has been remastered and re-released – was an astonishing technological innovation, a revolutionary composition and an endless invention.

The Beatles Revolver studio album

The Beatles Revolver studio album (Picture: Wikipedia)

Although for years it was overshadowed by his younger brother, Sgt Pepper, it remains for devoted Beatles fans the best album they ever made.

In 37 days from the start of April 1966, working on four tracks at Studio Three in Abbey Road (their usual haunt, Studio Two, was being used for another project), the Fab Four produced a scorching array of new sounds. , from the electronic psychedelia of John’s Tomorrow Never Knows to the haunting violins of Eleanor Rigby de Paul, to the jaw-dropping punk of George’s Taxman.

Even Ringo’s Yellow Submarine, soon to be made into a movie, was different.

Together they changed the face of popular music and opened the doors to other British musicians desperate to escape the curse of the three-chord thing that had dominated their lives for a decade.

“Little did we know at the time that we were raising the bar for recorded music,” recalls the band’s studio engineer Geoff Emerick.

“We had absolutely no idea The Beatles were going to get even bigger than they were – it seemed impossible – but the band was absolutely driven to innovate.”

And they broke down barriers – although it wasn’t always easy. On John’s song I’m Only Sleeping, George was determined to play a backwards guitar solo. “At the best of times, he had trouble playing solos all the way through the forwards,” Emerick recalled.

“So it was with great trepidation that we settled into what turned out to be an endless day, listening to the same eight bars, played backwards over and over and over again.” It took nine hours to do the job.

Indeed, in George’s scathing musical attack on the government’s recently imposed super tax – meaning that for every million pounds earned by the Beatles, each member received less than 10,000 pounds – his fury overcame his ability to perform the all-important guitar solo on Taxman, and it was to be played by Paul.

Producer George Martin, as always, helped shape and stitch the raw songs presented to him, and many believe he reached his creative peak as the fifth Beatle by scoring a double-string quartet to accompany the timeless McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby.

Paul started with the idea that he would back acoustic guitar on the haunting song, and didn’t like the idea, fearing it sounded “too Mantovani”.

The hired classical musicians were not very enthusiastic either. In fact, they were so hesitant that they didn’t even hang around to hear the reading.

But it remains, without doubt, the masterpiece of the album.

Later in their career, bitter disagreements would erupt within the band, but Giles Martin, son of George and the mastermind behind the newly mixed and expanded special edition of Revolver, today says of the sessions he painstakingly remastered: “What I still get [listening to all the playback tapes] is that feeling of camaraderie.”

The Beatles hold a press conference at the Capitol Records Tower

Bitter disagreements would erupt within the group (Image: Getty)

Geoff Emerick agreed, recalling that while Paul was recording the vocals for Got To Get You Into My Life, John “actually sprang from the control room to shout his encouragement”.

Work was feverish during those few weeks – the band also managed to fit the single Paperback Writer and its reverse Rain into the sessions – but George Martin still found time to spend hours with John, Paul and George working on increasingly complex vocal harmonies. .

“It was a long process but the results were always spectacular – the four of them would gather around the piano for hours to practice their parts,” Emerick recalls. Ringo spent his time reading magazines or playing checkers.

The album was released in August, just days after Klaus Voormann’s (another honorary Beatle) cover was completed, and four months after they entered the studio. Ringo commented, “We worked like dogs to get it right.”

Revolver went straight to No. 1 on the album charts and stayed there for 34 weeks while critical reaction was awe.

American writer Robert Rodriguez was so struck by the amazing range of new sounds coming from vinyl that he wrote an entire book about it.

Today he says, “The making of Revolver would be nothing if the results weren’t so impactful – more so than even Sgt Pepper and Pet Sounds, Revolver directly fueled the rock ‘n’ roll zeitgeist.”

“His influence can be heard everywhere, from the psychedelic sound of San Francisco – Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead – to the first wave of post-blues hard rock – Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin – to movie soundtracks and little nearly everything that followed. More than any record before or after, Revolver was a game-changer.”

Music writer Dan Cairns agrees, citing artists such as Roxy Music, T. Rex, Slade, Queen, The Cure, and the more recent Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys as “the children of Revolver”.

Beatles biographer Hunter Davies agrees: “That was when the Beatles rewrote the script.”

Paul accepted. “When we finished Revolver we realized we had found a new British sound, almost by accident,” he recalled years later.

Beatles archivist, biographer and filmmaker Ray Connolly adds: “To me, Revolver was Paul’s masterpiece.

“I still love Eleanor Rigby, while For No One evokes timeless loneliness, and Here, There and Everywhere is the perfect classic love song. It was an album that took music in a whole new direction.”

“Overall, it’s not a bad album,” McCartney says today, with disarming understatement.

The Fab Four have finally slowed down their celebrity lives, including touring

The Fab Four have finally slowed down their celebrity lives, including touring (Image: Getty)

Outside of the studio, the Fab Four had to take on their other role as public figures, chased by fans and photographers everywhere they went.

Three of them retreated to Surrey to escape constant harassment.

In 1966 they were, according to Peter Brown, who briefly succeeded Brian Epstein as manager, “prisoners of their own fame – I felt sorry for them”.

While normal people marked turning points in their lives with births, graduations and new jobs, the days of the Beatles’ lives melted into each other in an endless series of tours and concerts, separated by short periods when they recorded another. album”.

Everything was about to change. Within weeks, the band performed their last show in San Francisco after a disaster-prone tour (although they later played a one-off gig on the roof of the Apple Corps building in Savile Row), a decision that hit Lennon hardest of all: “This seems to be the end,” he cried.

“No more touring. Life without the Beatles…it’s like there’s a black space in the future.”

This space quickly filled with other songs, other albums and eventually other careers for the Fab Four.

Their music has continued to innovate and inspire rising stars.

John was murdered in 1980 and George died of cancer in 2001, but surprisingly Ringo and Paul are still on tour, aged 82 and 80 respectively.

Their younger voices live on in the new mixes, takes and early hits that can be heard alongside the original album in the new Revolver – sounding as fresh and exciting as the day it was first released.

Put it on your turntable or iPhone and, in the words of John Lennon on his sublime closing track: “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream…”

The Beatles’ Special Edition Revolver is now available on Apple Corps

to ‘When we finished Revolver, we realized we had found a new British sound, almost by accident’, he ‘His influence can be heard everywhere. More than any record, Revolver was a game-changer’

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