Looking Back on RevolverThe Beatles classic Revolver turned 50 in 2016 and many fans consider it their best album. Cool, arty, and loud, it remains an inspired and exuberant combination of western and eastern influences that only a band from the United Kingdom could make. Revolver was released in August, 1966, only eight months after Rubber Soul and although there are similarities, in many ways it sounds as if it were made by an entirely different band. 

Revolver
featured knarly guitars, string quartets, booming drums, loops, electronica, horns, sitars, distortion, and extreme effects. (A microcosm no doubt of what it felt like to be chased, harassed, threatened, and loved by the population of planet Earth.) The songs were beautifully written, too. Ringo and John Lennon were only 26 at the time and McCartney had just turned 24. And George Harrison, the youngest, was 23.  (Let that sink in for a moment.)

Looking Back on RevolverMost of the tracks were performed live in only a handful of takes. There was nothing groovier or heavier in pop music in 1966 with Jimi Hendrix and the Summer of Love still a year away. (The Beatles knew Jimi but the rest of the world would have to wait until the Monterey Pop Festival.)

And compared to the fuzzy fidelity heard in the records that their rivals The Who, The Kinks, and The Rolling Stones were making,  Revolver was easy on the ears.  The sound was full, dimensional, and was mixed with so much bass that even the recent vinyl-remastering still couldn't reproduce the band's original mix without making the needle jump. Revolver is certainly the center-stone between the band's two eras and much of the album's unique timbre can be attributed to The Beatles new engineer, Geoff Emerick.

"The group encouraged us to break the rules," Emerick told Mojo. Emerick was 20 years old at the time and had just been appointed The Beatles engineer after their previous engineer, Norman Smith, had left Abbey Road to produce Pink Floyd. "It was implanted when we started Revolver that every instrument should sound unlike itself: a piano shouldn't sound like a piano, a guitar shouldn't sound like a guitar. There were lots of things I wanted to try, we were listening to American records and they sounded so different, the engineers [at Abbey Road] had been using the same [methods] for years and years."

Looking Back on RevolverThough Revolver is not the first Beatles album to feature the Epiphone Casino, the P-90-powered archtop is easily the most distinctive sound of the guitar-heavy album.  The first song that The Beatles recorded for Revolver, "Tomorrow Never Knows," seems to anticipate grunge, punk, and new wave all at once (not to mention Radiohead) and it still sounds as fresh and revolutionary as when it was made. 

The Beatles made two cool Revolver-esque singles in 1966, "Rain" and "Paperback Writer." But by the time the world absorbed this heady brew, The Beatles had already moved on to make "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever" (which producer George Martin later regretted he had included on the follow-up to Revolver,  Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).

Revolver was nearly cut at Stax Studios in Memphis until word got out and manager Brian Epstein feared for the group's safety and canceled the sessions. Recording in Memphis certainly would have made for some great tracks.  The inclusion of Booker T. & the MGs and perhaps engineer Tom Dowd on classics like "Here There & Everywhere," "Taxman" and "Got to Get You Into My Life" would have been an easy fit with a bit of piano by by Issac Hayes. How about Otis Redding and Carla Thomas on backing vocals? Some Sam & Dave harmony on "I Want to Tell You"? Maybe Rufus Thomas on "Yellow Submarine."  We can only dream.

Looking Back on Revolver

Check out the short film The Beatles made about Revolver for their Anthology plus Sir Paul and his band peforming "Paperback Writer" on his original Epiphone Casino!