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The history of this classic Beatles album



The original front cover of "Revolver"



Working titles: Abracadabra, Magic Circles, Four Sides of the Eternal Triangle, Beatles on Safari, Pendulum
Recorded: April 6-8, 11, 13-14, 16-17, 19-22, 26-29, 1966; May 5-6, 9, 16, 18-19, 26, 1966; June 1-3, 6, 8-10, 14, 16-17, 21, 1966 (Studio 2, Abbey Road Studios, London, England}
Mixed: April 26, 1966; May 6, 16, 19, 1966; June 3, 6, 9, 17, 21, 1966
Length: 35:01
Produced by George Martin
Engineered by Geoff Emerick
Mixed by George Martin and Geoff Emerick
Cover art by Klaus Voormann
First released: August 5, 1966
  • Revolver UK: Parlophone PMC 7009, August 5, 1966 (mono)
  • Revolver UK: Parlophone PCS 7009, August 5, 1966 (stereo)
  • Revolver US: Capitol T 2576, August 8, 1966 (mono)
  • Revolver US: Capitol ST 2576, August 8, 1966 (stereo)
  • "Yesterday"... and Today Capitol T 2553, June 15, 1966 (mono)
  • "Yesterday"... and Today Capitol ST 2553, June 15, 1966 (stereo)
  • Revolver (CD) UK: Parlophone CDP 7 46440 2, April 30, 1987
  • Revolver (CD) US: Capitol C1-90452, July 28, 1988
  • Revolver (CD) remastered: US: Capitol 82417, September 9, 2009
Highest chart position: UK: 1 (7 weeks beginning August 13, 1966); US: 1 (6 weeks beginning September 10, 1966)
  • The cover of the Beatles' seventh album was vastly different than those that preceded it: the band had left its name off the sleeve before with Rubber Soul, but now their pictures had gone as well, leaving behind a scrapbook of images and pieces of images that were merely part of a larger line drawing. Appropriate, because the Beatles were literally starting to outgrow their image -- no longer bound by what was expected of them, their public persona was now just a small fragment of how they saw themselves. The transformation from band to cultural experiment wouldn't fully take place until their next album -- which is why the artwork, while decidedly trippy, was also in stark black and white. But it had begun.
  • Nevertheless, Revolver is considered the first of the band's "psychedelic" albums, and, surprisingly enough, has come to supplant even Sgt. Pepper as the band's best album in many critical minds, partly because it's not tied into a specific "youth movement," but also because it's representative of everything the band did, not just one {admittedly stunning} facet. It's got rockers, protest songs, chamber music, ethereal ballads, bad trips, snarky jabs, rich character portraits, Indian ragas, and even a children's song. And it does it all in a little over half an hour.
  • 1966 was the only year Revolver could have appeared in, not just because of the massive changes already underway in their target audience but also due to the band's increasing distance from them. In March, John made his infamous "bigger than Jesus" remark to a UK interviewer, which would explode in America that August; the Fab Four had also begun to speak out against the Vietnam War, against the express wishes of manager Brian Epstein; that June, the group confounded and shocked audiences with the original "butcher cover" artwork for "Yesterday"... and Today {see below}; and a supposed snub of the Marcos family while touring the Philippines in July led to an incident that scared the group badly.
  • The short August '66 tour of America was destined to be their last. Afterwards, the Beatles would assume different personas and identities at will, then begin to fragment for good. Revolver was a document of the world's changing consciousness -- not so much a manifesto against the end of formal institutions as a celebration of possibilities. It's arguably the last Beatles album where the members' visions were not only balanced, but working together in perfect unison.
  • On March 25, 1966, the Beatles sat down with avant-garde photographer Robert Whitaker for a session he named "A Somnambulant Adventure," hoping to get a cover for their upcoming single, "Paperback Writer" b/w "Rain." In it, the group was photographed in several strange settings, all intended to symbolize the group's (and art's} relationship to the world around it. The Beatles' favorite of these settings was one where the group, surrounded by raw meat and filthy baby doll heads, wore butcher's smocks and brandished meat cleavers. Though their expressions made it obvious that they considered the whole shoot in good fun, when the best of the shots was chosen for the cover of the US compilation album "Yesterday"... and Today, it sparked an immediate outrage, not helped by the fact that the group had already taken out print ads featuring the image. Capitol quickly went to work pasting over copies of the first pressing with an innocuous image of the group sitting in and around a steamer trunk; today an original "butcher cover" of the album, released as is or with the "trunk" cover steamed off, is one of the most valuable collector's items in rock.
  • Capitol once again turned Revolver into two albums for American release, but in a unique way -- it took the unusual step of releasing three of the upcoming tracks ahead of the album, on a compilation called "Yesterday"... and Today, and simply not replacing them with other songs on the US version of Revolver. As a result, not only is Revolver significantly shorter than other Beatles albums in its US configuration, the three songs taken for "Yesterday"... and Today, having been mixed early for release, have different mixes than they do on the UK version of Revolver. (Rumors circulated for years that the band had deliberately selected the "butcher cover" to protest just this sort of "butchering" of their albums by Capitol, but this is entirely untrue.)
  • Paul was a bit upset when first hearing the finished product on tour in Germany, feeling sure the whole album was out of tune and would need to be recorded again. The band reassured him this was not true.
  • This is the first Beatles album to employ outside session musicians, to feature famous friends on backing vocals ("Yellow Submarine"), the first to use tape loops, backwards guitar solos, and artificial double-tracking, the first to run a vocal through the Leslie speaker of the Hammond organ, the first to feature songs about drugs and about fictional characters, and the first with new engineer Geoff Emerick, replacing departed engineer Norman "Hurricane" Smith, who would go on to produce Pink Floyd's early albums.
  • Rock scribe Martin Lewis, in a 1971 Disc magazine article, claimed there were two Revolver outtakes never heard by most fans -- a John song called "Colliding Circles" and George's own "Pink Litmus Paper Shirt." This was exposed as a hoax by Martin decades later.
  • Revolver upped the ante on a friendly rivalry between the group and Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson -- he'd been inspired to create Pet Sounds after hearing Rubber Soul, and this was the group's response, in part, to Pet Sounds. When Brian heard Revolver, he went to work on the infamous SMiLE project, but it was derailed by his band's indifference and his own worsening mental state, and it sat unfinished for decades. Rumor has it he also thought the group's next single, "Strawberry Fields Forever," had beaten him to the punch.

Side One:

  1. Taxman (2:39)
  2. Eleanor Rigby (2:08)
  3. I'm Only Sleeping (3:02)
  4. Love You To (3:01)
  5. Here, There and Everywhere (2:26)
  6. Yellow Submarine (2:40)
  7. She Said She Said (2:37)

Side Two:

  1. Good Day Sunshine (2:10)
  2. And Your Bird Can Sing (2:02)
  3. For No One (2:01)
  4. Doctor Robert (2:15)
  5. I Want to Tell You (2:30)
  6. Got to Get You into My Life (2:31)
  7. Tomorrow Never Knows (2:57)
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