The ’59 2018 #048: 180217
The Beatles – Revolver (1966)
This year, Jem of Jemtunes, born in 1959, turns 59. So ‘The ’59’ celebrates 59 years of cracking tunes with a few albums from each year – 1959 through 2018. We’re currently at year 8 – 1966.
Revolver was the seventh Beatles album. Released on 5 August 1966, it was the Beatles’ final recording project before their retirement as live performers and marked the group’s most overt use of studio technology up to that time, building on the advances of their 1965 release Rubber Soul. The album’s diverse sounds include tape loops and backwards recordings on the psychedelic “Tomorrow Never Knows”, a classical string octet on “Eleanor Rigby”, and Indian-music backing on “Love You To”. The album was reduced to eleven songs by Capitol Records in North America, where three of its tracks instead appeared on the June 1966 release Yesterday and Today.
The band recorded the album following a three-month break from professional commitments at the start of 1966, and during a period when London was feted as the era’s cultural capital. The songs reflect the influence of psychedelic drugs like LSD and the increasing sophistication of the Beatles’ lyrics to address themes including death and transcendence from material concerns. With no thoughts of reproducing their new material in concert, the band made liberal use of studio techniques such as varispeeding, reversed tapes, close audio miking and automatic double tracking (ADT), in addition to employing musical instrumentation outside of their standard live set-up. Some of the changes in studio practice introduced by Revolver, particularly ADT, were soon adopted throughout the recording industry. The sessions also produced a non-album single, “Paperback Writer” backed with “Rain”, for which the Beatles filmed their first on-location promotional films.
Revolver topped the UK Albums Chart for seven weeks and America’s Billboard Top LPs list for six. Together with “Yellow Submarine”, “Eleanor Rigby” became an international hit when issued as a double A-side single.
The album cover was designed by Klaus Voormann, whose work combined Aubrey Beardsley-inspired line drawing with photo collage and went on to win the 1967 Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts.
Revolver expanded the scope of pop music in terms of the range of musical styles used on the album and the lyrical content of its songs. The album was influential in advancing principles espoused by the 1960s counterculture and in inspiring the development of subgenres such as psychedelic rock, electronica, progressive rock and world music.