The year 1966 was a tumultuous time in history. The U.S. was embroiled in Vietnam, the Cold War was raging. Fear of the Soviets was only growing as they landed an unmanned vehicle on the moon in 1966. Lyndon Johnson was President, a movie star named Ronald Regan was elected Governor of California. ATM’s were first introduced in 1966, along with Miranda rights. With all of that going on our pop culture still forged ahead. The Baltimore Orioles won the World Series, while Jack Nicklaus won the Masters. 1966 saw the emergence of Client Eastwood with The Good, the Bad and The Ugly. Anything with flowers, belted shoes and buckle purses were popular fashion choices of the year. Music had another solid year in 1966 with The Beach Boys release of Pet Sounds and Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan. But the most popular album of that year, and possibly off all time was the Beatles release of Revolver.
The album was released 51 years ago today and is still considered by many to be the greatest album of all times. Twenty-four days after the album’s release the Beatles performed a concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. This is significant for two reasons, first this would be the last scheduled concert the Beatles would perform, second the group knew this when recording Revolver and took many liberties with their studio techniques knowing they would not have to recreate the music live. What was produced was a masterpiece of great music mix with groundbreaking technology like automatic double tracking, backwards recording and even a string octet. Most, if not all of the Beatles techniques would be adopted by most musicians in the years to come.
There is something else that is significant about Revolver, this would be the last album that Capitol records enforced their policy of altering the songs and order of the record. The Beatles as a group were focused on the album itself and purposely placed the tracks in a particular order. Capitol records would re-work the albums and even modify which tracks were on the album to suit what they thought an American audience would appreciate. A perfect example of this was the removal of I’ve Just Seen A Face from Help and moved to Rubber Soul in replace of Drive My Car. So, Revolver would be the last album in which the US and UK release actually differed. Thankfully.
The original UK release contained 14 songs, as opposed to the US release which only had 11. The US release omitted the songs: I’m only Sleeping, Dr. Robert and And your Bird Can Sing. This was unfortunate. Listening to the original album is much better. In the first six tracks all four members of the band are featured, the album begins with Harrison’s sardonic Taxman, followed by McCartney signing the classic Eleanor Rigby, Lennon’s I’m only Sleeping completes the first three songs. Even Ringo gets in the act with the children favorite Yellow Submarine.
Part of what makes Revolver such a great album was that the collaboration between the band members was evident. The Beatles were all talented musicians, individually there were contemporaries of the time that were better in certain areas, but no one can doubt that collectively this band was the greatest. Revolver may have been the last time this was on display. For instance, George Harrison is credited with three songs on the album, remarkable considering he would have one on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. George was without a doubt the most underrated Beatle, and yet some of the Beatles most iconic songs were written by him, including While my Guitar Gently weeps, Something and Here Comes the Sun. Revolver featured the above-mentioned Taxman, the Indian-music backing Love you to and I want to tell you, featuring that classic rift that was symbolic of the albums style. George would even be credit later on as a song writer on Eleanor Rigby along with Lennon and McCartney.
As mentioned before many publications consider Revolver to be the greatest album of all times, if not the top spot, at least in the top three. But on some if not most occasions, it is usually topped by the Beatles next studio album Sgt. Peppers. Personally, I am in the camp that would rank Sgt. Pepper above Revolver but much of this may have to do with Capitol records. As noted above they altered the original release, while I grew up listening to the Beatles, I really did not listen to the complete album until my mid-20’s when remastered compact disks would be released with the original UK lineup. But either way Revolver is still a great album and worthy of a listen.
Please be sure to stop by South of the River Antiques once we are open, we do have some Beatles albums on display (unfortunately not Revolver) and other items vintage items from the 60’s including this surfboard.