This record is obviously one of the greatest musical achievements of all time. Here are some random thoughts, facts and theories.
“Taxman” The guitar solo is played by Paul and not George. I regard this as a slap in the face for George. When “Get Back” was released, the advert in the papers made it clear that John had played lead guitar. How come George wasn’t trusted to play lead guitar on either of these songs?
“Eleanor Rigby” Amazing vocal from Paul McCartney. Listen to the isolated vocals on this YouTube clip.
“Eleanor Rigby”. It is often stated that The Beatles didn’t like to put singles on their albums. While that is true for about half of their singles, this is one of many counter-examples. The single was released on the same day as the album. It got to Number One in the charts. For a song which contained a bleak message of depression and desolation to get into the charts, never mind to be Number One, was unusual.
“I’m Only Sleeping”. George Harrison was trusted with the lead guitar on this song. He knew what melody he wanted to play but he wanted it to sound like a backwards guitar. He wrote the melody he wanted and got George Martin to transcribe it backwards. He played the backwards version which was then played backwards to appear on the final version. Two negatives make a positive.
“Love You To”. How many Beatles songs don’t contain the song title in the lyrics. George Harrison sings “I’ll make love to you if you want me to”. “Flying” obviously doesn’t; “Revolution 9” doesn’t; strictly speaking “Revolution 1 doesn’t”. Are there others?
“Here There And Everywhere”. In The Beatles Monthly poll of 1966 which asked readers to name their favourite song from “Revolver”, this came first. I have never liked it; I can see that it’s cleverly constructed and I can acknowledge that it has a strong melody but it’s too twee for my tastes. See also “I Will” from “The Beatles”. On the other hand, this is generally acknowledged to be one of Paul McCartney’s best songs.
“Yellow Submarine” A Buddhist monk has posted a great version of this song on YouTube. The last two minutes are particularly restful.
“Yellow Submarine”. The background vocals are provided by Brian Jones, Marianne Faithfull, Pattie Harrison and George Martin along with roadies Mal Evans and Neil Aspinall, engineer Geoff Emerick and even the Beatles’ driver Alf Bicknell.
“She Said She Said”. In August 1965, John Lennon took LSD with Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. They had all been bored by watching Jane Fonda’s new film “Cat Ballou”. John Lennon’s irritation was compounded when Jane Fonda’s brother, Peter Fonda, turned up and told them all, in detail, about a near death experience he had had during a routine hospital operation.
“She Said She Said”. Ringo Starr’s drumming is amazing on this track. “Rain” and “A Day In The Life” are often referred to as the peak of his performances but this is even better.
“Good Day Sunshine”. Paul McCartney has said that he wrote this in response to “Daydream” by The Lovin’ Spoonful. It was originally called “A Good Day’s Sunshine”. George Martin plays the honky tonk piano solo but the piano on the rest of the song is played by Paul McCartney.
“And Your Bird Can Sing” Jonathan Gould wrote a very good book about The Beatles called “Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America”. In the book he puts forward a theory about this song that nobody else has corroborated but I like it. Frank Sinatra had a habit of walking into a room and, when meeting someone else, he would ask “How’s your bird?”, using “bird” as a euphemism for “penis”. Around this time, Sinatra was quoted as saying that he was “tired of kid singers wearing mops of hair thick enough to hide a crate of melons”. Insult was added to injury when the 1965 Grammys ignored The Beatles in favour of Sinatra. “Tell me that you’ve heard every sound there is and your bird can swing but you can’t hear me”. It’s an interesting theory and we will now never know the truth.
“For No One” This song is just 2 minutes long. It’s a phenomenal achievement, one of the very best songs in the history of recorded music. There’s so much packed in – a gorgeous melody, an intriguing story, great singing and a French horn solo that’s out of this world.
“For No One”. The horn was played by Alan Civil who was the principal horn player in the Philarmonia. He thought that the song was called “For Number One” because he saw it written down as “For No. One”. He said “My friends would ask ‘What have you done this week?’ and I would say ‘Oh, I played with Otto Klemperer and Rudolf Kempe’ – that didn’t mean anything to them. But to say that you’d played with The Beatles was amazing. The day would almost go into their diaries as being the day they met someone who’d played with The Beatles. Even now, while only a few people come up to me and say ‘I do like your Mozart horn concertos’, so many others say ‘See that big grey haired chap over there? – he played with The Beatles!’ For me it was just another day’s work, the third session that I did that day.”
“Doctor Robert”. This was released in the USA in June 1966 (two months before “Revolver” was released in the UK) on “Yesterday And Today” along with “I’m Only Sleeping” and “And Your Bird Can Sing”. There was no way in 1966 for UK fans to hear a song that had been released in the USA. “Yesterday And Today” contains 11 songs and is 27 minutes long. The UK version of Revolver contains 14 songs and is 35 minutes long. The US version of “Revolver” contains 11 songs and is 28 minutes long.
“I Want To Tell You” I bought this record as soon as it came out on August 5th 1966. I was 12 years old. We were about to move from North London to Tunbridge Wells in Kent and for some reason I was alone in the house when I first played it. As I heard this song for the first time, I was lying on the floor and I heard the sound of a plane flying overhead. I said to myself that I would remember this moment for the rest of my life. And I have.
“I Want To Tell You” Rob and Sam have made a very clever version of this featuring a sitar. There’s no sitar in The Beatles’ version but it sounds great here.
“Got To Get You Into My Life”. This is a song about pot, not a love song. Paul McCartney has said it’s “like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret”. I’d be interested to hear Paul McCartney’s ode to chocolate (although, of course, George Harrison wrote “Savoy Truffle” later).
“Tomorrow Never Knows” The second half of the instrumental break in this song is Paul McCartney’s guitar solo from “Taxman” but slowed down, cut up and played backwards.
“Tomorrow Never Knows” In the aforementioned poll in The Beatles Monthly, this song got my vote as the best song on the record. It came in 10th. I honestly couldn’t believe it.
“Tomorrow Never Knows”. When Paddy and I visited The Cavern Club, we saw a great tribute band playing a live version of this song. Whereas, in 1966, it was impossible to replicate these songs live, technology has moved on so much that these days, anything is possible.