Revolver is the seventh studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. It was released on 5 August 1966 in the United Kingdom and three days later in the United States. The album marked a progression from their 1965 release Rubber Soul and signalled the band’s arrival as studio innovators, a year before the seminal Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. On release, Revolver was widely recognised by critics as having redefined the parameters of popular music. The album’s diverse influences and sounds include the incorporation of tape loops on the experimental “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the use of a classical string octet on “Eleanor Rigby”, and the Indian-music setting of “Love You To”. Together with the children’s novelty song “Yellow Submarine”, “Eleanor Rigby” became an international hit when issued as a double A-side single.
The album’s Grammy Award-winning cover design was created by Klaus Voormann, one of the Beatles’ friends from their fledgling years in Hamburg. In the UK, Revolver ’ s 14 tracks were released to radio stations throughout July 1966, with the music signifying what author Ian MacDonald later described as “a radical new phase in the group’s recording career”. The album spent 34 weeks on the UK Albums Chart, reaching the number one spot on 13 August.
Reduced to 11 songs for the North American market, Revolver was the last Beatles album to be subjected to Capitol Records’ alteration of the band’s intended running order and content. Its US release coincided with the Beatles’ final concert tour and the controversy surrounding John Lennon’s statement that the group had become “bigger than Jesus”. In America, the album topped the Billboard Top LPs listings for six weeks.
Revolver was ranked first in Colin Larkin’s book All-Time Top 1000 Albums and third in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
In December 1965, the Beatles’ album Rubber Soul was released to wide critical acclaim. In his book Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘n’ Roll, author Robert Rodriguez writes that it was viewed as a “major breakthrough beyond the Merseybeat sound of their previous five LPs”. The following January, the band carried out overdubs on live recordings taken from their summer 1965 US tour, for inclusion in the concert film The Beatles at Shea Stadium. The group’s manager, Brian Epstein, had intended that the Beatles would then begin work on their third feature film, but the band members were unable to agree on a suitable script. With three months free of engagements, the extended layoff allowed the Beatles with an unprecedented amount of time to prepare for a new album.
Writing in The Beatles Forever, Nicholas Schaffner cites 1966 as the start of the band’s “‘psychedelic’ period” and adds: “That adjective implies not only the influence of certain mind-altering chemicals, but also the freewheeling spectrum of wide-ranging colors that their new music seemed to evoke.” Music journalist Carol Clerk describes Revolver as having been “decisively informed by acid”, following John Lennon and George Harrison’s continued experimentation with the drug LSD since the spring of 1965. Through these shared experiences, the two musicians developed a fascination for Eastern spiritual and philosophical concepts, particularly regarding the illusory nature of human existence. Despite his bandmates’ urging, after Ringo Starr had also partaken of the drug, Paul McCartney refused to try LSD. As reflected in the more conventional subject matter of his lyrics on Revolver, relative to those of Lennon and Harrison, McCartney drew his inspiration from the intellectual stimulation he experienced among London’s thriving and varied artistic community.
While Lennon had been the Beatles’ dominant creative force through 1965, having contributed the lead vocal for the majority of their singles, album openers, and closers, McCartney now attained an approximately equal position with him. Revolver marks the midpoint in the band’s recording career, between the period dominated by Lennon – who was by this time growing increasingly disinterested in his life as a Beatle – and the period dominated by McCartney, who would provide the group’s artistic direction for almost every post-Revolver project. In addition, Harrison’s interest in the music and culture of India had inspired him as a composer. With Revolver, Schaffner later wrote, “there were now three prolific songwriting Beatles”.
Recording and production
Sessions for the album began at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London on 6 April 1966. The first track attempted was Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the arrangement for which changed considerably between the initial take that day and the subsequent remake. This take 1 of “Tomorrow Never Knows”, along with several other outtakes from the album sessions, was included on the 1996 compilation Anthology 2.
According to Rodriguez, Revolver marks the first time that the Beatles “deliberately incorporated” the studio into the “conception of the recordings they made”, rather than using it “merely as a tool to capture performances”. A key production technique that the band began using was automatic double tracking (ADT), which EMI engineer Ken Townsend invented on 6 April. This technique employed two linked tape recorders to automatically create a doubled vocal track. The standard method had been to double the vocal by singing the same piece twice onto a multitrack tape, a task Lennon particularly disliked. The Beatles were reportedly delighted with the invention, and used it extensively on Revolver. ADT soon became a standard pop production technique, and led to related developments such as the artificial chorus effect.
Another EMI engineer, Geoff Emerick, recalled of the Beatles’ eagerness to experiment: “Revolver very rapidly became the album where the Beatles would say, ‘OK, that sounds great, now let’s play [the recording] backwards or speeded up or slowed down.’ They tried everything backward, just to see what things sounded like.” The band’s interest in the tones that resulted from varying tape speed (or varispeeding) extended to recording a basic track at a faster tempo than they intended the song to sound on disc.
Brought in as an assistant to the group’s producer, George Martin, Emerick was responsible for several innovations in the studio. Most importantly for the band’s sound, he and Townsend recorded McCartney’s bass guitar amplifier via a loudspeaker, instead of a standard microphone. With McCartney now using a Rickenbacker bass, in place of his Höfner model, this new set-up ensured that the bass was more prominent than on any previous Beatles release. The recording staff employed this technique only on the two songs that were selected for a non-album single, however: “Paperback Writer” and “Rain”. Emerick also ensured a greater presence for Starr’s bass drum, by inserting an item of clothing inside the structure, to dampen the sound and then moving the microphone to just 3 inches from the drumhead and compressing the signal through a Fairchild Limiter. Musicologist Ian MacDonald writes that, despite Abbey Road being technically inferior to many recording facilities in the United States, Starr’s drumming on the album soon led to studios there “being torn apart and put back together again”, as engineers sought to replicate the innovative sounds achieved by the Beatles.
The band had recorded nine songs by 1 May, when they performed at the NME ’ s annual Poll-Winners Concert. Held at Wembley’s Empire Pool, in north-west London, this was the last concert that the Beatles would play before a paying audience in the United Kingdom. Performing before a crowd of 10,000, they played a set that was perceived as lacklusture. With Lennon and Harrison both publicly expressing their disenchantment with fame and Beatlemania, rumours circulated throughout 1966 that the band were splitting up. The pair also showed their support for Bob Dylan’s controversial adoption of an electric sound, urging a disapproving audience at his Royal Albert Hall concert that same month to stop their heckling.
Later in May, the Beatles spent two days making promotional films for their upcoming single. The first set of clips were filmed at Abbey Road on 19 May by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, director of the popular TV show Ready Steady Go! The following day, the group travelled to west London and shot further clips for the songs in the grounds of Chiswick House. On 16 June, five days before the end of the album sessions, they filmed live performances of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” for Top of the Pops.
Cover art and title
The cover illustration was created by German-born bassist and artist Klaus Voormann, one of the Beatles’ oldest friends from their time in Hamburg during the early 1960s. Voormann’s illustration, part line drawing and part collage, included photographs by Robert Whitaker, who also took the back cover photographs and many other images of the group between 1964 and 1966, such as the infamous “butcher cover” for Yesterday and Today. To create the Revolver cover, Voormann also used personal photos supplied by the band members, which, in his words, “show their sweet side”. Voormann’s own photograph as well as his name (Klaus O.W. Voormann) is worked into Harrison’s hair on the right-hand side of the cover. In the Revolver cover appearing in his artwork for Anthology 3, he replaced this image with a more recent photograph.
Harrison’s Revolver image was seen again on the picture sleeve of his 1988 single “When We Was Fab”, along with an updated version of the same image. Revolver won a Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts.
The album’s title, like that of Rubber Soul, is a pun, referring to both a kind of handgun and the “revolving” motion of the record as it is played on a turntable. The Beatles had difficulty coming up with this title. According to author Barry Miles, the name that the four had originally wanted was Abracadabra, until they discovered that another band had already used it. After that, opinion was split: Lennon wanted to call it Four Sides of the Eternal Triangle and Starr jokingly suggested After Geography, playing on the title of the Rolling Stones’ recently released Aftermath LP. Other suggestions included Magic Circles, Beatles on Safari, Pendulum and, finally, Revolver, whose wordplay was the one that all four agreed upon. The title was chosen while the band was on tour in Germany late June 1966. The name Revolver finally was selected while in the Hamburg hotel, as drafts prove.
Revolver was released in the United Kingdom on 5 August 1966 and on 8 August in the United States. “Yellow Submarine” was issued as a double A-side with “Eleanor Rigby”. Schaffner writes that as a novelty song and a ballad devoid of any instrumentation played by a Beatle, respectively, each of the two tracks marked a significant departure from the usual content of the band’s singles. Schaffner adds: “The only thing ‘Rigby’ had in common with ‘Submarine’ was that it sounded nothing like a Beatles record.” The single held the number one position in the UK for four weeks during August and September.
According to Rodriguez, Revolver ’ s release was not the significant media event that Sgt. Pepper ’ s was the following year. There was no accompanying press build-up or conjecture regarding what the group was to offer. To the contrary, the album was “overshadowed” during a period of controversy following the negative reaction in the US to Lennon’s remarks about the Beatles being “more popular than Jesus”. In Britain, however, EMI gradually distributed songs from the album to radio stations throughout July 1966 – a strategy that MacDonald describes as “building anticipation for what would clearly be a radical new phase in the group’s recording career”. Schaffner likens the Beatles’ 1966 recordings to the moment of transformation in the film Wizard of Oz, “where, when Dorothy discovers herself transported from Kansas to Oz, the film dramatically changes from black-and-white to glorious technicolor”.
The original North American LP release of Revolver, the band’s tenth on Capitol Records and twelfth US album, marked the last time that Capitol would release an altered UK Beatles album for the North American market. Since three of its tracks – “I’m Only Sleeping”, “And Your Bird Can Sing” and “Doctor Robert” – had been used for Capitol’s Yesterday and Today compilation in June 1966, they were removed from the North American version, yielding an 11-track album with a running time of 28:20. As a result, there were only two songs for which Lennon was the principal writer, compared with three by Harrison and the rest by McCartney. When the Beatles re-signed with EMI in January 1967, their contract stipulated that Capitol could no longer alter the track listings of their albums.
In 1997 Revolver was named the third greatest album of all time in a Music of the Millennium poll conducted in the United Kingdom by HMV Group, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. In 2000 Q magazine placed it at number 1 in its list of the 50 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2001, the TV network VH1 named it the greatest album in history, a position it also achieved in the Virgin All Time Top 1,000 Albums. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Revolver third on its list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. In 2006 the album was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best albums. In 2006, Guitar World readers chose it as the tenth best guitar album of all time. In 2010, Revolver was named the best pop album by the official newspaper of the Holy See, L’Osservatore Romano. In 2013, Entertainment Weekly named Revolver the greatest album in history. The same year, after the British Phonographic Industry changed their sales award rules, the album was declared as having gone platinum.
Rubber Soul is the sixth studio album by English rock group the Beatles. It was recorded in just over four weeks to make the Christmas market, and was released on December 3, 1965. It was produced byGeorge Martin. Unlike the five albums that preceded it, Rubber Soul was recorded during a continuous period, whereas the group had previously recorded albums during breaks in between tour dates or other projects. After this, Beatles albums would be made without the burden of other commitments, except for the production of short promotional films.
Rubber Soul is a folk rock album that incorporates R&B, pop, soul, and psychedelic music styles. The album is regarded by musicologists as a major artistic achievement that continued the Beatles’ artistic maturation while attaining widespread critical and commercial success. It was the second Beatles album – after the British A Hard Day’s Night album – to contain only original material; the Beatles would record no more cover songs for their records until 1969, with the “Maggie Mae” excerpt appearing on the Let It Be album.
Rubber Soul is regarded by fans and critics alike as one of the greatest albums in popular music history. In 2012, Rubber Soul was ranked number five on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. In 2013, after the British Phonographic Industry changed their sales award rules, the album was declared as having gone platinum.
Virtually all of the album’s songs were composed immediately after the Beatles’ return to London following their North American tour. The Beatles broadened their sound on the album, with influences drawn from soul music, the contemporary folk-rock of Bob Dylan and The Byrds, and the vocal harmony pop of The Beach Boys. The album also saw the Beatles expanding rock and roll’s instrumental resources, most notably on “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” through George Harrison’s use of the Indian sitar. He had been introduced to it via the instrumental score for their 1965 film Help!. Although The Kinks had incorporated droning guitars to mimic the sitar after a visit to India on “See My Friends”, “Norwegian Wood” is generally credited as sparking off a musical craze for the sound of the novel instrument in the mid-1960s—a trend which would later branch out into the raga rock and Indian rock genres. The song is now acknowledged as one of the cornerstones of what is now usually called “world music” and it was a major landmark in the trend towards incorporating non-Western musical influences into Western popular music. Harrison’s interest was fuelled by fellow Indian music fan David Crosby of the Byrds, whom Harrison met and befriended in August 1965. Harrison would eventually be transfixed by all things Indian, taking sitar lessons from renowned Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar.
French-like guitar lines on “Michelle” and Greek-influenced ones on “Girl”, fuzz bass on “Think for Yourself,” and a piano made to sound like a baroque harpsichord on the instrumental bridge of “In My Life” added to the exotic brushstrokes to the album. Ringo Starr had frequently augmented Beatles tracks with standard percussion instruments such as maracas or tambourine, but on the track “I’m Looking Through You” unusually used taps on a matchbook, perhaps influenced by a similar trick as done by Gene Krupa in the 1941 film Ball of Fire.
Lyrically, the album represents a major progression in the Beatles’ music. Though a smattering of earlier Beatles songs had expressed romantic doubt and negativity, the songs on Rubber Soul represented a pronounced development in sophistication, thoughtfulness and ambiguity. In particular, the relationships between the sexes moved from simpler boy-girl love songs to more nuanced and negative portrayals. “Norwegian Wood” sketches a failed relationship between the singer and a mysterious girl, where she goes to bed and he sleeps in the bath and songs like “I’m Looking Through You”, “You Won’t See Me”, and “Girl” express more emotionally complex, bitter and downbeat portrayals of romance. John Lennon’s “In My Life” depicts nostalgic reverie for younger days, while “The Word” looks at love as an abstract term, arguably the first time a Lennon-McCartney song strayed from their usual ‘boy/girl’ notion of romantic love, and songs such as “Nowhere Man” and Harrison’s “Think for Yourself” explored subject matter that had nothing to do with romance at all.
Recording commenced on 12 October with final production and mix down taking place on 15 November. The song “Wait” was dusted off after initially being recorded for but rejected from Help!. “We Can Work It Out” and “Day Tripper” were recorded during these sessions, but the band chose to leave them off the album, releasing them instead as their first double A-sided single.
To achieve the mimicry of a harpsichord by the piano on “In My Life”, George Martin played the piano with the tape running at half-speed. When played back at normal speed during the mixdown, the sped-up sound gave the illusion of a harpsichord. Processing used included heavily compressed and equalised piano sound on “The Word,” an effect soon extremely popular in the genre of psychedelic music. Prior to the recording sessions, McCartney was given a new bass, a Rickenbacker 4001, which had a much beefier bass sound than the Hofner. All of the songs on the album, except for “Drive My Car”, were recorded using the new bass. McCartney also experiments with a fuzz box on Harrison’s composition “Think For Yourself”.
Until very late in their career, the “primary” version of The Beatles’ albums was always the monophonic mix. According to Beatles historian Mark Lewisohn, Martin and the Abbey Road engineers devoted most of their time and attention to the mono mixdowns, and the band were not usually present for the stereo mixing sessions. Even with their landmark Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band LP, the stereo mixdowns were considered less important than the mono version and were completed in far less time.
While the stereo version of the original release of Rubber Soul was similar to that of their earliest albums, featuring mainly vocals on the right channel and instruments on the left, it was not produced in the same manner. The early albums were recorded on twin-track tape, and they were intended only for production of monaural records, so they kept vocals and instruments separated allowing the two parts to later be mixed in proper proportion. By this time, however, the Beatles were recording on four-track tape, which allowed a stereo master to be produced with vocals in the centre and instruments on both sides, as evidenced in their prior albums Beatles for Sale and Help!. Looking for a way to easily produce a stereo album which sounded good on a monaural record player, Martin mixed down the four-track master tape to stereo with vocals on the right, instruments on the left, and nothing in the middle, even though in “What Goes On”, Starr’s vocal is mixed on the left instead of the right, with Lennon and McCartney’s harmony vocals on the right, while on “Think for Yourself” Harrison’s double-tracked lead vocal is split between the two channels.
This was the final Beatle album that recording engineer Norman Smith worked on before he was promoted by EMI to record producer.
Packaging and artwork
Rubber Soul was the group’s first release not to feature their name on the cover, an uncommon tactic in 1965. The ‘stretched’ effect of the cover photo came about after photographer Bob Freeman had taken some pictures of the group wearing suedeleather jackets at Lennon’s house. Freeman showed the photos by projecting them onto an album-sized piece of cardboard to simulate how they would appear on an album cover. The unusual Rubber Soul album cover came to be when the slide card fell slightly backwards, elongating the projected image of the photograph and stretching it. Excited by the effect, they shouted, “Ah! Can we have that? Can you do it like that?”, to which Freeman said he could. The distinctive lettering was created by Charles Front (father of actor Rebecca Front), and the original artwork was later auctioned at Bonhams, accompanied by an authenticating letter from Robert Freeman.
Capitol Records used a different colour saturation for the US version, causing the orange lettering used by Parlophone Records to show up as different colours. On some Capitol LPs, the title looks rich chocolate brown; others, more like gold. On the 1987compact disc reissue, the letters appear a distinct green, and the 2009 reissue uses the original cover design with the Parlophone Records logo.
Paul McCartney conceived the album’s title after overhearing a musician’s description of Mick Jagger’s singing style as “plastic soul”. Lennon confirmed this in a 1970 interview with Rolling Stone, stating, “That was Paul’s title, meaning English soul. Just apun.” McCartney uses a similar phrase, “plastic soul, man, plastic soul … ,” heard at the end of “I’m Down” as released on Anthology 2.
Rubber Soul was commercially successful, beginning a 42-week run in the British charts on 12 December 1965. The following week it replaced The Sound of Music soundtrack at the top of the charts, and held the top spot eight weeks. On 9 May 1987, Rubber Soul returned to the album charts for three weeks, and ten years later made another comeback to the charts.
Critical response to the album was also positive. In a 1967 article for Esquire, Robert Christgau called it “an album that for innovation, tightness, and lyrical intelligence was about twice as good as anything they or anyone else (except maybe the Stones) had done previously.” He later cited it as “when the Beatles began to go arty”. Rolling Stone magazine commented “they achieved a new musical sophistication and a greater thematic depth without sacrificing a whit of pop appeal.” Pitchfork Media described the album as “the most important artistic leap in the Beatles’ career—the signpost that signaled a shift away from Beatlemania and the heavy demands of teen pop, toward more introspective, adult subject matter”. Since 2001, the album has been included in several media-sponsored “best” album lists.
Walter Everett, author of The Beatles as Musicians: Revolver through the Anthology, calls Rubber Soul an “important album”, referring to its rich muti-part vocals brimming with expressive dissonance vocals, a deep exploration of guitars and the different capos that produced different colours from familiar finger patterns, surprising new timbres and electronic effects, a more soulful pentatonic approach to vocal and instrumental melody tinged by twelve-bar jams that accompanied the more serious recording and a fairly consistent search for meaningful ideas in lyrics”.
In 2012, Rubber Soul was voted #5 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.
The US version of the album greatly influenced the Beach Boys. Brian Wilson believed it was the first time in pop music that the focus had shifted from just making popular singles to making an actual album, without the usual filler tracks. He “answered” the album by releasing Pet Sounds in 1966.
“What Goes On” was the first song which has a Richard Starkey writing credit, as co-composer beside Lennon and McCartney. Lennon later said this was the first album on which the Beatles were in complete creative control during recording, with enough studio time to develop and refine new sound ideas. Exhausted from five years of virtually non-stop touring, recording, and film work, the group subsequently took a three-month break during the first part of 1966 and used this free time exploring new directions that would colour their subsequent musical work. These became immediately apparent in the next (UK) album, Revolver.