Happy 50th Birthday, Revolver!
The fifty year rock anniversary first hit big in 2004 when Elvis’ That’s All Right Mama was feted and since then we’ve had everything from Motown (2009 or 2010 depending on whom you ask) to this glorious year of Pet Sounds and Blonde on Blonde in the one week.
So by August 5th, it would be understandable if Revolver was overlooked in favour of the 2013 festivities around Please, Please Me, or Pepper next year, bound to have newspaper headline writers in “It was 50 years ago today” overdrive. Particularly if you, like many others, regard the album as the beginning of the break-up of the band, separating to the four corners of the same recording studio.
For any fan of pop, rock’n’roll, Beatlesology, the soft power of Cool Britannia or the hard power of a classic album, Revolver is it. From the moment you see Klaus Voormann’s sleeve of the Fabs drawn from memory and then put the record (or CD as it was for me as a student in 1993) on, you’re blindsided at every turn. The working title Beatles On Safari is arguably cooler.
Taxman sounds like a blistering take-down-all-comers “Ha ha Mr. Wilson” “Ha ha Mr. Heath” – you imagine Corbyn and May getting the same namechecks from a 2016 band like Blossoms? – the album segues into the jolly little ditty Eleanor Rugby. Except this Paul song is no Fab Wacky Thumbs Aloft Macca number, nor a No More Lonely Nights (as great as that is) but a song about a funeral where “nobody came” and Father Mackenzie is wiping the dirt from his hands because no one was saved. Once again, blind-sided.
You might think by now that this is an angry album but something with Good Day Sunshine, followed by And Your Bird Can Sing could hardly be an entirely angry record.
The genius of the Fab Four is taking you one way then another, such as in the lovey-dovey Jane Asher-inspired Here, There and Everywhere has its break-up counterpart in another Macca song For No One, a song written on a holiday with Asher in Klosters about a break-up about “a love that should have lasted years”. Jane Asher must have had her mind altered by musical-shaped substances, although they didn’t break up until 1968.
Just when you’re beginning to regard Paul as the midfield general, John, with input from George, comes into his own with She Said She Said, based on Peter Fonda comments during an LSD trip at The Beatles’ LA residence on Benedict Canyon Drive with The Byrds (yes, that is the most 1960s sentence you’ll read today). On hearing the opening line: “She Said ‘I Know What It’s Like to be Dead’ “ you know that seven albums in, She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah is a lifetime away.
Nothing outstays its welcome, no song is over 3:03, there’s no detour into wackiness like Octopus’ Garden or Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da or other non-Ringo, non-beginning with O songs. and the Ringo song here Yellow Submarine would be the crowning glory of another band’s career. Slade would have done a corking cover.
There’s also one of the better George Indian songs (Love You To), the immortalisation of pill-popping Dr Robert and Tomorrow Never Knows. Mad Men viewers wlll remember Don Draper slipping the vinyl out his copy and turning his mind off or on – depending on the way you see it. Five decades later, the song which closes this epoch-changing album are doing the same.
The scope of ambition, the sense of fun, the editing which avoids the pomposity of the seven-minute guitar solo, the wide range of subject matter and the ability to go from dark to light to dark again in the same song…what will it take for a modern rock band to pull this off, heck even try this on one of their albums? I’d rather read a “50 years on” about one of those albums in 2066 rather than the centenary of this. Of course by then, I may know what it is to be dead.