Is Revolver The "Best" Beatles Record Ever?

Categories: Get Lit

Revolver June 12.jpg
Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock 'n' Roll
By Robert Rodriguez
Backbeat Books, 256 pp., $19.99.

While popular consensus and mainstream pop culture holds that Sgt. Pepper is the "best" Beatles album (as if it were a quantifiable title...), a dedicated and growing chorus holds that its predecessor, Revolver, is actually the top of the mop-tops' output.

It's a theory that Rodriguez (Fab Four FAQ) advocates mightily for, stating flatly that "Revolver is the Beatles' artistic high-water mark." And while he doesn't quite prove the accomplishment of the book's subtitle, his case is solid.

With songs as diverse as "Taxman," "Eleanor Rigby," "Here, There and Everywhere," "Yellow Submarine," "She Said She Said," "Good Day Sunshine," "Got to Get You Into My Life," and "Tomorrow Never Knows," Revolver was the bridge album between the Beatles' early and later periods. And it was music not meant for (at the time) recreation on the concert stage, which the group soon abandoned.

Rodriguez divides the book into three parts: The musical/pop-culture landscape of 1966, the actual recording of Revolver, and its impact after release and later influence. And while the book could have used less of the first section -- which repeats many stories/anecdotes probably already familiar to this book's target audience -- his techy-detail and bigger themes are well (if sometimes dryly) represented.

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And it's fun to speculate what the record might have sounded like if it had been recorded at Stax Studios in Memphis (as was the original plan), or just whose condom roadie Mal Evans put over a microphone and submerged in a milk jar of water to unsuccessfully create an underwater vocal effort for John Lennon in "Yellow Submarine."

The album also came out about the same time as the time of Lennon's comments about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus -- which had already appeared without incident in the English press -- leading to bannings, burnings, and backlash.

His "I don't know which will go first - rock and roll or Christianity" quote was blazed across the cover of the American teen magazine Datebook. Shockingly, a seemingly much more incendiary quote from Paul on the same cover about U.S. race relations ("It's a lousy country where anyone black is a dirty n*gger") passed without much reaction!

Overshadowed by the band's next effort, Revolver has nonetheless stood the test of time better than the other, more candy-colored psychedelic release.


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9 comments
Jim
Jim

Critics and others misunderstand the arc of the Beatles career when they divide it into two parts, the early and late Beatles.  Their recordings can be partitioned into three easily defined eras, each four albums in duration.  The first is the Beatles as "mop tops."  This period begins with "Please, Please Me" and ends with "Beatles For Sale."They were incredibly infectious and enthusiastic, incredibly talented and charismatic - they were certainly the Fab Four.   The second period, which I consider their finest, is also composed of four albums, "Help," "Rubber Soul," "Revolver," and "Sgt. Pepper's..."   On these four albums, The Beatles have mastered their craft and are nearly perfect.  My personal favorite is "Help."  I think it captures the best qualities of both periods and contains some of their best classics - "Help," "Yesterday," I've Just seen a Face," "Ticket to Ride," and more. The third and final segment is less well defined; many people think that "Yellow Submarine" is one of the last albums, but I consider that a film vehicle with just a couple of new songs and I prefer including "Magical Mystery Tour."  This final group contains four or five albums depending on how you choose, and the white album (officially, "The Beatles") is a double album.  This period has many of the Beatles classic and most beloved songs, but it is also the only period with songs that don't make the grade.  They are experimenting even more, but the big problem is that they are already coming apart.  They don't work with each other as much and the songs represent individual effort much more than that of a group. The most amazing thing is, if the Beatles had given us any one of those three eras, they would be remembered as one of the greatest pop/rock acts ever.  With all three, they tower over everyone else. One more observation - there are always those who try to detract from the Beatles career and diminish their efforts.  It is important to remember that many of those who find it difficult to appreciate their music don't realize that they recorded them in a primitive recording environment.  These days, you can record hundreds of tracks, coat each in multiple effect processing, and generally create a sound so thick that it fills up every space.  It is the sparseness of The Beatles recordings that sounds "thin" to contemporary ears, but that was a limitation of the times.  That is also why, when you hear new covers of them or see bands play Beatle tunes with good modern equipment they sound so terrific. Oh, and Paul's my favorite!

MASSMURDERMEDIA
MASSMURDERMEDIA

i think the double sided self-titled with plain white cover "the beatles" is their best album...  perhaps it might have scored higher if they gave it a catchy title people could latch onto and put a little more effort into the packaging...  but i think their best sounding album is "abbey road"...  many people don't realize alan parsons engineered the shit out of that record, and "dark side of the moon"...

John Seaborn Gray
John Seaborn Gray

Yeah, I think Rubber Soul is definitely the Beatles' folkiest album, but it's also got a pronounced psych feel to it, too. This *is* the one with Norwegian Wood on it, after all. The first time Harrison busted out the sitar.

Craigley
Craigley

My Dad says the exact same thing about them (acid, etc.). 

Classic Rock Bob
Classic Rock Bob

I have to disagree, my dear JS. If anything, they were going for a pronounced Dylan vibe on the record (which is also my personal favorite). It came out in late '65 and the Beatles didn't even meet the Maharishi until nearly two years later. And let's not forget Rubber Soul inspired Pet Sounds...which inspired Sgt. Pepper...which inspired Smile.....

rockshow
rockshow

Impossible to pick a "best" Beatles Albums. But something amazing about The Beatles is that "Revolver" while pure perfection doesn't even include any of the band's classics : (none of the songs below are on this album) - Yesterday, Let it Be, Hey Jude, Here Comes The Sun, Blackbird, Across The Universe, The End, A Day In Life

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