Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. ... We're more popular than Jesus now. I don't know which will go first, rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.
And with that, it became more than evident that something was going to give, and everything else was going to change along with it. I'm quite sure John Lennon didn't know the impact that these words, which were off-handedly spoken to Maureen Cleave, a friend of the Beatles and a columnist for The Evening Standard
, would have such a mammoth impact in the United States. I'm also quite certain that his group, the Beatles, hadn't the faintest of clues that this single, solitary quote would contribute so heavily to their almost-unanimous (with Paulie being the only nay-sayer) decision to retire from touring and focus on albums, a decision that had never been done before and was considered by many to be commercial suicide. And by extension, no-one had an inkling of what was to come of this decision.
was the offspring of a series of crucial decisions made by a band that was already too revered and too famous for their own liking. Their previous album, Rubber Soul
, showed explorative tendencies to a band that many at the time would have preferred to remain 'fab'. Unfortunately, 'fab' they could no longer be, and as such they instead opted for 'revolutionary' in its place. Many new tricks had been discovered in Abbey Road Studios that year, many of which are still in use today by countless bands. Backwards masking, tape loops, and even close-miked drumming (which at the time was against EMI procedure and could result in severe penalization) were discovered and employed onto songs like Taxman
. Speaking of which...
George Harrison was always a late bloomer. He was the last Beatle to obtain a woman, he was the last to purchase his own house, and, according to the Anthology
book, he was the last to get nasty. So, it seems pretty logical that he would be the last (excluding Ringo, for obvious reasons) to craft a great song. Great. And that's the essence of Taxman
. A dirty, rocking chord progression played over a killer beat and bass groove may not be too pioneering, but doing it while objecting to the 'unfair' tax laws implemented by the British Government certainly was. Add unto this a ripping Paul McCartney guitar solo, and the result is an obvious classic.
Now, I've often read a statement Mr. McCartney made, in which he proclaims Revolver
as the acid album of the band's catalogue, contrary to the popular belief that Sgt. Pepper
owns that illustrious title. If this is correct, then it sort of makes me wonder why Eleanor Rigby
is on the album, as that seems like it could be a terrifying under-taking under the influence of such a potent hallucinogen. You see, the song is really
haunting. From the dark, classical ensemble to McCartney's bitter and forlorn vocals and lyrics, the song has a depth that not many 60's counterparts could claim to have. Take this, for example:
Eleanor Rigby, died in the church and was buried along with her name, nobody came.
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave, no one was saved. All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?
Quite foreboding for a group that only one year prior was releasing songs such as Yesterday
While I will more than likely continue to cite the ingenuity of this album, it does not go without fault. For example, songs such as Yellow Submarine
. The song itself is an enigma, of sorts. You have to wonder what was going on in their LSD ridden minds. While the child-like appeal of the song is only furthered when you make Ringo sing on it, that very same appeal wears rather thin after an extended amount of time, and granted, that's if you didn't despise the song in the first place. Part of the genius of the album, however, is that this rather mundane song somehow doesn't bring the album down with it in the slightest. In fact, the simple guitar progression and submarine/cocktail party sound-effects add
to an album that was all about experimentation in the first place.
Let us flashback to 1966. One month after the release of the album, the legendary folk hero Bob Dylan would become immobilized after a motorcycle accident, one which would leave him out of commission for a rather frightening period of time. In January, the first official Acid Test was executed, turning on thousands to the joys as well as the absolute terror that illicit substances could bring. Among those who chose to indulge in the pastime of LSD were the Beatles, whose outspoken defiance of the laws that banned the drug was not to be made public for another year. Like most who regularly partake in the use of the mind-altering drug, it began effecting the lifestyle of the band, in the studio and out. An example of the effect it had on the songwriting process is the earth-shattering Tomorrow Never Knows
. A single, droning C chord and a surprisingly firm and forceful drum accompaniment by Ringo provide the beat, while Lennon insisted George Martin find a way to "make his voice sound like the Dali Lama chanting from a mountain top". Martin delivered, and the effect only serves to increase the enjoyment while the lyrical content, taken from The Tibetan book of the Dead
occupies your mind whether you like it or not.
Yes, drugs played an obviously large role in the album, as shown by the aforementioned mantra. And yet, not all of the songs are particularly introspective in a revolutionary sense. Paul still crafts absolutely gorgeous ballads, and delivers possibly his best ever in the stunningly poignant Here, There, and Everywhere
. Simple, tender guitar chords add a subtle taste of genius, while the song is clearly dominated by Paul and his fantastic vocal prowess. On the flip side, McCartney could still spin a bitter love song into pure gold. For No One
has endless depth to it in every way, from the lyrics and overdubs to the instruments featured. And while I'm on the subject of diverse instrumentation, Revolver
is full of it. From sitar-laced Indian songs such as Love You To
to the brass-infested mo-town of Got to Get You Into My Life
, the latter of which marks the first time Paul would foray into utilizing the brass family. Yes, diversity is everywhere, and it would not be the last time such a phrase was attached to the Beatles name.
You can argue that the Beatles have made better albums. You can yelp as much as you want about The White Album
, Abbey Road
, and in fact any post-65 Beatles album available. You could also choose the flip-side and insist that the Beatles were over-rated, and are little more than a silly pop band with over-large egos who were merely in the right place at the right time. No matter what opinion you hold, you can't deny how revolutionary this fourteen-track album is, and if you think you can, you're either lying to yourself, or painfully oblivious. Yes, there are better Beatles albums. There are even better psychedelic albums. But none of them played the role of catalyst quite like this, nor did they manage to serve up such an extensive array of great pop/rock songs. Sgt. Who?
Ingenuity to the maximus
Vital piece of history
Yellow Submarine can grow old rather quickly