Where Do They All Come From?
Revolver came out 6 days after England had won the Football World Cup at Wembley in 1966. A week later the Beatles rushed off for their last, fractious tour of the USA. As a famous post in the NME asked “Where is famous Beatles Band?” Caught between embracing the counter-culture and fulfilling old musical industries contracts the Beatles were curiously absent from their own high-water mark; and so were we. Ray Davies of the Kinks, who were amongst the new English bands challenging the Beatles that summer, the Stones, Who, Troggs and Yardbirds, slated the album. With his own bitter-sweet hit of the summer Sunny Afternoon, lazily capturing our triumphant summer mood he was in a position to talk. It was Number One when Revolver was released. The other big cultural aspect of the summer of 1966 was the sudden proliferation of pirate radio across Europe which, as we all owned little transistor radios, was the musical distribution network of choice, and suddenly radio playlists were sprinkled with the little bits of vinyl magic from the album. This time we didn’t need a big cultural event from The Beatles to cheer us up as a nation, the Charlton brothers and the West Ham Academy had seen to that. Instead the Beatles seeped out through the ether, and their new collaborative democracy was signified by Ringo singing the single and George kicking off the album with the misunderstood Taxman, “the Taxman’s taken all I’ve got” indeed; it’s a shame about Ray…Taxman… A rich man’s lament about taxes or a wry comment on producing Most British Exports for the Economy and quadrupling profits for EMI or the first inkling of Apple? If you read Beatles for Sale you will see that the Beatles lost more millions than they made. Which meant many others were making those millions. Years later, in a sketch lampooning the free-market liberalism of Thatcher, Fry and Laurie would use the same exaggerated conceit as “if you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet”. The global colussus that was the Beatles were mostly seen as employees for whom there is “one for you, nineteen for me.” Cracking rock performance though, much loved by Paul Weller and tributed by the Jam in Start!
Paul still doesn’t own his songs, outbid by Michael Jackson even when he offered over £40m to buy back his own songs. Not sure if Eleanor Rigby is one of those but it gained massive airplay in 1966, less so in the summer but throughout the year. Yesterday paved the way for Eleanor Rigby but this is a richer production and now that The Beatles recognised that they were drawing on a richer musical palette it was accepted as a Beatles tune. Here is a video that re-interprets the lyrics in the 21st Century, although I think the Yellow Submarine version catches a psychedelically suitable tone.
Unusually Lennon doesn’t get a song til third up, the gloriously lazy I’m Only Sleeping. Recorded late in the evening it sounds great now but not played much at the time, although Ray Davies did pick this as the best track on album. Here’s a delightfully witty video picking up nicely on the lyrics.
And Revolver just kept on getting interesting, with George’s overtly Indian Love You Too making this sound more like a World Music album. Great track which still holds up. I don’t remember it getting much radio play at the time, as DJ’s looked for the missing single, but it adds to the richness of the album and helped set more counter cultural indicators. Almost a riposte to Taxman in its love is all around vibe.
This is an album where the Beatles played the studio, they found the right sound for each song rather than adding embellishments as they did on Rubber Soul, and they weren’t frightened by where their songwriting took them. Yet another different style for Paul’s Here There And Everywhere, which was THE track that DJ’s played endlessly as the missing single at the time.
And then there was Yellow Submarine, the biggest selling UK single in 1966, Ringo’s deadpan lead and, as you can hear on the Remasters, a gloriously Goons-like time was had by all in the studio. It was the first Beatles single I heard where I went “What! This is the new Beatles single?” but actually it tied in with the celebratory mood in 66 and the whole family could like it; just like the movie.
She Said, She Said, a track created in the fullness of the studio; what a side this is, inspiration from here there and everywhere, something for everyone. Unfortunately we mostly played music on old mono record players back then, usually with a crackly old stylus (Bob Dylan sounded perfect) and I remember being baffled by the title. Here’s a great sounding video with some colour film from the time.
Side Two starts like Beatles albums used to start, a bright reassuringly catchy track that reminds us of their reliability. Good Day Sunshine also got loads of radio play, and Revolver was presenting radio stations with a conundrum. What is the ONE great track not released as a single? Well this is yet another of them.
And your group can laugh; the Beatles clearly had a good time during Revolver, the American backlash hadn’t started yet, and here they sound like a Bunch of mates havin a larf; And the boys can sing; not picked up on much at the time but revitalised by this Anthology mix. The video shows Paul looking at the sleeve of the Stones Aftermath; Ringo wanted to call the album After Geography. Go on do the Math!
After a great soundtrack video here is a great video of Paul demoing For No One at the time. I love the way he has the song in his head and is just outlining it for George Martin, some French Horn here! Bit Rocky Raccoon on the guitar strumming but great song, and this video shows a great version.
And, topically, here is one of two great National Health Service tributes by John Lennon, we love the NHS back in the UK. They looked after him best after his car crash in Scotland (he couldn’t see and wouldn’t wear glasses), but this is a GP-friendly tribute to Dr Robert, or is it Harley Street? Another song we didn’t hear much at the time, but this video let’s you experience the equipment we heard it on, and what it sounded like. How devoted were we when we only had this quality of listening experience to everything?
I Want to Tell You that this is George’s third track on the album with a great fade-in and McCartney bass; this sounds like the early Beatles when they were a great harmonising band. George setting up the finale in a rocking fashion with his ode to being the quiet one with the Boys and the girls.
Written by Paul, loved by John, Got To Get You Into My Life was all over the airwaves in 1966 due to a big hit cover version by Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers (#6 in 66). Funnily enough I’ve never really taken to it, although I liked their earlier Motown covers. I didn’t much care for this until Earth Wind and Fire got hold of it. Completed on May 18 it was their first track to feature brass with two of Georgie Fames Blue Fames blowing away on it, but adds brilliantly to the range of the album, with great performances superbly recorded by Geoff Emerick.
Switch off your mind, relax and float downstream, great opening line and one of the great Lennon steals, Tomorrow Never Knows was a perfectly provocative title for Britain where Yesterday Always Knew that we had an Empire. Lennon takes editing as art to a new high in popular music. As they say in football his decision making is fantastic, George Emerick stuffed the four-headed Beatles jumper into Ringo’s bass drum and got that drum sound and they all looped the loop with the tapes, breaking Abbey Road house rules. Would the Establishment let go now, or would we need to beat the Blue Meanies with a different line-up?
Oh and these are the two tracks held back as a single. Beloved of Melvyn Bragg, and Barry Gibb for its bass line, Paperback Writer was filmed as a video in Abbey Road and was the only track from these sessions they played live on their last World Tour, and also the video for Rain, probably Ringo’s best track. Go on! Get a tan from standing in this English Rain; the little kids did…
The View from 9/9/9; An album dressed to the 9′s! 99%