"Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream..."
"This almost flawless album can be seen as the peak of the Beatles' creative career. They were later to undertake more ambitious projects which would be crowned with equal critical acclaim, but Revolver is the kind of achievement which any artist would be more than satisfied to regard as some kind of culmination to his career. Nothing less than that." —Roy Carr & Tony Tyler, The Beatles: An Illustrated Record
Revolver is The Beatles' seventh studio album, recorded in the spring of 1966 and released that August. To quote Wikipedia: "Placed at number 1 in the All-Time Top 1000 Albums and number 3 in the Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, the album is often regarded as one of the greatest achievements in music history and one of the Beatles' greatest studio achievements."Revolver was conceived during an unusually long break in the Fab Four's schedule in early 1966.note They were supposed to film their third movie, A Talent for Loving, during this period, but the project was canceled. Their music had already started becoming more sophisticated on their previous album, Rubber Soul, and they took advantage of the free time to develop their sound even further. Also, they spent the better part of three months in the studio (which was unheard of in The Sixties), giving them plenty of time to experiment. The result was a groundbreaking album that was a major influence on the nascent Psychedelic Rock scene, but it has transcended its era and is still highly regarded today. The "Paperback Writer"/"Rain" single was also recorded during these sessions.The album is the subject of two books: Abacadabra!: The Complete Story of the Beatles' ''Revolver'' (2006), an e-book by Ray Newman, and Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock 'n' Roll (2012) by Robert Rodriguez (the music writer, not the filmmaker).
"She Said She Said", the last track recorded, may qualify as well. Paul once told a biographer that he left the session in a huff after arguing with the other Beatles, leaving George Harrison to cover for him on bass. Robert Rodriguez says the story is probably correct.
And Then I Said: "Who put all those things in your head? Things that make me feel that I'm mad. 'Cause you're making me feel like I've never been born."
Breakup Song: "For No One" is about the end of "A love that should have lasted years".
Broken Record: "Of the beginning, of the beginning, of the beginning, of the beginning, of the beginning, of the beginning....."
Call-and-Response Song: Slightly subverted. The backing vocals in the bridge provide the call and George provides the response in "Taxman".
Cool Shades: All four Beatles wear them on the back cover photo.
Creator Cameo: The Grammy Award-winning album cover was designed by Klaus Voormann, a German artist and musician whom the Beatles had befriended in their Hamburg days. If you look closely, you can see Voormann's face and signature in George's hair, just beneath John's lips.
Intimidating Revenue Service/Villain Song: "Taxman", inspired by how the British government wanted to take too much out of George's income; at the time, the Beatles were being taxed at a marginal income tax rate of 95% (a fairly common marginal rate for the top tax bracket in European countries at the time, and not the highest—some Nordics applied 99% income tax brackets). This is noted in the lyrics ("One for you/Nineteen for me").
New Sound Album: Several songs have little or no precedent in The Beatles' previous music. They'd used a sitar on Rubber Soul's "Norwegian Wood", but "Love You To" was overtly influenced by Indian music and philosophy. "Got to Get You Into My Life", a tribute to Motown and Soul Music in general, marked the group's first use of a horn section. Meanwhile, "Tomorrow Never Knows" was the band's first excursion into the avant garde; it anticipates The White Album's "Revolution #9", as well as John's early collaborations with Yoko Ono.
It was also the first use of ADT "automatic double tracking" developed by Abbey Road studio engineer Ken Townsend at the behest of John Lennon. Townsend devised a system of creating a double tracking effect without the necessity of recording another vocal by playing back the original vocal slightly out of sync through a tape delay and recording it together with the original.
Non-Appearing Title: "Love You To"note although the lyric "I'll make love to you" comes close and "Tomorrow Never Knows".
Ode to Intoxication: Did you think "Got to Get You Into My Life" was a love song? It is. A love song about how much Paul McCartney loved to smoke marijuana.
Before settling on Revolver, the group went through several other Working Titles for the album. One (probably facetious) suggestion from Ringo was After Geography, a play on The Rolling Stones' Aftermath from earlier that year.
"She Said She Said" is based on a famous incident from 1965. The Beatles note along with their entourage and at least two members of The Byrds were hanging out with Peter Fonda, and all except Paul were tripping on LSD. When a nervous George said "I feel like I'm dying", Fonda tried to reassure him by saying "I know what it's like to be dead"; he went on to tell the band that he'd almost died from an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound as a child, and death was nothing to worry about. John replied, "Who put all that shit in your head? You're making me feel like I've never been born". He based the song on a Gender Flipped, Bowdlerized version of this conversation.
"Got to Get You into My Life" and "For No One" by Paul are based on his experience of pot and his failing relationship with his then-girlfriend, Jane Asher, respectively.
"Taxman" by George attacks the progressive tax laws introduced by Harold Wilson, which somehow failed to stop George from becoming a multi-millionaire.note Besides the fact that 5% of £20,000,000 is still £1,000,000, to say nothing of the good work of George's accountants and tax lawyers, 95% was the marginal top rate; not all of his income was taxed at that rate. To go into more detail would require a full-blown lesson in tax law and tax accountancy that we frankly aren't interested in giving you, and which George didn't really get either in the first place. (The song also mentions Wilson's rival Edward Heath for good measure.)
Rhyming with Itself: In "Got to Get You into My Life". 'There' is rhymed with 'there', 'you' with 'you' and 'life' with 'life'. From another perspective, it rhymes "find there" with "mind there" and "hold you" with "told you."
Sampling: Tape loops used in "Tomorrow Never Knows" include:
A "laughing" voice, often assumed to be Paul McCartney and played at double-speed (the "seagull" sound)
An orchestral chord of B flat major (from a Sibelius symphony)
A fast electric guitar phrase in C major, reversed and played at double-speed
Another guitar phrase with heavy tape echo, with a B flat chord provided either by guitar, organ or possibly a Mellotron Mk II
A sitar-like descending scalar phrase played on an electric guitar, reversed and played at double-speed
Stop and Go: "I'm only sleeping...[Pause]...keeping an eye on the world going by my window..."
Studio Chatter: At the beginning of "Taxman", George slowly counts "one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four" on the right channel against a backdrop of studio background noises, before Paul's much faster "one, two, three, four!" on the left leads into the song itself.
One can hear someone saying, "Yawn, Paul" before someone, supposedly Paul, yawns in "I'm Only Sleeping".
John, very quietly, repeats "She feels good" after Paul sings that phrase in "Good Day Sunshine".
Unintentional Period Piece: In the song "Taxman" British politicians Harold Wilson and Edward Heath are referenced, making it one of the few Beatles songs that directly reference 1960s society. When George later performed the song in concert in 1991 (in what would be released on his Live in Japan album), he updated the lyrics slightly, adding another verse changing the political references to ones more relevant of the era (John Major, Boris Yeltsin, George H.W. Bush).
Word Salad Lyrics: The enigmatic lyrics of "And Your Bird Can Sing" are very open to interpretation. Jonathan Gould (author of Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America) theorizes that John intended them as a Take That to Frank Sinatra for Ol' Blue Eyes' criticism of The Beatles and rock music in general. Musicologist Alan Pollack instead suggested they reflect a kind of midlife crisis John was undergoing at the time, also hinted at in his infamous Maureen Cleave interview.