Revolver is the seventh studio album by The Beatles, recorded in the spring of 1966 and released that August.
The album was conceived during an unusually long break in the Fab Four's schedule in early 1966.note 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 '60s), giving them plenty of time to experiment. Revolver made George Harrison more prominent than ever by giving him three songs, including the opening track. (The most he'd ever gotten on their previous albums was two.) It was also the last regular Beatles studio album to have different American and British track listings on original release.
Like Sgt Pepper, the White Album and Abbey Road, it's been remixed by Giles Martin from the original tapes, and the remixed version was released in October 2022.
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). It also receives a lot of coverage in Steve Turner's Beatles' 66: The Revolutionary Year (2016).
Hits from the album include "Taxman", "Eleanor Rigby", "Got to Get You Into My Life", and "Yellow Submarine".
Tracklist (* = Not included in the original US version):
- "Taxman" (2:39)
- "Eleanor Rigby" (2:08)
- "I'm Only Sleeping" * (3:02)
- "Love You To" (3:01)
- "Here, There and Everywhere" (2:26)
- "Yellow Submarine" (2:40)
- "She Said She Said" (2:37)
- "Good Day Sunshine" (2:10)
- "And Your Bird Can Sing" * (2:02)
- "For No One" (2:01)
- "Doctor Robert" * (2:15)
- "I Want to Tell You" (2:30)
- "Got to Get You Into My Life" (2:31)
- "Tomorrow Never Knows" (2:57)
- George Harrison - guitar, backing and lead vocals, bass, sitar, tambura, maracas, tambourine, sound effects
- John Lennon - lead vocals, guitar, piano, organ, harmonium, cowbell, tambourine, maracas, sound effects
- Paul McCartney - lead vocals, bass, guitar, piano, clavichord, sound effects
- Ringo Starr - drums, backing and lead vocals, tambourine, maracas
"We all live in a yellow tropemarine...":
- Agony of the Feet: Paul kinda sorta mentions this in "Good Day Sunshine."We take a walk, the sun is shining down
Burns my feet as they touch the ground
- Aluminum Christmas Trees: In the post Ronald Reagan-Margaret Thatcher era, it can be hard to believe that "one for you, nineteen for me" is not an exaggeration; the British government in 1966 really did have a 95% top marginal tax rate.note
- And Then I Said: "She Said, She 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.
- Anti-Love Song/Break-Up Song: "For No One" is about the end of "A love that should have lasted years".
- Ascended Extra: "Yellow Submarine". Originally just a really beloved song on Revolver, it would eventually go on to spawn its own album and movie.
- Boy Meets Girl: One could interpret "Eleanor Rigby" in this light as wellalthough in this particular case, both parties are probably up in years. Still tragic, though...
- Brilliant, but Lazy: How John portrays himself in "I'm Only Sleeping".Everybody seems to think I'm lazy
I don't mind, I think they're crazy
- Broken Bird: Mentioned in "And Your Bird Can Sing".When your bird is broken
Will it bring you down?
- Broken Record: "Tomorrow Never Knows".Of the beginning, of the beginning, of the beginning, of the beginning, of the beginning, of the beginning.....
- Call-and-Response Song: Played With. The backing vocals in the bridge provide the call and George provides the response in "Taxman".
- Cannot Spit It Out: The subject of "I Want to Tell You".
- Character Title: "Taxman", "Eleanor Rigby" and "Doctor Robert".
- Cool Shades: All four Beatles wear Round Hippie Shades (for the first time) on the back cover photo.
- Creator Cameo: The Grammy Award-winning album cover was designed by Klaus Voormann, a German artist and musiciannote whom the Beatles 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.
- Dead Sparks: Paul's "For No One" is all about this."And yet you don't believe her when she says her love is dead, you think she needs you."
- Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover.
- Design Student's Orgasm: The album cover, designed by Klaus Voormann, who would later also design the cover of The Beatles Anthology. This YouTube video shows the original photos that were Voormann's sources for the collage.
- Downer Ending:Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved
- Dr. Feelgood: "Doctor Robert", apparently based on a real-life medical drug peddler.When you're down he'll pick you up: Dr. Robert.
- Echoing Acoustics: "Tomorrow Never Knows", as Lennon wanted to sound "like a hundred chanting Tibetan monks".
- The End of the Beginning: The final line of "Tomorrow Never Knows": "So play the game Existence to the end/ Of the beginning/ Of the beginning/ Of the beginning..."
- Face on the Cover: A cartoon portrait of the band, illustrated with smaller images of themselves interspersed throughout the picture.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "I'm Only Sleeping".
- Gratuitous Panning:
- "Taxman" used the "I Feel Free" method, bundling everything on the left channel, leaving tambourine and cowbell on the right, and filling the center with vocals.
- "Yellow Submarine" throws the vocals on the right channel, and the rest on the left. The sound fx stay on the center.
- Heavy Sleeper: "I'm Only Sleeping" is about this.
- Incredibly Long Note: At the end of "I Want To Tell You" George, John and Paul hold the word "time" well into the fade out.
- In the Style of: "Good Day Sunshine" is done in the style of The Lovin' Spoonful, in particular their song "Daydream".
- Paul's guitar solo in "Taxman" is partly blues-rock and partly in the style of classical Indian music.
- Intimidating Revenue Service: "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 ("There's one for you/Nineteen for me").
- "I Want" Song: "I Want to Tell You".
- Lonely Funeral: "Eleanor Rigby". The lonely title character dreams of someday being married, but ultimately dies, her funeral service attended only by the equally lonely Father McKenzie. The lyrics specifically state that "nobody came" to her funeral.
- Malaproper: The title "Tomorrow Never Knows" came from one of Ringo's weird sentences, just like A Hard Day's Night.
- Melismatic Vocals: In "Love You To" and pulled off by Paul at the very end of "I Want to Tell You".
- Mundane Made Awesome: "Taxman" (about the irritation of paying taxes) and "I'm Only Sleeping" (about sleeping).
- Never Trust a Title: The title for "Love You To" makes it seem like it'll sound similar to their earlier worknote . Then you actually play the song and BAM! Indian Sitar!
- New Sound Album:
- Several songs have little or no precedent in The Beatles' previous music. "Eleanor Rigby" was the first Beatles song on which no Beatle played an instrument—going one step further from the string quartet on "Yesterday", the song features a string octet. They'd used a sitar on "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, Stax Records and Soul Music in general, marked the group's first use of a horn section, mic'ed-up extra close so that the horns dominate the mix. (Earth, Wind & Fire would later cover the song, bringing things full circle.) Meanwhile, "Tomorrow Never Knows" was the band's first excursion into Avant-Garde Music; 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: The album title does not appear in any of the lyrics. "Love You To"note and "Tomorrow Never Knows" also don't get a mention in the songs themselves.
- Non Sequitur: "And Your Bird Can Sing" actually makes sense if you ignore the lines that start with "and your bird is..." For example: "You tell me that you've got everything you want (And your bird can sing!), but you don't get me. You say you've seen seven wonders (And your bird is green!), but you can't see me."
- 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. (Beatles '66 author Steve Turner has an alternate interpretation, suggesting that it's actually about McCartney's first LSD experience.)
- Only Sane Man: "I'm Only Sleeping" (See lyric under Brilliant, but Lazy above).
- One-Man Song: "Taxman".
- One-Word Title: The album itself and "Taxman".
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In common with all the previous Beatles' albums there's a photo of the band on the cover, but for the first time, they aren't looking at the camera, but at each other. (Specifically, the other three are all looking at Ringo, who's looking past the camera and wearing sunglasses.)
- Protagonist Title: "Eleanor Rigby" about a poor woman who dies alone and forgotten.
- Protest Song: "Taxman" was a protest against the 95% taxes on the group's income in Britain. The lines "Let me tell you how it will be, it's one for you, nineteen for me" and "Should five percent appear too small, be glad that I don't take it all" weren't jokes or empty rhetoric in the mid-1960s, the highest tax band for income tax really was 95%. This was one of the reasons they started earning so much of their income in the United States, so they could be taxed at a lower rate.
- Pun-Based Title:
- The album's title is a wordplay on the type of handgun and the revolving motion of a record as it spins on the turntable. Nowadays though, this one might take a second to figure out.
- 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 (Album) from earlier that year.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Several songs.
- "She Said She Said" is based on a famous incident from 1965. The Beatles note 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 the Wilson Government, which despite their seemingly best effort failed to stop George from becoming a millionaire. It bears mentioning that 95% was the marginal tax rate; that is, all of George's income before he reached the 95% threshold was taxed at a lower value. As well as mentioning Harold Wilson himself, the song also mentions his rival Edward Heath.
- "I'm Only Sleeping", based on John's laziness.
- There actually is a gravestone on St. Peter's Church in Liverpool with the name Eleanor Rigby (1898-1939) on it! Paul has commented that he might have seen the gravestone during his youth and subconsciously remembered it, for he didn't deliberately name the character in the song after her.
- Record Producer: George Martin, as usual.
- 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
- Second-Person Narration: "For No One" uses it.
- Shout-Out: "Taxman" provides a shout-out to British politicians Edward Heath and Harold Wilson at the time, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
- Silly Love Songs: The Beatles were turning away from this trope, but Paul provides two straight examples, "Here, There and Everywhere" and "Good Day Sunshine", plus an ostensible one in "Got to Get You Into My Life" (though he's famously claimed that it's actually a disguised ode to marijuana).
- Spoken Word in Music: "Yellow Submarine" has some speech and submarine sounds in it: "Full speed ahead, Mr. Parker, full speed ahead!"
- 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 John 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".
- Take That!: "And Your Bird Can Sing" is frequently interpreted as a swipe at Mick Jagger, whose "bird" at the time was singer Marianne Faithfull.You can say you've seen seven wonders
And your bird is green
But you can't see me
You can't see me
- Taxman Takes the Winnings: "Taxman" is a critique of taxation - in particular, the British governments then-highest income tax band (95%). Slightly undercut in that it's a complaint about a level of tax that only the very, very rich actually paid, so it's more of a rich man's moan about taxes than a reasoned critique of taxation in general.
- Truck Driver's Gear Change: Right at the end of "Good Day Sunshine".
- Unbuilt Trope: While it wasn't the intention, "Tomorrow Never Knows" today sounds like an early attempt at Industrial, particularly when the Leslie speaker-filtered vocal starts.
- Uncommon Time: "She Said She Said" switches liberally between 3/4 and 4/4.
- Villain Song: "Taxman" is basically the titular character boasting that he will take 95% of your money - "one for you, nineteen for me" and there's nothing you can do about it.
- 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.note Musicologist Alan Pollack instead suggested they reflect a kind of mid-life crisis John was undergoing at the time, also hinted at in his infamous Maureen Cleave interview. Another theory is that the song is a Take That! to The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and the "bird"note in the song referred to his then girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull. As noted in Non Sequitur above, however, the main source of the Word Salad is in the lines that start with "and your bird...", without which the song would be a pretty straightforward condemnation of Pride and materialism.
- World Music: George Harrison plays sitar during "Love You To", an instrument he learned to master thanks to Ravi Shankar. He played it earlier during "Norwegian Wood" on Rubber Soul (1965) and would play it again on "Within You Without You" from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) and "The Inner Light", the b-side to their 1968 non-album single "Lady Madonna".