1001 Albums: Revolver

#60

Album_60_Original.jpg

Artist: The Beatles

Album: Revolver

Year: 1966

Length: 34:43

Genre: Pop Rock/Psychedelic Rock

“We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine”

Oh Boy!… The Beatles… Again… I’m so excited…

As you can tell from my blatant sarcasm, I’m still not sold on The Beatles. As usual, I don’t hate them, I don’t even dislike them, I actually do enjoy them, I’m just not crazy about them. I guess you can say the ever popular comeback to this, I just don’t get it. It’s true. I don’t. I thought I was starting to get it when Rubber Soul went by, but then Revolver hit and I have no idea what to think any more.

I can already hear you saying: “But Revolver is the greatest Beatles album, even the greatest album of all time period. How did this one not turn you? HOW COULD YOU LIKE MUSIC IF YOU CAN’T EVEN SAY THE BEATLES ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BAND?”

You think I’m exaggerating, but someone actually told me that last one and yes, they even yelled it rather angrily at me.

I guess they bring up a fair point. The Beatles and especially this album, are widely considered to be the greatest music of all time. It’s become almost common sense at this point. There’s absolutely no way I can listen to Revolver and say that it’s bad because it’s been called the greatest album of all time by literally almost everyone.

So what does that say about me?

Well, a lot of factors go into how I felt about this album. It was over-sold being the main one. Everyone’s been in that position where someone praised something to the high heavens to them and told them they must enjoy and love it now like everyone else because it’s sooooooo amazingly amazingly amazing, only to finally experience it and go… that was it? That was the amazingly amazingly amazing thing I was supposed to find so amazingly amazingly amazing?

Don’t get me wrong, like I said above, I do enjoy a good Beatles tune. I liked Rubber Soul and was ready to be wowed by this one. But instead I found myself with mixed feelings. I din’t really know how to feel about it. If anything the whole thing left me more confused than anything. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I didn’t get it. Who knows, maybe one day It’ll finally hit me and I will have the revelation of a lifetime and I’ll finally understand it all. A Beatles tune will pop up on the radio and in that moment it will all come rushing into me and I’ll snap fingers and go EUREKA! But until then, I’ll still be confused.

I actually wonder what it is that people who love The Beatles think. So far, in my search of understanding, I’ve come across two types of answers to my question of why are The Beatles the best?

The first is the ever useful: ” Because it’s The Beatles duuuuuh”. Unfortunately, that’s doesn’t give me much insight into… well, anything. Other than being completely useless as a statement it also proves that this particular person is probably just jumping on The Beatles bandwagon and doesn’t want to be judged for saying anything other than their the best.

The second, much better, response I usually get is usually a in-depth look at their collection of greatest hits. This makes more sense and I definitely get some good insight into how The Beatles were incredibly influential and the impact they made on rock, pop, psychedelic and just music in general. When I have this kind of in-depth conversation with someone, I usually tend to agree with them. But it’s easy to when all your examples are some of their greatest songs. Like any fanbase, it’s easy to show off their strengths when you pick and choose which songs to talk about. You’ll obviously pick the best of the bunch and leave the weaker ones to rot in the basket. It makes sense, you want people to be on your side, not convince them you’re wrong. That being said, I will say it is hard to find a really shitty and awful Beatles song because they were very talented blokes and actually made the effort to write decent music.

So what do I think of Revolver?

Well, it’s ok in my opinion. There’s a lot that’s there to really strengthen the idea that The Beatles are the best, but for the most part the album ranges from Spectacualrly Good to Mildly Mediocre. That’s still very good for an album to achieve especially since every album always has that one song that it could have done without (this one included) but in their case they managed to never go under the belt and write something awful, which that deserves mad respect.

The Beatles were definitely evolving and trying out new things with this one. Things that were unheard of in rock… ever. From playing tracks backwards, to incorporating an octet of strings, to using sound effects, perfecting their harmonies, creating memorable melodies and just all-around creating both a rocking  and mellow vibe at the same time. This marked the beginning of Psychedelic Music in popular culture and opened the door for bands of the genre to really go all out. Only The Beatles could have paved the way for such a mind-bending genre and if it weren’t for them opening the door to the mainstream, Psychedelic Rock might have easily stayed in the counter-culture. But that’s pure speculation.

I know it sounds like I contradicted myself there, but where I got confused wasn’t the musical expertise on the album, but was the songs themselves. It’s hard not to listen to the beautiful strings of Eleanor Rigby, that support the themes of loneliness, and not react emotionally in some way. It’s a really sad song that gets to your heart strings and really tugs at them as if they were being played by the violinist instead. George Harrison’s Sitar work was incredible on Love You To and it’s nice to see them incorporating their hindi influences from their escapades in India. Even songs like I’m Only Sleeping (despite it’s almost grating vocals), Here, There and Everywhere and For No One manage to evoke some decent feelings (whether it’s eerie, mellow, transcendental or even cheery) and shows of their musical expertise. I even found myself really enjoying She Said She Said, which despite the dark lyrics almost felt like an ode to their older pop style. Funny coming from me after disliking that pop sound so much, maybe it was due to the mix of the lyrics or maybe I’m just full of shit (Hey, I’m only human, we’re all full of shit at some point).

But then, there’s the other songs. The album opens with Taxman, which to this day I still have no idea whether to call this a great Beatles song or an odd miss on their part. It was an odd way to start the album (except maybe the obvious countdown at the beginning) and almost felt like it should belong on another one of their albums. And then there’s the lyrically lame Good Day Sunshine and the rather mediocre Doctor Robert, which I feel both do nothing to really show off the progress they’ve made as musicians. Almost like music they could do in their sleep, as if they were on auto-pilot when writing it. Even Got To Get You Into My Life feels a little forgettable as far as The Beatles go. And then, close to halfway through the album we’re met with Yellow Submarine.

I want someone to tell me with a straight face that this song is the epitomy of amazingness. I want someone to seriously tell me this is a fantastically great song. This song is awful. Let me rephrase that. This song would be great, if this was a an album for children. It’s not. It’s an album with adult themes and dark, melancholic vibes. This song does not fit at all. Other than the fact that it just sounds incredibly stupid, especially when compared to the rest of the songs on the album, it’s also laughably dull. Even the vocals sound completely bored of the song, as if the spirit of Ben Stein overtook them when recording it. Everytime the chorus hits they sound so enthused to be singing it that the monotone delivery really packs a punch. This is a song that we used to sing all the time as kids and when we did it was always to mockingly imitate that damn chorus line. At least it managed to make us laugh. But of all The Beatles albums it could have been on, it was on this one to my astonishing surprise. Did they put this on as a joke? Or were they just incredibly high when making this album.

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they were. They became notorious for their LSD taking and were definitely on some sort of substance while recording in the studio. That’s what this album feels like most of the time, some weird LSD trip, as if they were able to capture what they saw into their music (which that in itself is an amazing feat). And this all culminates into the final song of the album: Tomorrow Never Knows. A song so absurd, so trippy, so deep into psychedelia that I honestly can’t tell if they just lost their minds and created noise or this is a fucking masterpiece. It’s so easy to get lost into the song and depending on your mood it’ll either be in a good way or bad way. Either way, it’s one hell of a song to end the album with.

So, what can I conclude from all this? Is this really the greatest album of all time? Maybe… who am I or anyone to say, really? Objectively they were doing a lot of new and interesting things musically that really set a whole new standard of what rock and pop should be. It impacted the musical world so hard that most artists look back to this as the one that really started it all for them. But then again, considering something great is a very subjective thing. What a lot of people might have loved about this album, I might have disliked and vice verse (me liking, you disliking). I really feel The Beatles were a product of their time. A vessel into music history. A portrait of what it was like for music in the 60s. I don’t think it stands the test of time as well as some say, but it definitely gives good insight as to what was going on at the time. There’s no doubt that they were trailblazers, setting stones, paving ground, opening doors for everyone to come and that in itself deserves all the respect that it gets. But is that factor alone enough to call something the greatest? Chuck Berry redefined guitar playing in rock n’ roll (The Beatles and The Stones were both heavily influenced by him), but people rarely cite his work as the best. Heck, classical composers like Mozart and Beethoven really set a standard for music and melodies, but people more readily talk about modern musicians than the classical ones.

But who am I to judge, I’m only one person with one set of opinions. I can only add to the conversation, not sway it.

 

Song of Choice: Eleanor Rigby

-Bosco

 

 

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