Happy Fiftieth Birthday Revolver
As I’ve mentioned, my parents didn’t have that many records in the house growing up. We had the President Kennedy comedy album, Nancy Sinatra’s greatest hits (ideal if you wanted to “walk all over” your younger brothers), and Johnny Morris narrating the Railway Stories of the Rev. Awdry.
And we had Revolver by the Beatles.
So I like to think we had all we needed.
People talk about vinyl records being “played to death” but what really damaged those records was kids messing about with the stylus so as to avoid particular tracks and replay their favourites. Our copy of Revolver was remarkably undamaged. Because, let’s face it, there is nothing wrong with this album, nothing skippable. It was released fifty years ago today and there’s not a thing you’d want to edit. There is nothing a twenty-first century recording studio could do to this album that would make it better, stranger, warmer, wiser or more exciting.
It’s my favourite Beatles Album cover. Old pal Klaus blending line drawing and photos in ways that are subversive and affectionate in equal measure. But oh, the songs…
I’m only Sleeping
Love You To
Here There and Everywhere
She Said She Said
Good Day Sunshine
And Your Bird Can Sing
For No One
I Want to Tell You
Got to Get You into my Life
Tomorrow Never Knows
Revolver is also, perhaps, Paul McCartney’s greatest hour. The songs that Paul wrote for this album are all masterpieces. Actually all the songs on Revolver can be arranged on a continuum between Masterpiece and Very Very Very Good – but all of Paul’s are masterpieces. John admitted as much. Go through the interview database carefully and you’ll note how much John praised the Paul songs on Revolver. There have never been so many great Paul McCartney songs on one piece of vinyl. From the icy, disciplined beauty of “Eleanor Rigby”, to the warm melodic perfection of “Here, There and Everywhere” to the fun of “Yellow Submarine” (and anyone who hates “Yellow Submarine” has cold bloodedly murdered their own child within) to the driving rhythmic happiness of “Good Day Sunshine” to the lofty classicism of “For No One” to the sheer Tom Jonesie Motown energy of “Got to Get You Into My Life”, Macca has never done better on one album. Perhaps nobody has.
But this dominance does not reflect any particular slackness on John Lennon’s part. It’s true that Lennon – notoriously critical of his own work, dismissed “And Your Bird Can Sing” as a “throwaway”, but I wouldn’t throw it away. “And Your Bird Can Sing” would be a stand out track on any other album released in 1966. And there’s a strange charm to “I’m Only Sleeping”, a song which captures the SOUND of laziness better than anything I can think of. “She Said She Said” makes a sublime virtue out of jagged rhythmic unorthodoxy. And then there’s “Tomorrow Never Knows”, a song which sounds as strange and experimental to my ten year old son as it did to me
I’ve worried sometimes about the basic lyric of “Taxman” and its sullenness regarding public revenue collection (ha ha Mr Wilson – ha ha Mr Heath). The Jam stole its riff for “Start!”. But “Love You To” fascinated us as kids as well – our first exposure to Indian music of any kind. And “I Want to Tell You” is typically reflexive and troubled Harrison, an obsessed song about being hung up and not knowing why.
And when I remember “Dr Robert”, delicious little gospel song about a quack pill pusher, then I remember the very great thing about this album which is that every single song on it can become your earworm for the day. Drop the stylus at any point on either side and your head and your heart will start to converse – your emotions will become more thoughtful and your thoughts will become more passionate.
Happy Birthday Revolver, Fifty years very very young.