The Beatles’ Revolver Term Paper

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by Susan

22 May 2018

The album Revolver of the Beatles was chosen for the writing of this term paper.  The reason is that this album is of great interest for each person who knows how perfect music should be done. It is notable here, that Beatles had to take care of the tracks in order to perform them in the album in a certain manner and to make their sound completely different from one another. The two compositions following each other represent a constantly repeating cycle, the range sound of the band. Any two located near songs, taken from the landscape sequence, subject to the rule of contrasting neighborhoods. One cycle ends and another begins, compiled by the same stylistic principle: guitar, electric sound is replaced by the exotic styling. In the song “Got to Get You into My Life” Hammond organ sounds, that is played by George Martin (Campbell, 2013). For the record “Eleanor Rigby” he had to hire a string ensemble. In addition, in the song “For No One” Paul McCartney wanted the horn, which was done. Besides, the horn piano part was recorded, which McCartney played himself.  For “Good Day Sunshine” George Martin played the piano. Taking into account the dominant tools in each composition the arrangement picture of the Revolver can be represented as follows:

  • “Taxman” (guitar sound).
  • “Eleanor Rigby” (Violin).
  • “I’m Only Sleeping” (guitar sound).
  • “Love You To” (sitar).
  • “Here, There And Everywhere” (guitar sound).
  • “Yellow Submarine” (acoustic sound, sound effects).
  • “She Said She Said” (guitar sound).
  • “Good Day Sunshine” (piano).
  • “And Your Bird Can Sing” (guitar sound).
  • “For No One” (piano, harpsichord).
  • “Doctor Robert” (guitar sound).
  • “I Want To Tell You” (guitar sound).
  • “Got To Get You Into My Life” (horn section).
  • “Tomorrow Never Knows” (film rings).

Among all these compositions, the three ones were chosen. These are the songs “Taxman”, “Love You To” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”. The first song I liked least, while the next two I liked very much.


Except for the main musical instruments of the group such as guitar, bass guitar and drums strings, brass and other instruments were also used. The percussion, tambourine and maracas were used to record multiple tracks. In the song “Taxman”, senserro can be heard. In the song “Love You To” George Harrison plays the sitar. In addition to the sitar, the Indian tabla drums sound in the recording. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is my favorite because many innovations have been used in this song.

There are four major innovations in the field of sound recording, which have been applied at the time of the album Revolver.

Such method as “artificial overlay” of the sounds was used for the first time for the recording of the tracks. The essence of the trick is to apply two tracks with the same vocal without recording it twice. One of the examples of the usage of the described method was the record of the vocals of John Lennon in the first half of the song “Tomorrow Never Knows”.

Another key point was the use of the process of recording sound in the opposite direction. In the album Revolver this method was used in the compositions “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”.

revolver-album-cover

The third innovation was the use of the tapes glued into rings (born Tape loop) with the recorded sounds. Five such rings were used during the work on “Tomorrow Never Knows”. The first one was used with a record of shouts and laughter of Paul McCartney: the second with orchestral chord in B flat major: the third with the sounds of flute, lessons with mellotron: the fourth with the sounds of violins, lessons with mellotron: and the fifth one was used with a distorted sound of the sitar.

With the help of a similar method the guitar solo of Paul McCartney, recorded for the song “Taxman”, was added later. Solo was turned into the opposite direction and was slowed down.

The fourth feature is the use of the technology of recording vocals with the help of Leslie speaker with a rotating speaker. This method provided a pulsating sound. This method was used to record the vocal of John Lennon in the second half of the song “Tomorrow Never Knows”.

It is evident that there were no more such innovative songs as “Tomorrow Never Knows” in the history of pop culture – as it a daring experience in the field of world music, philosophical lyrics, based on the images and concepts of the Eastern mysticism, Tibetan “Book of the Dead”. It radically overturned all the notions of what a song had to be. First, it was a notion of a Beatle-song. Before that, the Beatles, by all the accounts, came to the studio just to record a hit. A group tried to open the new horizons for creative development. The experiment that was undertaken in the last album, continued. “Tomorrow Never Knows” turned out to be the second studio work of Abbey Road in a fantastic laboratory for the creation of tones and sounds.

It is notable, that in this composition there was the birth of a new style – psychedelic. It got its name from a variety of drugs – psychedelics. It is difficult to say something about the stylistic traits of this trend. However, the detachment that distinguishes the work, inspired by the visions and experiences of psychedelic trance can be considered as one of the key elements. Psychedelic music is highly associative, and it is not standard in respect of harmonies, melodies, arrangements and compositions. Its rhythmic structure is often traced back to the musical traditions of the East and it originates from a spontaneous improvisation. Subliminal images in a trance follow each other, giving the impression of a flow.

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John Lennon wanted to display the inner thoughts of the blustering stream. He used unusual tools to create the musical trip. First, in “Tomorrow Never Knows” John Lennon offered an unexpected compositional basis for Beatle songs. As a composer, he turns to the principles of construction of the Eastern spiritual music. Instead of a conventional song structure “verse-chorus”, we are dealing with the mantra, lingering prayer wailing. The impression is that John Lennon slanders the text of the prayer to the blows of the ritual drums and the roar of Tibetan trumpets. “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, It is not dying, it is not dying. Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void, It is shining, it is shining” (The Beatles, “Tomorrow Never Knows”).

“Tomorrow Never Knows” is fully determined the sound of the album Revolver, setting the standards of the studio experimentation and at the same time giving the palette to the following arrangements (Rodriguez, 2012).

The song I liked less is “Taxman”. The reason is not in its perfect musical arrangement. On the contrast, I appreciate that the album starts with a hard “Taxman”, that George Martin, made based on the rhythm section. Guitar riffs of “Taxman” are a good example of a hard-rock tradition. I believe that this anti-establishment song about the taxes is a bit naïve and has nothing in common with a real life. Paul McCartney said:

At business meetings, lawyers and accountants explain to us what’s what. We were utterly naive, as evidenced by any of our transactions. George said: “I do not want to pay taxes”. And he replied: “We’ll have to, like everyone else. And the more you earn, the more you will be taken away”. And George was indignant: “But that’s not fair!” He said, ‘What’s that? Even in death, you will be paying taxes. – “What other taxes?” – “Inheritance taxes.” Since he was born a great line: “Declare pennies on your eyes”. (Swirsky, 2012). The situation with taxes annoyed us. We came up with a completely insane plan that had to pay a guy, that he lived in the Bahamas and would keep our money where they will not be taxed. In the end, we had to get back all the money back to pay taxes, but still pay this guy. As well, we could do nothing. That plan worked out with someone with Brian, and we bought into it (Swirsky, 2012).

The song, that is of great interest for me is “Love You To”. Although George Martin is considered to be the founder of the style of raga-rock, in this manner he wrote few songs, and one of the first of these compositions was “Love You To” song. The arrangement shows the original fusion of Eastern and Western traditions of music – sitar, tabla, supplemented guitars (acoustic and fuzz guitar) and tambourine. “Love You To” was the first song where The Beatles focused on the classical Indian music (Rodriguez, 2012).

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“Love You To” is the first pop song, which is done in the form of non-western. It is totally based on the Indian music, which can be proved by the structure of the song and the instrumental accompaniment. The translation of the Buddhist spiritual treatises by George Harrison (his main reading in the last few months) which is included in the song just emphasized the idea of “Think For Yourself” from the previous album Rubber Soul. A brief portion of the song is included in the cartoon by The Beatles “Yellow Submarine” when Harrison’s cartoon character appears at the beginning of the film (Brackett, 2008).

To sum up and conclude we also have to underline that the recording of Revolver lasted an unprecedented period – for three months of almost daily sessions. No other album of the Beatles recorded for so long time. Firstly, we are to note how diverse material is. In stylistic and genre, the album presents the most colorful bouquet of styles and trends, which are only possible. It seems that there are no theme and style that could elude from them as writers. Each song represents a story that amazes with the plot and the depth of its development. The Beatles presented not only the songs but also they had revealed an amazing ability to play in a variety of manners. The impression is that another singer and another group present the next track. They may sound like a Music Hall Band “Good Day Sunshine”, a chamber violin ensemble “Eleanor Rigby”, avant-electronica “Tomorrow Never Knows” or Hindu composition “Love You To”. The number of musical guises of the Beatles is endless. Moreover, the most important is that the album Revolver became the first conceptual work of the group.

References:

  1. Brackett, D, (2008). The Pop, Rock, and Soul Reader: Histories and Debates (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  2. Campbell, M. (2013). Popular Music in America: The Beat Goes On (4th ed.). Washington: Schirmer.
  3. LennMcHarriStarr64 (2012, May 29). The Beatles – “Revolver”. Retrieved April 21, 2013, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGAHZ1wXVQk
  4. Rodriguez, R. (2012). Revolver How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation.
  5. Swirsky, S. (Director). (2012). Beatles Stories (2011) [DVD format]. Los Angeles, CA: Cinema Libre Studio.