I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Revolver — although I have always hated “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Is there really any such thing as a bad Beatles record, after all? But I think there are a couple of reasons why it’s not my favourite. Firstly, I think it’s latter day popularity stems from the fact that it is the closest Beatles album to the contemporary sound of Indie rock. But I was never into that genre. By the time the NME C86 compilation came out, I was already drifting towards country music (a process that started, like a lightbulb going on, when I heard Nashville Skyline for the first time). So while a lot of my contemporaries and just-youngers were getting into the indie jangle, I was listening to The Band, early-middle Dylan, and the likes of Dwight Yoakam. Indie jangle passed me by in favour of chicken pickin’. 12-string guitars are all very well, John, but you’ll never make a living with them.
All of which means that I never felt a connection between Revolver and the other stuff I was into. The Beatles record nearest to the music I got into later on is, of course, Beatles for Sale, which is as close to a country album as the group made. But I should also say that I’d been in possession of my copy of Revolver for several years by the time of C86. So the second thing I have to say is that I think your favouriting of Beatles albums will depend on the order in which you obtained them.
Revolver was neither the first nor the last of the Beatles albums I bought. It kind of dropped into the middle of my collection and didn’t really stand out to me. In fact, I’d offer the same critique of it that some people make of the White Album: it’s so eclectic that it lacks cohesion.
So Revolver landed for me at a time when all Beatle music was new, and it didn’t stand out particularly. If you asked me to nominate a personal top 5, I would say:
- Beatles For Sale
- Abbey Road
- The White Album
- Let it Be
A top 4 would have been easier. Let it Be is a mixed bag, but has to be there for the title track and “Two of Us”. But if I did swap it out, I think I’d prefer Rubber Soul to Revolver, so now you’ll think I’m just being perverse. But that run, from Beatles for Sale to Rubber Soul is so good.
And I know some people would throw in A Hard Day’s Night as being their first breakthrough album. Of that I would say that Side 2 is weaker than side 1, whereas Side 2 of Help! has “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “Yesterday”.
As always, with these super deluxe editions, I find the extra tracks fairly underwhelming. While it is interesting to hear their works in progress, and to consider their creative process, it’s not as if I’m going to make a point of listening to most of this stuff. Or any of this stuff. I honestly don’t see the appeal of the giggling version of “And Your Bird Can Sing” (perhaps I’ve been around too many students making too much of a small thing). And I really don’t give a shit that “Yellow Submarine” started off as a sad song. This problem is compounded by the fact that Revolver isn’t my favourite in the first place. I’m happy to have a stereo mix that sounds more like a modern stereo mix, and I’m more likely to listen to that than to the original. As to the mono mix, sure, since it turns out that most of my non-headphone listening is on a single, mono speaker.
But the extra discs of outtakes and song sketches hold very little interest for me because I am not of the trainspotter/collector tendency. I’ve always felt that the Beatles released everything that was worth releasing by 1970, and there has been nothing released over the years that changed my mind about that.
I was listening to people discussing Beatles bootlegs the other day, and nothing they said changed my mind about having no interest in that kind of thing. Not even the “Live at the BBC” stuff appeals to me much. It all sounds a bit thin in comparison to their George Martin produced and released catalogue.
The other question I’ve been meaning to address is the meaning of the word psychedelia, especially in relation to Revolver. I’ll be frank and admit that I have never heard anything “psychedelic” on a Beatles record. Not even “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” strikes me that way. Maybe It’s hard to explain what I mean, and perhaps it’s because I’ve never really taken drugs myself, but let’s, say, compare early Pink Floyd to The Beatles. Those first two Floyd albums, synth heavy, weird, put you in the middle of their light show. I can see that, even stone cold sober as I am. But The Beatles for me are always more oneiric than psychedelic. “I’m Only Sleeping” has an oneiric quality, and so does “Tomorrow Never Knows”, really.
Anyway, now that demixing has happened on a Beatles album, what price returning to Sgt Pepper and giving us yet another version? And what happened to the Magical Mystery Tour material?