We often place the BUY NOW Button at the end of a typical article, but this time we thought it would be better to place it up front; a great book for your Beatles Library.
By Jude Southerland Kessler
I remember it well...sitting with my friend, Emily Moss, on my tufted bedspread (an act that was strictly taboo) and listening to The Beatles new LP, "Revolver." Emily and I looked at each other with heartsick eyes. We were clearly thinking the same thing: "What the hell are the Beatles up to? Where's the harmonica, the hand-clapping, the wooooo's, the beautiful three-part harmony, the feel-good-feeling? "
I felt betrayed. I felt as if The Beatles had "left the building" and in their place stood this band whom I couldn't stomach or understand. Aloud, I believe I said, "Well, the only thing on there to like is 'For No One,' and that's a Paul song." I never understood "Revolver," and frankly I didn't want to.
Then, I read Robert Rodriguez's brilliant book, Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock'n'Roll. And for the first time, I got it. I understood.
Rodriguez, whose impressive array of past Beatles and 1960's books (Beatles FAQ, The Sixties, ) provided the impetus that I needed to even open the cover, takes the reader by the hand and leads him or her back to 1964 and 1965 when The Beatles were overwhelmed by touring, disenchanted with their "usual" product, and inspired by the Stones, Dylan, and The Beach Boys (among others) to do something remarkable. And from there, Rodriguez leads his readers on the Beatles' intricate pursuit of an LP that would make people sit up (on their tufted bedspreads) and listen.
Rodriguez is a master storyteller. Every word he speaks in Revolver:How The Beatles Reimagined Rock'n'Roll is researched in depth. BUT he conveys that information in such a way that the book is a page-turner.
Artfully, he transports you inside EMI and inside The Beatles' heads for the creation of the LP that changed the world of rock'n'roll. He "has the reader at hello" with an Introduction that encourages us all to look at Revolver with open eyes and to see the brash creativity of its tracks. Rodriguez concisely presents his thesis statement: Revolver was The Beatles' game changer. And he sets about proving it.
Throughout his book, Rodriguez reminds us that The Beatles didn't create in a void; as John Lennon once said, they "stole from the best" and were inspired by the rest. Rodriguez carefully examines the influences of the Beatles' peers. Then, in Chapter 4 - a song-by-song analysis of the origin of Revolver tracks - he outlines the influence of The Beach Boys on "Here, There, and Everywhere," the sway of John's literary diet on "Tomorrow Never Knows," and the pervasive weight of mind-expanding drugs on "Got to Get You Into My Life," "She Said, She Said," "Rain," and "Tomorrow Never Knows." Rodriguez treats the reader to a Sixties history lesson - complete with vignettes about Timothy Leary, Brian Wilson, Peter Fonda and others - while providing a thorough examination of Revolver's inception.
Chapter 5 artfully maneuvers the reader through the intricacies of the recording process, highlighting the contributions of each Beatle, George Martin, and Geoff Emerick. One of the most fascinating aspects of Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock'n'Roll is Rodriguez's vigilant reporting of the techniques employed to create each song. He busts many, many long-standing myths about the ways in which these songs were produced and gives readers a way to hear and discover for themselves that he is correct. (For example, when discussing Paul's guitar solo on "Tomorrow Never Knows," Rodriguez asserts that it is NOT, as formerly stated, the same solo used on "Taxman." He tells the reader to use a digital program like Audacity or Audition to "deconstruct what's here." He says, "place it at its recorded tempo with the backward tape forward and asses.") Rodriguez doesn't ask us to take his "word" for anything. He proves his assertions.
In Chapter 6, Rodriguez turns to a topic that hits too close to home: the reception of Revolver by the fans and media. When he quotes McCartney as saying, "We'll lose some fans with it, but we'll also gain some. The fans we'll probably lose will be the ones who like the things about us that we never liked anyway..." I winced. However, I consoled myself with the fact that The Beatles didn't "lose" me as a fan. They just confused me. But apparently, I wasn't alone.
Rodriguez points out that reception of the LP in America was a "mixed review." The rock journal, "Crawdaddy," criticized its lack of holistic integration but praised its array of material. American publisher Paul Williams disrespected "Tomorrow Never Knows." However "The Village Voice" - a more cutting edge publication - saw it as "important" and "sublime." And in England, the reviews were overwhelmingly positive.
Readers will be especially intrigued with Chapter 6's account of the creative efforts in packaging the LP for purchase: the selection of cover art, title, and PR. The distinction between being a Personality-Driven Band (which The Beatles had been heretofore, and which The Monkees were at that moment) and an Art-Driven Band (to which Revolver had lifted them...or to which they had lifted themselves via Revolver) became the primary decision of 1966, Rodriguez tells us.
The Beatles meandered from their former path of "mere popularity...toppermost of the poppermost," to choose the path not taken. (And that made all the difference. Ta, Mr. Frost.)
Lest Rodriguez commit the sin of studying a work of art out of context, he quickly moves into Chapter 7 which places Revolver in comparison to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Quite early in his book, Rodriguez tells us, "For too many years, assessments of The Beatles' recorded output have routinely placed their 1967 release, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, atop the heap...as the group's finest effort...the standard against which all other acts would be measured." But, he goes on to say, this is passť. "Revolver is The Beatles' artistic high-water mark." And Chapter 7, Rodriguez tells us why in a very logical comparison of the two mammothly creative LP's.
The evaluation of Sgt. Pepper is so lengthy and so thorough that my only criticism of this work is that it should have been titled "Revolver and Sgt. Pepper: How The Beatles Reinvented Rock'n'Roll." Both LP's are studied in depth, and Sgt. Pepper is studied under as powerful a microscope as Revolver. The "glance" at Sgt. Pepper is approximately 150 pages of detailed analysis. If you are a Pepper fan, you'll want to purchase this book.
At the end of his work, Rodriguez gives researchers and fans alike a concrete and very correct timeline of 1966, including which songs were topping the charts for any given week (again, placing the creative work in context). And throughout Revolver: How The Beatles Reinvented Rock'n'Roll, Rodriguez supplies not "the same-ole, same-ole" long-established shots of The Beatles, but photos of LP's, artists, literary works, and items that influenced the production of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper.
This is a T and T book...thoughtful and thorough. It certainly changed my entire outlook on Revolver, and gave me an insight into the workings of Emerick that even Emerick doesn't provide in Here, There, and Everywhere. Effectively using facts, quotes, illustrations, and proof, Rodriguez taught me to respect (if not love) Revolver. I "got it into my life," thanks to this superb study.
P.S. I'm going to recommend the book to Emily as well.
Author of Shoulda Been There, Vol. 1 (1940-Dec. 1961) and Shivering Inside, Vol. 2 (Dec. 1961-midApril 1963) in The John Lennon Series