First Listen: The Beatles Revolver Album

Wallace The Waffle Whiffer, Going Postal

”While growing up or trying to, not knowing where to start” – George Harrison ‘Cracker Box Palace’

Many say that they associate songs with certain memories. They hear a song and think of places, people or a special time in their life. I am no different really. I can hear certain songs and can place where I was when I first heard them, remember people who I associated with and events or happenings that were occurring at that time.

Now maybe I am a bit different or maybe not, but I think of not just songs, but very often whole albums of music. And those memories also take me back to those things that used to be on big round flat pieces of vinyl. Those big pieces of wax that we would bring with us to our friend’s house or would have them around because they just had to hear it. They meant something to us, and we used to wait anxiously for the latest LP from our favourite band to be released and then sit and listen to each song on both sides. Two sides with a set of somewhere between ten to fourteen songs all by one artist usually. Remember those things and those days?

Anyway, I digress, I have albums that I associate with places, certain people, time of year and even weather. With the advent of the warm and balmy weather we have just had, a memory came to me of a summer around ’70 or ’71 and of an album that I heard for the first time when I was ten or eleven.

I was invited by a classmate over to his house to camp out in the back yard overnight and hang out together for a couple of days. I remember feeling a bit funny about this as ‘Frank’ was not one of the most popular kids in our class, He was not bullied or disliked really, but just was a bit awkward and kept to himself a lot. ‘Frank’ was the sort who was usually one of the last kids picked for whatever game or team event that was being staged. Unfair as although not a great athlete, he was quite clever and if it was something academic then you would want him to be on your side awkward or not.

Now, I cannot remember the exact details as to how I said ‘yes’ and ended up spending the night at ‘Frank’s’. It was not something that I would have talked up at school as if it was one of the more popular kids, but not something I would have tried to cover up either. I feel a bit funny about all of that now. What we do when we are or want to be part of ‘the gang’ or the ‘in crowd.’ while growing up. I cannot simply be bothered with any of that sort of thing now. Life is too short, and I am what I am, and people are people. Some are good, some are bad and some I have things in common with or not.

Anyway, I ended over at ‘Frank’s’ and we tracked all over the area where he lived seeing some mutual classmates and from what I remember just talking a lot on that first day. We camped out that night and I remember waking up and then going in for breakfast where I had my very first experience with Yogurt. I grew up in rural Northern Michigan and in what we would call a very ‘Meat and Potatoes’ type of place. I have yogurt nearly every day now, but I remember it being a horrible experience then. We grew up mostly on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Cheerios and Post Toasties in the week. On the weekend we would have a cooked breakfast with egg, sausage, bacon and toast or if lucky, some of mom’s homemade Coffee Cake. Eating that rotten milk stuff was weird and ghastly and I was rather traumatised from what I remember.

After suffering through the yogurt experience and wondering I was going to be sick most of the morning comes the good bit. The bit I always remember and associate music wise with this sort of weather and time of year. ‘Frank’ I am sure, knew that I was a bit of Beatles fan and towards the end of my stay whether to try and win me over as a best friend or to make up for trying to poison me at breakfast pulled out the  Beatles ‘Revolver’ album from his parents collection of LPs.

Later, I always felt this significant from the aspect that his parents taught at the local Arts Academy that was known for the classical musicians who studied and trained there and the radio station that played nonstop ‘long hair’ music. People like The Classical Pianist Van Cliburn who won the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow had strong ties to the school.  For ‘Frank’s’ parents to have a popular music LP amongst the Brahms, Beethoven and Mozart recordings was really something even if I did not realise it at the time.

Keith’s parents not only had this pop record, but a proper stereo to play it on!  My parents were still in the Mono Hi-Fi world owning this massive Zenith console that took up half of the living room. A rather large piece of furniture for its function really.

Wallace The Waffle Whiffer, Going Postal
Front Cover US Capitol Version

I had never heard The Beatles ‘ Revolver’ although I knew some of the songs that were listed on the back of the jacket. Who had not heard ‘Yellow Submarine’ and of the animated film of the same title? Most of my Beatles came from the radio, television and the odd single that was brought into school. All I knew was that everything I heard by the Fab Four I thought was the greatest and the four lads from Liverpool always were so cool with the way that they spoke, wore their hair and their clothes. They might as well have been from another planet to a boy from the back woods of Northern Michigan. ‘This is going to be an amazing experience’ I remember thinking and it simply was. The album cover was pretty groovy with the boys rendered by drawing with their photographs integrated throughout their locks on the front and on the back a black and white photo with the boys in some neat looking shades just looking plain cool. I just held the jacket and just kept turning it over and over looking at it all the while the music played around me in stereo sound. I still do look at the album cover whenever I play ‘Revolver’ and it is just not the same experience with a CD.

What about the music? Ah, the music. I was entranced and remember thinking after that it was the neatest record I had heard up to that point.

Jumping into the ‘way back’ machine this is what I can recall when I first heard each track on that warm summers’ day so many years ago.

Side One

Taxman:

You hear George counting in and a Beatle cough on record. A Beatle cough on the record! I thought that was very cool and loved the lead guitar in the song and at the fade out at the end. Years later was surprised to learn that McCartney played the lead on that song and a few others such as ‘Back In The USSR’ and ‘Ticket To Ride’ to name just a couple. Liked the words to ‘Taxman’ but had no inkling of what taxes were and that this song was protesting paying them and that it mentions British politicians by name. Ah,ah Mr Heath, Ah,ah Mr Wilson. Later, I would not only know more about Georges’ anger concerning The Taxman and the individuals he mentions but share some of the same frustrations myself. At that time, it was just a great sounding song that I had not heard before by the Beatles.

Eleanor Rigby:

This song seems to tell a bit of a story and I have always had a thing for story songs. Country songs, Folk songs and pop songs. If there is a story there, I get sucked in. The strings on this song were something I remember sticking out and the words were poetic. It was sad. People who toil through life part of the background fabric, who die alone and then are forgotten as if they never were. Ashes to Ashes, Dust to dust.

‘Revolver’ was one of the first pop records where some of the lyrics were really taken seriously and then led to Sgt. Pepper having all of the words to the songs printed on the sleeve.

Ah, look at all the lonely people!
Ah, look at all the lonely people!

Eleanor Rigby picks up the rice in the church
Where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing a face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for?

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Father McKenzie, writing the words of a sermon
That no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks in the night
When there’s nobody there, what does he care?

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?
Ah, look at all the lonely people!
Ah, look at all the lonely people!

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried
Along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands
As he walks from the grave
No one was saved

All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
All the lonely people, where do they all belong?

Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney

© Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Love You to:

The first of two George Harrison offerings and just remember unlike anything else that I had heard up to that time. Certainly, sounded like nothing that was on our local AM radio Station or I had heard anywhere else for that matter.

Sitar and Indian influences big time and for me a big leap considering the fare that played on the radio in my neck of the woods. I had not yet heard ‘Within You, Without You’ on Sgt. Pepper or ‘The Inner Light ‘ which was the B-Side to ‘Lady Madonna’ that featured Indian musicians. even the Lennon penned ‘Norwegian Wood’ from Rubber Soul that Harrison first attempted sitar on.

Here, There and Everywhere:

A pretty song to myself and others. Some would possibly say syrupy and sickly sweet.  Another one of McCartney’s many love ballads. One of John Lennon’s’ favourite songs that the Beatles recorded and possibly the only ones of he liked by McCartney. George Martin, The Beatles producer marked it as one of his favourites of the band as well.  It was just a nice catchy tune to me until my first serious girlfriend came along who I was very infatuated with. Then the song suddenly had much more meaning to me then and even now. Love (or lust) changes everything!

Yellow Submarine:

That goofy Ringo drummer guy singing lead on this one.

I was already familiar with this one and a short time later would see the film it inspired on TV as a Sunday night movie special in 1972. I thought that film was the coolest thing even though it was on a black and white set. I remember it being a topic of discussion at school the next day as shows and films often were. Someone said later to me that ‘Yellow Submarine’ was not a great song. It was a kiddie song not a serious song so therefore not very good. Gee, I thought that was what was so clever about it and also the point of it. A song for children that painted a picture of life on a Yellow Submarine. Every-time I listened to it I was below the waves in the Sea of Green with my friends who were also all aboard. Always thought the sound effects were cool and helped to make this song fun when I was younger and still do find it fun to this day.

She Said She Said:

John Lennon. Very much John Lennon.

Not sure if you would call it word play, but the lyrics to this one was certainly different.

Had no idea about the words and what they meant exactly. ”I know what it is like to be dead” or ‘’And she’s making me feel like I never was born” Wow, what was it all about?  About an acid trip from what I have learned, but the sound was great. Loved the guitar sound on this one. Based on something Peter Fonda said during an acid trip that he and John shared from what I can recall. One of three or four Beatle songs that McCartney did not play on which is interesting.

Wallace The Waffle Whiffer, Going Postal
Back Cover US Capitol Version

Side Two

Good Day Sunshine:

Just a happy good morning world song. A bubbly McCartney song and also very catchy. Liked it then and still like it now. Played for the US Astronauts on Space Shuttle Missions. Keep hearing this being played in local Co-op stores. Leonard Bernstein has evidently praised this tune for its construction, and I think Ringo and Paul are the only Beatles who actually play on it.

For No One:

Just plain liked this one. Another McCartney song and I still have it pop into my head from time to time even though it is a sad song about a broken romance. Swept away in ‘Here There and Everywhere’ and now it is all over four songs later. ‘She no longer needs him’. ‘She knew someone and now he is gone’. Funnily enough it mirrors my first relationship and how things went. I am trying to remember if my first fling lasted as long four songs or even as long as just those two songs.

I Want Tell You:

Second George song.

”I feel hung up and I don’t know why” I liked this song then and now I do not know why. Maybe the words? Not as good as some of the other tracks on the record but still works for me and every so often pops into my head unbidden. ‘My head is filled with things to say, when you’re here, all those words they seem to slip away.”  I have been there many times with significant others and always think of things I could have or should have said after it is too late. Strikes chords with me on different levels, I guess.

Got To Get You Into My Life:

The horns were very good leading this and groovier toward the end So bright and very infectious. Really grabbed me and this tune still does. Always think a rather British song do not ask me to explain. Just the sound of it or maybe because it is just Beatley.

Later learned that it was probably another song about McCartney’s love of Marijuana.

Tomorrow Never Knows:

John Lennon song and perhaps a precursor to Strawberry Fields and especially Sgt Pepper with all of the studio trickery that was involved. What a way to close out a record. Wilds sounds with tape loops galore. Lennon, I once read, wanted a sound something like ten thousand monks chanting from the top of a mountain. The lyrics were somewhat based on the ‘Tibetan Book of The Dead’ and were way out there from my worldly perspective of the time. All I knew was that the sounds coming from the speakers, including the drumming was just too much. Then there was John’s voice sounding like it was coming from the great beyond as it were. Very far-out and mind-blowing stuff.

I think that overnight trip and especially the ‘Revolver’ listening session did bring me closer to ‘Frank’. I enjoyed his company and remember discussing ‘Revolver’ several times with him after our time together.  I have always thought ‘Revolver’ a special record and many fans and critics alike consider it The Beatles finest work. Rolling Stones top 500 Albums of all-time list it at Number Three behind The Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’ at Number two and The Beatles own ‘Sgt. Pepper’ at number One.

I have of course listed the songs from the American version of the record as that is the way I would have heard it and remember hearing it up until the time of the first CD releases of the Band’s music. Three songs, ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ and ‘Dr. Robert’ were culled from the UK version and were actually released before ‘Revolver ‘on a compilation of singles and album tracks called ‘Yesterday and Today’ as was common at that time. Revolver was the last Beatles release to have this treatment in the U.S. with all subsequent albums being issued ‘as was’ with no revisions. It was tempting while writing this story to mention the many differences between the Mono and Stereo LPs, different mixes and the interesting session outtakes, but will leave that for another time.

I have tried as much as possible to write down what I remember as I heard the recording for the very first time when I was around ten or eleven in ‘Frank’s’ parents living room all those years ago.

Revolver celebrates its fifty-third anniversary on August 5th in the UK and August 8th in the USA.
 

© Wallace The Waffle Whiffer 2019
 

The Goodnight Vienna Audio file