SATURDAY MORNING WITH HowieZOWIE PLAYLIST:
~The Celebrated Mr. K. Presents~
"John, (not) Paul, (by) George (- it's HowieZowie) & sRINGrrrl with Our Fav 3"
2 September 2017
Featuring special in-studio guest The London Beatles Festival artist John Couture of Newport Electric!
[Newport Electric takes the JRLMA Beatlesfest After Party Stage at Poacher's Arms, 10:30pm on Friday ~ 8 September 2017]
For John Couture's natural hat trick appearance on the show, we not only started gearing up for The London Beatles Festival – but, by default, delved into a topic near & dear to our hearts. The theme revolved around each one of us making a case for our favourite album by The Beatles by presenting it in a three-track block. For the record (after years of debating back-and-forth between the placement of my top two), these our my Top Five Favourite Albums by The Beatles:
The Beatles (aka The White Album)
Let it Be
Behind the Scenes ~ Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
The celebrated Mr. K. performs his feat on Saturday....
Canada has lost one of its greatest musicians. Legendary “Skip” Prokop has died at the age of 73. Formerly with The Paupers, the Hamilton native who was born Ronald Harry Prokop, went on to be the band leader with Lighthouse in 1968 along with keyboardist Paul Hoffert and guitarist Ralph Cole.
Lighthouse was a 13 piece rock/funk/jazz group. They won the Juno Award for Top Canadian group three consecutive years in 1972-73 and 74.
After splitting up in 1976, Lighthouse staged a number of reunions while Prokop also spent time behind the microphone as a radio announcer in the GTA. Prokop, Hoffert and Cole relaunched Lighthouse in 1992 as a 10-member unit and continued to tour, appearing on The Moody Blues’ Cruise Ship event in 2014.
Prokop was also a noted studio musician and songwriter, performing on The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper album, recording with Janis Joplin and writing “I’d Be So Happy” for Three Dog Night.
Skip Prokop officially retired from touring in May of 2016, after his cardiologist told him the lifestyle was too hard on his health.
Got to Get You into My Life - The Stitch in Tyme (Single/1966)
Come Together – The Hans Staymer Band (The Hans Staymer Band/1972)
Dear Prudence ~ Newport Electric (Thin Wild Mercury/TBA)
sCreamGrrrl Sez: We started off SCGCCC with a 1966 single from a band called Stitch in Tyme covering Got to get you into my life. The roots of this band can be traced back to the early 1960s when 2 popular Nova Scotia Bands, once called the Continentals and the other called the Untouchables merged and moved to Toronto in 1966. They were singed to Arc Records (which later became the label Yorkville Records) and the band was supposed to be creating original material but their partying rock n roll lifestyle got in the way so they released 2 single covers instead, the first one Dry Your Eyes produced a luke warm response but their cover are “Got to Get You Into My Life” was a national hit. The band continued to release a bunch of singles, they played the local coffee house circuit, appeared on several TV shows and became a regular fixture on CTV’s weekday program “After 4.” They also played a few gigs in the US and opened Expo 1967 before breaking up in 1968. A few members went on to form the first inception of the band Lighthouse. RIP Skip Prokop. Other bands that were formed from these original members were Rockin’ chair and Big Buffalo. The Stitch In Tyme got some renewed interest in 1990, when "Got To Get You Into My Life" began popping up on compilation albums. Members of the band have also re-united every now and then for the occasional one-off gig. Boy I would love to see that.
The next song we played was a cover of “Come Together” from The Hans Staymer Band released in 1972. Hans was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1938 and immigrated to Edmonton, Alberta in 1962.This is the Hans Staymer Band's first album, of only two and features The Blossoms on backing vocals. Several years after splitting from this band, Hans released two albums: "Everything Happens to Me" and "Live Blues".
And the last song you just heard “Dear Prudence” was covered by the band Newport Electric. Newport Electric is based out of London, Ontario. They originally formed in 2014 as a 4 piece folk-stained rock band comprised of John Couture (vocals/guitar), Roger Osmond (drums/vocals) Steve Sinclair (guitar/vocal) and Dusty MacMillan (bass/vocal) who is celebrating a birthday today. Happy Birthday Dusty! From the on-set, the band has had a string of successes in a short period of time. The band won a local radio contest The Made in London contest hosted by a (puke! Gag!) corporate radio station here in London earning the band free studio recording time. They followed that up by winning a University-sponsored Battle of The Bands competition hosted by the Western Guitar Club here at Call The Office, they’ve appeared in magazines, newspapers and online interviews, they’ve had airplay on local radio, CBC radio and have been playing live extensively throughout the Southwestern Ontario area. Their first full-length album released in 2015 titled “So It Goes” features 11 tracks and received airplay across the country, peaking at #2 right here on London's CHRW chart. The album was recorded at Studio B Music Services and EMAC. The reviews of the album have been outstanding and I can attest to that because I can never get enough of that record.
They’ve heard comparisons to Springsteen, Stones, Neil Young, Tom Petty and most often, Blue Rodeo (but more “Keeler” than “Cuddy” a recent reviewer noted).
Since recording their first album, the band has continued to develop new material. And they just recently added Adam Plante on Keyboards and boy oh boy is he a great player. So they are now a 5 piece band.
We just caught the 5 of them performing at the Back to The Garden Music festival on the lovely Jones farm in Dorchester and it was a delight to hear the keyboards added another beautiful layer to their already brilliant sound. I always love their energy on stage and I am so excited about their new album. I love these guys. Please do check them out if you get a chance. Support our local artists. Oh and they took their name from a monumental moment in rock and roll history....July 25, 1965...google it! London’s very own, Newport Electric!
So there you have it, this week’s SCGCCC. I hope you enjoyed my song selections, thank you for having me co-host HowieZowie, thanks to John Couture for allowing us to debut one of his new songs on my CanConCorner and last but not least, thank you to all of our lovely listeners for tuning in to Saturday Morning with HowieZowie and for supporting your local community radio.
John Picks...The White Album (8:50)
The Beatles, also known as the White Album, is the ninth studio album by The Beatles, released on 22 November 1968. A double album, its plain white sleeve has no graphics or text other than the band's name embossed, which was intended as a direct contrast to the vivid cover artwork of the band's earlier Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Although no singles were issued from The Beatles in Britain and the United States, the songs "Hey Jude" and "Revolution" originated from the same recording sessions and were issued on a single in August 1968.
Most of the songs on the album were written during March and April 1968 at a Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India. The group returned to EMI Studios (now known as Abbey Road Studios) in May to commence recording sessions that lasted through to October. During these sessions, arguments broke out among the Beatles, and witnesses in the studio saw band members quarrel over creative differences. Another divisive element was the constant presence of John Lennon's new partner, Yoko Ono, whose attendance at the sessions broke with The Beatles' policy regarding wives and girlfriends. After a series of problems, including producer George Martin taking a sudden leave of absence and engineer Geoff Emerick quitting, Ringo Starr left the band briefly in August. The same tensions continued throughout the following year, leading to the eventual break-up of the Beatles in April 1970.
On release, The Beatles received favourable reviews from the majority of music critics, but other commentators found its satirical songs unimportant and apolitical amid the turbulent political and social climate of 1968. The band and Martin have since debated whether the group should have released a single album instead. Nonetheless, The Beatles reached number one on the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States and has since been viewed by some critics as one of the greatest albums of all time.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Beatles (The Beatles/1968)
HowieZowie Sez: A little about the guitar that weeps on the album version of this track ~ Lucy was originally a "Goldtop" Les Paul Model with humbucking pickups, a combination only produced in 1957 and part of 1958. Gibson records show that serial number 7-8789 was shipped from the Kalamazoo factory on December 19, 1957. By 1965 the guitar was owned by John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful, who traded it to Rick Derringer of tourmates The McCoys or an amplifier to replace one which had blown.
By around 1966 the guitar's original gold finish was worn, and according to Derringer "It was a very, very used guitar, even when I got it... so I figured that since we didn’t live far from Gibson’s factory in Kalamazoo, the next time the group went there I’d give it to Gibson and have it refinished. I had it done at the factory in the SG-style clear red finish that was popular at the time." However, Derringer wasn't happy with the guitar after the refinish; he sold it to Dan Armstrong's guitar shop in New York.
The guitar had only been in Armstrong's shop for a few days when it was purchased by Eric Clapton. Clapton did not play this instrument much, his principal guitars in 1966–68 being his psychedelic 1964 SG (later known as "The Fool"), a 1964 ES-335, a 1963 or 64 Reverse Firebird, and a sunburst 1960 Les Paul he bought from Andy Summers. In August 1968 (after playing it on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" ) Clapton gave the red Les Paul as a present to his good friend George Harrison. Harrison dubbed the guitar "Lucy", after redhead comedian Lucille Ball.
I'm So Tired – The Beatles (The Beatles/1968)
HowieZowie Sez: At the very end of the song, what seems to be nonsensical mumbling can be heard in the background. The mumbling, if played backwards can be imagined as something along the lines of "Paul is a dead man. Miss him. Miss him. Miss him." This only adds to the many supposed references to the "Paul is dead" conspiracy scattered throughout the White album. Mark Lewisohn has said that the nonsensical mumbling is actually Lennon muttering, "Monsieur, monsieur, how about another one?"
Blackbird – The Beatles (The Beatles/1968)
HowieZowie Sez: Since composing "Blackbird" in 1968, McCartney has given differing, contradictory statements regarding both his inspiration for the song and its meaning. In one of these scenarios, he has said he was inspired by hearing the call of a blackbird one morning when the Beatles were studying Transcendental Meditation in Rishikesh, India. In another, he recalls writing it in Scotland as a response to racial tensions escalating in the United States during the spring of 1968.
The guitar accompaniment for "Blackbird" was inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach's Bourrée in E minor, a well-known lute piece, often played on the classical guitar. As teenagers, he and George Harrison tried to learn Bourrée as a "show off" piece. The Bourrée is distinguished by melody and bass notes played simultaneously on the upper and lower strings. McCartney adapted a segment of the Bourrée (reharmonised into the original's relative major key of G) as the opening of "Blackbird", and carried the musical idea throughout the song.
The first night his future wife Linda Eastman stayed at his home, McCartney played "Blackbird" for the fans camped outside his house. The fingerpicking technique that McCartney uses in the song was taught to him by folk singer Donovan.
John Couture Sez: Why I chose the White Album as the best Beatles album...
Picking your favourite Beatles album is like picking your favourite child. I could legitimately make a case for 5 different albums...I mean, how good of a band do you have to be?
I decided to go with me tried and true, my desert island disc, The White Album.
First of all, the official title of the album is "The Beatles". I don't know exactly why they chose that as the title - it's the least "band" album they released. Maybe they chose it out of irony?
The White Album is fractured; it's the sound of a band at the beginning of a break up. Instead of the band collaborating, it's more of the sound of each Beatle becoming their individual selves.
John's songs on the album, like his personality are varied; you can basically lump them into 3 categories:
- the rock stuff
- the weird stuff
- the pretty stuff
John was a true rock and roll fan and was a gifted rock and roll songwriter. Songs like "Everybody's Got Something To Hide except For Me and My Monkey", "Yer Blues", "Revolution #1", etc show off this side perfectly.
He was also eccentric. This album shows some off-kilter stuff. Revolution #9 of course is bizarre, but there's a certain weirdness to "I'm so tired", "Happiness is a Warm Gun", "Glass Onion" and "Sexy Sadie". These aren't quite "traditional" rock songs, yet he was past the psychedelic phase by this point. There's really not another word to describe these songs, they are just kind of weird. Some of them could have easily fit onto Plastic Ono Band, his first full true solo album recorded a couple of years later, another album that is lauded for it's brilliance while at the same time known for being deeply personal and quite out of step with more traditional rock albums.
Then there's beautiful side. The peace and love John comes out in songs like "Dear Prudence ", the hauntingly beautiful "Julia" and the children's lullaby "Goodnight".
As he says in the lyrics to Julia, he sure could "sing a song of love".
Paul, not to be outdone also shows off many sides. There was always friendly competition between the two, but here is seems to reach a new level.
He too shows his tender side on "Mother Nature's son", "I Will" and of course the timeless classic, perfectly constructed "Blackbird", a song that will be sung for countless generations.
Paul also shows his love for dance hall, cabaret and general fun-loving music with "Ob-la-di Ob-la-da", "Martha My Dear" and "Birthday". And how can you not feel for little old Rocky Racoon, that poor fella.
Like John, he too loved his rock and roll and proved that with the songs "Why Don't We Do it in the Road" and "Back in the USSR". Some people have argued that "Helter Skelter" was the first heavy metal song. All I l know for sure is the guy could rock with the best of them.
Ringo gets in on the action with his first composition for the band on "Don't Pass me By". Sure, it's not perfect but it's passable and there's always a sense of "cheering for the underdog" when it comes to Ringo.
Lastly, we have George. George is my argument for the album and he is also my argument for the naysayers who wrongly think The Beatles are not the greatest band in the world.
Up until the White Album, George had written some very good songs - "Taxman", "Within You Without You", "If I needed Someone" for example. But he was yet to write a masterpiece on par with Lennon and McCartney.
On the White Album, he continued writing those good songs like "Long, Long, Long", and the humorous yet very witty "Piggies". But he gave the world his first true masterpiece in "While my Guitar Gently Weeps". A beautiful song with a fantastic melody and a great Eric Clapton guitar solo to boot.
It's as if this song brought him to another level. He soon wrote "Something" and "Here Comes the Sun", and a year after that released the brilliant and best Beatles solo album "All Things Must Pass". George became a world class songwriter, and the first taste of his absolute brilliance appeared on the White Album.
I use George to argue my point that The Beatles are the greatest band ever because of the songs I just mentioned. Paul and John were clearly two of the world's best songwriters, of that there is no doubt. But if your third best songwriter in the band can write "Something", "Here Comes the Sun" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", you now have something beyond the realm of what should be considered possible. Yes, they came at the perfect time. Yes, they changed the way music was recorded, how music was marketed. They had lovable personalities. They even changed society as a whole to a degree. But none of that could have happened if they didn't have talent. The Beatles had 3 of the greatest songwriting talents ever and no other band can come close to saying that.
The White Album is the sound of this tremendous band splitting at the seams; Ringo quit the band during the recording sessions but was coaxed back in. Their next recording sessions turned disastrous and nearly didn't even get released. They all but quit and came back for one last group effort for Abbey Road. George Martin had to be convinced to helm the sessions - he too knew the dream was almost over.
So we are left with an album made by four individual musicians, with songs seemingly thrown together haphazardly and ironically titled "The Beatles". The sound of a band falling apart sound perfectly brilliant to my ears. And it's Ringo's favourite album, so I'm in good company!
sCreamGrrrl Picks...Rubber Soul (7:08)
Rubber Soul is the sixth studio album by The Beatles. It was released on 3 December 1965 in the United Kingdom, on EMI's Parlophone label, accompanied by the non-album double A-side single "Day Tripper"/"We Can Work It Out". The original North American version of the album was altered by Capitol Records to include a different selection of tracks. Rubber Soul met with a highly favourable critical response and topped record charts in Britain and the United States for several weeks.
Often referred to as a folk rock album, Rubber Soul incorporates a mix of pop, soul and folk musical styles. After the British version of A Hard Day's Night, it was the second Beatles LP to contain only original material. For the first time in their career, the band were able to record the album over a continuous period, uninterrupted by touring commitments. The songs demonstrate the Beatles' increasing maturity as lyricists and, in their incorporation of brighter guitar tones and new instrumentation such as harmonium, sitar and fuzz bass, the group striving for more expressive sounds and arrangements for their music. The project marked the first time that the band explored the possibilities of the album as an artistic work, an approach they continued to develop with Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The North American version of Rubber Soul contained ten of the fourteen new songs, supplemented by two tracks withheld from the band's Help! album. The four songs omitted by Capitol, including the February 1966 single "Nowhere Man", instead appeared on the North American-only release Yesterday and Today.
Rubber Soul was highly influential on the Beatles' peers, leading to a widespread focus away from singles and onto creating albums of consistently high-quality songs. It has been recognised by music critics as an album that opened up the possibilities of pop music in terms of lyrical and musical scope, and as a key work in the development of styles such as psychedelia and progressive rock. Among its many appearances on critics' best-album lists, Rolling Stone ranked it fifth on the magazine's 2012 list "The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time". In 2013, after the British Phonographic Industry changed its sales award rules, the album was declared as having gone platinum.
I've Just Seen a Face – The Beatles (Rubber Soul/1965)
HowieZowie Sez: Before its recording, the song was briefly titled "Auntie Gin's Theme" after his father's youngest sister, because it was one of her favourites.
Drive My Car – The Beatles (Rubber Soul/1965)
HowieZowie Sez: "Drive My Car" was recorded on 13 October 1965 during the Beatles' first recording session to extend past midnight. McCartney worked closely with George Harrison on the basic rhythm track, the pair playing, in author Ian MacDonald's description, "similar riffing lines on bass and low guitar", respectively, as per Harrison's suggestion. Harrison had been listening to Otis Redding's "Respect" at the time and, as a result of this influence, "Drive My Car" contains more bottom end than previous Beatles recordings, mimicking the bass-heavy sound captured in Redding's Memphis studio. Author Robert Rodriguez describes the track as an "overt R&B workout" and a rare example of the Beatles demonstrating their admiration of Stax and Motown artists on the mostly folk rock-oriented Rubber Soul.
The "beep beep" refrain is a take-off on The Beatles own "yeah, yeah yeah"s in "She Loves You" as well as a nod to The Playmates song "Beep Beep" (a #4 US novelty hit in 1958).
The Word – The Beatles (Rubber Soul/1965)
HowieZowie Sez: “The Word” was a collaboration between Lennon and McCartney, and began as an attempt to write a song based around a single note.According to Lennon, it was written together but it was "mainly mine".
The Word found The Beatles singing for the first time about love as a notional concept. It was a turning point in their writing, marking a transition between early songs such as She Loves You, and the psychedelic era's belief that All You Need Is Love.
“It sort of dawned on me that love was the answer, when I was younger, on the Rubber Soul album. My first expression of it was a song called The Word. The word is 'love', in the good and the bad books that I have read, whatever, wherever, the word is 'love'. It seems like the underlying theme to the universe.” ~ John Lennon (Anthology)
The lyrics displayed an almost religious fervour, with Lennon and McCartney acting as evangelists for their new revelation about love.
In the beginning I misunderstood
But now I've got it, the word is good...
Now that I know what I feel must be right
I'm here to show everybody the light
The Word demonstrated The Beatles' increasing awareness of their power as spokesmen and figureheads. This was developed especially by Lennon, in 1966's Rain ('Can you hear me?'; 'I can show you') and his later political songs.
Lennon later allowed Yoko Ono to give the lyric sheet to John Cage as a birthday present. It was later reproduced in Cage's book Notations, a collection of scores from modern music.
ScreamGrrrl Sez: So as you can see, I picked Rubber Soul as my favourite Beatles album. It was the band’s sixth studio album. The first song I selected is “I’ve Just Seen a Face”. It’s one of the few Beatles songs that doesn’t have bass. One of the reasons I love that song so much is the same reason McCartney likes it, there is a strange uptempo thing that is going on, it keeps dragging you forward, it keeps pulling you to the next line, there's an insistent quality to it that I like.
The next song I selected is “Drive My Car”. It’s just a really fun, upbeat song I remember first hearing on the radio as a young child while dancing around in the kitchen waiting for my grandma to prepare lunch. I really love the slide guitar in this song, the piano driven jazz style keys and McCartney’s commanding hard rock vocals.
And the last song I selected is the Word. The song was co-written by John and Paul. According to John, they wrote it together but it was mainly his. John and Paul wrote it after smoking pot, something they had not done before in a composing session. Musically, the song is based upon a driving rhythm with few chord changes and a simple melody in the key of D major. George Martin plays the harmonium solo in the track. McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison sing the song in three-part harmony. Lennon sings the middle eight by himself.
And there you have it, my three picks from Rubber Soul!
HowieZowie Picks...Revolver (8:21)
Revolver is the seventh studio album by The Beatles. Released on 5 August 1966, it was the Beatles' final recording project before their retirement as live performers and marked the group's most overt use of studio technology up to that time, building on the advances of their 1965 release Rubber Soul. The album's diverse sounds include tape loops and backwards recordings on the psychedelic "Tomorrow Never Knows", a classical string octet on "Eleanor Rigby", and Indian musicians backing the band on "Love You To". The album was reduced to eleven songs by Capitol Records in North America, where three of its tracks instead appeared on the June 1966 release Yesterday and Today.
HowieZowie Sez: From the one, two, three, four count-in through to the climax of Tomorrow Never Knows, Revolver announced to the world that The Beatles of old were no more. Touring was in the past, the loveable moptops had grown up, and they were free to explore and push musical boundaries from within the studio.
Revolver paved the way for The Beatles' extensive experimentation on Strawberry Fields Forever, I Am The Walrus and Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is often considered to be the group's finest body of work, and showed all four members of The Beatles working together, equally, at their creative peak.
I'm Only Sleeping – The Beatles (Revolver/1966)
"I'm Only Sleeping" was the first of the three tracks cut from the US version of Revolver. Author Peter Doggett describes the song as "Half acid dream, half latent Lennon laziness personified." As with "Rain", the basic track was recorded at a faster tempo before being subjected to varispeeding. The latter treatment, along with ADT, was also applied to Lennon's vocal as he sought to replicate, in MacDonald's description, a "papery old man's voice". For the guitar solo, Harrison recorded two separate lines: the first with a clean sound, while on the second, he played his Gibson SG through a fuzzbox. Beatles biographer Jonathan Gould views the solo as appearing to "suspend the laws of time and motion to simulate the half-coherence of the state between wakefulness and sleep". Musicologist Walter Everett likens the song to a "particularly expressive text painting"
Tomorrow Never Knows – The Beatles (Revolver/1966)
Rodriguez describes Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows" as "the greatest leap into the future" of the Beatles' recording career up to this point. The recording includes reverse guitar, processed vocals, and looped tape effects, accompanying a strongly syncopated, repetitive drum-beat. Lennon adapted the lyrics from Timothy Leary's book The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which equates the realisations brought about through LSD with the spiritually enlightened state achieved through meditation. Originally recorded as "Mark I", the eventual title came via a Ringo Starr malapropism.
Lennon intended the track as an evocation of a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony. The song's harmonic structure is derived from Indian music and is based on a high-volume C drone played by Harrison on a tambura. Over the foundation of tambura, bass and drums, the flute, six tape loops comprised of various manipulated sounds were used on Tomorrow Never Knows: a seagull noise (actually a distorted recording of McCartney laughing); an orchestra sounding a B♭ chord; notes played on a Mellotron's flute setting; a second Mellotron on its violin setting; two separate sitar passages (played backwards and sped up) which are most clearly heard in the instrumental break following the lines "It is being, it is being". A guitar solo by McCartney, reversed and slowed down a tone, was also used in the instrumental break. The Leslie speaker treatment applied to Lennon's vocal originated from his request that Martin make him sound like he was the Dalai Lamasinging from the top of a high mountain. Reising describes "Tomorrow Never Knows" as the inspiration for an album that "illuminates a path dedicated to personal freedom and mind expansion". He views the song's message as a precursor to the more explicitly political statements the Beatles would make over the next two years, in "All You Need Is Love" and "Revolution".
She Said She Said – The Beatles (Revolver/1966)
In the original album sequence the light atmosphere of "Yellow Submarine" is broken by what Riley terms "the outwardly harnessed, but inwardly raging guitar" that introduces Lennon's "She Said She Said". The song marks the second time that a Beatles arrangement used a shifting metre, after "Love You To", as the foundation of 4/4 briefly switches to 3/4. Harrison recalled that he helped Lennon finish the composition, which involved joining together three separate fragments of song. Having walked out of the session, McCartney did not contribute to the recording, leaving Harrison to perform the bass part in addition to lead guitar and harmony vocals. The lyric (originally “He said...)was inspired in part by a conversation that Lennon and Harrison had with actor Peter Fonda in Los Angeles in August 1965, while all three, along with Starr and members of the Byrds, were under the influence of LSD. During the conversation, Fonda commented: "I know what it's like to be dead", because as a child he had technically died during an operation.
1966: the most manic of the Beatlemania years. The lads get chased around the world, playing 25-minute sets that have nothing to do with the increasingly complex music they're exploring in the studio. A long-forgotten John quote about religion – "We're more popular than Jesus now" – gets dug up and creates a scandal in America. A Ku Klux Klan protest outside their Memphis show draws 8,000 people. The butcher cover gets censored. The drugs get heavier – Paul dabbles in cocaine, John dabbles in acid. George gets serious about Indian music and religion. Ringo starts a construction company called Bricky Builders. And in their spare time, the Beatles make the greatest rock album ever, Revolver, released on August 5th, 1966 – an album so far ahead of its time, the world is still catching up with it 50 years later. This is where the Beatles jumped into a whole new future – where they truly became the tomorrow that never knows.
The Beatles contract with their label EMI expired during the making of ‘Revolver’, meaning they weren’t actually under contract while recording the album. Their new contract with the label wasn’t signed until 1967 – meaning they pretty much gave ‘Revolver’ to the label for free. Initially, The Beatles had hoped to work in a more modern facility than EMI's London studios at Abbey Road - and so sent Epstein to Memphis in March 1966 to investigate the possibility of their recording at Stax Studio. According to a letter written by Harrison two months later, the group intended to work with Stax's in-house producer, Jim Stewart. The idea was abandoned after locals began descending on the Stax building, as were alternative plans to use either Atlantic Studios in New York or Motown's facility in Detroit. In the end (with EMI funding the sessions) recording for the album instead began at EMI Studio 3 in London on 6 April 1966, with George Martin again serving as producer. The first track attempted was Lennon's "Tomorrow Never Knows", the arrangement for which changed considerably between the initial take that day and the subsequent remake.
The Beatles recorded the album following a three-month break from professional commitments at the start of 1966, and during a period when London was feted as the era's cultural capital. The songs reflect not only the influence of drugs, but also the increasing sophistication of the Beatles' lyrics to address themes including death and transcendence from material concerns. With no thoughts of reproducing their new material in concert, the band made liberal use of studio techniques such as tape flanging, varispeeding, reversed tapes, close audio miking and automatic double tracking (ADT), in addition to employing musical instrumentation outside of their standard live set-up. Some of the changes in studio practice introduced by Revolver, particularly flanging and ADT, were soon adopted throughout the recording industry. The sessions also produced a non-album single, "Paperback Writer" backed with "Rain", for which the Beatles filmed their first on-location promotional films.
Crazy as it seems now, Revolver wasn't released in the U.S. in its full 14-song glory until the 1987 CD version. For 20 years, Americans knew only the butchered U.S. LP, which cut crucial tracks like "And Your Bird Can Sing" and "I'm Only Sleeping." So it took time for Revolver to get recognized as the Beatles' peak album-as-album statement. The mop tops were gone, yet the Beatles didn't return to the Rubber Soul sound either. Not many acoustic guitars on Revolver; not many love songs, either. The album's distinctive sonic flourish is that abrasive electric rush – "Taxman," "Here, There And Everywhere," "Tomorrow Never Knows" – yet there's also more piano than ever, their first horn section, attempts at raga, chamber music, R&B, whatever pops into their expanding heads. Rubber Soul had come as a surprise to them – crashing it out in a few weeks for the Christmas 1965 deadline, the Beatles stumbled into a revelation of how how far they could travel over the course of a full-length LP. Revolver was the first time they set out to make a masterpiece on purpose, arrogant bastards serenely confident that any idea they tried would turn out brilliant. And this time, at least, they were right.
Revolver is all about the pleasure of being Beatles, from the period when they still thrived on each other's company. Given the acrimony that took over the band at the end, it's easy to overlook how much all four of them loved being Beatles at this point and still saw their prime perk as hanging with the other Beatles. Despite the fact that all doors of society and celebrity were open to them, the Beatles' main human contacts were each other, four lads tuned into some wavelength other people around them could sense but couldn't share. As John told biographer Hunter Davies, "We have met some new people since we've become famous, but we've never been able to stand them for more than two days."
The whole album gives off the vibe of the studio as a clubhouse, with everyone feeding off each other's ideas. The competition is friendly (at this point) but fierce. John responds to "Yellow Submarine" by leaving Paul a note: "Disgusting!! See me." Paul is getting seriously into the London avant-garde scene, or at least he's into getting high with these guys who are friends with his girlfriend's older brother – they run an art gallery or maybe it's a bookstore but they know all this cool shit he's certainly not going to miss out on ("I vaguely mind people knowing anything I don't know" is the way he puts it) and that's that. Paul gives an interview to longtime friend Maureen Cleave for the Evening Standard: "I'm trying to cram everything in, all the things I've missed. People are saying things and painting things and writing things and composing things that are great, and I must know what people are doing." She reports, "He is most anxious to write electronic music himself, lacks only the machines." That might not even have been a joke.
There's an endearing hubris all through the music – captured perfectly in the eight-second guitar break that cuts in at the end of "Got to Get You Into My Life," flipping it into a whole new song, or the dizzying guitar frills in "And Your Bird Can Sing." You can hear that in the band's press conferences from their summer tour, as when a reporter in L.A says, "In a recent article, Time magazine put down pop music. They referred to 'Day Tripper' as being about a prostitute and 'Norwegian Wood' as being about a lesbian. And I just wanted to know what your intent was when you wrote it, and what your feeling is about the Time Magazine criticism of the music that is being written today." Paul replies with a straight face. "We're just trying to write songs about prostitutes and lesbians, that's all."
Arrogance like that doesn't happen often, but without it, an achievement like Revolver would be unthinkable. George Martin brought their craziest ideas to life – as he put it, "I've changed from being the gaffer to four Herberts from Liverpool to what I am now, clinging onto the last vestiges of recording power." One of the most important sonic innovations on Revolver was a sweater – their new teenage engineer Geoff Emerick stuffed Ringo's wool sweater into his bass drum, giving Ringo's drums that distinctive thwomp everybody else spent years trying to copy. "He was always experimenting and the bosses at EMI didn't like it," Martin said. "He got severely reprimanded when they found him putting a microphone in a pailful of water to see what the effect was." The Beatles got everyone in Abbey Road thinking along the lines of improv – never saying "no," responding to every idea with "yes, and ..."
Paul moved into his new bachelor pad on Cavendish Avenue, near Abbey Road; he now had no problem coming into the studio earlier than anyone else and pushing his ideas. Jane Asher exposed him to classical music and theater; her brother Paul introduced him to scenesters like the Indica Bookshop's Barry Miles and John Dunbar, absorbing the art scene, reading Robert Crumb comics or the Evergreen Review, listening to Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz and Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity, which Paul enjoyed playing to annoy George Martin when he came over for dinner. Still living in the attic of Jane's parents, his gold records piled under the bed, Paul began making primitive tape loops with a pair of Brenell reel-to-reel machines. He and his new friends spent stoned hours recording loops they considered avant-garde sound collage; they rarely bothered to play them back the next day. But one turned into "Tomorrow Never Knows," replacing the usual guitar solo with a "tape solo" in a crash of psychedelic thunder. It was the first song the band finished for the Revolver sessions in April and set the bar high for everything that followed over the coming months.
A more dangerous influence was cocaine, which Paul flirted with heavily that year. Cocaine was so little known at the time, the cops who raided Keith Richards' Redlands mansion in 1967 threw his stash away because they had no idea what it was, while seizing his collection of hotel soaps. Paul's hook-up was the posh art dealer Robert Fraser, who got busted for heroin in that same infamous Redlands raid, around the same time he helped the Beatles select the faces on the Sgt Pepper cover. (He does everything he can, Doctor Robert.) Paul quit cocaine because he couldn't take the crashing comedowns. "You didn't stay high," he complained years later, exasperated at the drug's inefficiency – a very Paul reason to quit.
Meanwhile, John was looking on enviously from his stately suburban home out in Weybridge, bored in his crumbling marriage, lounging in bed or watching TV all day, hiding his inner turmoil behind the flashy wit of "I'm Only Sleeping" or "She Said She Said." His nearest neighbor was Ringo, who lived just around the corner, so he was the one John visited most, usually dropping in unannounced and sitting in his garden. When John wasn't with the band, he'd go two or three days at a time without speaking a word. "I have to see the others to see myself," he told Davies. "I have to see them to establish contact with myself and come down. Sometimes I don't come down." People who weren't Beatles didn't really cut it for him. "Most people don't get through to us."
George wrote three of the highlights – the Quiet One's big breakthrough as a writer. "Love You To" was his first full-on foray into Indian music, with sitars and tablas played by the North London Asian Music Circle, breaking down his mystic detachment with his bitch-wizard vocals. "I'll make love to you, if you want me to," George informs the people of Earth. "Taxman" tweaks British politicans by name. ("Mr. Wiiiiilsoooon! Mr. Heath!") George might not have a firm grasp on how taxation works – they tax your car to pay for the street, not the other way around – but there's no arguing with the brash aggression of the music. "I Want to Tell You" is one of his most bizarrely underrated gems, with that jangling dissonant piano (played by Paul, as was the "Taxman" guitar solo) to echo the noise in a shy boy's head.
Paul's songs have a new caustic realism, even the piano ballad "For No One," lamenting "a love that should have lasted years" – a very different sentiment from "mine forevermore." It's the ultimate "you stay home, she goes out" break-up song. Paul sits in his empty room, replaying her voice in her head, thinking up snappy comebacks for arguments that ended months ago, while she keeps wearing less and going out more. "Got to Get You Into My Life" has the album's funniest line, the wonderfully snide tongue-twister "If I am true I'll never leave and if I do I know the way there."
John never cared for "And Your Bird Can Sing," but it's one of his best songs ever, so scathing and yet also so empathetic and friendly, packed with tiny musical triumphs. (I must have heard it 30 or 40 thousand times before I fully noticed the girl-group hand-claps that sneak into the song for the middle guitar break, and then just as mysteriously vanish.) It's a hipster-baiting putdown like the ones Mick Jagger was perfecting on Aftermath – but after John sneers that your whole phony world will come crashing down, he also assures you that he'll be around, the last thing Mick would ever say. The album gives off the vibe of the Beatles as a self-sufficient commune, sharing secrets all the lonely people outside will never get. The Beatles are so confident of their superhuman hipness it doesn't even occur to them to argue the point, which is how Revolver can sound so arrogant yet so suffused with warmth. If you play "And Your Bird Can Sing" or "Love You To" back to back with "Ballad of a Thin Man" or "Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown," Dylan and the Stones sound like sophomores trying a little too hard to impress the seniors.
"We do need each other a lot," John explained to Davies. "When we used to meet again after an interval we always used to be embarrassed about touching each other. We'd do an elaborate handshake just to hide the embarrassment. Or we did mad dances. Then we got to hugging each other. Now we do the Buddhist bit, arms around. It's just saying hello, that's all." That Beatle bond was at its closest on Revolver, and would remain that way for another year or so, right up until Brian Epstein died. No other album gives such an immediate sensation of hearing them think on their feet together, hearing them communicate so fluently, madly in love with being Beatles. They talked about calling it Magic Circle, then went with the pun Revolver, but either way the title presents a good idea of how tight the Beatles' revolving circle was, yet how open it remains to anyone who wants to listen – which turned out to be everyone.
The cover for Revolver was created by German-born bassist and artist Klaus Voormann (he got paid £40 for the piece – which went on to win the Grammy for Best Album Cover), one of the Beatles' oldest friends from their time in Hamburg during the early 1960s. Voormann's artwork was part line drawing and part collage, using photographs mostly taken over 1964–65 by Robert Freeman. In his line drawings of the four Beatles, Voormann drew inspiration from the work of the nineteenth-century illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, who was the subject of a long-running exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum in 1966 and highly influential on fashion and design themes of the time. Voormann placed the various photos within the tangle of hair that connects the four faces. Turner writes that the drawings show each Beatle "in another state of consciousness", such that the older images appear to be tumbling out from them.
Voormann's aim was to reflect the radical departure in sound represented particularly by "Tomorrow Never Knows", and his choice of a black-and-white cover was in deliberate defiance of the preference for vivid colour. When he submitted his work to the Beatles, Epstein wept, overjoyed that Voormann had managed to capture the experimental tone of the Beatles' new music. Voormann also designed a series of four images, titled "Wood Face", "Wool Face", "Triangle Face" and "Sun Face", which appeared on the front of the Northern Songs sheet music for each of the album's songs.
The LP's back cover included a photograph of the Beatles, in Riley's description, "shaded by the hip modesty of sunglasses and cigarette smoke". The photo was part of a series taken by Robert Whitaker during the filming at Abbey Road on 19 May and demonstrated the Beatles' adoption of fashions from boutiques that had recently opened in Chelsea, rather than the Carnaby Street designers they had favoured previously. From these Chelsea boutiques, Lennon wore a long-collared paisley shirt from Granny Takes a Trip, while Harrison was dressed in a wide-lapelled velvet jacket designed by Hung on You. Turner views the selection of attire as reflective of the Beatles "still dressing similarly yet with an individual stamp"; he identifies the choice of sunglasses as another example of a unified yet personalised look, whereby the styles ranged from oblong-shaped lenses, for Lennon, to an oval-shaped pair worn by Starr. Gould, who describes Starr's glasses as "ludicrously bug-eyed", considers the cover design to be consistent with the "break with the past" ethos that had guided the album's creation. During the same photo shoot, Whitaker took pictures of the Beatles examining orange transparencies of his "butcher cover" design for Yesterday and Today – an image that, due to its depiction of dismembered baby dolls and raw meat, proved instantly controversial in America.
Kapt. Kutter Mash-up #58 (4:24)
All from Anthology....
"Not necessarily what ended up on tape."