From the ‘one, two, three, four’ ‘Taxman’ 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, experiment, 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.
This album has taken longer than the others because, normally, we go into the studios with, say, eight numbers of our own and some old numbers, like ‘Mr Moonlight’ or some numbers we used to know, which we just do up a bit. This time, we had all our own numbers, including three of George’s, and so we had to work them all out. We haven’t had a basis to work on, just one guitar melody and a few chords and so we’ve really had to work on them. I think it’ll be our best album yet. They’ll never be able to copy this!
Revolver, The Beatles’ seventh UK long player, was released on 5 August 1966, and three days later in the United States. It ushered in an era in which the group became increasingly interested in exploring production techniques in the studio.
The album was released just before The Beatles’ final US tour in August 1966. None of its songs, however, were performed live. The group considered many of the songs too complex and unsuitable for live performance, during a time in which they were often unable to even hear themselves play above the screams of audiences.
We were really starting to find ourselves in the studio. We were finding what we could do, just being the four of us and playing our instruments. The overdubbing got better, even though it was always pretty tricky because of the lack of tracks. The songs got more interesting, so with that the effects got more interesting.
I think the drugs were kicking in a little more heavily on this album. I don’t think we were on anything major yet; just the old usual – the grass and the acid. I feel to this day that though we did take certain substances, we never did it to a great extent at the session. We were really hard workers. That’s another thing about The Beatles – we worked like dogs to get it right.
Revolver was recorded at EMI Studios on Abbey Road, London. The Beatles considered recording it in America, but found EMI unwilling to put up the money required to do so.
We were going to record Revolver in America, but they wanted a fantastic amount of money to use the facilities there. We thought we’d forget it because they were obviously trying to take us for a ride because we were The Beatles. We’d been thinking about going to record there for some time. When we finished Revolver, we realised that we had found a new British sound almost by accident. I think there were only two tracks on the LP that would have sounded better if we’d cut them in America. ‘Taxman’ and ‘Got To Get You Into My Life’ because they need that raw quality that you just can’t get in this country for some reason. But ‘Eleanor Rigby’ would have been worse, because the string players in America aren’t so good. We may still record in America. What we might do though is write some numbers especially, take them over, do them and see how it works.
Although The Beatles depended on EMI to fund recording costs, their 1962 contract with the company actually expired in June 1966 while they were making the album. Astonishingly, the group were technically not under contract with EMI when the album was complete; their new nine-year contract wasn’t signed until January 1967.
It is inconceivable in this age that a group as powerful as The Beatles would essentially give away an album to a label, not least one as significant as Revolver. Additionally, the group had become dissatisfied with EMI by 1966, often complaining that the terms of the old contract left them at a financial disadvantage. Yet despite their manager Brian Epstein’s approaches to other labels, they decided to remain loyal to EMI.