Smoking Hot Newness

Revolver wasn't so much released as it leaked out over the course of some weeks. Firstly, there was the advance guard – a hot-off-the presses Revolver sessions single, “Paperback Writer” backed with “Rain”, released in the USA in May and shortly afterwards, on June 10th, in the UK. Here was Revolver in microcosm – a kind of trailer for the LP – with compressed bass, backwards vocals, Indian influences, Beach Boys inspired vocals, LSD- inspired imagery, and heavily treated vocals.

Their last single, released almost six months earlier, had been a double A-side with the folky, earthy “We Can Work It Out” and straight-up plastic soul tune “Day Tripper”. Whilst it can be hard to see the dividing line between Rubber Soul and Revolver, it seems fairly clear cut when you listen to those singles in succession.

Then in June 1966 Capitol Records, who licensed Beatles material for distribution in the USA, asked for any available tracks to fill out a manufactured “odds and sods” LP. It was their habit, up until Sgt. Pepper, to release shorter Beatles LPs than in the UK and then use the held-over tracks, with some b-sides, singles and maybe out-takes, to make up whole new albums. Yesterday and Today was released in the US on June 20th, giving the world a second taste of the Revolver sessions. By the time the album proper was released in the UK, five of the sixteen songs recorded at the sessions were already in the public domain, and a shrewd Beatle-fan could have guessed at something of the feel of the new album.

In late June 1966, when all of the tracks for the album had been finished, Klaus Voorman got a call from John Lennon asking if he'd be interested in working on the cover design. Voorman, of course said yes – as much as anything, it was a paying job, and he wasn't making much from ass-playing – andwas duly invited to the studio to hear the tapes for inspiration. They played him everything they had, and he was particularly struck by “Tomorrow Never Knows”. “I was overwhelmed,” he says96, and knew then that “it was my turn to come up with something really outstanding to fit the fantastic music.” He had taken the liberty of preparing a rough pencil sketch from memory97, with “all the hair and little figures”, which the band liked. So, as the scheduled release date approached, he retired for three weeks to his studio in the front room at 29 Parliament Hill in Hampstead, with nothing more complicated than some sheets of A2 paper, a pen and some ink. “I chose black and white 'cause every other cover was in colour,” he recalls; brightly coloured “psychedelic” covers wouldn't become a cliché for sometime yet, but by anticipating this trend and avoiding it, he assured Revolver a place in the pantheon of all-time great LP covers.

As the release date approached, and as Voorman beavered away at the cover design, the Beatles and their team settled down in the control rooms of Studios 1 and 3 for mono and stereo mixing. Put simply, mixing is the process whereby multi-track tapes of songs recorded on different days, perhaps in different studios, are copied across to one “master tape” from which the vinyl LP can then be cut. In fact, the process is more complicated than that, and extremely delicate. Firstly, there is the issue of deciding a running order – this task seems usually to have fallen to George Martin, at least as late as the recording of Sgt. Pepper:

My old precept in the recording business was always 'Make side one strong,' for obvious commercial reasons... Another principle of mine when assembling an album was always to go out on a side strongly, placing the weaker material towards the end but then going out with a bang.




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The Beatles Always Stay in Our Heart.
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28 comment:

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