Tuesday, February 24, 2009

We'd All Love to See the Plan

In the comments regarding yesterday's item, Joe described "Revolution" as sort of a pastiche of the Beatles' early influences, noting, "The slow version is Chess records on the nod with doo-wop backing vocals." Joe is probably aware of this, but those doo-wop vocals were originally on the fast version as well.

You can tell this because at some point between when the single version of "Revolution" was cut, on July 12, 1968, and when it was released, on August 28, 1968, the Beatles made a video for the song. On it, you can clearly see Paul and George, although miming to a backing track, stepping forward to the microphone and mouthing the words "ah-om, shoo-be-doo-wop," although no sound comes out. Obviously, they put the backing vocals on the original record and made the video expecting them to still be there, then someone wiped them off before the single was released.

You can see that video here, if you so choose. The original video, with the backing vocals restored, surfaced on the Beatles Anthology DVD, and it sounded great. The shoo-be-doo-wops made even more explicit the connection between the Beatles' roots in Fifties rock & roll and the late-Sixties sensibility of the lyrics and the screaming guitar. Kind of like how Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" connected the Motown sound with the moral issues of the Aughts.

(Incidentally, I meant to mention this earlier, but the first disc of the Blue Album, which traces from "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane" through Sgt. Pepper and up to "Hey Jude"/"Revolution," would be by far the greatest album ever made if it had been issued by its lonesome. The only real weak track on there is "Magical Mystery Tour," and most of the songs on there are stone classics, including five of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs, and that doesn't even include "Revolution." Which brings up the question: How is "Revolution" not one of the 500 Greatest Songs? [Even more incidentally, the line "When you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow" carries special resonance for anyone who has visited the offices of Rolling Stone.])

Anyway, let's have a listen:


Marshall said...

It's now obvious that I'm the oldest person on OPC, so let me add this: The slow version of "Revolution," and I do mean "Revolution No. 1" from the White Album, was what scared the living hell out of the middle class. It was so relaxed, and so immediate. Take my word for it. People could dismiss the fast version, but the next one scared the shit out of them.

T. Nawrocki said...

I don't know if you're the oldest, I do know that a good Barnard Hughes post will always bring you out of the woodwork. Do the math.

Was "Revolution No. 1" much of a hit? Did it get airplay back then?

Rob said...

Revolution has no melody, no hook, no chorus, no beat, no guitars that couldn't be Leslie West coming up the freight elevator, an electric-piano solo from the Ray Manzanerak reject pile, no McCartney and Lennon's fakest screams ever. Which leaves us with the lyric, which has nothing to say about nothing.

The slow stoned version on the White Album is better...but then so is the Thompson Twins version.

It might not be the worst song on the Blue Album; depends on how you feel about "Old Brown Shoe" "Hello Goodbye" or "The Fool on the Hill." I'm going with "Lady Madonna."

T. Nawrocki said...

So are you saying you don't like it?

Mark Lerner said...

I'm a little bit with Rob on this. Like but not love. But OPCers may be interested in some Revolution (9) related stuff someone recently pointed out to me that's surfaced on YouTube. The following is quoted from a friend's email to me:

The infamous take 20 remix 1 of "Revolution 1", which explains a lot, especially in terms of how the second half of the song evolved into "Revolution 9". Groovy spookiness abounds - what's that weird wobbly overdubbed sound that keeps coming through?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CR6RqN-groQ

Also of interest (but less "new") is the alternate mix of "Rev 9" - much more of the Lennon/Harrison absurdist chatter is more understandable, if not coherent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=se9PekudbM8

I never quite understood how the take "devolved" into Revolution 9, but now it seems that the entire band played a 10-minute take on the first day (take 18); then a few days later John came in and started to layer shit onto the second half of the take, did his lying on the floor vocal, the tone guitar and moaning (I think the bass may heve been overdubbed as well for take 19 or 20 - sounds nice and clear here), with Yoko and various weirdnesses being placed deliberately over the long gentle groove/fade out recorded a few days previous. So it's not like Paul and Ringo joined in on the avante-gardiness, it's that the band played a long take and John thought weird shit would be good to be heard over the take. The mono mix we're hearing was laid off to a reel-to-reel and John took it home (from the Fred Seamen stash?)

Eventually, the song's groove was mixed out and only the werid stuff remained. So to say that Revolution 9 started out as the 2nd half of Reviolution 1 is misleading; the original 10-minute take, take 18, is pretty much all gone by the time Rev 9 was finished.

Joe said...

Didn't know about the backing vocals. But appreciate you thinking I did.

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