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This Day in Music Spotlight: The Beatles Hit #1 with a Bullet

The Beatles’ recorded output remains staggering to this day. When the band released Revolver in August 1966, it was their seventh LP in just over three years (not to mention the scores of singles released during that time that did not appear on their British albums). Beyond mere volume, the band broke ground for all of popular music with nearly every release, adding elements of folk, classical, Indian and other new strands of music to the core material of rock and roll, namely R&B and country. Of all the band’s records, perhaps no album took a longer leap forward than the album that was nearly titled Beatles on Safari.

When the group entered the studio that April, they were between grueling tours. In fact, the tour that would follow the recording of Revolver would indeed be the band’s last. But tired as they were of deafening (and non-listening) crowds and hotel room imprisonment, the band was as vitalized as ever when it came time to record. They were eager to experiment with produced sound to the point that they no longer took into consideration whether a recording was even possible to reproduce live on stage. This was certainly the case with the sound effects on “Yellow Submarine” and the backward guitar tracks on “I’m Only Sleeping.” Likewise, the band employed ornate orchestration on “Eleanor Rigby,” as well as soulful horns on “Got to Get You into My Life” and tabla, sitar and tambura on George Harrison’s “Love You To.” And on the album closer, “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the band and production team threw everything from tape loops to untried (and illegal with Abbey Road policy pushers) mic placement and speaker employment in order to get the otherworldly sound that blew the minds of so many in the rapidly growing psychedelic scene.

Harrison, incidentally, gained a much greater share of the spotlight than on previous albums. His three compositions (“Love You To,” “I Want to Tell You” and “Taxman”) nearly equaled the contributions of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, respectively (with five and a half songs each). “Taxman,” in particular, was such a strong lyrical and musical track that it was deemed worthy of being the album opener – thanks, in part, to a killer McCartney solo.

The album also revolutionized the recorded electric guitar. Beyond backward experimentation, the lead guitar never before sounded as biting and overcharged as it does on “Taxman,” “And Your Bird Can Sing” and, in particular, “She Said She Said.” Part of this innovation can be attributed to the creative genius of the band, producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick. Some of the credit, though, should go to the guitars themselves, as this was the first album Harrison and Lennon recorded after acquiring their own Epiphone Casinos. Though McCartney had acquired a Casino a little over a year before and had played it from time to time on Beatles recordings, the Casino (in the hands of all three stringed Beatles) was the electric guitar of the Beatles ’66 sound – a sound that bands have aspired to recapture ever since.

Revolver was released to much deserved fanfare on August 5, 1966. And on this date, it went to #1 on the U.K. charts, where it remained for seven weeks. Even now, the album sounds fresh and innovative, one reason why it is a perennial top five choice on “greatest albums” lists.

Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.

Last Updated: 08/13/10 09:00
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News Summary

The Beatles’ recorded output remains staggering to this day. When the band released Revolver in August 1966, it was their seventh LP in just over three years (not to mention the scores of singles released during that time that did not appear on their British albums). Beyond mere volume, the band broke ground for all of popular music with nearly every release, adding elements of folk, classical, Indian and other new strands of music to the core material of rock and roll, namely R&B and country. Of all the band’s records, perhaps no album took a longer leap forward than the album that was nearly titled Beatles on Safari.