Revolution - The Beatles

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"Revolution" - The Beatles (1968)

Recorded in July 1968, Lennon wrote “Revolution” in India while The Beatles were at a transcendental meditation camp with The Maharishi.

He said:

“I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India. I still had this ‘God will save us’ feeling about it, that it’s going to be all right (even now I’m saying ‘Hold on, John, it’s going to be all right,’ otherwise, I won’t hold on) but that’s why I did it, I wanted to talk, I wanted to say my piece about revolution. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say ‘What do you say? This is what I say.’”

There are so many versions of this song because Paul McCartney didn’t like it. Lennon really wanted “Revolution” to be the ‘A’ side of the single instead of “Hey Jude,” and kept changing it around to come up with something that would make Paul see it his way.

Lennon wanted his vocals to have an unusual sound. The dirty guitar sound was created by plugging the guitars directly into the audio board. The guitar sounded so scratchy that many who bought the 45 RPM single tried to return it, thinking it was defective. The famous scream at the beginning is a double-tracked recording or him lying on his back in the studio.

Beatle scholar Alan Pollack comments that while the overloaded sound of the guitars and drums are what you may sonically notice the most, the dubbing of the lead vocal is given even stranger treatment. It is alternating between plain single track and “automatic” double tracking, but punctuated by scattered bites of triple tracking that are too awkward and sloppily edited to have happened anyway other than on by accident-on-purpose.

He adds:

“The lyrics get pounced on typically because of what the FBI might have described as their ‘anarchic’ posture. What I find most remarkable about them is the way they embody that typically Lennonesque ambiguity between tender encouragement and nasty ridicule. I mean, is there anyone out there who really believes, after listening to this song, that ‘it’ (whatever the heck it is) is going to be ‘all right’?”

“Revolution” wasn’t the testimonial of a revolutionary but rather someone under pressure from revolutionaries to declare his allegiance. Lennon felt he was being pulled in so many directions by different people on the political Left, all of whom wanted his financial backing and political support. It wound up being about him questioning his own belief in the revolution that was going on... whether he was “out” or “in.”

In truth, he was writing about a revolution of the mind rather than a physical “in the streets” revolution as he believed that revolution comes from inner change rather than social violence.

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