Released 50 years ago (it came out on August 5, 1966 in the UK and three days later in the us), ‘Revolver’ is considered by many to be The Beatles’ finest work – and yes, we know they’re all good – but come on, this one is really something. A huge leap in the band’s creativity and inspiration, their seventh studio album saw them drawing on their experiences with drugs as well as their interest in eastern religion. Here are 20 things you probably didn’t know about it.
1. The album’s artwork, by Klaus Voorman – a pal of the band from Hamburg – saw him drawing the members of the band from memory. Voorman later played bass with Manfred Mann.
2. He got paid £40 for the piece – which went on to win the Grammy for Best Album Cover.
3. There’s a host of amazing, but uncredited names singing backing vocals on ‘Yellow Submarine’, including the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones, hippy singer-songwriter Donovan, George Harrison’s first wife the model Pattie Boyd and the majestic Marianne Faithfull – pictured above.
4. One of the stranger sounds on the album is a seagull on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. However, the band didn’t take a trip to the seaside to record the distinctive noise, but instead distorted the sound of Paul McCartney laughing to himself. Innovative, right?
5. None of the songs on ‘Revolver’ were ever performed live, even though it came out just before The Beatles headed out on their final tour of the US in August 1966. The reason being? They were a bit too hard to play. Bless.
6. The Beatles contract with their label EMI expired during the making of ‘Revolver’, meaning they weren’t actually under contract while recording the album. Their new contract with the label wasn’t signed until 1967 – meaning they pretty much gave ‘Revolver’ to the label for free. To be fair, EMI were funding the sessions, but the band had to put up with working at their own Abbey Road studios in London – pictured above, despite the fact that the band themselves really wanted to record in the US.
7. The original title for the album was ‘Abracadabra’, though a cheeky Ringo suggested they call it ‘After Geography’ to follow in the footsteps of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Aftermath’. Other possible titles included ‘Pendulums’, ‘Fat Man and Bobby’, ‘Magic Circle’, ‘Four Sides Of The Circle’ and ‘Four Sides Of The Eternal Triangle’. Oh and lest we forget, ‘Beatles on Safari’.
8. Just two tracks on the album are longer than three minutes – and only by a few seconds. ‘Love You To’ is 3.01 and ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ is 3.02.
9. The band spent longer working on ‘Yellow Submarine’ than they did on the whole of their debut album, 1963’s ‘Please Please Me’.
10. Despite that though, they still managed to get the album out in super fast time. Recorded from April 6 to June 21, 1966, it was out in the UK just over six weeks later. Fast movers.
11. Speaking of ‘Yellow Submarine’, The Kinks’ Ray Davies reviewed the album in Disc and Music Echo Magazine and branded the track “a load of rubbish, really.”
12. Go on then – here’s another ‘Yellow Submarine’ fact. Only one single was released from the album, and it was a double a-side of ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘Yellow Submarine’, which came out on the same day as the album.
13. Producer George Martin took inspiration for the strings on ‘Eleanor Rigby’ from scores of the films of French new wave director Francois Truffaut.
14. One more ‘Eleanor Rigby’ fact. All four Beatles contributed to the lyrics of the song, which, as all good Beatles fans know, is pretty, pretty rare.
15. God’s a massive fan of the album. Well, kinda. In 2010 it was named the Best Pop Album by L’Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the Vatican City.
16. Talking of religion, John Lennon said he wanted to sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a hilltop on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’. Instead of flying him out to Tibet Engineer Geoff Emerick recorded his voice through a rotating Leslie speaker and using an automatic double tracking technique – the first time this was ever done.
17. And talking of Tibet, the lyrics on ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ were based on drugs pioneer Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, and Ralph Metzner’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead which was itself based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
18. ‘She Said She Said’ is based on John Lennon’s experience of taking acid with David Crosby and Roger McGuinn from The Byrds the previous year. Which was probably a bit of a laugh.
19. The song ‘Doctor Robert’ was about Dr Robert Freymann, a Manhattan based celebrity doctor who was known for giving his famous clientele B12 shots with a decent measure of speed in them.
20. ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ both feature backwards recordings, including a smashing guitar solo on the former.