Prior to the release of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul in December of 1965, the band was mostly known as a “boy band” with light pop songs such as “Please Please Me,” “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “A Hard Day’s Night,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love” (“The Beatles,” n.d.). Already an international phenomena, The Beatles had been in two movies, A Hard Day’s Night in 1964, and Help! in 1965 (“The Beatles,” n.d.). With the release of Rubber Soul, they began to shift their focus to more serious-minded songs.
However, it was during the recording of Revolver in 1966, that The Beatles began to explore new techniques in music production, as well as to experiment with hallucinogenic compounds such as L.S.D. and intertwine Eastern philosophies into their lyrics (Newman, n.d.). These new influences marked a significant departure from their earlier recordings. The song “Got to Get You into My Life” was Paul McCartney’s “ode to pot (“Revolver” (album),” n.d.).” “She Said She Said” was inspired by an incident with Peter Fonda on L.S.D. (Newman, n.d.). And “Tomorrow Never Knows” took concepts and ideas from Dr. Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience (Newman, n.d.). The result of these songs, as well as others from the album, made Revolver a milestone for The Beatles. The days of “Love Me Do” were over.
Another dramatic shift for the band was their use of the studio. Engineer Geoff Emerick pioneered audio effects that were not used in earlier recordings by any known band. For example, he put a sweater in Ringo Starr’s bass drum to dampen the sound (Howard, 2004). Tape loops were also employed, as well as reversing the tape’s playback (Howard, 2004). And instruments were recorded through compressors and limiters, something that the modern day producer now takes for granted (Howard, 2004). These were the days before digital synthesizers and samplers. Experimental sounds had to be developed through ingenuity and trial-and-error.
As a fan of The Beatles since early childhood, I have always been fascinated with Revolver. While I did not conceptualize the significance of this album, I knew instinctively that it was a brilliant piece of artistry. The combination of George Martin’s production skills and Emerick’s engineering techniques had developed The Beatles’ sound into something original and unique for its day. And now as a future music producer, I think of music in terms of emotional sonic palettes. While I am still not quite a George Martin or Geoff Emerick, I do try to experiment more with sound design outside of the digital realm. In the end, the influence of albums such as Revolver has made an impact on my work, albeit in a limited fashion to date. Hopefully my future productions will reflect the knowledge I have gained from an album like Revolver.
Howard, D. E. (2004). Sonic alchemy. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation.
Ingles, P. (2006, May 15). Everything was right: the beatles’ revolver. In prm.org. Retrieved August 31, 2012 from http://www.prx.org/pieces/15368-everything-was-right-the-beatles-revolver