Sunday, February 22, 2009

Neil's Column on Revolver

By the time you read my page, we shall be on our way back from America. And "Revolver" is sure to be at the top of the LP album charts here at home and in the U.S.

I wonder if you have decided in your own mind which was the very first "Revolver" track to be recorded when The Beatles started that marathon series of sessions just before Easter? The answer is "The Void". Don't start thinking you've been fiddled because you can't find "The Void" on your copy of the album. It was recorded on Wednesday April 6 under that title--but by general agreement it was given the new name "Tomorrow Never Knows" a couple of months later.

Different Ideas

No wonder that particular track has so many different new ideas worked into it. The boys had been storing up all sorts of thoughts for the album and a lot of them came pouring out at that first session! The words were written before the tune and there was no getting away from the fact that the words were very powerful. So all four boys were anxious to build a tune and a backing which would be as strong as the actual lyrics. The basic tune was written during the first hours of the recording session.

Special Tapes

Once the boys started bringing out their special sound tapes the studio technicians just didn't know what was going on! Because for "Tomorrow Never Knows" five different "tape loops" were used to create all those far-out noises. "Tape loops" are just very short lengths of recording tape and all the Beatles had been creating strange electronic noises with all the equipment they've got in their own homes. Paul was the most prolific in the tape-making field and he brought along some fantastic home-made sounds, which were incorporated into the finished version of "Tomorrow Never Knows". But it wasn't as simple as that--the "tape loops" were recorded at different speeds and even backwards to achieve all the weird and wonderful effects they wanted.

Eleanor Rigby

In order of recording, "Paperback Writer", "Rain", "Doctor Robert" and "Taxman" were made before the end of April. Another early session, on Wednesday April 20, produced Paul's vocal track for "Eleanor Rigby". Eight days later the strings--four violins, two violas and two cellos--were added. Of course there was no idea at that stage that "Eleanor Rigby" would become one side of The Beatles' next single. Much later on it was decided that Paul's ballad plus "Yellow Submarine" would be a single in America, but the idea of putting the same pair of sides out at home didn't come up until a fortnight before the August release date!

Paul had been carrying the basic ideas for "Yellow Submarine" in his head for ages and, from what he'd told the others, it was an obvious number for Ringo to sing. But this track wasn't recorded until June. John and Paul had everything worked out except the last few lines of lyrics. It wasn't until just before the actual session date that they completed their words.

Everyone Joined In

If you've listened closely to "Yellow Submarine" you must be convinced that there are far more than four voices joining in the final chorus. And you'd be right! The boys asked everyone in the studio including Alf, Mal, me and George Martin to come and make a sort of sing-along party for the finale. Even the engineers gathered round. So there's an Augmented Beatles Choir of at least 12 voices on that track!

Those Voices

The sound effects--the little bit of brass band, the submarine noises and everything--were put on a week or two later, just before we all left for Germany. Incidentally, in answer to umpteen letters on the subject, the voices you hear in the "submarine crew conversation" mid-way through the record belong to John and Paul. And further on that's John repeating each line of the lyrics in a sort of parrot-like voice.

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