Revolver At 50: How Do You Like It Now, Ray?
To paraphrase Sir Paul McCartney: it was fifty years ago today. The Beatles‘ seventh studio album, Revolver, was released today in 1966 in the UK, and three days later in North America. The album was on the UK Albums Chart for 34 weeks, seven of which were at number one. It was the final Beatles release to get the Capitol Records hatchet treatment, with its content and song sequence altered for the North American market. Revolver went to the top of Billboard‘s album list and stayed there for six weeks.
The Klaus Voormann-designed artwork for Revolver earned the group the 1966 Grammy Award for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts. It was ranked number one in Colin Larkin‘s All-Time Top 1000 Albums book, and third on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. It has been certifed five times platinum by the Recording Industry Association Of America.
Revolver is often praised as one of the Beatles’ best efforts and one of the most influential albums in the history of rock. However, not everyone is — or was — a fan of the disc.
The leader of another British band which was kind of a big deal at the same time as Revolver‘s release eschewed the old adage which says “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”. The Kinks‘ Ray Davies, in a 1966 review for Disc And Music Echo, called it “a load of rubbish”, and threw plenty of shade on each individual track, albeit with the odd compliment thrown in to temper the acidity:
“Taxman”: “It sounds like a cross between The Who and Batman. It’s a bit limited, but the Beatles get over this by the sexy double-tracking. It’s surprising how sexy double-tracking makes a voice sound.”
“Eleanor Rigby”: “I bought a Haydn LP the other day, and this sounds just like it. It’s all sort of quartet stuff, and it sounds like they’re out to please music teachers in primary schools. I can imagine John saying, ‘I’m going to write this for my old schoolmistress. Still it’s very commercial.”
“Here, There and Everywhere”: “This proves that the Beatles have got good memories, because there are a lot of busy chords in it. It’s nice — like one instrument with the voice and guitar merging. Third best track on the album.”
“Yellow Submarine”: “This is a load of rubbish, really. I take the mickey out of myself on the piano and play stuff like this. I think they know it’s not that good.”
“Good Day Sunshine”: “This’ll be a giant. It doesn’t force itself on you, but it stands out like ‘I’m Only Sleeping.’ This is back to the real old Beatles. I just don’t think the fans like the newer electronic stuff. The Beatles are supposed to be like the boy next door, only better.”
“Got to Get You Into My Life”: “Jazz backing — and it just goes to prove that Britain’s jazz musicians can’t swing. Paul’s singing better jazz than the musicians are playing, which makes nonsense of people saying jazz and pop are very different. Paul sounds like Little Richard. Really, it’s the most vintage Beatles track on the LP.”
Davies wasn’t 100 percent up in The Beatles’ faces, though. He called I’m Only Sleeping “a beautiful song … and definitely the best track on the album”. He also opined that She Said She Said “restore[s] his confidence in the old Beatles sound”.
Davies summed up his review by writing, “This is the first Beatles LP I’ve really listened to in its entirety, but I must say there are better songs on Rubber Soul. Still, ‘I’m Only Sleeping’ is a standout, ‘Good Day Sunshine’ is second best and I also like ‘Here, There and Everywhere.’ But I don’t want to be harsh about the others. The balance and recording technique are as good as ever.”
An event from a couple of years earlier probably hadn’t done much to endear The Fab Four to Davies: “We’d played with the Beatles in Bournemouth, and John Lennon made a remark that we were only there to warm up for them,” Davies told Mojo in 2013. “But we got a great reaction to ‘You Really Got Me.’ It was an early validation that we had something that stood up for us, like being bullied in school and having something that was bigger than the bully, it was that sort of feeling.”