Tuesday, 7 April 2020

The Revolution Is Over!


I've finally finished working my way through Revolution and/or Revolution 1!!!

Here's all the posts


10:61 Revolution (pt.1) Did George Play Bass on Revolution 1, or was Paul just having a bad day at the office?
10:62 Revolution (pt.2) - What's The Difference between the album, single and video versions?
10:63 Revolution (pt.3) Will the real Revolution please stand up? Album or single - Which is the definitive version?
10:64 Revolution (pt.4) All We Are Saying: Lyrics - rhyme schemes and structures
10:65 Revolution (pt.5) - Don't Bore Us, Get To The Pre-Chorus - structures, out of key chords and the V chord
10:66 Revolution (pt.6) Fake Mistakes - embellishments, edits and extensions

70+ Songwriting Tips From The Beatles
The Be-Atletudes
About Beatles Songwriting Academy

10:66 Revolution (pt.6) Fake Mistakes


Embrace (or Fake) Your Mistakes


One little detail that gives Revolution 1 the edge over Revolution for me are the little editing mistakes in the album version (Ticket 72: Embrace your mistakes).

At the beginning of the track there is studio chatter, a false start on guitar, followed by engineer Geoff Emerick saying "take 2"* and Lennon saying "OK" and near the end (3:23) a tape edit sliced together incorrectly resulting in an unintended 2/4 bar*. Lennon can be heard talking on an unmuted track (3:28) and you could even make a case for Lennon's "count me out … in" as something of a 'deliberate' error.

These all contribute to a very specific loose vibe for the track and what's important to remember is that though all of these things were genuine 'accidents', their appearance on the finished song were not. Even with the fairly primitive recording gear available, they had the opportunity to go back and mute channels, redo tape edits and even take five minutes to say "John, make up your mind – are you saying 'in' or 'out'?". But they didn't. They chose to 'put a frame' around the mistakes and make them part of the art. Sometimes mistakes will result in a musical choice that you would never have thought of (the 2/4 bar) and sometimes it just helps to communicate a mood. Here the band wants to say "we're just having a jam, everybody join in" but rather than play sloppy and badly rehearsed, the
band is tight but communicates the mood by these little extras*.

Every time you hear a count-in on a Beatles record it's a deliberate choice. After all, most takes started with a count-in and almost every one was then edited out. But I Saw Her Standing There, Yer Blues and Taxman retained theirs, to communicate the "we're gonna rock out!" vibe. And not just retain them. Each count-in was edited in from a different take, presumably one that had more energy*.



On my album Fifty Five Stories Down I wanted the listener to have the feeling of being 'in the room' rather than being a distant audience. So I recorded every sessions in entirety and cherry picked snippets of conversation between me and producer Daniel Wright to bookend the tracks (some so long they merited their own track). Nothing was staged or scripted* but comments were spliced together or moved to different songs to improve the flow. And there were happy accidents too like the mournful police siren during the song River of Suffering (3:08).

Edits And Extensions: The Strange Rhythm Scene Of John Lennon

I dig the people that notice that I have a sort of strange rhythm scene, because I've never been able to keep rhythm on the stage. I always used to get lost. It's me double off-beats.
John Lennon: The Rolling Stone Interview (Nov 23 1968)

The unintended tape edit in the chorus is not the only 2/4 bar. Every other section has one as part of the composition. The verse is a classic example of The Lennon Extension (Ticket 52) where his "well you know" needs a extra space to fit in. Try singing without the "well..."

You say you want a revolution, you know
We all want to change the world

The lyrics fit into 4/4 and is the way someone without 'double off-beats' might play it. The single-only solo retains the same half bar. The end of the pre-chorus has a 2/4 bar to allow a full two bars of building.


Cool And Unusual Embellishments


Though the 'shooby doo' is a pretty mundane example of a descant (Ticket 58) it's also a musical idea borrowed from another genre, in this case Doo-Wop. The guitar's shuffle pattern is borrowed from the blues and the switches from A to D and E hint at a 12 bar blues progression. The vocal melody utilises the major pentatonic scale almost entirely except for 'bluesifying the melody' (Ticket 22) with a b3 on "it's gonna be AL – right". All of which gives this folk song a playful, doo-wop/blues flavour (Ticket 25).

The song has some great instrumental hooks (Ticket 3) - the acoustic guitar riff at end of each chorus, the electric guitar fill at the end of verse 2 and the 'Indian' bass run down in the (album version) pre-chorus.

There's a couple of unusual choices too. It's normal practice to edit down a song for single release and the first thing to go is usually the solo but Revolution one of the few songs to add a solo rather than take it out. The single's solid blues ending is an improvement on the album's fade out. A fade out is something the Beatles hardly ever did but even the Esher demo fades out.

Footnotes


Geoff Emerick saying "take 2"
As the take is actually Take 18, It's unclear why he is saying "take 2." It may be in response to Paul "humorously announcing the next take off mic as "take three?" or be a clipped part of a longer phrase "I'll take it to...".

Humorously announcing the next take off mic as "take three?"
Beatles Book.com

Unintended 2/4 bar
As 2/3rd of a triplet you could make a case for it being a 5/4 bar or even a 14/8. But that's above my mathematical pay grade.

The band is tight but communicates the mood
Ironically Give Peace A Chance uses the opposite method to achieve the same effect. It genuinely is sloppily performed and badly recorded and required later studio vocal overdubs to make it acceptable for release.

Each count-in was edited in from a different take
If you listen to Taxman you can hear two overlapping count-ins.

Nothing was staged or scripted
As a example of 'staged recording' listen to the start of Cigarettes And Alcohol by Oasis. The hissing guitar amp (and whistling) was overdubbed later for effect on top of the track, which becomes clear when it slowly fades out when the rest of the band enters.

Other posts on Revolution/Revolution 1

Friday, 3 April 2020

10:65 Revolution (pt.5) - Don't Bore Us, Get To The Pre-Chorus


*N.B. All timings are for Revolution 1 unless otherwise stated.

Revolution has some great songwriting tips to give us and a lot of them are contained in the pre-chorus. If great songwriting is a matter of tension and resolution, much of the tension is here.

Here's an experiment – grab your guitar and play the song, omitting the pre-choruses. Structurally it still works and even the narrative flow still hangs together. But it just ambles along, three chord wallpaper.

So how do the pre-chorus do that voodoo that it do so well?


Gimme Five


Firstly like all three sections it ends by building on the V chord (even the single-only piano solo does it – 2:03). Ticket 65 (in it's most extreme incarnation the "aaahhhh" section of Twist and Shout) appears in the verse as we hang there for two bars to gently build anticipation (0:43). On the chorus we enjoy a cool guitar break, again built on the V (1:16). But in the pre-chorus it's a proper build up (0:59), not only used to create a lift back to the chorus' tonic chord but also to reset our ears and restate the key after the F# chord (0:56).

Something Sounds Fishy


Let's talk about F#. First of all it's completely out of key chord (Ticket 28) providing the freshness and surprise that OOKC's do. But occurring near the end of the section it seems to be setting us up for a big key change. Where are we going next? The excitement is palpable! Though Bm and E are still in the home key of A the pre-chorus hints that Bm might be becoming the new key centre. The G and A chords that follow are firmly in the key of Bm and F# is the V of i (translation = an F# major chord leads REALLY strongly back to Bm, even though technically F#m is the chord that belongs in that key). And the Beatles have used that trick hundreds of times – While My Guitar Gently Weeps (0:29), Because (0:39), Girl (0:09), I Me Mine (0:29), I Want You (She's So Heavy) (1:44) I'm Only Sleeping (0:08) etc.

The vocal melody at this point is hanging on an A# (count me OUT) which if you're in the key of A major is about as nasty and weird as you can get but if you're transposing to Bm it's the 'leading tone' (7th) - the smoothest path you can take.

So we're heading to Bm, right? Nope. Lennon chooses the 'real' V chord (E major) and takes us back to A major. Why? Because he doesn't want to change! Revolution is an anti-revolution song, remember? Don't you know? It's gonna be alright!

Cos when you want a transposition
Don't you know that you can count me out!

I Asked My Cat Who His Favourite Socialist Was ...



He just looked at me and said Mao.

Lennon reserves his most forceful arguments for the pre-choruses. Not only through his use of humour (the Chairman Mao lines), but in the way the whole band punctuate the polemics and gags. Listen to the way the band let the vocals take centre stage. On the single (0:34), guitar and bass drop entirely (Ticket 30), on the album (0:48) sustained chords from the guitar and horns allow the lyrics room to breathe.

Lennon may have played to both political sides on the album version, but listen to how the chords change on every word (0:55) to ram home the message "COUNT (G) ME (A) OUT (F#)". This (Ticket 36) is a powerful way to make your point in a song, in comparison John's [count me] "in" sounds like a weak afterthought once the band are pounding away on the F# chord.

The way Lennon develops the different pre-chorus vocal lines deserves credit too. PC 1 employs the same "lah-di-dah-di" (long-short-long-short) shuffle rhythm that vocals, drums and guitar play in the verse

"don't-you / know-that / you-can"

but PC 2 and 3 up the tension by using a faster triple time rhythm (not technically a triplet as we're in 12/8 time but it's essentially the same thing)

if-you-want / mo-ney-for / peo-ple-with
All-I-can / tell-you-is / bro-ther-you'll

So as well as upping the urgency from the first set of lyrics by adding more rhymes (see previous post) he's building by having a more insistent, busier rhythm. This development from one pre-chorus to the next is a mark of a true craftsperson, sorely needed in today's copy-and-paste era, where each section is literally a clone of an earlier ones (albeit with ever-increasing overdubs).

These later pre-choruses provide a contrast to the laid back rhythm of the verse and chorus. The chorus vocals are an octave higher than the other sections. If you map the vocal line out like this

V – low and laid back
PC – low and busy
C – high and laid back

you can see how distinct each section is.

Finally, one detail that's easy to miss is the way Paul staggers the piano chords in the pre-chorus, playing on the 'and' after 3. It's inaudible on the finished mix (0:49) but clear on Take 18 - the 50th Anniversary 'outtake' (1:00).

Next time we'll finish our look at the 'Revolution twins' with mistakes, odd timing and unusual choices.



Thursday, 2 April 2020

10:64 Revolution (pt.4) All We Are Saying - Lyrics

Structure

Revolution is one of Lennon's most tightly structured lyrics. You can break the whole song down as follows

Verse: “You say you want to do this, but I'm not sure. I for one have reservations. You say you want to do that but I'm not sure. Again, I have reservations".

pre-chorus: “But when you propose this other thing, that's going too far”.

Chorus: “You should just chill out”.

Employing the Beatles favourite device of parallel lyrics (Ticket 24) makes the structure clearer and more memorable

Verse: “You say you … Well, you know we … You tell me/you ask me … Well, you know we …"

pre-chorus: “But when you/but if you …”

A Mild Case of Rhymes Disease

The facsimiles included in the 50th Anniversary Edition book reveal a Harrison-style list of rhymes

constitution
institution
desolation
revelation
pollution
dissolution
confusion
intrusion
distribution [?]
Constitution [?]

but where While My Guitar Gently Weeps (and Dig A Pony for that matter) succumb to Rhymes Disease, letting rhymes dictate what the song is saying and being so obvious that it distracts from the meaning, Revolution's wordplay manages to be cute and memorable.

In this it shares much with it's spiritual successor, Give Peace A Chance. Released a year later it's another campfire friendly peace anthem, marrying a rhyme-laden, preachy verse to a mantra like chorus. It even gives the previous song a self-referential nod "everybody's talking 'bout revolution, evolution..." If anything Give Peace A Chance distils the core concepts even further and is arguably more successful for it.


Don't Break It Till You Make It


The Beatles weren't afraid to break a rhyme scheme (Ticket 73) if they had a good reason, but here Lennon does something different. The first verse has one rhyme (A) and two repeated lines (b & c), and the first pre-chorus doesn't rhyme at all (X)

Abc Abc XX

A You say you want a revolution
b Well, you know
c We all want to change the world

A You tell me that it's evolution
b Well, you know
c We all want to change the world

X But when you talk about destruction
X Don't you know that you can count me out

But the second and third verses/pre-choruses introduce a more rigorous rhyme structure

AbC AbC DD

2.

A You say you got a real solution
b Well, you know
C We'd all love to see the plan

A You ask me for a contribution
b Well, you know
C We're doing what we can

D But if you want money for people with minds that hate
D All I can tell is brother you have to wait

3.

A You say you'll change the constitution
b Well, you know
C We all want to change your head

A You tell me it's the institution
b Well, you know
C You better free you mind instead

D But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
D You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow

The rhyme structure works brilliantly as it is (admit it, you didn't even notice, right?) but if the order of the verses are reversed the lack of rhymes in the first part lands badly, especially on the pre-chorus (destruction/count me out). Once you've set up the expectation of rhyme you're committed. So Lennon wisely doesn't let his poetic soul write cheques his rhyming dictionary can't cash. Or something.

This shows how skilful you have to be to use ticket 73. To break a rhyme you really have to be obeying some higher logic or structure device that the listener can sense if only subconsciously.


Ticket 24: Repeat words and sentence structures
Ticket 73: Interrupt the rhyme scheme by rhyming with a previous section or anticipating one that follows

Friday, 21 February 2020

10:63 Revolution (pt.3) Will the real Revolution please stand up?


Revolution vs Revolution 1


Welcome to the post (and song) that threw the spanner in the works of my blogging through the Beatles catalogue. But I'm here to just poke a big stream of consciousness stick down the plug hole of musical constipation ... wait … let me start again …

Revolution and Revolution 1 are unique in the Beatles catalogue. Not merely remixes (Across The Universe), or out of the vault alternative takes (One After 909 on Anthology), or a new piece built on the bones of an existing one (Revolution 9). These are two completely independent attempts on the same song. The Beatles covering the Beatles. Just imagine if Lennon had wanted to release both versions of Strawberry Fields Forever instead of stitching them together?

So before analysing the song it feels apposite to ask: Which is the real version? The right version? The original version? The best version? And is that four ways of asking the same question?

You can attempt to answer via


  • chronology
  • personal chronology (i.e. which one you heard first)
  • personal preference
  • authorial intent


First, the TL;DR version confirming the world and John Lennon agree with all my prejudices followed by the TL;BIRIAA (Too Long But I Read It All Anyway) version in which I hope to change your mind.

TL;DR - Revolution 1 (aka 'the album version') is the definitive version

Why?

Chronology: It was recorded in Jun 68, a month before the single version.

Personal chronology: I heard the White Album as a kid on my sister's TDK120 cassette – I didn't hear the single till I started Beatles Songwriting Academy in 2009. So there.

Personal preference: That fuzztone is like someone poured itching powder into my eyeballs and it's the most prominent element on the record. Bad tones do have their place on great records (in the background or just prior to something awesome, making it sound even awesomer).

Authorial Intent: Lennon was happy with the album cut and it was only after Paul and George vetoed it as a single that he decided to rerecord it. His comments in 1980 reveal he still considered the album cut to be better.

Convinced? No? Let's dig deeper.

CONFUSING CHRONOLOGY – PERSONAL AND OTHERWISE


Just like Let It Be/Abbey Road, Revolution has a convoluted timeline. Revolution 1 (album version) was recorded first, but released second. The promo video for the single replaced the vocals with a 'live' take (to get around Musician Union rules against miming) and could be considered a third distinct version.



Revolution 1 - recorded 30, 31 May; 4, 21 June
Revolution - recorded 9-12 July
Revolution - released 30 Aug
Revolution Video - recorded 4 Sep
Revolution Video - released 8 Sep (Frost on Saturday)
Revolution 1 - released 22 Nov (UK), 25 Nov (US)

If you were sentient in 1968 you would have heard the 'do-over' almost a full two months before the original. That's a long time to get used to the over-distorted freakout before encountering the laid back jam session. Alan W. Pollack sounds like someone who encountered the single first, calling it “the 'true' version of the song, and the album cut … a remake ... a veritable parody of the single version”.*

First time listeners from 1969 onwards probably heard the album cut first unless they arrived via the 'Blue Album' (The Beatles: 1967–1970) or Past Masters.

FUZZTONE REVISTED



As a rock guitarist I've spent countless hours sampling the nuances of distorted guitar tones like a sommelier of sound. Distortion vs overdrive, pedals vs amp, transistors vs tubes, pre amp or power amp of course humbuckers vs single coils. This single is covered with the stankiest DI'd-to-the-desk “full spectrum of frequencies”* fuzztone, a sound so bad that record buyers were returning their 'defective' singles, only to be met with the explanation “it's called distortion, apparently. It's meant to sound like that”.*

And though George Harrison didn't love the album version, he wasn't impressed with the the single either, “I think Revolution is pretty good and it grooves along, but I don't particularly like the noise that it makes; and I say 'noise' because I didn't like the distorted sound of John's guitar.”*

WAS JOHN HAPPY WITH THE ALBUM VERSION?


Was the album version a demo to be reworked? Did they need two attempts to get it right? Or was the single (recorded second) merely a cover of the album version?

Lennon seems to have been perfectly happy with Revolution. Re-recording it only became an issue when, according to John, “George and Paul ... said it wasn't fast enough”* and vetoed it as a single. Perhaps the guys weren't comfortable with releasing such a overt political statement or “Paul felt that the song simply wasn't all that good”* but fudged the issue.

To be charitable to Paul and the others what they were hearing was not what we hear on The White Album. 'Revolution 1 (take 18)' was a sprawling 10 minutes 29 seconds of hippy flavoured jam. Eventually the second half was lopped off and allowed to carrying on mutating into Revolution 9 like some weird alien limb. It would be understandable if they had mentally consigned such freakishness to the 'album track' bin and were unable to hear it with fresh ears, especially knowing Lennon had no problem with flaunting his experimental underwear in public.


At the same time Paul was pushing for Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da to be the single. Neither writer would back down and both set about rerecording their songs to break the deadlock.
“John had defiantly taken [Paul] up on the challenge and so was insisting that they cut it again, faster...that was typical of him in those days; that was his vibe: pissed off”.*
Lennon had a history of needing to speed up his songs. Help and Please Please Me were dirge-like till George Martin got hold of them. Antagonised by Paul, John vented his frustration on the piano, propelling the remake of Ob-La-Di into more ragged, less commercial (and arguably better) territory. On the Revolution single Lennon was taking a similar wrecking ball to his own song but what you are hearing is not the 'soundtrack to a revolution' but two songwriters fighting for an A-side (before Hey Jude came along and rendered the point moot).

“I wanted to put it out as a single, but they said it wasn't good enough...We recorded the song twice. The Beatles were getting real tense with each other. The first take, George and Paul were resentful and said it wasn't fast enough. Now, if you go into the details of what a hit record is and isn't, maybe. But The Beatles could have afforded to put out the slow, understandable version of 'Revolution' as a single, whether it was a gold record or a wooden record”.*

Interviewed 12 years later, John has no problem dismissing other songs he's written as “embarrassing”, “disgusting”, “a horror”, “garbage”, “crap”, “abysmal” and “lousy”* but here it's instructive he says “they said it wasn't good enough”. Undoubtedly the remake has more energy, due to key, tempo and timbre. The bassline moving off the root note more also helps. But the majority of musical changes are arguably cosmetic (see here for a full breakdown).

Unconvinced about the intersection of tempo and commercial appeal, when Lennon describes Revolution 1 as “the slow, understandable version” he wasn't just implying the album cut was better but also that the remake somehow obscured the core message.

It's this point that I want to dig into as it's the reason why the single is less successful and points to an instructive lesson about songwriting.

WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, WINSTON?



Authorial intent is key - to assess how well the song 'works' we need to know what the author was trying to achieve, and in Lennon's case, to say.

Written in an ashram in Rishikesh Revolution 1 was a hippie manifesto for peace. The title Revolution occurs ONCE in the entire song. After Lennon opens with “YOU say YOU want a revolution” he spends the rest of the song telling us what HE wants – which is for everyone to chill out and enjoy a little bit of moderate, well-managed change. The chorus (the emotional heart of any well constructed song) is

Don't you know it's gonna be... all right
Don't you know it's gonna be... all right
Don't you know it's gonna be... all right

It's just the kind of thing you'd expect a man who's been meditating on a mountain, half a world away from riots, invasions and assassinations, a man who “really thought that love would save us all".*

And he reaffirmed this stance at the end of his life, “the lyrics stand today. It's still my feeling about politics. I want to see the plan. That is what I used to say to Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Count me out if it is for violence. Don't expect me to be on the barricades unless it is with flowers. As far as overthrowing something in the name of Marxism or Christianity, I want to know what you're going to do after you've knocked it all down. I mean, can't we use some of it? What's the point of bombing Wall Street? If you want to change the system, change the system. It's no good shooting people.”*

Lennon's attitude was unpopular in 1968 and open to the charge that the Beatles were out of touch millionaires. Cocooned in the studio when Bobby Kennedy was shot and Paris rioted, holidaying as Czechoslovakia was invaded, and literally retreating from worldly distractions as Reverend King was assassinated. Harrison expressed the tension in the cut verse to While My Guitar Gently Weeps “I look at the trouble and hate that is raging … as I’m sitting here, doing nothing but ageing”.

But out of touch or not, that is what was Lennon trying to express. So to say “the madman-on-a-street-corner raving of the single resonates more sympathetically with the sense of the lyrics”* or dismiss the album version as a “song about revolution with all the bite taken out”* is wrong.

Revolution is an anti-revolution song.


In the remake the message of the chorus (“Don't you know it's gonna be alright”) is obscured by the missing words and a lack of vocal reinforcement and the only ambiguity in the lyrics - “count me out...in” - is removed.

Pressured by the band to remake the music in “a much more commercial style”* Lennon paradoxically made choices that pleased no one. Masking his peacenik sentiments by punching up the music didn't impress the radical left who labelled the song "a lamentable petty bourgeois cry of fear"* at the same time leaving out the one thing they would have approved of - the ‘count me in’ - “Because I’m a coward – I don’t want to be killed”* by the establishment who continued to view hippy counter culture as a threat anyway.

John didn't like the remake, George didn't like the guitars and Geoff Emerick is probably right saying “I think Paul felt that the song simply wasn't all that good”*. In the 40 years since Paul has never covered Revolution or performed it live.

It's worth noting that when the Beatles recorded the 'video version' (adding live vocals to the single backing track) they undid every change that they could – Lennon adding the “in” back 'in', Paul and George singing “Don't you know it's gonna be” three times and reinstating the almost universally derided “shoo-bee-do-wop" backing vocals.

There is a good song, perhaps a great (if misunderstood) song hidden within two unsuccessful recordings. Perhaps it needed a decent cover version like Marmalade's take on Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da*. Something that followed the author's blueprint but had some distance from the distracting circus that the band's life and creative process had become.

In future posts we'll look at the song itself.

FOOTNOTES


A veritable parody of the single version
Alan W. Pollack

Full spectrum of frequencies distorted
Geoff Emerick in Andy Babiuk: Beatles Gear (p.222)

It’s called distortion, apparently
Chris Ingham: The Rough Guide To The Beatles (p. 254)

I didn't like the distorted sound of John's guitar
George Harrison in Beatles Anthology (p.298)

George and Paul were resentful and said it wasn't fast enough.
John Lennon in Beatles Anthology (p.298)

Personally, I think Paul felt that the song simply wasn't all that good
Geoff Emerick: Here, There And Everywhere (p. 252)

That was typical of him in those days; that was his vibe: pissed off.
Geoff Emerick: Here, There And Everywhere (p. 252)

The slow, understandable version
John Lennon in David Sheff: All We Are Saying (p.187)

Embarrassing, disgusting, a horror...
John Lennon in David Sheff: All We Are Saying (various places)

I really thought that love would save us all
John Lennon in Jann Wenner: Lennon Remembers (p.132)

The lyrics stand today. It's still my feeling about politics. I want to see the plan.
John Lennon in David Sheff: All We Are Saying (p.187)

The madman-on-a-street-corner
Alan W. Pollack

A song about revolution with all the bite taken out
Erik Didriksen in a message to author

A lamentable petty bourgeois cry of fear
New Left Review quoted in Revolution: Wikipedia

A much more commercial style.
John Lennon 1971 Interview

I’m a coward – I don’t want to be killed.
John Lennon 1971 Interview

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da was covered by Marmalade and went on to be a no. 1 hit just as McCartney anticipated.

THANKS


Thanks to Rod 'Downburst' Johnston, Ross Durand, Zecoop, Erik Didriksen

Monday, 17 February 2020

10:62 Revolution (pt.2) - What's The Difference?



Here's a comparison between the album version (Revolution 1) and the single (Revolution).

Album first - Single second - Video version third (where appropriate).

All divided by a dash. e.g. Key: A (this is the album) - Bb (slightly sharp) (this is the single).


Overall 


Key: A - Bb (slightly sharp). The single was almost certainly recorded in A major like the album but vari-sped up. When the band mimed the single for the video they 'played' in A without capos, making it likely that that is how they had most recently played it (the Esher demo was played in A but capoed at the third fret).

Tempo: 95 bpm - 118 bpm. If the track was vari-sped then the band would have cut it at 111 bpm (the Esher demo was 120bpm).

Vocals


Appropriately the lead vocals for 'laid-back version' were recorded lying down on the floor.

“count me out … in” – (0:53) “count me out” (0:40) - restored for video

“shoo-bee-doo-wop" backing vocals (1:00) – none – restored for video

“Don't you know it's gonna be” - three times – once - three time restored for video

So when the Beatles added live vocals to the single backing track for the video they undid every change they were able to.

Personnel

Both versions


John Lennon – lead vocals, electric guitar (lead on single)
George Harrison – electric guitar
Paul McCartney – Hammond organ
Ringo Starr – drums

Revolution 1 only


John Lennon – acoustic guitar
Paul McCartney – piano
Paul, George – backing vocals
All sources say Paul McCartney – bass but I suspect it was actually George Harrison

Derek Watkins, Freddy Clayton – trumpets
Don Lang, Rex Morris, J. Power, Bill Povey – trombones

Revolution only


Paul McCartney – bass
John, Paul, George, Ringo - handclaps

Nicky Hopkins – electric piano


Arrangement


Intro
Rev 1: false start, studio chatter (Geoff Emerick “take two”), a sound like someone hitting a box of cabassas (or possibly Yoko playing a washboard!). Original drum track barely audible before drum overdub comes in.
Rev: solo lead guitar, drums, rhythm guitar barely audible

Verse 1
Rev 1: no electrics, organ fades in at end, heavily double tracked vox
Rev: little or no double tracking on vox – blooper “that it's evo-juice-shan” (0:23)

Pre Chorus 1
Rev 1: sustained chords, long descending bassline
Rev: staccato chords and bassline

Chorus 1
Rev 1: "don't you know it's gonna be alright. don't you know it's gonna be alright. don't you know it's gonna be alright".
Electric fills, acoustic fill at end really boosted, bass (and piano) walking bassline
Rev: “don't you know it's gonna be alright. Alright. Alright.”
End fill played on electric, bass root notes

Verse 2
Rev 1: harmony vocals with lead and 'shooby' BVs, electric fill at end, bass root note (doesn't go to D) and annoying slides
Rev: no harmony BVs or fill. Bass walking

Pre Chorus 2 as PC1

Chorus 2
Rev 1: as C1
Rev: vocal mistake left in (1:44)

Solo
This section only occurs on single version (1:52) over a I, IV, V chord progression
Electric piano solo (Nicky Hopkins) with lead fills at end (John Lennon). Heavy breathing by Lennon.



Verse 3
Rev 1: We all want to change your head”
Rev: We'd all love to change your head”


Pre Chorus 3 as PC1

Chorus 3
Rev 1: Accident bad tape edit during the mixing process resulted in two extra beats at the end (3:23). Lennon decided to leave it in. A similar mistake happened later on McCartney's song Let Me Roll It (4:22).
Rev: electric piano fills

Outro
Rev 1: (3:29 – 4:16) pick scrapes, heavy breathing, Fade
Rev: (3:03-3:25) electric piano fills, stock blues ending on bII – I.

The vast majority of changes are arguably cosmetic.

The single has more energy, due to key, tempo and timbre. The bassline moving off the root note more also contributes to that. The message of the chorus is obscured by missing words and less vocal reinforcement. The only ambiguity in the lyrics “in/out” is removed. The single is an unambiguous statement of 'angry pacificism'.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

10:61 Revolution (pt.1) Did George Play Bass on Revolution 1?



Received wisdom


Lewisohn says the bass was overdubbed the day after the basic track with two Lennon vocals and the BVs but the 50th ann version of Take 18 doesn't have these BVs – just the bass. But it does have some embryonic samples/farting around from the Lennons which were supposed to be recorded later, with (or after) the drum overdub which is also missing. So something's confused.

Why I think Harrison did it


Paul played piano live (with John on acoustic and Ringo drums) and the bass 'seems' to be cut live at the same time. It's hard to believe they would have a full on extended jam with no bass. Take 18 (on the the 50th ann) has a bass line for it's entirety. It's unlikely anyone would think it worth while to continue playing for the whole extended freakout unless they were there at the time (and not overdubbing).

The bass is very unlike Paul - jamming or overdubbing. Compare how 'Pianist Paul' gets loose and wild, whereas 'Bassist Paul' seems to be happy with hanging on the root notes but overly enamoured with doing crazy slides. I can't believe Paul, given all the aimless filler in the last half of the track, wouldn't try to put in a lot more clever stuff - certainly a lot cleverer that a bunch of quick slides. The only McCartney-esque flourish is the descending line in the pre-chorus. However it does sounds a little 'indian' which points to …

George Harrison did play bass on some tracks like Maxwell's Silver Hammer, Honey Pie and She Said She Said.

Therefore I suspect George in Studio Three with the Fender VI.

But on the other hand


Paul did overdubbed bass on Revolution the single at a later date so it's possible he did the same thing here. Though on the other other hand (third hand?) this may be the source of the confusion about the album version.

What would decide it


Is there bass on earlier takes (1-17) of Revolution 1? Then it's definitely Harrison. Paul couldn't play piano and bass at the same time and they would have never overdubbed bass on discarded rehearsal takes. If there isn't it probably is an overdub by Paul.

Is there bass spill on the stems of Lennon's acoustic guitar, Paul's piano or Ringo's initial drums part? Then it's definitely Harrison. Later overdubs would not leak onto earlier tracks.

Is George's voice audible as studio chatter on the original takes. Then it's probably Harrison on bass. He wasn't involved otherwise.

Why it matters


If George played the bass - the lead guitarist laid down a uninspired bass take during an extended jam session that somehow morphed into a album track. So what!

But if Paul played the bass – arguably Paul's unimaginative bass playing 'ruined' Revolution 1 just like John's error-strewn take 'ruined' The Long And Winding Road. Listen to verses 2 and 3 (1:21) – the bass inexplicably abandons the walking line of the first verse, ignores the chord changes and hangs on the root note, which in turned forced George Martin into arguably his most uninspired horn arrangement.

After two less than stellar versions – Lennon could have taken another crack but he lacked Paul's stamina. So where Paul would power through a Maxwell or an Ob-La-Di, Lennon gave up on tunes like Across The Universe.


Footnotes


Lewisohn says Mark Lewisohn: The Beatles Recording Sessions (p.137)