January 1, 2023. Cleveland, Ohio. During Darwin’s second voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, the young biologist observed Chiasognathus grantii, a Chilian stag Beetle, for which was later given its casual name, Darwin Beetle. This Beetle, marked by its immense mandibles, provided further evidence of natural selection, thus changing the direction of science forever. Giles Martin is not Charles Darwin; however, the lesser Martin has provided Darwinian evidence of psych rock’s evolution, the 1966 fab four masterwork, Revolver. Rock music has never been the same.
With heavy doses of psychedelia, chamber-pop, and hindustani sensibilities, Revolver employs the full capabilities of four individual artists and the endless possibilities of Abbey Road Studio’s modern multi-track facility. Under the capable direction of producer and the senior Martin, Revolver pushes the edge of western pop melody towards the Beatles’ bigger-than-Jesus trajectory. In 1966, sound and culture were rapidly changing, and Revolver remains the score.
Revolver pushes the edge of western pop melody towards the Beatles’ bigger-than-Jesus trajectory.
Dub this remix of Revolver, the “Giles Beatle”. This smartly cellophaned Revolver: Special Edition remains loyal to its 1966 stereo mix: Newly wrapped, hardly distinguishable, yet deeply enjoyable. Give your $30 bucks to wax-man, and you are off, Yellow Submarine included.
The track list is the same. Side one begins with the cryptic, dueling Beatle count-in: “1 – 2 – 3 – 4 / 1 – 2 – 3…”. Then its Paul’s signature Taxman bassline. “Taxman” remains a raucous, Batman-themed rocker, part Tory battle cry. Humming economic/political commentary be damned, “Taxman” is an aisle-crossing ripper.
Next is the somber Ms. Rigby. Prominently featuring the George Martin double string arrangement, “Eleanor Rigby” eschews contemporary pop structure for baroque lyrical lamentation. McCartney’s fictitious, yet vivid Liverpudian snapshots give way to postwar modernism. A sock darning minister give sermons unheard. A faceless rice collector lives in vague, lonely dreams. Rigby is a masterpiece of simplicity, and we are only on song two!
True that Lennon, Macca, Harrison, and Starkey were not unfamiliar with speedy stimulants (Dr. Robert) and London’s loudest weed (Rubber Soul: The Beatles’ reefer album), but acid propelled the Fab Four into musical possibilities unheard and unseen prior to Revolver. Dig Revolver’s hidden paen to love and LSD: “Love You To”. George Harrison, writer, guitarist, sitarist, Beatle, and human, expands our collective notions of pop. “Love You To” is the intersection of top 40 and deep metaphysics. Here Harrison piques Eastern philosophy into a micro-dose, three minute, Western consumable. Surely, Harrison writes with more than his bride, Pattie Boyd, on his expanded mind: “Make love all day long/ Make love singing songs”. “Love You To” is miles beyond the Cavern Club salad days.
With Revolver, the lads saved their best for last. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is the song that continues to define the Beatles’ divergence from pop superstars into transcendent art rock immortals. While Lennon invites you to “Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream”, Revolver‘s closing psych anthem is well beyond the tantric flow of lysergic sodden lyrics. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is the culminating studio perfection of swirling effects, droning tambura, choral layers, and buzzing guitars. Still, Ringo is the star on this performance. Sir Richard Starkey’s driving, motorik rhythm makes the Beatles engine hum into transcendent aural paradise.
Harrison piques Eastern philosophy into a micro-dose, three minute, Western consumable.
Has revolver evolved? Is it possible to perfect perfection? Does the 180-gram re-issue reveal the “meaning of within”? I don’t think so. That is, unless the meaning of the Giles Martin edition of Revolver is a Beatlemania cash grab. Do you need an excuse to buy a new, high-quality copy of the Beatles’ penultimate record? I don’t think so. Dig Revolver: Special Edition for the fun of a parlor room, hi-fi drag race: 1966 versus 2022. Either way, I want to tell you, this bird — the Giles Beetle — can sing!