Forward to next post: Making Light, Your Source for “Total Eclipse of the Heart” Blogging
This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of, quite possibly, the most transformational single album in modern popular music. Ray Newman, author of the self-published Abracadabra! The True Story of the Beatles’ Revolver, observes:
Revolver is one of the greatest albums of all time, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Revolver has appeared in the top 10 of lists of “the greatest albums of all time” in Rolling Stone magazine (2003), NME (1975, 2003), the Guardian (1997), the Times (1993), Channel 4 television (2005) and on many other occasions. The company it keeps varies—Tom Waits’ Swordfishtrombones was voted the 5th best album of all time by NME readers in 1985, but hasn’t featured since—and its position on the list changes: sometimes it’s below Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but in recent years it has more often been above, creeping towards (and occasionally achieving) the top spot.
Why this should be is well covered in an excellent post from By Neddie Jingo!, of which this is just a taste:
If Rubber Soul, from late 1965, marked the moment that the Beatles began to see the world through the eyes of adults, then Revolver gives us the world as seen by adults who know they are going to die. […] But if Revolver acknowledges the inevitability of death, the album as a whole resoundingly rejects nihilism. It offers solace in adult romantic love, in psychedelic insight, in the innocence of childhood, and a healthy dose of Doctor Robert’s cynicism. […]
If you listen carefully to a collection from Revolver’s period like Rhino’s Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From The British Empire & Beyond, it becomes immediately apparent how astonishingly divisive the psychedelic experience was in the mid-Sixties. I haven’t done a careful count, but an amazing number of the delicious obscurities in that collection set up an “us-and-them” division—“us” being those who’ve had their eyes opened by LSD and “them” being the Squares who haven’t. […] But it’s Revolver’s crowning achievement that it rejects this then-fashionable division in favor of universality. The abject Eleanor Rigby and the hopeless Father Mackenzie feeling his faith dying, these are not people who going to be “saved” by an impregnated sugar-cube—these are desperate people in need of human compassion. The miserably depressed lover of “For No One,” the fragmenting mind, desperate for the innocence of childhood, of “She Said, She Said”—no glib oh-wow-man insight will work miracles for these people. The “state of mind” of these damaged individuals is far, far more complicated than “rain or shine,” and the Beatles were immeasurably compassionate—adult—to present them to us in the painfully divided year of 1966.
Tappan King once observed that it’s the destiny of most powerful pop-cultural creations to trace an arc from gnosis to wallpaper. A lot of stuff from the Sixties is now on the downside of that curve. Revolver isn’t. It still stings.