Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Revolver has always been one of my "summer" albums, so I popped the CD in the car the other day and gave it a listen. I remember a few years ago Virgin conducted a huge poll of record buyers and journalists and Revolver was voted the greatest album of all time. I think it was a British only poll, but regardless of input by Americans or Canadians or whoever, Revolver is a recognized highpoint for the Beatles. Not as flashy as Sgt. Pepper or as slick as Abbey Road, it's a great snapshot of them in a pre-psychedelic and post mop top period.

But what I wanted to get at today is the difference between the American LP (which I grew up listening to) and the British (now official) version.

Capitol often short-changed us, and ended up squeezing five extra albums out of the Beatles seven year recording run. British records generally ran 14 songs whereas the US versions were around 12.

I don't know the logistics of who and how the editing choices were made (I'm sure there's a book out there that details it all. I simply can't keep up with all of the Beatle books that have come out over the last 15 years), but Revolver has got to be the worst example of Capitol's need to lift songs from an otherwise fine album.

In their defense, I actually like the American Rubber Soul better than the British one. The best thing they did was remove the opening cut, "Drive My Car" and Ringo's "What Goes On". And even though we got the usual 12 for 14, they stuck in songs from the British Help! LP that were more fitting to the folksy sound of Soul: "I've Just Seen a Face" and "It's Only Love". Of course we also lost "Nowhere Man", which would've been fine, but overall, the American version has a better overall mood and tone than the EMI one.

I also really like the Capitol LP The Beatles Second Album, which was compiled from singles, EPs and leftovers from their first two LPs. Second Album is a rocking good time.

Revolver, on the other hand, is a mess. They simply plucked three songs from the lineup and added nothing. And the weird part is that the three songs were all Lennon tunes leaving him only two, each one stuck in the lonely spot of last cut on each side. The remaining Lennon cuts were "She Said She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows". Cut were "I'm Only Sleeping" (one of his best), "And Your Bird Can Sing" and "Doctor Robert". They were all thrown on the Yesterday and Today record, which oddly, came out a few months before Revolver. So American listeners actually got to hear those cuts before the British fans.

I'm not a big fan of Yesterday and Today because not only does it have two (count 'em, TWO!) Ringo songs, but it also has "Yesterday", which along with "Yellow Submarine" is one of the few Beatle tunes I can go the rest of my life without listening to ever again.

So why did they cut only John songs? Hell, George has three to John's two. I didn't really notice it at the time (probably due to the fact that there was so much Beatle product that it didn't seem like John was being neglected), but in retrospect, it seems like a radical bit of editing. I doubt the people in charge even realized it was an "all Lennon" edit. They probably couldn't tell the difference between a song sung by George and one sung by John. But it's hard to believe that nobody pointed it out. That nobody said, "Hey, the three songs we're cutting are all by John Freaking Lennon. Isn't he kind of the main talent here?" Paul didn't really come into his own until the next one (Pepper) and George and Ringo...well, 'nuff said.

It's a mystery to me, and will make the re release of it on the next Capitol Albums set a bit weak. But Revolver would be the last time the American versions were different. From Pepper on, the tracks would be the same. There was of course the British only Collection of Beatles Oldies and the American only Hey Jude, but the "real" albums would be the same after Revolver. Maybe it was the last straw? I've never read or heard Lennon's thoughts on it, but it must've pissed him off. And I bet George was giddy over it.


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