With the significant maturity spike as shown in Rubber Soul, it is almost inconceivable that The Beatles were only on their way up when it came to making sophisticated music and recording it in a revolutionary way in time for their seventh album, Revolver. They had a number of factors that helped them do this beyond their own burgeoning interest in the album format during a time when their touring days were grinding to a halt.
First, by 1966 they had a number of peers doing similarly revolutionary and left of centre work from the Stones’ “Paint It Black”, to the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”, to the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High”, along with so many other examples. Second, they had new fangled studio technology that helped them get what they wanted more easily, with automatic double tracking, tape varispeed, and improvements in amplification and microphone technology. Third and finally, they had producer George Martin, and a young engineer named Geoff Emerick to take their creative ideas and turn them into practical sonic realities to create what was their most sophisticated and varied album to date, a work that still has impact on recordings today fifty years after its creation. The amazing part is, as groundbreaking as Revolver was, The Beatles were only getting started as to where they would take the album format, not only for them but for their peers, too.
During this month’s episode of A Year With The Beatles podcast, my co-host Graeme Burk and I are joined by writer, musician, songwriter, and seasoned podcaster in his own right Alex Kennard. In addition to talking about the record and our favourite moments as taken from it, we also talk about Howard Goodall’s documentary on how The Beatles were exemplars of western composition by the 1960s. That decade was a time when a movement of modernist and post-modernist composers had largely given up on the conventions of classical composition in order to explore new territories, often leaving general audiences behind. The Beatles re-positioned those conventions in pop music to breathe new life into them. There is some argument as to the validity of this interpretation of history, and also some thoughts on what most surprises us on a compositional level when it comes to The Beatles.
To listen to this month’s episode, make with the clicking right here.