“Revolver” marked a turning point for The Beatles.
Brash and daring, but also filled with sensibility, the 1966 album ushered in the band’s penchant for for musical unpredictability who would be continue to develop by “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (which they began recording later that year) and “The White Album” (1968).
The 14-track album was remixed by producer Giles Martin – son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin – and engineer Sam Okell.
The special edition of “Revolver” arrives on October 28. But among the hoard of unearthed gems are demos of “Yellow Submarine” like a radically stripped-down ballad featuring plaintively vocal John Lennon rather than a singing Ringo Starr and the top hat-heavy backdrop of early versions of “Got to Get You Into My Life”. Both are available Friday and can be heard here.
Martin and Starr recently spoke with USA TODAY about the album’s story and some of its surprising elements.
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Lennon’s working version of the song – just over a minute long – finds him quietly repeating the lyrics “In the place I was born, nobody cared, nobody cared while he works in other modifications such as “and the name who I was born in, nobody cared” and “in the town where I come from, nobody cared”.
By the time “Yellow Submarine” was presented to Starr – the band recorded it on May 26 and June 1, 1966 – he was already in “Ringo Song” form.
“The boys used to write a song for me and they presented me with whatever they thought would be good for me. They had this song and they decided to animate it,” he says. “I think Paul thought of (a yellow submarine). It could have been in a green submarine, but a yellow submarine is much better. Or a dark purple submarine, which would have been like, ‘What are they talking about now?’ But, yeah, it was a Ringo song, like “With A Little Help From My Friends” was a Ringo song.
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John Lennon’s demo of ‘Yellow Submarine’ was a ‘complete discovery’
Martin jokes that people think he spends all his time listening to Beatles clips. But finding the original version of Lennon’s song was one of the happy accidents that often happens when ripping tapes.
“I had no idea it existed. It was a complete discovery and I was surprised,” says Martin. “One of the pleasures I get from doing this is that people are going through the same . Browsing the cobwebs and finding the gold is what I want to pass on to other people.
Part 2 of the working version of “Yellow Submarine” retains Lennon’s acoustic guitar backdrop, but also includes Lennon and McCartney discuss the way forward with a robust version of the song in the folk style, which at that time included the famous recognizable refrain.
Martin says he understood why the Beatles chose to steer the melody in a more pleasant direction.
“It wouldn’t have been as commercial in that original form, and you can hear them working together and pushing each other in different directions,” says Martin. “Which of course, was their downfall at the end. But at this point, they were thrilled with how they were pushing each other creatively.”
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How The Beatles Went From ‘Rubber Soul’ to ‘Revolver’
According to Martin, 1965’s “Rubber Soul” is full of the Merseybeat sound, the British musical genre that developed in Liverpool in the early 60s and blended rock, pop, skiffle and R&B. But with “Revolver”, the group had found its “arrogance”.
“There’s always a goal to please on ‘Rubber Soul,'” he says. “It’s like they’re leaving Liverpool on ‘Revolver’.”
Martin cites “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the first track recorded for “Revolver,” as the immediate indicator of the band’s enlightened musical approach.
“Just the way the drums open the song, you can feel they’ve turned their backs on the past in a way,” Martin says. “The Beatles were relentless in their creativity.”
From the beefy, jerky guitars of “Taxman” and “Dr. Robert” to the sleek strings of “Eleanor Rigby” to the understated tenderness of “Here, There and Everywhere,” the songs of “Revolver” embodied the sonic expansion of The Beatles.
“They were punching through the walls of Abbey Road (Studios),” Martin says. “They made a conscious decision to take off the Beatles costumes and not cut their hair and become individuals.”
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How many special editions of “Revolver” have been released?
The super-deluxe “Revolver” features 63 tracks and is available on digital audio, five CDs and four LPs (plus a 7-inch EP). The deluxe edition offers 29 tracks as two CDs, and the standard edition is 14 tracks available as a single CD and a single LP, as well as a limited edition vinyl picture disc with the cover of the scrapbook.
The songs were mixed in stereo and Dolby Atmos (which will be released digitally), and the album’s original mono mix comes from the 1966 mono master tape.
Why Producer Giles Martin Was ‘Nervous’ About Remixing ‘Revolver’
The producer, who expects ‘Rubber Soul’ to be the next album in the work of the Beatles to receive the special edition treatment after finishing work on director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s upcoming Amy Winehouse biopic, was worried about the reaction to the remix of “Revolver” because it’s loved by fans.
“It’s a cherished record and it’s been well received by people,” says Martin. “My question is always, ‘Why are we doing this?’ The goal is to find the thing where you’re going, ‘I love this record, but what about actually audience this?’ ”