Recording "Revolver"

April 6 - June 22, 1966 • For The Beatles

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the Revolver (UK Mono) LP.

Master release


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From Wikipedia:

Hoping to work in a more modern studio than EMI’s London facility, the Beatles sent Brian Epstein to Memphis in March 1966 to investigate the possibility of their recording at Stax Studio. According to a letter written by Harrison two months later, the group had intended to work with Stax’s in-house producer, Jim Stewart. The idea was abandoned after locals began descending on the Stax building, as were alternative plans to use either Atlantic Studios in New York or Motown’s facility in Detroit.

Sessions for the album instead began at the smaller more intimate studio three of EMI’s Abbey Road Studios in London on 6 April 1966, with George Martin again serving as producer. The first track attempted was Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows“, the arrangement for which changed considerably between the initial take that day and the subsequent remake. This take 1 of “Tomorrow Never Knows“, along with several other outtakes from the album sessions, was included on the 1996 compilation Anthology 2.

According to Rodriguez, Revolver marks the first time that the Beatles “deliberately incorporated” the studio into the “conception of the recordings they made“, rather than using it “merely as a tool to capture performances“. A key production technique that the band began using was automatic double tracking (ADT), which EMI engineer Ken Townsend invented on 6 April. This technique employed two linked tape recorders to automatically create a doubled vocal track. The standard method had been to double the vocal by singing the same piece twice onto a multitrack tape, a task Lennon particularly disliked. The Beatles were reportedly delighted with the invention, and used it extensively on Revolver. ADT soon became a standard pop production technique, and led to related developments such as the artificial chorus effect.

Another EMI engineer, Geoff Emerick, recalled of the Beatles’ eagerness to experiment: “Revolver very rapidly became the album where the Beatles would say, ‘OK, that sounds great, now let’s play [the recording] backwards or speeded up or slowed down.’ They tried everything backwards, just to see what things sounded like.” The band’s interest in the tones that resulted from varying tape speed (or varispeeding) extended to recording a basic track at a faster tempo than they intended the song to sound on disc.

Brought in as an assistant to George Martin, Emerick was responsible for several innovations in the studio. Most importantly for the band’s sound, he and Townsend recorded McCartney’s bass guitar amplifier via a loudspeaker, instead of a standard microphone. With McCartney now using a Rickenbacker bass, in place of his Höfner model, this new set-up ensured that the bass was more prominent than on any previous Beatles release. The recording staff employed this technique only on the two songs that were selected for a non-album single, however: “Paperback Writer” and “Rain“. Emerick also ensured a greater presence for Starr’s bass drum, by inserting an item of clothing inside the structure, to dampen the sound, and then moving the microphone to just 3 inches from the drumhead and compressing the signal through a Fairchild Limiter. Musicologist Ian MacDonald writes that, despite Abbey Road being technically inferior to many recording facilities in the United States, Starr’s drumming on the album soon led to studios there “being torn apart and put back together again“, as engineers sought to replicate the innovative sounds achieved by the Beatles.

The band had recorded nine songs by 1 May, when they performed at the NME’s annual Poll-Winners Concert. Held at Wembley’s Empire Pool, in north-west London, this was the last concert that the Beatles would play before a paying audience in the United Kingdom. Performing before a crowd of 10,000, they played a set that was perceived as lacklustre. With Lennon and Harrison both publicly expressing their disenchantment with fame and Beatlemania, rumours circulated throughout 1966 that the band were splitting up. The pair also showed their support for Bob Dylan’s controversial adoption of an electric sound, urging a disapproving audience at his Royal Albert Hall concert that same month to stop their heckling.

Later in May, the Beatles spent two days making promotional films for their upcoming single. The first set of clips was filmed at Abbey Road on 19 May by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, director of the popular TV show Ready Steady Go! The following day, the group travelled to west London and shot further clips for the songs in the grounds of Chiswick House. On 16 June, five days before the end of the album sessions, they filmed live performances of “Paperback Writer” and “Rain” for Top of the Pops.

The group encouraged us to break the rules. […] It was implanted when we started ‘Revolver’ that every instrument should sound unlike itself: a piano shouldn’t sound like a piano, a guitar shouldn’t sound like a guitar. There were lots of things I wanted to try, we were listening to American records and they sounded so different, the engineers [at Abbey Road] had been using the same [methods] for years and years.

Geoff Emerick, The Beatles: 10 Years That Shook The WorldMojo , 2004

Unlike our previous LPs, this one is intended to show our versatility rather than a haphazard collection of songs. We use trumpets, violins and cellos to achieve new effects. George has written three of the tracks. On past LPs he never did more than two and Ringo sings, or rather talks, a children’s song. This is all part of our idea of being up-to-date and including something for everybody. We don’t intend to go back and revive ideas of twenty years ago.

Paul McCartney, 1966

We were going to record Revolver in America, but they wanted a fantastic amount of money to use the facilities there. […] When we finished Revolver, we realised that we had found a new British sound almost by accident. I think there were only two tracks on the LP that would have sounded better if we’d cut them in America. ‘Taxman’ and ‘Got To Get You Into My Life,’ because they need that raw quality that you just can’t get in this country for some reason. But ‘Eleanor Rigby’ would have been worse, because the string players in America aren’t so good.

Paul McCartney, 1966

John, Paul, and I devoted an evening to sifting through an enormous pile of newspapers and magazines for pictures of the Beatles after which we cut out the faces and glued them all together. Our handiwork was later superimposed onto (the) line drawing by Klaus Voormann, their old friend from Hamburg.

Pete Shotton, In My Life, 1983

The photo of Ringo with the funny striped shirt on, that was cut out of a magazine, from a picture of a girl who had that poster on her wall. That’s why the picture is at a funny angle. I had a few strange ones where John was pulling a face, or Paul was laughing, but in general, the photos show their sweet side. […] There was one picture where Paul was sitting on a toilet. I think that photo was taken in Hamburg. […] I went to the EMI house, up to George Martin’s office and I stood the artwork up on a filing cabinet. There was Brian Epstein, George Martin, his secretary and the four lads. I was scared, because nobody said anything. They were just looking at it. I thought, #@%!, they hate it. Then Paul looked closer and said, ‘Hey that’s me sitting on a toilet!’ George Martin took a look and said, ‘You can’t show that!’ Paul said, ‘No, it’s great!’ But then he gave it some thought and said, ‘Well, maybe we should take that one off..’ So that broke the ice. Then they started talking about it. Everybody loved it, George loved it, John loved it, Ringo loved it. I looked at Brian, who was standing in the corner and he was crying… I thought, Oh no… what is he doing? He came up to me and said, ‘Klaus, this is exactly what we needed. I was worried that this whole thing might not work, but I know now that this the cover. This LP, will work — thank you.

Klaus Voormann

Originally, George Martin was the Supreme Producer In The Sky and we wouldn’t even dare ask to go into the control room. But, as things loosened up, we got invited in and George gave us a bit of the control of the tools; he let us have a go.

Paul McCartney – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000

Their ideas were beginning to become much more potent in the studio. They started telling me what they wanted, and pressing me for more ideas and for more ways of translating those ideas into reality.

With Revolver you can hear that the boys were listening to lots of American records and saying, ‘Can we get this effect?’ and so on. So they would want us to do radical things, but this time they’d shove in high EQ on mixing, and for the brass they’d want to have a really toppy’ sound and cut out all the bass. The engineers would sometimes wonder whether there should be that much EQ.

We would go through the complete range of EQ on a disc, and if that wasn’t enough we’d put it through another range of EQ again, multiplied, and we’d get the most weird sound, which The Beatles liked and which obviously worked.

George Martin – From “The Beatles Anthology” book, 2000
From Melody Maker – April 9, 1966
From New Musical Express – April 1, 1966
From New Musical Express – April 22, 1966
From The Beatles Monthly Book – May 1966

I think Paul was very conscious of the fact that The Beatles were in a position to change the face of pop music. It sounds a bit arrogant, but he really thought pop music was underestimated – it was just regarded as ‘silly love songs’ as he later put it. Songs like Eleanor Rigby, these perfect little stories – they’re as concise as Hemingway or somebody like that. He always objected to the way it was just regarded as pop, just a branch of variety – whereas he saw it as a branch of fine art and poetry.

Barry Miles – From MOJO November 2022

Paul says, ‘Well, we discovered pot’ – but it was more than that. They expanded their horizons, their tonality, their sounds. Whether it was a 12-string electric guitar – which The Byrds used – or Indian instruments, which George had become more interested in, or the strings on Eleanor Rigby from Yesterday – their palette had just got big. Their capabilities had expanded to the extent where they could do anything.

Giles Martin – From MOJO November 2022

[George Martin] wanted them to break boundaries. He’d been working with the [BBC] Radiophonic Workshop doing electronic music. He came from comedy records, so to work with a band that didn’t just want to bash out songs would suit him down to the ground.

Giles Martin – From MOJO November 2022

As The Beatles began kicking over the traces of popular music convention, it gave me the freedom to do more of what I enjoyed: experimenting, creating sound pictures, building a whole atmosphere for a song… As long as the five of us agreed, everyone else could go hang!

George Martin – 1995 interview – From MOJO November 2022

Last updated on November 2, 2022

Related sessions


Mixing session for "Revolver"

Jun 22, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "She Said She Said", mixing session for "Revolver"

Jun 21, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Mixing "Got To Get You Into My Life"

Jun 20, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)



Recording "Here, There And Everywhere"

Jun 16, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Here, There And Everywhere"

Jun 14, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording and mixing "Good Day Sunshine"

Jun 09, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Good Day Sunshine", editing "And Your Bird Can Sing"

Jun 08, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)



Recording and mixing "I Want To Tell You", mixing "Yellow Submarine"

Jun 03, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "I Want To Tell You", mixing "Yellow Submarine"

Jun 02, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Yellow Submarine"

Jun 01, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Yellow Submarine"

May 26, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)



Recording "For No One"

May 19, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording and mixing "Got to Get You Into My Life"

May 18, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording and mixing "Taxman", recording "For No One"

May 16, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Mixing "Doctor Robert", "I'm Only Sleeping", "And Your Bird Can Sing"

May 12, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Yesterday and Today (Mono)


Recording "For No One"

May 09, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording and mixing "I'm Only Sleeping"

May 06, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "I'm Only Sleeping"

May 05, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Eleanor Rigby", "I'm Only Sleeping"

Apr 29, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Eleanor Rigby"

Apr 28, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "I'm Only Sleeping" and mixing "And Your Bird Can Sing", "Taxman"...

Apr 27, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "And Your Bird Can Sing"

Apr 26, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Mixing "Got to Get You Into My Life"

Apr 25, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Taxman", "Tomorrow Never Knows"

Apr 22, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Taxman"

Apr 21, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "And Your Bird Can Sing", "Taxman"

Apr 20, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Doctor Robert"

Apr 19, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Doctor Robert"

Apr 17, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Rain"

Apr 16, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Paperback Writer / Rain (UK)


Recording "Paperback Writer", "Rain"

Apr 14, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Paperback Writer / Rain (UK)


Recording "Love You To", "Paperback Writer"

Apr 13, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Got To Get You Into My Life", "Love You To"

Apr 11, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Got To Get You Into My Life"

Apr 08, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Tomorrow Never Knows", "Got To Get You Into My Life"

Apr 07, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)


Recording "Tomorrow Never Knows"

Apr 06, 1966 • Songs recorded during this session appear on Revolver (UK Mono)

Songs recorded












11.

Rain

Apr 16, 1966Recording "Rain"






16.

Taxman

Apr 21, 1966Recording "Taxman"
















31.










40.






































Going further


The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.

We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!

Shop on Amazon


The Beatles Recording Reference Manual - Volume 2 - Help! through Revolver (1965-1966)

The second book of the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC)-nominated series, "The Beatles Recording Reference Manual: Volume 2: Help! through Revolver (1965-1966)" follows the evolution of the band from the end of Beatlemania with "Help!" through the introspection of "Rubber Soul" up to the sonic revolution of "Revolver". From the first take to the final remix, discover the making of the greatest recordings of all time.

Through extensive, fully-documented research, these books fill an important gap left by all other Beatles books published to date and provide a unique view into the recordings of the world's most successful pop music act.

Shop on Amazon

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