Revolution 9

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) LP.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968

Master album


Other Beatles songs with no contribution from McCartney



She Said She Said

Officially appears on Revolver (UK Mono)


Julia

Officially appears on The Beatles (Mono)


Revolution 1

Officially appears on The Beatles (Mono)


Good Night

Officially appears on The Beatles (Mono)


Revolution

Officially appears on Hey Jude / Revolution


What's The New Mary Jane

Officially appears on Anthology 3


Carnival of Light

Unreleased song

Related interviews


Interview: Paul McCartney

Nov 29, 1997 • From New Statesman

Spread the love! If you like what you are seeing, share it on social networks and let others know about The Paul McCartney Project.

Song facts

Revolution 9” is a song from The Beatles’ 1968 eponymous album. Written by John Lennon, it is credited to “Lennon – McCartney”, but Paul McCartney is not credited as performing on the song. But “Revolution 9” being a sound collage, it uses elements of the song “Revolution“, featuring Paul McCartney.

We created Apple for just that. I had some stuff I could have done too. I remember once saying to John that I was going to do an album called “Paul McCartney Goes Too Far”. He was really tickled with that idea. He said, “That’s great. You really should do it”. I would calculate and think, “No, I’d better do ‘Hey Jude’, you know”.

Paul McCartney, about “Revolution 9” – From “The Beatles” Super Deluxe edition book (2018)

From Wikipedia:

“Revolution 9” is a sound collage that appeared on the Beatles’ 1968 eponymous release (popularly known as the “White Album”). The composition, credited to Lennon–McCartney, was created primarily by John Lennon with assistance from George Harrison and Yoko Ono. Lennon said he was trying to paint a picture of a revolution using sound. The composition was influenced by the avant-garde style of Ono as well as the musique concrète works of composers such as Edgard Varèse and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

The recording began as an extended ending to the album version of Lennon’s song “Revolution“. He, Harrison and Ono then combined the unused coda with numerous overdubbed vocals, speech, sound effects, and short tape loops of speech and musical performances, some of which were reversed. These were further manipulated with echo, distortion, stereo panning, and fading. At over eight minutes, it is the longest track that the Beatles officially released during their existence as a band.

Background and inspiration

“Revolution 9” was not the first venture by the Beatles into experimental recordings. Following Paul McCartney’s lead, the group had introduced avant-garde styling in their 1966 song “Tomorrow Never Knows” and, in January 1967, they recorded an unreleased piece called “Carnival of Light“. McCartney said the work was inspired by composers Stockhausen and John Cage. Stockhausen was also a favourite of Lennon, and was one of the people included on the Sgt. Pepper album cover. Music critic Ian MacDonald wrote that “Revolution 9” may have been influenced by Stockhausen’s Hymnen in particular.

Another influence on Lennon was his relationship with Yoko Ono. Lennon and Ono had recently recorded their own avant-garde album, Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins. Lennon said: “Once I heard her stuff – not just the screeching and howling but her sort of word pieces and talking and breathing and all this strange stuff … I got intrigued, so I wanted to do one.” Ono attended the recording sessions and, according to Lennon, helped him select which tape loops to use.

In a 1992 interview for Musician magazine, George Harrison said that it was he and Ringo Starr who selected the sounds, sourced from EMI’s tape library, including the “Number nine, number nine” dialogue. Authors Chip Madinger and Mark Easter write that the content of Harrison’s lesser-known experimental piece “Dream Scene”, recorded between November 1967 and February 1968 for his Wonderwall Music album, suggests that Harrison had a greater influence on “Revolution 9” than has been acknowledged. In his book about the Beatles’ White Album, titled Revolution, David Quantick lists Lennon, Ono and Harrison as the “actual writers”, despite the Lennon–McCartney composer’s credit. In the 2011 documentary George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Ono says that “George, John and I made [‘Revolution 9’]” and that Harrison “sort of instigated it” and pushed them to create the piece.

Recording

“Revolution 9” originated on 30 May 1968 during the first recording session for Lennon’s composition “Revolution“. Take 20 of that song lasted more than ten minutes and was given additional overdubs over the next two sessions. Mark Lewisohn describes the last six minutes as “pure chaos … with discordant instrumental jamming, feedback, John repeatedly screaming ‘RIGHT’ and then, simply, repeatedly screaming … with Yoko talking and saying such off-the-wall phrases as ‘you become naked’, and with the overlaying of miscellaneous, home-made sound effects tapes.”

Lennon soon decided to make the first part of the recording into a conventional Beatles song, “Revolution 1”, and to use the last six minutes as the basis for a separate track, “Revolution 9”. He began preparing additional sound effects and tape loops: some newly recorded in the studio, at home and from the studio archives. The work culminated on 20 June, with Lennon performing a live mix from tape loops running on machines in all three studios at EMI Studios, but during the live mix, the STEED system ran out and the sound of the tape machine rewinding can be heard at the 5:11 mark and additional prose was overdubbed by Lennon and Harrison.

More overdubs were added on 21 June followed by final mixing in stereo. The stereo master was completed on 25 June when it was shortened by 53 seconds. Although other songs on the album were separately remixed for the mono version, the complexity of “Revolution 9” necessitated making the mono mix a direct reduction of the final stereo master. McCartney had been out of the country when “Revolution 9” was assembled and mixed; he was unimpressed when he first heard the finished track, and later tried to persuade Lennon to drop his insistence that it be included on the album. Lennon said that the final editing was done by himself and Ono alone.

Structure and content

“Revolution 9” is a sound collage, which has been described as piece of experimental, avant-garde, musique concrète and a psychedelic music work. The piece begins with a slow piano theme in the key of B minor and the voice of an EMI engineer repeating the words “number nine”, quickly panning across the stereo channels. Both the piano theme and the “number nine” loop recur many times during the piece, serving as a motif. Lennon later said of the track and its production:

Revolution 9 was an unconscious picture of what I actually think will happen when it happens; just like a drawing of a revolution. All the thing was made with loops. I had about 30 loops going, fed them onto one basic track. I was getting classical tapes, going upstairs and chopping them up, making it backwards and things like that, to get the sound effects. One thing was an engineer’s testing voice saying, “This is EMI test series number nine.” I just cut up whatever he said and I’d number nine it. Nine turned out to be my birthday and my lucky number and everything. I didn’t realise it: it was just so funny the voice saying, “number nine”; it was like a joke, bringing number nine into it all the time, that’s all it was.

Much of the track consists of tape loops that are faded in and out, several of which are sampled from performances of classical music. Works that have been specifically identified include the Vaughan Williams motet O Clap Your Hands, the final chord from Sibelius’ Symphony No. 7, and the reversed finale of Schumann’s Symphonic Studies. Other loops include brief portions of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, “The Streets of Cairo”, violins from “A Day in the Life“, and George Martin saying “Geoff, put the red light on”. Part of the Arabic song “Awal Hamsa” by Farid al-Atrash is included shortly after the 7-minute mark. There are also loops of unidentified operatic performances, backwards mellotron, violins and sound effects, an oboe/French horn duet, a reversed electric guitar in the key of E major, loud cymbals and a reversed string quartet in the key of E-flat major. A loop from “Tomorrow Never Knows” is also evident.

Portions of the unused coda of “Revolution 1” can be heard briefly several times during the track, particularly Lennon’s screams of “right” and “all right”, with a longer portion near the end featuring Ono’s discourse about becoming naked. Segments of random prose read by Lennon and Harrison are heard prominently throughout, along with numerous sound effects such as laughter, a cooing baby, crowd noise, breaking glass, car horns, crackling fire and gunfire. Some of the sounds were taken from an Elektra Records album of stock sound effects. The piece ends with a recording of American football chants (“Hold that line! Block that kick!”). In all, the final mix includes at least 45 different sound sources.

Album sequencing and release

During compilation and sequencing of the master tape for the album The Beatles, two unrelated segments were included between the previous song (“Cry Baby Cry“) and “Revolution 9”. The first was a fragment of a song based on the line “Can you take me back“, an improvisation sung by McCartney that was recorded between takes of “I Will“. The second was a bit of conversation from the studio control room where Alistair Taylor asked Martin for forgiveness for not bringing him a bottle of claret, and then calling him a “cheeky bitch”.

“Revolution 9” was released as the penultimate track on side four of the double LP. With no gaps in the sequence from “Cry Baby Cry” to “Revolution 9”, the point of track division has varied among different reissues of the album. Some versions place the conversation at the end of “Cry Baby Cry”, resulting in a length of 8:13 for “Revolution 9”, while others start “Revolution 9” with the conversation, for a track length of 8:22.

Reception

The unusual nature of “Revolution 9” engendered a wide range of opinions. Lewisohn summarised the public reaction upon its release as “most listeners loathing it outright, the dedicated fans trying to understand it”. Music critics Robert Christgau and John Piccarella called it “an anti-masterpiece” and commented that, in effect, “for eight minutes of an album officially titled The Beatles, there were no Beatles.” In their respective reviews of the White Album, Alan Walsh of Melody Maker called the track “noisy, boring and meaningless”, while the NME‘s Alan Smith derided it as “a pretentious piece of old codswallop … a piece of idiot immaturity and a blotch on their own unquestioned talent as well as the album”. Jann Wenner was more complimentary, writing in Rolling Stone that “Revolution 9” was “beautifully organized” and had more political impact than “Revolution 1”. Ian MacDonald remarked that “Revolution 9” evoked the era’s revolutionary disruptions and their repercussions, and thus was culturally “one of the most significant acts the Beatles ever perpetrated”, as well as “the world’s most widely distributed avant-garde artifact”.

Among more recent reviews, Rob Sheffield wrote in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide that it was “justly maligned”, but “more fun than ‘Honey Pie‘ or ‘Yer Blues‘”. Mark Richardson of Pitchfork commented that “the biggest pop band in the world exposed millions of fans to a really great and certainly frightening piece of avant-garde art.” David Quantick, writing in 2002, similarly described it as being “after nearly a quarter of a century, [still] the most radical and innovative track ever to bring a rock record to its climax”. He added that, given the Beatles’ popularity ensured that an avant-garde recording was found in millions of homes around the world: “No one in the history of recorded music has ever been so successful in introducing such extreme music to so many people, most of whom, admittedly, will try their best never to hear ‘Revolution 9.’ Those who do listen to it usually find that it not only rewards repeated playing … but that it also knocks other tracks on the White Album into a cocked hat.”

While reviewing the most overrated albums of all time, where the White Album ranked at number 18, Edward Sharp-Paul of FasterLouder wrote that “‘Revolution #9’ is the sound of an illusion shattering: Yes, the Beatles are human, and sometimes they drop almighty turds.” The track was voted the worst Beatles song in one of the first such polls, conducted in 1971 by WPLJ and The Village Voice. Writing for Mojo in 2003, Mark Paytress said that “Revolution 9” remained “the most unpopular piece of music the Beatles ever made”, yet it was also their “most extraordinary [recording]”.

Interpretation

Lennon described “Revolution 9” as “an unconscious picture of what I actually think will happen when it happens, just like a drawing of revolution”. He said he was “painting in sound a picture of revolution”, but he had mistakenly made it “anti-revolution”. In his analysis of the song, MacDonald doubted that Lennon conceptualised the piece as representing a revolution in the usual sense, but rather as “a sensory attack on the citadel of the intellect: a revolution in the head” aimed at each listener. MacDonald also noted that the structure suggests a “half-awake, channel-hopping” mental state, with underlying themes of consciousness and quality of awareness. Others have described the piece as Lennon’s attempt at turning “nightmare imagery” into sound, and as “an autobiographical soundscape”. The loop of “number nine” featured in the recording fuelled the legend of Paul McCartney’s death after it was reported that it sounded like “turn me on, dead man” when played backwards.

In an interview held at his home on 2 December 1968, Lennon was asked if “Revolution 9” was about death, because it seemed like that to the interviewer. Lennon answered: “Well then it is, then, when you heard it … listen to it another day. In the sun. Outside. And see if it’s about death then.” He went on: “It’s not specifically about anything. It’s a set of sounds, like walking down the street is a set of sounds. And I just captured a moment of time, and put it on disc, and it’s about that … It was maybe to do with the sounds of a revolution … so that’s the vague story behind it. But apart from that, it’s just a set of sounds.”

Based on interviews and testimony, prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi asserted that Charles Manson believed that many songs on the album The Beatles contained references confirming his prediction of an impending apocalyptic race war, a scenario dubbed “Helter Skelter“. According to Gregg Jakobson, Manson mentioned “Revolution 9” more often than any of the other album tracks, and he interpreted it as a parallel of Chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation. Manson viewed the piece as a portrayal in sound of the coming black-white revolution. He misheard Lennon’s distorted screams of “Right!” within “Revolution 9” as a command to “Rise!” Speaking to music journalist David Dalton before his trial, Manson drew parallels between the animal noises that close Harrison’s White Album track “Piggies” and a similar sound, followed by machine-gun fire, that appears in “Revolution 9”. […]

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

Revolution 9 was quite similar to some stuff I’d been doing myself for fun. I didn’t think that mine was suitable for release, but John always encouraged me.

A few days later, all four Beatles reunited in the studio, and John proudly played the two tracks that he had completed while the rest were away. I could see from the dark cloud that came over Paul’s face that he was totally underwhelmed with ‘Revolution 9’ when he first head it, and there was an awkward silence after the track faded out. John looked at Paul expectantly, but Paul’s only comment was ‘Not bad,’ which I knew was a diplomatic way of saying that he didn’t like it. Ringo and George Harrison had nothing to say about the track at all. They looked distinctly embarrassed, and you could tell that neither one of them wanted to get caught in the middle of this.

‘Not bad?’ Lennon said derisively to Paul. ‘You have no idea what you’re talking about. It fact, this should be our next bloody single! This is the direction The Beatles should be going in from now on.’  Yoko, with an appalling lack of tact, managed to aggravate things further still by blurting out, ‘I agree with John. I think it’s great.’…Judging from his look of disdain, I was quite sure Paul was thinking, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ but, to his credit, he didn’t rise to the bait and didn’t argue…he simply didn’t see it as Beatles music, and he certainly didn’t agree that it was the direction that The Beatles should go in.

Geoff Emerick – From “Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of The Beatles“, 2006 – Quoted in beatlesebooks.com

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

[a] stereo 21,25 Jun 1968. edited.
UK: Apple PCS 7068 white album 1968.
US: Apple SWBO 101 white album 1968.
CD: EMI CDP 7 46443 2 white album 1987.

[a1] mono made from [a] 1968.
UK: Apple PMC 7068 white album 1968.

Tape loops prepared on Jun 6-11 were fed into the master on Jun 20-25. The basic track was the end of Revolution 1 (see above). Editing shortened the piece by almost a minute.

Although the mono was made from the stereo, the opening lines are more clear in mono: “I would’ve gotten claret for you but I’ve realized I’ve forgotten all about it, George, I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?”. This is evidently a separate piece of tape added during mixing.

Revolution 9 is preceded on the white album by a short song not listed on the album, Can You Take Me Back, which was recorded after Revolution 9 was mixed. It is listed separately here (below).

Last updated on September 11, 2021

Lyrics

Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9
Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9
Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9
Number 9, number 9, number

Then there's this Welsh rabbit wearing some brown underpants
About the shortage of grain in Hertfordshire
Everyone of them knew that as time went by
They'd get a little bit older and a little bit slower but

It's all the same thing
In this case manufactured by someone who's always/umpteen
Your father's giving it diddly-dee
District was leaving, intended to die, Ottoman
Long gone through
I've got to say, irritably and
Floors, hard enough to put on, per day's MD in our district
There was not really enough light to get down
And ultimately slumped down
Suddenly

They may stop the funding
Place your bets
The original
Afraid she'll die
Great colors for the season

Number 9, number 9

Who's to know?
Who wants to know?

Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9
Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9

(I sustained nothing worse than)
(Also, for example)
(Whatever you're doing)
(A business deal falls through)
I informed him on the third night, when fortune gives

People ride, people ride
Ride, ride, ride, ride, ride

Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9

Ride! Ride! Ride! Ride! Ride!

9, number 9

I've missed all of that
It makes me a few days late
Compared with, like, wow!
And weird stuff like that

Taking our sides sometimes
Floral bark

Rouge doctors have brought this specimen
I have nobody's short-cuts, aha

With the situation
They are standing still
The plan, the telegram

Number 9, number

A man without terrors from beard to false
As the headmaster reported to my son
He really can try, as they do, to find function
(Tell what he was saying
(and his voice was low and his hive high)
And his eyes were low

Alright!

It was on fire and his glasses were the same
This thing knows if it was tinted
But you know it isn't
To me it is

Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9
Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9
Number 9

So the wife called me and we'd better go to see a surgeon to price it
Yellow underclothes
So, any road, we went to see the dentist instead
Who gave her a pair of teeth which wasn't any good at all
So I said I'd marry, join the fucking navy and went to sea

In my broken chair, my wings are broken and so is my hair
I'm not in the mood for whirling

How? Dogs for dogging, hands for clapping
Birds for birding and fish for fishing
Them for themming and when for whimming

Only to find the night-watchman
Unaware of his presence in the building
(Onion soup)

Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9
(Industry allows financial imbalance)
Number 9

Thrusting it between his shoulder blades
The Watusi, the Twist
El Dorado

Take this, brother, may it serve you well
Maybe it's nothing
What? What? Oh
Maybe, even then, impervious in London

Could be a difficult thing
(It's alright, it's alright, it's alright)
It's quick like rush for peace is because
(It's alright, it's alright)
It's so much like being naked

It's alright, it's alright, it's alright
It's alright, it's alright, it's alright

If, you become naked

Hold that line, hold that line, hold that line
Block that kick, block that kick, block that kick

Variations


A Stereo version • From "The Beatles (Stereo)"

A1 Mono made from [A] • From "The Beatles (Mono)"

A1.2009 2009 mono remaster • From "The Beatles in Mono (2009)"



B Stereo version • From "The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)"

Officially appears on


The Beatles (Mono)

LP • Released in 1968

8:22 • Studio versionA1 • Mono • Mono made from [A]

John Lennon :
Effects, Producer, Samples, Tape loops, Vocals
George Harrison :
Samples, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Yoko Ono :
Effects, Samples, Vocals

Session Recording:
May 30, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 6, 10, 11, 20, 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Aug 26, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo)

LP • Released in 1968

8:22 • Studio versionA • Stereo

John Lennon :
Effects, Producer, Samples, Tape loops, Vocals
George Harrison :
Samples, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Yoko Ono :
Effects, Samples, Vocals

Session Recording:
May 30, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 6, 10, 11, 20, 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 25, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Mono - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

8:22 • Studio versionA1.2009 • Mono • 2009 mono remaster

John Lennon :
Effects, Producer, Samples, Tape loops, Vocals
George Harrison :
Samples, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Yoko Ono :
Effects, Samples, Vocals
Paul Hicks :
Remastering
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
May 30, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 6, 10, 11, 20, 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Aug 26, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo - 2009 remaster)

Official album • Released in 2009

8:22 • Studio versionA2009 • Stereo • 2009 stereo remaster

John Lennon :
Effects, Producer, Samples, Tape loops, Vocals
George Harrison :
Samples, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Yoko Ono :
Effects, Samples, Vocals
Guy Massey :
Remastering
Steve Rooke :
Remastering
Allan Rouse :
Project co-ordinator

Session Recording:
May 30, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 6, 10, 11, 20, 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 25, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Mono - 2014 vinyl)

LP • Released in 2014

8:22 • Studio versionA1.2014 • Mono • 2014 remaster

John Lennon :
Effects, Producer, Samples, Tape loops, Vocals
George Harrison :
Samples, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Yoko Ono :
Effects, Samples, Vocals
Sean Magee :
Remastering
Steve Berkowitz :
Remastering

Session Recording:
May 30, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 6, 10, 11, 20, 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jun 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Aug 26, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (50th anniversary boxset)

Official album • Released in 2018

8:22 • Studio versionB • Stereo • 2018 stereo mix

John Lennon :
Effects, Producer, Samples, Tape loops, Vocals
George Harrison :
Samples, Vocals
George Martin :
Producer
Geoff Emerick :
Recording engineer
Giles Martin :
Producer
Yoko Ono :
Effects, Samples, Vocals
Sam Okell :
Mixing engineer

Session Recording:
May 30, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jun 6, 10, 11, 20, 21, 1968
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
First half of 2018 ?
Studio :
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Bootlegs


Complete Acetate Collection 1961-1970

Unofficial album

7:52 • Studio version

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.

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Ringo Hendrix 3 years ago

I can not wait to hear the 2018 version of this!


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