The Paul McCartney Project

Revolution 1

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Revolution” is a song by the Beatles, written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. Two versions of the song were recorded in 1968: a hard rock version, released as the B-side of the “Hey Jude” single, and a slower, bluesier arrangement (titled “Revolution 1“) for the Beatles’ self-titled double album, commonly known as “the White Album”. Although the single version was issued first, it was recorded several weeks after “Revolution 1“, as a re-make specifically intended for release as a single. A third connected piece, written by Lennon, is the experimental track “Revolution 9“, based on the latter parts of the same performance that produced “Revolution 1“, and which also appears on the White Album.

Inspired by political protests in early 1968, Lennon’s lyrics expressed doubt in regard to some of the tactics. When the single version was released in August, the political left viewed it as betraying their cause. The release of the album version in November indicated Lennon’s uncertainty about destructive change, with the phrase “count me out” recorded differently as “count me out, in“. In 1987, the song became the first Beatles recording to be licensed for a television commercial, which prompted a lawsuit from the surviving members of the group.

In the same year Nina Simone recorded her single “Revolution” with some structural similarities (some lyrics are also the same) to the Beatles’ song, but credited to her and Weldon Irvine.

Background and composition

In early 1968, media coverage in the aftermath of the Tet Offensive spurred increased protests in opposition to the Vietnam War, especially among university students. The protests were most prevalent in the US, but on 17 March, several thousand demonstrators marched to the American embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square and violently clashed with police. Major protests concerning other political issues made international news, such as the March 1968 protests in Poland against their communist government, and the campus uprisings of May 1968 in France.

By and large, the Beatles had avoided publicly expressing their political views, with “Taxman” being their only overtly political track thus far. During his time in Rishikesh, Lennon decided to write a song about the recent wave of social upheaval. He recalled, “I thought it was about time we spoke about it [revolution], the same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnamese war. I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India.

Despite Lennon’s antiwar feelings, he had yet to become anti-establishment, and expressed in “Revolution” that he wanted “to see the plan” from those advocating toppling the system. The repeated phrase “it’s gonna be alright” in “Revolution” came directly from Lennon’s Transcendental Meditation experiences in India, conveying the idea that God would take care of the human race no matter what happened politically. Another influence on Lennon was his burgeoning relationship with avant-garde artist Yoko Ono; Ono attended the recording sessions, and participated in the unused portion of “Revolution 1” which evolved into “Revolution 9“.

Around the fourth week of May 1968, the Beatles met at Kinfauns, George Harrison’s home in Esher, to demonstrate their compositions to each other in preparation for recording their next studio album. A bootleg recording from that informal session shows that “Revolution” had two of its three verses intact. The line referencing Mao Zedong was added to the lyrics in the studio. During filming of a promotional clip later that year, Lennon told the director that it was the most important lyric of the song. Lennon had changed his mind by 1972, saying “I should have never put that in about Chairman Mao“.

Recording

Revolution 1

The Beatles began their studio sessions for the new album on 30 May, starting with “Revolution 1” (simply titled “Revolution” for the first few sessions). The first day concentrated on recording the basic rhythm track. Take 18 lasted 10:17, much longer than the earlier takes, and it was this take that was chosen for additional overdubs recorded over the next two sessions.

During overdubs which brought the recording to take 20, Lennon took the unusual step of performing his lead vocal while lying on the floor. He also altered one line into the ambiguous “you can count me out, in“. He later explained that he included both because he was undecided in his sentiments. The appended “in” did not appear on the lyric sheet included with the original album.

Revolution 1” has a blues style, performed at a relaxed tempo. The electric guitar heard in the intro (similar to the blues song “Dust My Broom“) shows a blues influence, and the “shoo-bee-do-wop” backing vocals are a reference to Doo Wop music. The basic time signature is 12/8 (or 4/4 in a “shuffle” style), but the song has several extra half-length bars during the verses. There are also two extra beats at the end of the last chorus, the result of an accidental bad edit during the mixing process that was left uncorrected at Lennon’s request.

Low-quality monitor mixes of the full-length version of “Revolution” appeared on various bootlegs, such as From Kinfauns to Chaos, throughout the 1990s. Then in 2009, a high-quality version labelled “Revolution Take 20” appeared on the bootleg CD Revolution: Take … Your Knickers Off! The release triggered considerable interest among the media and fans of the group. This version, RM1 (Remix in Mono #1) of Take 20, runs to 10 minutes 46 seconds (at the correct speed) and was created at the end of the 4 June session, with a copy taken away by Lennon. It was an attempt by Lennon to augment the full-length version of “Revolution” in a way that satisfied him before he chose to split the piece between the edited “Revolution 1” and the musique concrète “Revolution 9“.

The bootlegged recording starts with engineer Geoff Emerick announcing the remix as “RM1 of Take …” and then momentarily forgetting the take number, which Lennon jokingly finishes with “Take your knickers off and let’s go“, hence the name of the bootleg CD. The first half of the recording is almost identical to the released track “Revolution 1“. It lacks the electric guitar and horn overdubs of the final version, but features two tape loops in the key of A (same as the song) that are faded in and out at various points. After the final chorus, the song launches into an extended coda similar to that in “Hey Jude“. (The album version only features about 40 seconds of this coda.) Beyond the point where the album version fades out, the basic instrumental backing keeps repeating while the vocals and overdubs become increasingly chaotic: Harrison and Paul McCartney repeatedly sing “dada, mama” in a childlike register; Lennon’s histrionic vocals are randomly distorted in speed (a little of this can be heard in the fade of “Revolution 1“); and radio tuning noises à la “I Am the Walrus” appear. Several elements of this coda appear in the officially released “Revolution 9“. Throughout the body of that song, Lennon’s histrionic vocal track periodically appears (albeit minus the speed distortion), as do the tape loops.

After the band track ends, the song moves into avant-garde territory, with Yoko Ono reciting some prose over an unknown, vaguely operatic recording (possibly captured live from the radio). Ono’s piece begins with the words “Maybe, it’s not that …“, with her voice trailing off at the end; Lennon or Harrison jokingly replies, “It is ‘that’!” As the piece continues, Lennon quietly mumbles “Gonna be alright” a few times. Then follows a brief piano riff, some comments from Lennon and Ono on how well the track has preceded, and final appearances of the tape loops. Most of this coda was lifted for the end of “Revolution 9“, with a little more piano at the beginning (which monitor mixes reveal was present in earlier mixes of “Revolution“) and minus Lennon’s (or Harrison’s) joking reply.

Lennon soon decided to divide the existing ten-minute recording into two parts: a more conventional Beatles track and an avant-garde sound collage. Within days after take 20, work began on “Revolution 9” using the last six minutes of the take as a starting point. Numerous sound effects, tape loops, and overdubs were recorded and compiled over several sessions almost exclusively by Lennon and Ono, although Harrison provided assistance for additional spoken overdubs. With more than 40 sources used for “Revolution 9“, only small portions of the take 20 coda are heard in the final mix; most prominent from take 20 are Lennon’s multiple screams of “right” and “alright”, and around a minute near the end featuring Ono’s lines up to “you become naked“.

On 21 June, the first part of take 20 received several overdubs and became officially titled “Revolution 1“. The overdubs included a lead guitar line by Harrison and a brass section of two trumpets and four trombones. Final stereo mixing was completed on 25 June. The final mix included the hurried announcement of “take two” by Geoff Emerick at the beginning of the song.

Revolution (single version)

[See “Revolution“]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] stereo 25 Jun 1968.
    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.

Last updated on May 13, 2017

Lyrics

You say you want a revolution
Well you know
We all wanna change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well you know
We all wanna change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out?

Don't you know it's gonna be alright?
Don't you know it's gonna be alright?
Don't you know it's gonna be alright?

You say you got a real solution
Well you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You asked me for a contribution
Well you know
We're all doing what we can

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait

Don't you know it's gonna be alright?
Don't you know it's gonna be alright?
Don't you know it's gonna be alright?

You say you'll change the constitution
Well you know
We'd all love to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well you know
You better free your mind instead

But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow

Don't you know it's gonna be alright?
Don't you know it's gonna be alright?
Don't you know it's gonna be alright?

Alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright

Officially appears on


The Beatles (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1968

4:16 • Studio versionA1 • Mono • Mono made from [A]

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Hammond organ, Piano
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Derek Watkins:
Trumpet
Freddy Clayton:
Trumpet
Rex Morris:
Trombone
Peter Bown:
Engineer
Francie Schwartz:
Backing vocals
Don Lang:
Trombone
J Power:
Trombone
Bill Povey:
Trombone

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

Session Overdubs:
May 31, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

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

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


The Beatles (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1968

4:16 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Hammond organ, Piano
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Derek Watkins:
Trumpet
Freddy Clayton:
Trumpet
Rex Morris:
Trombone
Peter Bown:
Engineer
Francie Schwartz:
Backing vocals
Don Lang:
Trombone
J Power:
Trombone
Bill Povey:
Trombone

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

Session Overdubs:
May 31, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

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

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


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

2:14 • Studio versionB

George Martin:
Producer
Giles Martin:
Producer
Paul Hicks:
Remix engineer
Sam Okell:
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster:
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles:
Remix engineer assistant

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

4:16 • Studio versionR2018 • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass, Hammond organ, Piano
Ringo Starr:
Drums
John Lennon:
Acoustic guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Lead guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Derek Watkins:
Trumpet
Freddy Clayton:
Trumpet
Rex Morris:
Trombone
Peter Bown:
Engineer
Francie Schwartz:
Backing vocals
Don Lang:
Trombone
J Power:
Trombone
Bill Povey:
Trombone

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

Session Overdubs:
May 31, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

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

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


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Outtake • Take 18

Bootlegs


White Album Sessions Volume 2

Unofficial album

10:05 • Studio version • Take 20 playback mono


White Album Sessions Volume 2

Unofficial album

4:41 • Studio version • Take 20 playback mono


White Album Sessions Volume 2

Unofficial album

0:45 • Studio version • jamming mono


White Album Sessions Volume 2

Unofficial album

4:46 • Studio version • jamming mono


White Album Sessions Volume 2

Unofficial album

1:29 • Studio version • tuning/dialogue mono


Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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