The Paul McCartney Project

Revolution

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the Hey Jude / Revolution 7" Single.
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

[See “Revolution 1“]

Revolution (single version)

Lennon wanted “Revolution 1” to be the next Beatles single, but McCartney was reluctant to invite controversy, and argued along with Harrison that the track was too slow for a single. Lennon persisted, and rehearsals for a faster and louder re-make began on 9 July; recording started the following day. This proved an immense success.

The song begins with “a startling machine-gun fuzz guitar riff“, with Lennon and Harrison’s guitars prominent throughout the track. The distorted guitar sound was achieved by direct injection of the guitar signal into the mixing console. Emerick later explained that he routed the signal through two microphone preamplifiers in series while keeping the amount of overload just below the point of overheating the console. Lennon overdubbed the opening scream, and double-tracked some of the words “so roughly that its careless spontaneity becomes a point in itself“, according to author Ian MacDonald.

Revolution” was performed in a higher key, B major, compared to the A major of “Revolution 1“, although the distortion changes the key slightly, leaving the song halfway between B♭ and B. The “shoo-bee-do-wop” backing vocals were omitted in the re-make, and an instrumental break was added. “Revolution” was given a climactic end, as opposed to the fade out of “Revolution 1”. For this version, Lennon unequivocally sang “count me out”. An electric piano overdub by Nicky Hopkins was added on 11 July, with final overdubs on 13 July and mono mixing on 15 July.

Release and reception

Revolution” was released as the B-side of the “Hey Jude” single in late August 1968. In the US, the song peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was listed as a double-sided number 1 in Australia, while “Revolution” topped New Zealand’s singles chart for one week, following “Hey Jude”‘s five-week run at number 1 there. “Revolution 1” was released on The Beatles in late November 1968. It was the opening track on side four of the LP, four spots ahead of the companion piece “Revolution 9“.

Revolution” later appeared on the 1970 US compilation album Hey Jude, the first time the song was issued in stereo. Lennon disliked the stereo mix, saying in a 1974 interview that the mono mix of “Revolution” was a “heavy record” but “then they made it into a piece of ice cream!” The song was released on other compilations, including 1967–1970 and Past Masters. It was remixed for the 2006 soundtrack album Love, appearing in full length on the DVD-Audio version and as a shortened edit on other versions.

Music journalist Greil Marcus noted that the political critics had overlooked the music; he wrote that while “there is sterility and repression in the lyrics“, the “freedom and movement in the music … dodges the message and comes out in front.” Among later music critics, Dave Marsh included “Revolution” in his 1989 book covering the 1001 greatest singles, describing it as a “gem” with a “ferocious fuzztone rock and roll attack” and a “snarling” Lennon vocal. Writing for AllMusic, Richie Unterberger called “Revolution” one of the Beatles’ “greatest, most furious rockers” with “challenging, fiery lyrics” where the listener’s “heart immediately starts pounding before Lennon goes into the first verse“.

Political reception

Politically, the release of “Revolution” prompted immediate responses from the New Left and counterculture press. Ramparts branded it a “betrayal“, and the New Left Review said the song was “a lamentable petty bourgeois cry of fear“. The far left contrasted “Revolution” with a song by the Rolling Stones that was inspired by similar events and released around the same time: “Street Fighting Man” was perceived to be more supportive of their cause. Others on the left praised the Beatles for rejecting radicalism and advocating “pacifist idealism“. The song’s apparent scepticism about revolution caused Lennon to become the target of a few minority Trotskyist, Leninist and in particular Maoist groups.

The far right remained suspicious of the Beatles, saying they were moderate subversives who were “warning the Maoists not to ‘blow’ the revolution by pushing too hard“. As further evidence of group’s supposed “pro-Soviet” sentiments, the John Birch Society magazine cited another song on the White Album, “Back in the U.S.S.R.” Anti-communist and far-right groups also picked on the track “Piggies“, which was about social class and corporate greed.

Promotional clips

Filming for promotional clips of “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” took place on 4 September 1968 under the direction of Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Two finished clips of “Revolution” were produced, with only lighting differences and other minor variations. The Beatles sang the vocals live over the pre-recorded instrumental track from the single version. Their vocals included elements from “Revolution 1“: McCartney and Harrison sang the “shoo-bee-doo-wap” backing vocals, and Lennon sang “count me out, in“. Lennon also substituted “we’d all love” for “we all want” in the opening verse. Later it was correctly pointed out that a track of Lennon’s voice is in fact playing in the background during the performance and can be heard quite noticeably at the end of the song when he fails to shout out his last and most explosive “All right“. Instead, the shout is heard from the soundtrack after he has already stopped singing and backed away from the microphone.

While the “Hey Jude” clip debuted on David Frost’s ITV television programme, the “Revolution” clip was first broadcast on the BBC1 programme Top of the Pops on 19 September 1968. The first US screening of “Revolution” was on the 13 October 1968 broadcast of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The promo clip is included in the three-disc versions, titled 1+, of the Beatles’ 2015 video compilation 1.

Use in Nike advertisement

In 1987, “Revolution” became the first Beatles recording to be licensed for use in a television commercial. Nike paid $500,000 for the right to use the song for one year, split between recording owner Capitol-EMI and song publisher ATV Music Publishing (owned by Michael Jackson). Commercials using the song started airing in March 1987.

The three surviving Beatles, through their record company Apple, filed a lawsuit in July 1987 objecting to Nike’s use of the song. The suit was aimed at Nike, its advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy, and Capitol-EMI Records. Capitol-EMI said the lawsuit was groundless because they had licensed the use of “Revolution” with the “active support and encouragement of Yoko Ono Lennon, a shareholder and director of Apple“. Ono had expressed approval when the commercial was released, saying the commercial “is making John’s music accessible to a new generation“.

The “Revolution” lawsuit and others involving the Beatles and EMI were settled out of court in November 1989, with the terms kept secret. The financial website TheStreet.com included the Nike “Revolution” advertisement campaign in its list of the 100 key business events of the 20th century, as it helped “commodify dissent“. […]

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [a] mono 15 Jul 1968.
    UK: Apple R5722 single 1968.
    US: Apple 2276 single 1968.
    CD: EMI single 1989.
  • [b] stereo 5 Dec 1969.
    US: Apple SW-385 Hey Jude 1970, Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    UK: Apple PCS P718 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 90044 2 Past Masters 2 1988, EMI CDP 7 97039 2 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.

The song was deliberately distorted during recording and mixing, so since the mono [a] sounds more distorted and compressed, it’s better! John’s guitar also sounds louder in mono [a].

Last updated on May 13, 2017

Lyrics

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to 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
All right, all right, all right
You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don't you know it's gonna be
All right, all right, all right
You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you 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
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right, all right
All right, all right

Officially appears on


Hey Jude / Revolution

7" Single • Released in 1968

3:23 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Hammond organ, Handclaps
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Electric guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
George Harrison:
Electric guitar, Handclaps
Nicky Hopkins:
Electric piano

Session Recording:
Jul 10, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jul 11, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jul 12, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Jul 15, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Hey Jude

Official album • Released in 1970

3:27 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Hammond organ, Handclaps
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Electric guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
George Harrison:
Electric guitar, Handclaps
Nicky Hopkins:
Electric piano

Session Recording:
Jul 10, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jul 11, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jul 12, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Dec 05, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Room 4, Abbey Road


Past Masters

Official album • Released in 1988

3:25 • Studio versionB

Paul McCartney:
Bass guitar, Hammond organ, Handclaps
Ringo Starr:
Drums, Handclaps
John Lennon:
Electric guitar, Handclaps, Vocals
George Harrison:
Electric guitar, Handclaps
Nicky Hopkins:
Electric piano

Session Recording:
Jul 10, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jul 11, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Three, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Jul 12, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Dec 05, 1969
Studio:
EMI Studios, Room 4, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Outtake • Unnumbered rehearsal


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Outtake • Take 14 – Instrumental backing track


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Demo

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio:
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK

Bootlegs


The Ultimate Live Collection Vol. 22

Unofficial live • Released in 2016

0:18 • Live • Rehearsal


The Ultimate Live Collection Vol. 22

Unofficial live • Released in 2016

0:27 • Live • Chat And Announcement


The Ultimate Live Collection Vol. 22

Unofficial live • Released in 2016

3:42 • Live • Take 01


The Ultimate Live Collection Vol. 22

Unofficial live • Released in 2016

3:34 • Live • Take 02


The Ultimate Live Collection Vol. 22

Unofficial live • Released in 2016

3:23 • Live • Take 02 - Beatles 1+ Mix

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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