Is Revolver The "Best" Beatles Record Ever?

Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock 'n' Roll By Robert Rodriguez Backbeat Books, 256 pp., $19.99.

While popular consensus and mainstream pop culture holds that Sgt. Pepper is the "best" Beatles album (as if it were a quantifiable title...), a dedicated and growing chorus holds that its predecessor, Revolver, is actually the top of the mop-tops' output.

It's a theory that Rodriguez (Fab Four FAQ) advocates mightily for, stating flatly that "Revolver is the Beatles' artistic high-water mark." And while he doesn't quite prove the accomplishment of the book's subtitle, his case is solid.

With songs as diverse as "Taxman," "Eleanor Rigby," "Here, There and Everywhere," "Yellow Submarine," "She Said She Said," "Good Day Sunshine," "Got to Get You Into My Life," and "Tomorrow Never Knows," Revolver was the bridge album between the Beatles' early and later periods. And it was music not meant for (at the time) recreation on the concert stage, which the group soon abandoned.

Rodriguez divides the book into three parts: The musical/pop-culture landscape of 1966, the actual recording of Revolver, and its impact after release and later influence. And while the book could have used less of the first section -- which repeats many stories/anecdotes probably already familiar to this book's target audience -- his techy-detail and bigger themes are well (if sometimes dryly) represented.

And it's fun to speculate what the record might have sounded like if it had been recorded at Stax Studios in Memphis (as was the original plan), or just whose condom roadie Mal Evans put over a microphone and submerged in a milk jar of water to unsuccessfully create an underwater vocal effort for John Lennon in "Yellow Submarine."

The album also came out about the same time as the time of Lennon's comments about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus -- which had already appeared without incident in the English press -- leading to bannings, burnings, and backlash.

His "I don't know which will go first - rock and roll or Christianity" quote was blazed across the cover of the American teen magazine Datebook. Shockingly, a seemingly much more incendiary quote from Paul on the same cover about U.S. race relations ("It's a lousy country where anyone black is a dirty n*gger") passed without much reaction!

Overshadowed by the band's next effort, Revolver has nonetheless stood the test of time better than the other, more candy-colored psychedelic release.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero