Retro spin: “Revolver” by The Beatles

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“Revolver” is the seventh album by The Beatles. It was released on this day in 1966. Unofficially the recording resonates well with people who are not Beatles’ fans. The strength and appeal of the album can be found in songs like “Taxman” “Eleanor Rigby.” For some audiences, the storytelling and instrumentation found on the album were significant elements of evolution for the Fab Four. 

In addition, this is also the album that seemed to have inspired bands and rock subgenres to come. The harder-edged tracks and the detailed narratives in lyrics seem to have had an obvious impact on alternative rock in the 1980s and 1990s. 

The success of “Revolver” is in part seen by its presence on Billboard charts for 77 weeks and peaking at No. 1.

The sound of “Revolver” by The Beatles

“Taxman”

With George Harrison on lead vocals, the anti-tax collection song takes on a laidback, cynical sound. The band’s trademark harmony is still present, just not as “sweet” as on some other songs. The biting melancholy, sung from the perspective of the taxman, but the tone suggests that the lyrics actually indicate the impression that taxpayers have of the title character. 

There is a rollicking guitar and an up-and-down drumbeat that propels the song toward its logical conclusion. Fun in a dark way, “Taxman” is a gem of a song, especially in light of the Beatles’ catalog from that era. 

“Eleanor Rigby”

While the title suggests that there is only one character who is the focus of the song, there are actually two, with an entire society that produced them indicted for the characters’ plights. The haunting, quick-paced melody follows the lyrics. When listeners hear about Eleanor Rigby who cleans up after a wedding in a church, and “wears a face she keeps by the door,” coupled with the  aforementioned melody, the effect is discomforting. The lyrics ask where do the lonely people belong and where do they come from? The song doesn’t really offer any answers. The stories of the two people seem designed to make listeners think about how people become alienated in societies.

The story of Father Mackenzie is almost as sad as Eleanor, except he eventually presides over her funeral, the image of him fixing his socks, and writing a sermon that will be heard by no one, are poignant, too. Listeners might find themselves wondering who will preside over his funeral when the time comes.

The storytelling is remarkable in what it accomplishes in a brief span of time and with clear, easy-to-understand language. 

For those who still wonder what The Beatles have to offer popular music, they should start with a listen to “Revolver.” 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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