Listen to The Beatles distorted isolated guitar on John Lennon’s ‘Revolution’
The Beatles sound is so intrinsically linked with pop music it can be easy to forget that they were capable of turning it up to eleven if they needed to. While songs like ‘Helter Skelter’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ are full of guts, nothing rang the rock and roll bell just like ‘Revolution’.
The B-side to Paul McCartney’s ‘Hey Jude’, it was a John Lennon number that put the band at the fulcrum of rock once more and tore through the airwaves at parties all over the country. Here, we’re taking a look at the guitar that turns the song into a fuzz-filled spike of rock and roll steel.
The song remains a notable fuzzy mark on an otherwise glistening CVof expertly crafted studio songs. It sees The Beatles take on a brand new sound and kick the distortion up a few notches for the Lennon-penned track.
At the time of the recording, distortion was being heartedly used across studios to provide a blistering edge to rock and roll records—but when The Beatles grab a hold of the idea for this song, they add a few spices to the heady concoction.
Geoff Emerick told Guitar World that Lennon had been attempting to create distortion by cranking up his amp during sessions for the slower version of the song known as ‘Revolution 1.’ That cut was recorded in May and June with Emerick achieving the sound by overloading the preamp on Lennon’s guitar mic. It was not enough, “No, no, I want that guitar to sound dirtier!” Lennon told the engineer.
Emerick was keen to get it right and by July he had set up a way of moving Harrison and Lennon’s guitar directly into the mixing console. Using direct boxes to do meant overloading the input preamp causing the sound to distort even further. “I remember walking into the control room when they were cutting that,” recalls Abbey Road engineer Ken Scott to GW “and there wasJohn, Paul and George, all in the control room, all plugged in—just playing straight through the board. All of the guitar distortion was gotten just by overloading the mic amps in the desk.”
As Emerick says in his 2006 memoir Here, There and Everywhere, it was a move that put studio equipment in jeopardy: “I couldn’t help but think: If I was the studio manager and saw this going on, I’d fire myself.” It was also a move that would again mark The Beatles as one of the most progressive bands in the business.
While George Harrison’s lead guitar duties have always been well received by those in the know, John Lennon’s rhythm guitar takes centre stage on this track. Fuzzed up and ready to roll, the powerful riff is untethered and let loose upon the audience.
Below you can listen to the barbed distortion of Lennon and Harrison’s guitar on The Beatles ‘Revolution’ as they deliver one of their standout guitar sounds.