Ray Davies, never one to mince his words, put that theory to the test when he reviewed The Beatles album Revolver as part of a feature for Disc and Music Echo Magazine way back in 1966. Here, as part of our popular ‘From The Vault‘ section, we revisit his take on one of the most iconic albums of all time.
Revolver, The Beatles’ seventh studio album, included tracks such as ‘Taxman’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Yellow Submarine’ and more. The album was seen by the band as an opportunity to experiment with modern technology, introducing tape loops and backwards recordings as an attempt to elevate their studio sound.
“Revolver very rapidly became the album where the Beatles would say, ‘OK, that sounds great, now let’s play [the recording] backwards or speeded up or slowed down’,” EMI recording engineer Geoff Emerick once said. “They tried everything backwards, just to see what things sounded like,” he added.
While ramping up excitement around the record, Paul McCartney said: “There are sounds [on Revolver] that nobody else has done yet – I mean nobody… ever.” While he was right in what he was saying, not everybody agreed—most notably The Kinks frontman Ray Davies.
Tasked with reviewing the record, Davies says that ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is a song that “sounds like they’re out to please music teachers in primary schools”. Detailing further, Davies adds that “it’s very commercial” in the closest thing to a compliment. Elsewhere, however, he was less complimentary, describing ‘Yellow Submarine’ as “a load of rubbish” in his cutting take on the song.
As pointed out by Dave Emlen’s Unofficial Kinks website, the original Disc and Music Echo article sees Davies deliver a track-by-track breakdown/putdown of The Beatles’ project.
Revolver Side One:
‘Taxman‘ – “It sounds like a cross between the Who and Batman. It’s a bit limited, but the Beatles get over this by the sexy double-tracking. It’s surprising how sexy double-tracking makes a voice sound.”
‘Eleanor Rigby’ – “I bought a Haydn LP the other day and this sounds just like it. It’s all sort of quartet stuff and it sounds like they’re out to please music teachers in primary schools. I can imagine John saying: ‘I’m going to write this for my old schoolmistress’. Still it’s very commercial.”
‘I’m Only Sleeping’ – “It’s a most beautiful song, much prettier than ‘Eleanor Rigby’. A jolly old thing, really, and definitely the best track on the album.”
‘Love You Too’ – “George wrote this – he must have quite a big influence on the group now. This sort of song I was doing two years ago – now I’m doing what the Beatles were doing two years ago. It’s not a bad song – it’s well performed which is always true of a Beatles track.”
‘Here There and Everywhere’ – “This proves that the Beatles have got good memories, because there are a lot of busy chords in it. It’s nice – like one instrument with the voice and the guitar merging. Third best track on the album.”
‘Yellow Submarine’ – “This is a load of rubbish, really. I take the mickey out of myself on the piano and play stuff like this. I think they know it’s not that good.”
‘She Said She Said’ – “This song is in to restore confidence in old Beatles sound. That’s all.”
Revolver Side Two:
‘Good Day Sunshine’ – “This’ll be a giant. It doesn’t force itself on you, but it stands out like “I’m Only Sleeping”. This is back to the real old Beatles. I just don’t like the electronic stuff. The Beatles were supposed to be like the boy next door only better.”
‘And Your Bird Can Sing‘ – “Don’t like this. The song’s too predictable. It’s not a Beatles song at all.”
‘Dr. Robert‘ – “It’s good – there’s a 12-bar beat and bits in it that are clever. Not my sort of thing, though.”
‘I Want To Tell You‘ – “This helps the LP through though it’s not up to the Beatles standard.”
‘Got To Get You Into My Life‘ – “Jazz backing – and it just goes to prove that Britain’s jazz musicians can’t swing. Paul’s sings better jazz than the musicians are playing which makes nonsense of people saying jazz and pop are very different. Paul sounds like Little Richard. Really, it’s the most vintage Beatles track on the LP.”
‘Tomorrow Never Knows‘ – “Listen to all those crazy sounds! It’ll be popular in discotheques. I can imagine they had George Martin tied to a totem pole when they did this.”