“Revolver” marked a turning point for The Beatles.
Brash and bold, yet also filled with sensitivity, the 1966 album ushered in the band’s penchant for musical unpredictability that would continue to develop through “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (which they began recording later that year) and “The White Album” (1968).
The 14-track album has received a grand remixing by producer Giles Martin – son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin – and engineer Sam Okell.
The special edition of “Revolver” arrives Oct. 28. But among the trove of unearthed gems are demos of “Yellow Submarine” as a drastically stripped-down ballad featuring John Lennon on plaintive vocals rather than a singsong Ringo Starr and the high-hat heavy backdrop on early versions of “Got to Get You Into My Life.” Both are available Friday and can be heard here.
Martin and Starr recently spoke with USA TODAY about the history of the album and some of its surprising elements.
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Lennon’s working version of the song – just more than a minute long – finds him quietly repeating the lyric “In the place where I was born, no one cared, no one cared” as he works in other modifications such as “and the name that I was born, no one cared” and “in the town where I come from, no one cared.”
By the time “Yellow Submarine” was presented to Starr – the band recorded it on May 26 and June 1, 1966 – it was already in “Ringo song” form.
“The boys used to write a song for me and they’d present whatever they thought would be good for me. They had this song and they decided to liven it up,” he says. “I think Paul thought of (a yellow submarine). It could have been in a green submarine, but a yellow submarine is much better. Or a deep purple submarine, that would have been like, ‘What are they talking about now?’ But, yeah, it was a Ringo song, like ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’ was a Ringo song.”
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John Lennon’s demo of ‘Yellow Submarine’ was a ‘complete discovery’
Martin jokes that people think he spends all his time listening to outtakes of The Beatles. But finding Lennon’s original version of the song was one of the happy accidents that often occur when mining tapes.
“I had no idea it existed. It was a complete discovery and I was surprised,” Martin says. “One of the thrills I get when doing this is for people to experience the same thing I experience. Going through the cobwebs and finding the gold – that’s what I want to transfer to other people.”
Part 2 of the working version of “Yellow Submarine” retains Lennon’s acoustic guitar backdrop, but it also includes Lennon and McCartney discussing how to march forward with a robust folk-style version of the song, which by that point included the famously recognizable chorus.
Martin says he understood why The Beatles opted to steer the tune in a perkier direction.
“It wouldn’t have been as commercial in that original form, and you can hear them working together and pushing each other in different directions,” Martin says. “Which, of course, was their downfall in the end. But at this stage, they were delighted by the way they were creatively pushing each other.”
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How The Beatles evolved from ‘Rubber Soul’ to ‘Revolver’
In Martin’s view, 1965’s “Rubber Soul” is stocked with the Merseybeat sound, the British music genre that developed in Liverpool in the early ‘60s and blended rock, pop, skiffle and R&B. But by “Revolver,” the band had found its “swagger.”
“There’s still an aim to please on ‘Rubber Soul,’ ” he says. “It’s like they’re leaving Liverpool on ‘Revolver.’ “
Martin cites “Tomorrow Never Knows,” the first track recorded for “Revolver,” as the immediate indicator in the band’s enlightened musical approach.
“Just the way the drums open the song, you can sense they turned their back on the past in a way,” Martin says. “The Beatles were relentless in their creativity.”
From the beefy, staccato guitars in “Taxman” and “Dr. Robert” to the elegant strings in “Eleanor Rigby” to the understated tenderness in “Here, There and Everywhere,” the songs on “Revolver” epitomized The Beatles’ sonic expansion.
“They were punching through the walls of Abbey Road (Studios),” Martin says. “They made a conscious decision to take off the Beatles suits and not have the haircuts and become individuals.”
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How many special editions of ‘Revolver’ are being released?
The super-deluxe “Revolver” includes 63 tracks and is available in digital audio, five CD and four LP (plus a 7-inch EP). The deluxe edition offers 29 tracks in two CD form, and the standard edition is 14 tracks available as a single CD and single LP, as well as a limited-edition vinyl picture disc with the album cover art.
The songs have been mixed in stereo and Dolby Atmos (which will be released digitally), and the album’s original mono mix is sourced from the 1966 mono master tape.
Why producer Giles Martin was ‘nervous’ about remixing ‘Revolver’
The producer, who expects “Rubber Soul” to be the next album in the Beatles oeuvre to receive the special-edition treatment after he finishes work on director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s upcoming Amy Winehouse biopic, was concerned about the reaction to remixing “Revolver” because it’s beloved by fans.
“It’s a cherished record and it’s been embraced by people in a good way,” Martin says. “My question is always, ‘Why are we doing this?’ The purpose is to find the thing where you go, ‘I love this record, but how about actually hearing it?’ ”
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