A new Revolution
John Lennon recorded the vocals for Revolution lying on the floor
It seems the newly leaked take 20, Remix mono 1 of “Revolution” that we blogged about Sunday has created quite a stir – not only in the Beatles fan community, but has also gotten some mileage in the mainstream media. The uninformed have also questioned the authenticity of the tape, they are probably worried that it might be a fan-made creation. However, the track has been verified as genuine by Beatles scholars and the fact that EMI have taken steps to remove the track from YouTube also speaks volumes. It’s likely that this version of “Revolution” is the one Tony Barrow (under his pseudonym Frederick James) described in The Beatles Monthly Book No. 60, July 1968.
“Revolution” was started very promptly at two-thirty in the afternoon – and each day’s sessions afterwards took the form of a three-hour afternoon stint and, later, a second long spell in the studio from half seven until well after midnight. “Revolution” was more than TEN MINUTES in its original form. It’s unfinished as I write these pages. Who knows – it might be issued as the Beatles’ longest-ever track. It depends what the fellows decide to add to the existing tape. So far they have guitars, drums and Paul’s organ and piano playing. As it stands the arrangement drags a bit in the middle. There are two alternatives – either the whole middle chunk will be scrapped and the finished version of “Revolution” will be four or five minutes shorter, OR John and Paul will get together with George Martin to think up extra ideas to add to the centre part of the recording.
Here’s what Mark Lewisohn writes about this version of Revolution #1 in his book Recording Sessions:
Thursday 30. May:
On this first day, takes one through to 18 were recorded of the ‘Revolution’ (ie ‘Revolution 1’) rhythm track – piano, acoustic guitar and drums – each of varying length but averaging about five minutes. There were no takes numbered 11 or 12. Take 18 was different, substantially different, and it was the basis of the final LP version. It began so soon after the previous take that Geoff Emerick, in punching the talkback button simultaneously with the start of the song, announced “Take 18” over John Lennon’s vocal, the first take with vocals, in fact. John deliberately kept Emerick’s words as part of the song and thus they appear on the album. Secondly, this take did not stop after five minutes. It kept on and on, eventually running out at 10’17 with John’s shout to the others and to the control room “OK, I’ve had enough!” The last six minutes were pure chaos – the sound of a ‘Revolution’, if you like – with discordant instrumental jamming, plenty of feedback, John Lennon reportedly screaming ‘alright’ and then, simply, repeatedly screaming, with lots of on-microphone moaning by John and his new girlfriend Yoko Ono, with Yoko talking and saying such off-the-wall phrases as “you become naked” and with the overlay of miscelleaneous, home-made sound effects tapes.
There can be no doubt: take 18 of “Revolution” was riveting. But in its present length there was no way it could be released as a single, something the Beatles were actively considering at this point. Before very long the last six minutes would be hived off to form the basis for ‘Revolution 9’.
Friday 31. May:
The overdubbing of two separate John Lennon vocals and Paul’s bass guitar onto take 18 of ‘Revolution 1’ and tape reduction of this into take 19. Then further overdubbing of Paul and George’s backing vocals.
Tuesday 4 June:
A day of curious overdubs and experiments for ‘Revolution 1’. John re-recorded his lead vocal during this session, opting for the ‘in/out’ answer to whether he should or shouldn’t participate in destruction as a form of revolution. To alter his vocal in some way, John recorded the vocal lying flat on the floor of studio three.
John’s floored vocal wasn’t the only unusual vocal overdub recorded on this day. One of the session’s tape boxes details “vocal backing mama papa”. This was not a guest appearance by the Mamas and the Papas, however, rather a description of a persistent backing vocal (actually “Mama … Dada … Mama …Dada … Mama … Dada”) sung by Paul McCartney and George Harrison dozens upon dozens of times towards the end of the ten minute recording – but therefore cut out of the truncated version which appeared on the LP.
And also taped on this day was another drum track and various percussive clicks by Ringo, a tone-pedal guitar part by John and an organ part played by Paul.
A rough mono remix of take 20 was made and was taken away on a plastic spool by John Lennon at the end of the session.
Meanwhile, here are some real fan-made creations based upon the newly found version.