Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: ‘Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘N’ Roll’


Without a truly era-altering record since 1991, when Nirvana released Nevermind, it is now easy to forget there was a time when a single disc of pop songs could make the earth quake. In the mid-‘60s that record was Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. With its audacious jacket, cornucopia of weird sounds, and weighty “concept album” conceit, The Beatles’ Summer of Love definer was the first Rock & Roll album to be widely accepted as serious art. Strange, when just a year earlier, The Beatles had put out a record that was even more experimental and was wrapped in an even more avant garde jacket… not to mention it contained considerably better and more diverse songs. No claims of an overarching concept necessary.

Why wasn’t Revolver regarded as the masterpiece it is during its own time? Robert Rodriguez spends a good deal of his new book Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘N’ Roll getting to the bottom of this question. He also addresses the album’s composition, recording process, and immediate aftermath in deep detail. By also checking in on the peers who influenced and were influenced by Revolver—The Beach Boys, Dylan, The Stones, The Byrds—Rodriguez crafts a complete and compelling portrait of one of Rock’s key years.

In an era when books seem to escape the editor’s desk with any number of embarrassing factual errors intact, Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘N’ Roll is a true rarity. This is an impeccably researched work. The writer doesn’t let a single question about some of Rock’s greatest music go unaddressed, right down to why Paul’s front tooth only appears to be chipped in certain shots of the “Paperback Writer” promo video. Rodriguez attempts to address who really played the dual guitar leads on “And Your Bird Can Sing” and if and why Paul walked out on the “She Said, She Said” session. He is not always able to emerge with definitive answers, but the explorations are always thorough and fascinating. From the differences between the various available mixes to the precise details behind the “Butcher Cover” photo shoot, Rodriguez allows no Beatles-’66 stone to go unturned. Like me, you may have read a tower of books on the Fabs and all but vowed you never need to crack another. As long as excellent ones like Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘N’ Roll are being published, you’re going to have a real tough time sticking to that vow.

Get Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘N’ Roll at Amazon.com here:
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