The great thing about recorded music is its permanence. You may or may not enjoy the music of today, but you can always go back and listen to the Beatles Revolver for the ten thousandth time, and it's going to sound just as fantastic today as it did upon its release 46 years ago. You may even hear a thing or two that you've never noticed before. Scott Freiman, host of the "Deconstructing the Beatles" lecture at the Avon Theatre this Wednesday, has a whole list of such things. He'll make sure that you walk away from his talk with some new information.
"I take my audience on a virtual trip back to 1966 to go into the studio with the Beatles as they create, in this case, Revolver," says Freiman. "I play rare audio and video. I isolate tracks to demonstrate some of the different things they were doing in the studio and I talk a little bit about the history behind the songs — what was going on in 1966 that the Beatles were influenced by — and about how they worked together in the studio to create the music."
Freiman doesn't have access to the separate master tracks that make up the record, of course, but he does use his recording studio to isolate parts, in addition to playing early takes and demos of the songs to trace their evolution. Revolver in particular is interesting because it contains so many recording firsts for the Beatles, like the use of backwards guitars and vocals ("Rain", for one, a non-album B-side recorded during the Revolver sessions) and the use of tape loops ("Tomorrow Never Knows"), which until that time had only really been experimented with by classical composers.
"Just in general with Revolver, it wasn't necessarily a Beatles first, but they were one of the first to devote their album to more serious themes," adds Freiman. "Death, consciousness, loneliness… things you normally wouldn't find on a pop album at the time."
It was also probably one of the last times the band worked together closely for the entire recording process. It's well-documented that by the next album, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, tensions were already beginning to tear the group apart. Revolver came at a sweet spot in the Beatles' career where all four members hit their creative stride simultaneously, and still got along.
"Almost everything done on Pepper was done first on Revolver," says Freiman. "They're both fantastic albums, but I don't think there's a bad song on Revolver. All three of the songwriting Beatles contribute strongly. And I think Ringo's drumming is at its all-time best. It's the first time the Beatles really used the studio as an instrument. The things they did on Revolver, they couldn't reproduce live. It's one of the reasons they stopped touring. The technology they were using in the studio, they couldn't reproduce on stage the way they liked."
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