UK, 1966, pop rock / psychedelic pop
The Beatles – Revolver: This album was released amidst the smoke of a holy war. Lennon famously said in an interview that The Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.” This caused outrage in America, inciting public bonfires sponsored by radio stations. They burned and destroyed Beatles’ albums, and the music was banned from the airwaves in the South. What Lennon meant, of course, was that rock music was replacing God. It was merely an observation that Christianity was losing its influence. And of course so many people hung onto every word Lennon uttered. He was the voice of his generation, a spokesman for his restive peers. He talked openly about drugs and the Vietnam War. He sparked rock journalism: everyone wrote about his Jesus comment. People started listening to the opinions of rock stars, and there was born a quality and truth in rock ‘n roll reporting.
This album marked the end of touring for The Beatles. Anti-Beatles’ sentiment was widespread—in Japan, the Philippines, and in America. Besides, touring annoyed the erstwhile Fab Four. They didn’t enjoy touring at all in 1966. There were simply too many distractions, and their songs weren’t suitable to be played live. “Rain” and “Paperback Writer” just didn’t sound good in concert. The Beatles were more than happy to stop touring. In profound relief, Harrison is quoted as saying, “I can stop pretending to be a Beatle.” He and his bandmates could leave behind the limitations of touring—PA systems not being powerful enough for stadium concerts and difficulties in hearing the music over the screaming crowds caused the band’s technical skill to deteriorate.
The studio process continued from the experimentation we hear on Rubber Soul, but there are marked differences. The difference between 1965 and 1966 is the difference between the early 60s and the late 60s. Though that looks like an obvious and banal observation, it says a lot as far as The Beatles are concerned, for it is the difference between being live performers and being a studio collective band. The Beatles stopped worrying about appropriate concert music and started considering imaginative sonic and musical ranges. The technology was in the studio, not on the stage. The beauty of “Taxman”, for example, is that it sounds like it could be live, but in fact there’s no way they could have done it justice in front of a crowd at that time. “I’m Only Sleeping” evokes a dreamlike mood with a dual-guitar solo played backwards. “She Said She Said” (a surreal tune about Lennon’s first LSD trip), “For No One” (wherein the piano and French horn are dominant), and “Love You To” (sitar as main instrument) were hardly concert-appropriate songs. And how the hell would they ever have been able to play “Tomorrow Never Knows” live? This masterpiece displays a world of new capabilities. It’s our first look into Lennon’s intoxicating, terrifyingly wonderful mind. A one-chord drone throughout the song is outside pop rock sensibilities, and the use of tape-loops and vocal processing technology place the piece firmly in the annals of psychedelia.