Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Happy Obama Day to us all! Today I figured it was appropriate to pick some sort of political song, so today I'm listening to "Revolution." Because it feels freaking REVOLUTIONARY, what's happening today, doesn't it?

This is the one also known as "Revolution #2," the raucous electronic track that was the B side to "Hey Jude."

This is my favorite version of the song for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that John just says "count me out" in the first verse and doesn't fuss around with that "out/in" business as he does on the acoustic "Revolution #1" from the White Album. Man, not to be down, but what a lame quasi-controversy THAT was. But the other reason this track rules is because of that killer fuzzy guitar bit at the beginning. Just, awesome. Everything about this track is just more musically interesting to me. I particularly love the piano solo (which I'm pretty sure is played by a session musician)-- it carries the rocking spirit through, but it also mellows out the aggression with a bit of a boogie-woogie swing feel. It's sort of perfect, rollicking away under the guitar work on the bridge.

This was the Beatles' first overtly political song, but apparently they'd been feeling some pressure to do one, considering they were the most famous people in the world, and this was 1968, a massively politicized year. So this is John's response to the movement. Of course in later years John was associated more with over-the-top peacenik-ery, but "Revolution" sounds genuinely angry to me. It sounds like a guy having a debate with himself, trying to contain his rage at everything that's wrong with the world in order to be pragmatic-- as in, let's see the plan before we burn stuff. At the time, radicals thought John was a big sellout because of his denouncement of violence, but I think it's safe to say that the likes of Abbie Hoffman didn't do much long-term good for progressive causes. In the end, John was right.

"Revolution" can sound dated now, with the talk of destruction and Chairman Mao and so forth. But I think that if today really is the beginning of something new, then it's because of the message here in "Revolution," which is that change, even when brought on by righteous anger, is best achieved through the power of just working together, pragmatically and peacefully.

Oh, hell, just listen to the song again. Dig the music, dig the fuzzed up guitars. Because I am way out of my league talking about this stuff.

"Revolution," released in the U.K. as B-side of "Hey Jude" single, August 30, 1968; in the U.S. as B-side of "Hey Jude" single, August 26, 1968.
I am indebted for all discography information to the tremendous Beatles-Discography.com.

1 comment:

  1. That's Nicky Hopkins on electric piano. I didn't know until wikipedia told me, but he also played on Sympathy for the Devil, Sour Milk Sea, Rock and Roll (Zeppelin), Happy Xmas (War Is Over), and lots of other stuff.