This is the next entry in Best Album Covers, a series begun right here. The first successful long-playing microgroove record for the phonograph was introduced by Columbia Records back in June of 1948. Yet, album covers (the paper board packaging that held them) didn’t come into their own graphically till decades later. Eventually becoming the cultural stamp on the music of the time. Catching the eyes of potential record-buyers and later their ears and minds. Melding the musical experience with the artist into a unique visual form.
Why Compact Disc versions of album art don’t exactly raise the same reaction these days was looked at in this post. Although, music label artistry continues to be noticed and discussed among the material published today. The bits and bytes are looking over their shoulder, though, because vinyl hasn’t entirely gone the way of the dinosaur. Online or at the record shops still out there. Cover art hasn’t lost purpose, either for old and new. Mostly, it’s my contention while digital reigns supreme, its vigor among fans lacks the tactile passion of the past LPs.
Hence the reason for this series. Some register more with me musically than others, though. Yet, the artwork will always take center stage, at least here. Let’s continue shall we?
I have to agree with Rolling Stone magazine, as much as that pains me sometimes, regarding this breakthrough work by The Lads:
“All of a sudden, the poetic advance and rustic modernism of Rubber Soul — issued only five months before these sessions, in December 1965 — was very old news. Compared to the rolling drone, tape-loop effects and out-of-body vocals that dominate Lennon’s trip here, even the rest of Revolver sounds like mutation in process: the Beatles pursuing their liberated impulses as players and writers, via acid, in pop-song form.”
If Rubber Soul introduced the band’s new sound, Revolver kicked in the proverbial door upon its release. You’d only had to listen to the groundbreaking music and recording techniques emanating off the vinyl to hear this was so. The first drop of the needle onto this phonograph record attested to that. “…exploring new sonic territory, lyrical subjects, and styles of composition.”, as Allmusic put it, “…Revolver stands as the ultimate modern pop album and it’s still as emulated as it was upon its original release.”
This the moment the boys from Liverpool took total control of their music destiny, Rubber Soul merely the preamble.
Look at the album covers I highlighted last week to spot why this was graphically, as well. Everything in-between Please Please Me (1963) to Rubber Soul (1965) were simply variations on the quad portrait theme in each design. Don’t get me wrong. The prefaced albums were still distinctive and beautifully imagined presentations. Till you got to Revolver, that is. A whole new tangent sprung with this work. The Grammy-award winning German artist, Manfred Man bassist, and longtime Beatles friend, Klaus Voormann pulled the feat off.
The Lads inspired Voormann through music, all by playing Tomorrow Never Knows for him. The “…most aggressively experimental track” on the album, Lennon’s acid-trip mind-bender. Resulted in a stunner of a record cover by the artist. Part collage and pencil-line artwork, mixed with old photos (some supplied by The Beatles themselves and others via newspapers), the combination delivered surreal imagery for the group’s fans and music worldwide. While the illustration and the band were at it, Revolver also helped pave the way in psychedelic art and rock.
Bonus trivia: Revolver was originally titled Abracadabra until the Beatles discovered another band had used that title.
- “Eleanor Rigby”
- “I’m Only Sleeping”*
- “Love You To”
- “Here, There and Everywhere”
- “Yellow Submarine”
- “She Said She Said”
- “Good Day Sunshine”
- “And Your Bird Can Sing”*
- “For No One”
- “Doctor Robert”*
- “I Want To Tell You”
- “Got to Get You into My Life”
- “Tomorrow Never Knows”
* Revolver was the last Capitol release that differed from the UK Beatles album. Three tracks used for the earlier Yesterday and Today compilation didn’t make the North American version. Leaving us just 11 songs instead of the UK’s 14.
The entire series can be found here.