The Beatles – Revolution 9: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

beatles revolution 9Recorded and released in 1968, ‘Revolution 9’ represents, without a doubt, one of the most interesting and unique chapters in the history of The Beatles (and there were quite a few). Opinions usually vary among fans – with many calling it completely unlistenable shit, some admitting that it’s at least curious from a historical point of view, and few even praising it as an experimental triumph.

But what exactly is ‘Revolution 9’? Can we even call it a song, or is “sound collage” a more appropriate term to describe it? Well, it certainly is the most experimental The Beatles ever got – combining Yoko’s avant-garde influence, John’s will to always be one step ahead of the game, and the general “let’s-try-everything” ideology of the White Album. Its aim is to create a mental image of pure apocalyptic chaos and distortion by using an amalgam of sound effects, vocal snippets and random bits of music.

And, when finally giving the song an open-minded listen (after years of ignorance), I’ve come to the conclusion that it does succeed in making its point. The track is chaotic, messy, uncomfortable and provocative – yes, but that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be! Analyzing the sounds one by one I feel to be as useless of a task as trying to find meaning in each ‘I Am The Walrus’ lyric: some make sense, some don’t. But about halfway through, any sane person should realize that it doesn’t matter at all. What’s important is the track as a whole and what it represents.

And there is no better place to get a sense of that, other than simply listening to it in the context of the album, as it was meant to be. Both ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and arguably, ‘Revolver’, set the idea that a Beatles album would end with a grande, prominent finale. Revolution 9, backed with ‘Good Night’, represents The White Album’s climax, or to be more exact, its anti-climax. Instead of building up and up until sky’s the limit and then culminating with a heavenly piece, the double album ends by crumbling all down until there’s nothing left but a desperate and inefficient attempt at comforting under the form of the Ringo-sung ‘Good Night’. This is, in my opinion, one of the most original and unique track sequencing ever to be found on an album.

To conclude, ‘Revolution 9’ is not something I’d call “excellent” and it probably wouldn’t work if taken on its own, but it still is an intriguing composition that, as I said, makes its point loud and clear and represents an integral and essential part within The White Album. Verdict? Thumbs up.

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6 replies

  1. Well said Ovidiu. I agree completely that it’s an essential part of the White album. Would it work on any other album? I’m not sure it would – and that’s what makes that double LP so special!
    So I’d say thumbs up for the bold move of making it the penultimate track on my favourite record!

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  2. Not my favorite, but how can you give anything by the fab four a thumbs down? So thumbs up!

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  3. I remember the first time I heard “Revolution 9” because it scared the shit out of me. it’s so much of an anti-song that I think I’ve only sat through it three or four times. Each time I try to find some meaning, but I honestly don’t think there’s anything there.

    That said, I’m sure it was fun to put together.

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  4. Thumbs down for me. I’m listening to it now after having avoided it for decades. It’s just creepy and disturbing. I feel like I’m overhearing horrible things happening to people and I’m powerless to help them.

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  5. The “turn me on dead man”, as I call it, is really a turn off. Despite not ruining my view for the album (I think it is their best) I would trade it anytime for any song from their other albums. In fact three or four given its extend. Which is a shame really, because by then they had some great songs published only as singles, that they could use . And the anticlimax excuse doesn’t really make it for me. I would rather have a three sided album (plus the majestic Goodnight) with an etched fourth side. I guess the etching would look much better, or for those who try to play it sound better or be shorter… 😉

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  6. Could not agree more, “an integral and essential part within The White Album” ~ my second favorite album next to Abbey Road.

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