Recorded 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.
Categories: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?