‘Revolver’ Classic Album Dissection & The Raconteurs Review
This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest albums of all time—Revolver. Jim and Greg will dissect this Beatles masterpiece and talk with the man who engineered it. Plus, they'll review albums from singer/songwriter T-Bone Burnett and indie rock supergroup The Raconteurs.Subscribe via iTunesDownload This Episode
The Payola investigation conducted by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is making some headway. Universal Music Group, the world's biggest music company, has agreed to pay $12 million to settle accusations that its executives paid radio programmers to play certain songs. This is the largest settlement of its kind. Warner Music Group and Sony BMG made similar deals last year, and Mr. Spitzer is still in the process of investigating EMI, as well as radio companies like Clear Channel and CBS Radio. And, as we heard a couple of weeks ago, the FCC is conducting a similar inquiry. As always, Sound Opinions H.Q. will keep you posted.
Another story in the news this week suggests that record company lawyers won't be taking a break any time soon. All four of the major record labels have just launched a lawsuit against XM Satellite Radio. Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI all claim that a new XM device called the "Inno" violates music copyright law by allowing people to not only listen to satellite radio, but record it. Therefore, according to the labels, XM has become a digital retailer, like iTunes, and should be required to pay similar fees. It's yet another example of the recording industry scorning new technology rather than embracing it.
Guns N' Roses frontman Axl Rose is also making news, though Jim and Greg are wondering why. The buzz is that his long-awaited album Chinese Democracy is forthcoming — but our hosts are skeptical. Rose has been saying that he's on the brink of finishing for years (15 to be exact), and in the process he's become one of the long-running jokes in the music industry. But fans can take solace in the fact that the singer recently performed some Chinese Democracy tracks in New York. A good sign indeed.
The Beatles Revolver
Later this summer Revolver will celebrate its 40th anniversary. To honor that occasion, our own rock scientists, Drs. DeRogatis and Kot, decided to dissect The Beatles' masterpiece. In their interview with Geoff Emerick, the man who engineered the album at Abbey Road, and wrote a memoir on his time with the band, they break down what made the music so revolutionary. A sampling of the fun facts and analysis:
Tomorrow Never Knows
The last song on Revolver was actually the first one written. In December 1965, after a mind-expanding acid trip, John Lennon wrote what would later become "Tomorrow Never Knows." The completely unique four-track song, with its organ drones, backward guitar, bird calls, and megaphone vocals, perfectly encapsulates what Revolver was about: revolution. Geoff Emerick shares two facts about Lennon's lack of technical prowess. First, not being able to communicate how he wanted his vocals to sound technically, Lennon simply asked Emerick to have his voice sound like monks singing on a mountaintop. Also, the backwards guitar part was a happy accident. Lennon, not knowing how to run a reel-to-reel machine, simply loaded the tape backwards and liked what he heard.
The interesting thing about this song is that it wasn't even released as part of the original Revolver album. It was the B-side of a single (paired with "Paperback Writer") that was recorded during the same session. EMI expected The Beatles to write and record not only an amazing album, but hit singles as well. Jim recommends fans burn their own complete Revolver with the addition of these singles.
Geoff Emerick's description of recording "Yellow Submarine" is one of the most entertaining in his book. The session was attended by a raucous group of notable guests including Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Marianne Faithfull and Patti Harrison. In the middle of recording, Lennon decided that he wanted to sound like he was singing underwater, and in fact, suggested that he do just that. Out of desperation, the engineer agreed to try it, and placed the microphone in a milk bottle filled with water. In order to protect the microphone he used a condom provided by longtime Beatles roadie Mal Evans.
Emerick was really innovative in how he recorded different instruments. This is particularly evident on this song, written by Paul McCartney, which incorporates an eight-piece string section. In fact, none of the Beatles actually played on "Eleanor Rigby." In order to get the best possible sound, Emerick placed the microphones just inches away from the two violas, two cellos and four violins. Beatles fans are so used to this song that it's hard to imagine what it would be like to experience it for the first time in 1966, let alone on the same record as traditional-sounding rock songs like "Good Day Sunshine" and "Got to Get You Into My Life".
Revolver marks significant growth in the band's sound, as well as for the individual Beatles. George Harrison really matured as a songwriter on this album, which has an unprecedented three songs written by him, as opposed to chief songwriters Lennon and McCartney. While Harrison is often thought of as the more transcendental Beatle, Jim notes that "Taxman" expresses a very normal, earthly concern: paying taxes. While Harrison grew as a songwriter, Emerick admits that he still struggled with the guitar during some of the recording of this album. After wrestling for almost nine hours with the song's famous guitar solo, the part ended up being handed over to Paul McCartney, who hit it in on the first take.
To show the range of influence Revolver has had on the music industry, Jim and Greg commissioned this montage of covers from The Beatles' album:
- "Taxman" by Stevie Ray Vaughan
- "Eleanor Rigby" by Ray Charles
- "I'm Only Sleeping" by Rosanne Cash
- "Love You To" by Bongwater
- "Here, There and Everywhere" by Emmylou Harris
- "Yellow Submarine" by Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops
- "She Said, She Said," by Gov't Mule
- "Good Day Sunshine," by Jimmy James & the Vagabonds
- "And Your Bird Can Sing" by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs
- "For No One" by Rickie Lee Jones
- "Doctor Robert" by Bozo Allegro
- "I Want to Tell You" by Ted Nugent
- "Got To Get You Into My Life" by Earth, Wind & Fire
- "Tomorrow Never Knows" by Brian Eno
T-Bone Burnett The True False Identity
Singer/songwriter and producer T-Bone Burnett recently put out The True False Identity, his first album in 14 years. Burnett is best known for having produced albums for Los Lobos, Roy Orbison, Elvis Costello and ex-wife Sam Phillips. He also produced the hugely successful soundtracks for O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Cold Mountain, and A Mighty Wind. After over a decade-long hiatus, he returned to the studio with drummer Jim Keltner and guitarist Mark Ribot. Greg is glad to have T-Bone back. He loves how the musician uses the studio as an instrument and gives The True False Identity a Buy It. Jim, on the other hand, listened to the album and prepared to rumble. He compares the music to that of a similar artist: Tom Waits. Jim feels that both men try to be weird simply for the sake of being weird. He wishes that T-Bone Burnett was as effective a producer for his own work as he is for others', and gives this album a definite Trash It.
The Raconteurs Broken Boy Soldiers
The next album up for review is Broken Boy Soldiers by The Raconteurs. The Raconteurs is a side-project for Jack White of The White Stripes. He is joined by power popster (and fellow Michigan native) Brendan Benson as well as members of garage band The Greenhornes. This marks a bit of a departure for White, who favors a much more minimalist approach with the White Stripes, and Greg is not entirely impressed. He feels that too much of the record is merely a classic rock imitation. Greg suspects that White ceded too much power to Brendan Benson, and wishes that he made more innovative musical choices, as he did on the album he produced for country star Loretta Lynn. Broken Boy Soldiers gets a Burn It from this critic. Jim, however, cannot stop listening to The Raconteurs, and for him that's all that matters. Rock and roll has never been about originality, and according to Jim, every song is catchy and energetic. Jim would Buy It.
It is Greg's turn to pop a quarter into the Desert Island Jukebox, but this week he had a hard time choosing just one song. According to our host, hip-hop star Missy Elliott is the top singles artist of the last 10 years. Along with producers like Timbaland, she makes truly avant-garde music, but does so in a really fun, accessible way. Therefore, it's no wonder that her songs are critical and commercial hits. For this week's show, Greg went with the song "Work It." The song demonstrates Missy's novel approach to sounds and words. It isn‘t really about anything new, but the lyrics, beats and sounds (note the elephant’s wail) couldn't sound fresher. In fact, only Missy Elliott could get away with having the hook to a Top 40 hit be sung backwards. So, you may not be able to sing along to this week's DIJ, but you'll certainly want to.
- Hüsker Dü,“New Day Rising,”New Day Rising, 1985
- Nirvana,“Pay to Play,”With the Lights Out, 2004
- Lou Reed,“Satellite of Love,”Transformer, 1972
- The Beatles,“Tomorrow Never Knows,”Revolver (UK), 1966
- The Beatles,“Rain,”Revolver (UK), 1966
- The Beatles,“Yellow Submarine,”Revolver (UK), 1966
- The Beatles,“Eleanor Rigby,”Revolver (UK), 1966
- The Beatles,“Taxman,”Revolver (UK), 1966
- T-Bone Burnett,“Palestine Texas,”The True False Identity, 2006
- T-Bone Burnett.“7 Times Hotter than Fire”The True False Identity, 2006
- The Raconteurs,“Steady as she Goes,”Broken Boy Soldiers, 2006
- The Raconteurs,“Intimate Secretary”Broken Boy Soldiers, 2006
- The Raconteurs,“Store Bought Bones”Broken Boy Soldiers, 2006
wikipedia.org Payola universalmusic.com Universal Music Group wikipedia.org Sony BMG clearchannel.com Clear Channel cbsradio.com CBS Radio fcc.gov The FCC xmradio.com XM Satellite Radio allmusic.com Guns N' Roses chinesedemocracy.com Chinese Democracy spin.com SPIN“reviews”Chinese Democracy beatles.com The Beatles' homepage amazon.com Geoff Emerick on the Beatles abbeyroad.co.uk Abbey Road Studios lennonfbifiles.com Lennon's FBI file guardian.co.uk Revolver's great timing wikipedia.org EMI mickjagger.com Mick Jagger's homepage allmusic.com Brian Jones allmusic.com Marianne Faithfull wikipedia.org Mal Evans wikipedia.org“Eleanor Rigby” paulmccartney.com Paul McCartney's homepage wikipedia.org“Taxman” georgeharrison.com George Harrison's homepage bbc.co.uk The worst-ever Beatles cover tboneburnett.com T-Bone Burnett's homepage loslobos.org Los Lobos' homepage elviscostello.com Elvis Costello's homepage samphillips.com Sam Phillips' homepage imdb.com O Brother, Where Art Thou? imdb.com Cold Mountain imdb.com A Mighty Wind allmusic.com Mark Ribot tomwaits.com Tom Waits' homepage theraconteurs.com The Raconteurs' homepage whitestripes.com The White Stripes' homepage brendanbenson.com Brendan Benson's homepage allmusic.com The Greenhornes lorettalynn.com Loretta Lynn's homepage missy-elliott.com Missy Elliott's homepage mtv.com Timbaland youtube.com“Work It”video azlyrics.com“Work It”lyrics