By now, you are aware that every music blog has already celebrated the 50th anniversary of Revolver, the Beatles' seventh long player, the one that paved the way for Sgt. Pepper (the album that CHANGED THE WAY ALBUMS WERE EVERMORE MADE and perhaps is less fondly remembered in retrospect for that reason). Everyone has celebrated the 50th anniversary of the British release, which came out August 5.
Everyone but me.
I held out until August 8 to celebrate the release of the neglected stepchild, American Revolver. That's right, the one with three less songs, all John Lennon ones. (If you're keeping track, those excised songs are "I'm Only Sleeping," "And Your Bird Can Sing," and "Doctor Robert.")
For the sake of argument, and we will argue, I will make a case for the 11-song version also deserving its due.
Argument 1: The U.S. Revolver clocks in shorter than a sitcom length at 28:20, and comes off as more compact and weirder than it does in the more generous 35:01 version.
No one in their right mind could defend any decision Capitol Records made that shortchanged the fans. That said, no U.S. fans complained of being shortchanged those three songs, thanks to the makeshift Yesterday and Today album that came out two months before, which also gave us the fabulous "butcher cover" in the bargain.
That's right, we got two Beatles albums two months apart in one summer. There are labor laws preventing anything like that from ever happening now.
To their credit, Capitol did pick three cuts from the U.K. Revolver that wouldn't sound sonically jarring next to "Act Naturally" and "Yesterday." It's hard to imagine "Love You To" or "Tomorrow Never Knows" being dropped as excess baggage the way "Doctor Robert" or "And Your Bird Can Sing" were. Those two cuts serve to humanize Revolver a bit more, and sound quite at home on an album with Rubber Soul and Help castoffs. Only "I'm Only Sleeping" hints of the druggy heights to come but doesn't give too much away to be a spoiler. Those three Lennon songs cut from the album gain collectability (alternate mixes) and gain prominence on Yesterday and Today. On Revolver, they're just tossed out like chum.
Argument 2: The lack of Lennon songs on the U.S. Revolver actually increases his stature on the album.
When the Beatles were still operating (as Mick Jagger described them) as "the four-headed monster," no one was keeping track of who was getting how many songs per album. Like the Lennon and McCartney song partnership, we viewed the Beatles as an abstraction of unity, and there were always plenty of three-way harmonies on nearly every track to blur the lines of who did what.
Nobody noticed only two John lead vocals on this album the same way no one noticed Paul only had one lead vocal on The Beatles' Second Album. It certainly wasn't as apparent as it was when people noticed how sucky Monkees albums became when Davy Jones got too many songs. Compared to Paul's five lead vocals, George's three, and Ringo's one on Revolver, we only get two John cuts. But he gets to have the final word on both sides of the LP with "She Said She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows," two cuts that should've alerted everyone to how much acid he was ingesting on a daily basis.
And in August 1966, when Lennon's off the cuff and out-of-context remarks touched off the whole "We're more popular than Jesus" furor, giving Lennon more than just the last word was probably more than America could handle.
Argument 3: The U.S. edition includes every Batman reference.
There was no bigger pop phenomenon than the Caped Crusader in 1966. In this year alone, both the Who and the Kinks issued recorded versions of the Batman theme, and here Revolver opens up with "Taxman," a song that practically screams the Neil Hefti-penned theme song in comic-book word-balloons. Elsewhere, on "Here, There and Everywhere," George manages to sneak in a guitar line that echoes the Batman riff, although it is probably also echoing the same line George used to play much faster on the Beatles' version of "Besame Mucho."
Argument 4: America recognized the significance of the cover first and awarded artist Klaus Voorman a Grammy.
In the pop world, no one thought of album covers as a place to showcase fine art, unless you want to count Jackie Gleason's hiring Salvador Dali to paint the cover for Lonesome Echo in 1955. But Revolver proved the Beatles to be more far out than the Stones, who named an album Out of Our Heads but never had a cover where the Beatles were actually coming out of their own heads and getting tangled up in their own hair as well.
The Grammy awards, usually preferring to award the Anita Kerr Singers or Herb Alpert over the Beatles, gave Voorman a nod for best album cover art, beating out such slim pickings as Barbara Streisand's childish crayon drawing on Color Me Barbara. It might have turned out very different had Voorman's first draft of the collage been used — it had a picture of McCartney sitting on a toilet that Brian Epstein made him remove.
Argument 5: The U.S. version is the only version Brian Wilson heard
If we're to believe the timeline – the Beatles heard an advance copy of Pet Sounds and immediately came up with "Here, There and Everywhere," which encapsulated the entire experience of Pet Sounds into one cut. In response to the edited Revolver, Wilson knew he has to make Smile even freakier just to keep up. That he didn't finish it demonstrates how intimidating even a truncated Revolver was. The U.S. version is also the only version the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Love, the Doors, and any other American group you want to name probably heard.