An interesting exercise is to listen to an album and try to imagine what it must have sounded like in the context of when it was made. Strictly speaking, this is impossible: How can we possibly gauge the visceral impact of In the Court of the Crimson King? Was Kind of Blue just another jazz album in 1959? We can’t comprehend precisely how Robert Fripp and company sounded to a young Bill Bruford when the latter heard the former for the first time in a London club; we can try to grasp it only by analogy. After all, we were there when Nevermind and OK Computer came into the world, and we can still remember the goosebumps.
So what about the Beatles? The reality is that PW has always lived in a musical world influenced by the Fab Four. And for a long time, we honestly didn’t see what the big deal was. Some catchy little tunes, a lot of “girls” and “yeah yeah yeahs”…sounded like fairly simple, dated pop music to us. Over the years we have come to appreciate some bits of the early Beatles canon, but to this day, though we may admire the craftsmanship, it’s not music that moves us.
But Revolver…oh, dear…now this is something else entirely. We seem to recall Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt making a comment to the effect that Revolver was the first progressive rock album, and on some level we would have to agree. The strings-and-vocal of “Eleanor Rigby,” the harmonized guitar licks of “And Your Bird Can Sing,” and the metrical modulations of “She Said She Said” are both catchy and deceptively complex. “Tomorrow Never Knows” is from another world.
That they could do this, that they could collect fourteen songs (including “Yellow Submarine”!) that were so tight and tuneful yet distinctive and full of ear candy, is truly remarkable. We are very aware of the fact that picking a Beatles album to single out for praise is sort of obvious, but the combination of pop smarts and open-minded experimentation resulted in one of the great records of the decade, and one that continues to resonate within the progressive rock community. There are people out there who still think of the Beatles as the band that sang “Ticket to Ride.” If that’s you, try Revolver.