Robert Rodriguez is the author of Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll. In the video below, he continues his discussion on how Sgt. Pepper gained its popularity over Revolver.
Ahead of the curve in recognizing Revolver as something special was critic Richard Gold- stein, writing for New York’s Village Voice. Just out of college, Goldstein was on his way to a long and distinguished career when he sang the praises of this new Beatles release. “Hear it once and you know it’s important. Hear it twice, it makes sense. Third time around, it’s fun. Fourth time, it’s subtle. On the fifth hearing, Revolver becomes sublime.” Though his review overall gave the Beatles much credit for doing something distinctly new as they explored the possibilities of what a rock album could be, Goldstein would distinguish himself the following year as one of the few professional critics that did not fall all over himself to exalt Sgt. Pepper.
In Britain, the response to Revolver was equally positive, if less expository. A reviewer in New Musical Express wrote that Revolver “. . . certainly has new sounds and new ideas, and should cause plenty of argument among fans as to whether it is as good as or better than previous efforts.” Melody Maker, who’d previewed the album, merely stated what would become a near-universal reaction, reporting to readers that “their new LP [will] change the direction of pop music.” Disc and Music Echo tapped the Kinks’ Ray Davies to act as celebrity reviewer, and ran his song-by- song take in the July 30 issue. He was predictably frank with his appraisal, calling BS where he saw it (“Yellow Submarine”—“a load of rubbish, really” and “Doctor Robert”—“not my sort of thing”) while dispensing praise where he felt it was earned: “The best thing on the album,” he declared “I’m Only Sleeping” (an unsurprising judgment, given how closely Davies’s work resembles it). Their experimentation on “Tomorrow Never Knows” didn’t particularly impress him (“I can imagine they had George Martin tied to a totem pole when they did this”).
Keep reading this excerpt on bookgasm.
The making of Revolver – hunkered down in Abbey Road with George Martin – is in itself a great Beatles story, but would be nothing if the results weren’t so impactful. More than even Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds, Revolver fed directly into the rock ‘n’ roll zeitgeist, and its influence could be heard everywhere: from the psychedelic San Francisco sound (Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead); to the first wave of post-blues hard rock (Sabbath, Zeppelin); through movie soundtracks and pretty much everything that followed it – including every generation of guitar-based pop music and even heavy metal. More than any record before or after, Revolver was the game-changer, and this is, finally, the detailed telling of its storied recording and enormous impact.