Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Songs of the Beatles' White Album, continued

Revolution 1

Video clip:


You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world

But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out

Don't you know it's gonna be alright
Alright, alright

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're all doing what we can

But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell you is brother you have to wait

Don't you know it's gonna be alright
Alright, alright, al...

You say you'll change the constitution

  • Written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney. 
  • Two versions of the song were recorded in 1968: a hard rock version, released as the B-side of the "Hey Jude" single, and a slower, bluesier arrangement (titled "Revolution 1") for the Beatles' White Album.
  • Although the single version was issued first, it was recorded several weeks after "Revolution 1", as a re-make specifically intended for release as a single. 
  • A third connected piece, written by Lennon, is the experimental track "Revolution 9", based on the latter parts of the same performance that produced "Revolution 1", and which also appears on the White Album.
  • The first song to be recorded for the White Album.
  • The song was written in India in early 1968 and was inspired by the 1968 student uprising in Paris, the Vietnam war and the assassination of Martin Luther King. It heralded a political awakening for John Lennon, which later became a key feature of his early solo career.
  • John Lennon, Rolling Stone interview, 1970:
“I wanted to put out what I felt about revolution. I thought it was time we fucking spoke about it, the same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnamese war when we were on tour with Brian Epstein and had to tell him, 'We're going to talk about the war this time, and we're not going to just waffle.' I wanted to say what I thought about revolution. 
I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India. I still had this 'God will save us' feeling about it, that it's going to be all right. That's why I did it: I wanted to talk, I wanted to say my piece about revolution. I wanted to tell you, or whoever listens, to communicate, to say 'What do you say? This is what I say.' “
  • Lennon wrote the song because he felt like he was being pulled in so many directions by different people, all of whom wanted his backing, politically. It was also him questioning his own belief in the revolution that was going on... whether he was "out" or "in." In truth, he was writing about a revolution of the mind rather than a physical "in the streets" revolution. He believed that revolution comes from inner change rather than social violence.
  • Yoko Ono, interview, 1998:
"John's idea of revolution was that he did not want to create the situation where when you destroy statues, you become a statue. And also what he means is that there's too much repercussion in the usual form of revolution. He preferred evolution. So you have to take a peaceful method to get peace rather than you don't care what method you take to get peace, and he was very, very adamant about that."
  • John Lennon saw this song as his activism re-emerging after being dormant for some time. It made the other Beatles nervous, especially Paul McCartney, who didn’t like the song and who felt it might alienate fans and draw criticism. Lennon wanted it to be the A side of the first record to be released on their own Apple label but he was outvoted. Hey Jude was the A side of the first release and Revolution, the harder rock version, was the B side.
  • The original slower version was used on the White Album, where Lennon sings "count me in" as well as "count me out" when referring to violence.
  • Nike used this for commercials in 1987. Capitol Records, who owns the performance rights, meaning The Beatles version of the song, was paid $250,000. Michael Jackson, who owned the publishing rights, meaning use of the words and music, also had to agree and was paid for the song.
  • The Nike commercials caused a huge backlash from Beatles fans who felt that Nike was disrespecting the legacy of John Lennon, who probably would have objected to its use. There were plans to use more Beatles songs in future ads, but they were abandoned when it became clear it was not good business practice. As years went by, it became more acceptable to use songs in commercials, but Beatles songs were still considered sacred, especially since the group did not control their rights. In 2002, "When I'm 64" was used in a commercial for Allstate insurance. Many Beatles fans were not pleased, but it didn't get nearly the reaction of the Nike commercials, partly because it was not a political song, but also because it was sung by Julian Lennon, which implied endorsement by his father.
  • John Lennon wanted his vocals to have an unusual sound, so he recorded most of them lying on his back in the studio. The famous scream at the beginning is a double-tracked recording of Lennon.

Honey Pie

Video clip:


She was a working girl
North of England way
Now she's hit the big time
In the U.S.A.
And if she could only hear me
This is what I'd say.

Honey pie, you are making me crazy
I'm in love but I'm lazy
So won't you please come home.

Oh honey pie, my position is tragic
Come and show me the magic
Of your Hollywood song.

You became a legend of the silver screen
And now the thought of meeting you
Makes me weak in the knee.

  • Written entirely by Paul McCartney, but credited to Lennon–McCartney.
  • Paul McCartney:
"Both John and I had a great love for music hall I very much liked that old crooner style - the strange fruity voice that they used, so 'Honey Pie' was me writing one of them to an imaginary woman, across the ocean, on the silver screen, who was called Honey Pie. It's another of my fantasy songs. We put a sound on my voice to make it sound like a scratchy old record. So it's not a parody, it's a nod to the vaudeville tradition that I was raised on."
  • Scratches and crackles were added to make it sound even more dated and music hall-ish.

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