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47 Years Ago: The Beatles Release ‘Revolution’

The Beatles
Apple Records

On Aug. 26, 1968, the Beatles launched their Apple Records label with their new single, John Lennon‘s politically minded “Revolution.”

The song was recorded twice, first as a slow blues – called “Revolution 1″ and released on The Beatles – and then as a searing rocker. This doesn’t include the experimental “Revolution 9,” which bears no major relation to either version, other than in name, but was built from the last six minutes of the final take of “Revolution 1.”

Even though they had stayed away from making political statements throughout their career, Lennon wanted to release “Revolution 1″ as a single. But the other members of the band felt it lacked power, and recorded a new version on July 10, with Nicky Hopkins overdubbing an electric piano part, including a solo, the next day.

The song’s distinctive opening buzzsaw guitar lick – played by Lennon and George Harrison simultaneously – was achieved by overloading the signal through preamps and directly injecting it into the console. Even for the Beatles, this was not allowed at the still-somewhat conservative Abbey Road Studios. Fortunately, nobody found out about it.

There was one other main difference between the two versions. Just before the first chorus of “Revolution 1,” Lennon sings, “But when you talk about destruction / Don’t you know that you can me out…in” due to his mixed feelings on the subject. On the single, he only sings “out.”

The song came out in the U.S. on Aug. 26, 1968 and in the U.K. four days later. And if you needed any more proof of the Beatles’ greatness, “Revolution,” which would have been a career highlight for thousands of bands, was relegated to the B-side. The A-side was “Hey Jude,” which stayed at No. 1 in the U.S. for nine weeks, a then-record.

See the Beatles and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’60s

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