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DECONSTRUCTING ‘REVOLUTION’: HEAR THE BEATLES IN THE STUDIO, 1968

John Lennon’s death is one of my indelible memories – down to being in the passenger seat in an old beat up Station Wagon, driving east on Sunset Blvd with my then-boyfriend Scott, the initial hope that was quickly smashed as it seemed like seconds after hearing John was shot, the radio voice came back to inform us he was dead. – Ilene 

Courtesy of Dangerous Minds, by Paul Gallagher

 
 
It’s the Kennedy moment for a generation, who know where they were, and what they were doing when they heard about John Lennon’s murder thirty years ago today.

I was woken from sleep, and half-awake, half asleep, the news was dreamlike, “John Lennon’s dead. He was shot.” It didn’t make sense, and three decades on, still doesn’t.

Lennon’s loss is immeasurable, for we were left with unfulfilled expectations. That said, Lennon’s creative work as a solo artist, but more importantly with The Beatles changed everything. John, Paul, George and Ringo were the most revolutionary and influential quartet since Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

To celebrate their revolutionary drive, here is “Revolution” deconstructed.

Lennon started writing “Revolution” in early 1968, when off on retreat with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Arguably, it was the first real political song The Beatles produced, and was a considered move away from the lovable mop-top image, as Lennon explained:

“I thought it was about time we spoke about it [revolution], the same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnamese war. I had been thinking about it up in the hills in India.”

1968: the Vietnam War, My Lai Massacre, Grosvenor Square demonstration, student riots in Paris, Rome and Brazil, Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin start a bombing campaign, Russia crushes the Prague Spring revolt in Czechoslovakia, Martin Luther King assassinated, Bobby Kennedy assassinated. It was a hell of a year.

In May The Beatles recorded Take 1 of “Revolution”, a slow almost Blues-like number with Lennon singing his vocal while lying on the floor. During this recording Lennon included the word “in” at the end of the line “You can count me out” as he was undecided about supporting violent revolution. Even so, Lennon was keen to have this version released as the next Beatles’ single. McCartney, however, was against causing any controversy, and argued, along with Harrison, that the track was far too slow to be a hit. It was eventually released, with lots of overdubs, on the White Album.

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