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Revolution (song)

"Revolution" is a song by The Beatles, written by John Lennon and attributed to Lennon/McCartney.

The song appeared in two distinctly different incarnations, a raucous electric "Revolution", and a slowed acoustic "Revolution 1". A third connected piece, the heavily experimental "Revolution 9", appeared on the same album side as "Revolution 1" on The White Album. Both were on the second side of the second disc.



The first version of "Revolution" to be released (though the last to be recorded) was the B-side of the "Hey Jude" single, released in late August 1968. The single, as a stand-alone, reached #12 in the U.S.

A product of the recording sessions for The Beatles (aka The White Album), "Revolution" featured distorted guitars and an electric piano solo by session musician Nicky Hopkins. This track is said to be one of the loudest and most aggressive Beatles songs; it begins abruptly with a loud, overdriven electric guitar played by John Lennon, a thundering, compressed drum beat from Ringo Starr and a ferocious scream from Lennon (the scream was an overdub added when Lennon double tracked his vocal. Paul McCartney performed the scream on the semi-live performance for the promotional film because Lennon could not deliver the scream and catch his breath again in time to launch into the first verse).

The musical form is a simple rock and roll chord progression, but the highly processed elements and hyperbolic approach distinguished the track from nearly anything that had come before; the sound of "Revolution" is often cited as presaging heavy metal. "Revolution" later appeared on the 1970 Hey Jude compilation album created for the U.S. market and other compilations.

The Beatles performed the song semi-live (with live vocals performed over a pre-recorded instrumental track) in a specially produced promotional film shot by director Michael Lindsay-Hogg at the same time as the Hey Jude promotional film. The film received its world premiere in Britain on David Frost's ITV television programme, 4 September 1968. As the Beatles were singing the vocals live on the film, they elected to incorporate part of the vocal arrangement from the slower Revolution 1 version of the track. McCartney and George Harrison added the "shoo-bee-doo-wah" backing vocals unique to that version behind Lennon's lead vocal - thus making the vocals on the film performance a hybrid of the two versions of the song.

Revolution 1

"Revolution 1" was recorded between 30 May and 4 June 1968, about 6 weeks before "Revolution", but released nearly three months later than the single. Lennon wanted the initial version to be released as a single but the other band members said it was too slow for a single.

Lennon, slightly irritated, resolved to remake the song in a version as loud and raucous as anything the Beatles had released, and he led the band through the faster recording which ended up backing "Hey Jude". Searching for a highly distorted and 'dirty'-sounding guitar sound, they plugged the guitars directly into the recording console, overloading the channel, and the resulting highly distorted tone satisfied Lennon and became the distinctive sound of the released version.

The original version, re-titled "Revolution 1" to distinguish it from the single version, was released on The White Album in late November 1968.

"Revolution 1" contains a notable lyrical difference from the final "Revolution": Lennon's vocal for the track adds the word "in" following the line "When you talk about destruction/don't you know that you can count me out". Lennon said in interviews that he was undecided in his sentiments toward the song's theme so he included both options.

Unreleased versions of the song, including demos and outtakes, can be found on many bootleg albums such as "From Kinfauns to Chaos" and "Revolution", on which appears a twenty-three minute version of the song with Yoko Ono taking over vocals.

Revolution 9

"Revolution 9" is a sound collage piece which appeared along with "Revolution 1" on The White Album. It shared no music or lyrics with the released versions of "Revolution" or "Revolution 1." The collage began as a coda for "Revolution 1" but ended up as a separate track. Some elements of the original coda are clearly audible in "Revolution 9", such as Lennon's drawn-out "all right" and repeated screams of "right".


This was the first overtly political song the Beatles recorded, reflecting the shift in Lennon's 1967 creative focus on psychedelia, LSD, and Transcendental Meditation, which had collapsed in the wake of the Beatles' February-April 1968 trip to India, Lennon's involvement with politicially-oriented artist Yoko Ono, and the growing social upheavals of 1968. McCartney was initially uneasy about the political nature of the song, which he felt was at odds with the Beatles' style.



  • John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocals; lead and rhythm guitars, handclaps.
  • Paul McCartney: bass and handclaps.
  • George Harrison: rhythm guitar and handclaps.
  • Ringo Starr: drums.
  • Nicky Hopkins: electric piano.

Revolution 1:

  • John Lennon: double-tracked lead vocals and backing vocals; lead and acoustic guitars.
  • Paul McCartney: bass, piano and backing vocals.
  • George Harrison: acoustic and rhythm guitars and backing vocals.
  • Ringo Starr: drums and tambourine.
  • Brass section: arranged and conducted by George Martin (with John Lennon).

Revolution 9:

  • John Lennon: vocals; piano, mellotron; electronic and home-made sound effects, tapes and tape loops.
  • George Harrison: vocals.
  • Ringo Starr: vocals.
  • Yoko Ono: vocals.

Uses in advertising

"Revolution" was the first Beatles recording to be licensed for use in a television commercial (Ford Motor Company had used a cover version of "Help!" for a TV ad in 1985). Nike used the actual Beatles recording for a commercial in 1987, paying $250,000 for the rights to Capitol Records and Michael Jackson, who owned the publishing rights. This caused a huge backlash among Beatles fans, who felt Lennon would have objected to this usage, especially in the face of controversy over Nike's use of sweatshops. In addition McCartney protested, saying, "Songs like Revolution don't mean a pair of sneakers, they mean Revolution."

In 2006, a cover version of the song was used in Australia on television advertisements to promote a Mitsubishi sales event.

The song was also used most recently in an advertisement for the University of Tasmania.



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