Experimenting with avant-garde music, it is difficult to count on the recognition of a wide audience. Perhaps that’s what George Martin and Paul McCartney thought when they urged John Lennon not to include Revolution 9 on The Beatles’ album. On the one hand, they were right. Most of the fans did not understand the composition and even called it the worst work of the group. On the other hand, with this track, the Beatles once again showed the world that they are not going to be limited to the framework into which show business is trying to drive popular performers.
The story of creation Revolution 9 by The Beatles
The future composition was born as a result of further work on the material left over from the song Revolution 1 from the legendary White Album by The Beatles.
John Lennon, with the help of George Harrison and Yoko Ono, created an original collage. It included code not used in Revolution 1, excerpts from classical works, snippets of speech and other elements.
He later recalled:
Everything was made from loops [закольцованных записей]. I ran about thirty loops and stuffed them into one basic track. I used to take classic cassettes and go upstairs and cut them to pieces and reverse them and do stuff like that to get the sound effects.
One thing was the sound engineer’s voice saying, “This is EMI test set number nine.” I just cut everything he said and gave it the ninth number. Nine is my birthday, my lucky number, and so on. I didn’t realize it. It was just a very funny voice saying, “Number nine.” It was like a joke – constantly mentioning the number nine, that’s all.
Rolling Stone 1970
The composition is influenced by Yoko Ono. Paul said:
I once listened to her material – not just squeals and howls, but also these fragments of her words, conversations, breathing and other strange things … I was intrigued and wanted to do something similar.
All We Are Saying, David Sheff
Yoko is known to have helped John choose pieces for Revolution 9.
Critics also believe that Lennon’s inspiration could be the work Hymnen by the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausenan.
Structure Revolution 9 by The Beatles
Revolution 9 consists of numerous fragments, including the following:
- Coda not included in Revolution 1;
- A recurring excerpt from the orchestral overdub recorded for A Day in the Life;
- Final chord from the “Seventh Symphony” by Jean Sibelius;
- Sample from O Clap Your Hands by Ralph Vaughan Williams;
- Excerpt from Symphonic Etudes by Robert Schumann;
- Brief excerpts from the works of Beethoven;
- Part of the Arabic song Awal Hamsa;
- Loop from Tomorrow Never Knows;
- Recordings of mellotron, violins, electric guitar, cymbals, string quartet, horn and oboe duo;
- Phrases, shouts and other sounds made by Lennon, Ono, Harrison, Martin and studio staff.
The words “number nine” sound several times in the composition. They were cut from exam tapes recorded at the Royal Academy of Music. They were kept on Abbey Road.
Meaning of song Revolution 9
John Lennon explained what the piece is about:
Revolution 9 has become a subliminal image of what I think will happen when it is already happening. It’s like I’m painting a revolution.
Rolling Stone 1970
When asked if Revolution 9 is about death, John replied:
And you listen to her. In the sun. On the street. And decide for yourself whether it is about death. It’s about nothing in particular. It is a set of sounds, just as walking down the street is a set of sounds. I just caught a moment and put it on a record – that’s what it’s about. Perhaps she had something to do with the sounds of the revolution … Such is her vague history.
On May 30, 1968, the Beatles recorded Revolution 1. The eighteenth take formed the basis of Revolution 9, which they started on June 6. Lennon brought twelve cassettes with numerous excerpts, from which the musicians began to form a composition.
An important day in the history of the song was the twentieth of June. Working from seven in the evening until almost four in the morning, Lennon, Harrison and several sound engineers created the basis of a sound collage. They later added the finishing touches and recorded Revolution 9 in stereo.
Release and achievements
McCartney and Martin advised John to do without Revolution 9 in the White Album, but Lennon was adamant. Paul said:
Revolution 9 was very similar to the material that I myself recorded for fun. I thought he wasn’t good for release, but John always encouraged me.
The song became the twelfth track on The Beatles’ album.
Critics’ opinions on the composition were divided. Some praised the musicians for their bold experiments, others called it an outright failure, and still others honestly admitted that they did not understand Revolution 9.
In 1971, readers of The Village Voice and listeners of radio station WPLJ voted it the worst song by The Beatles.
Legends around Revolution 9
The mysterious composition gave rise to interesting myths.
The founder of the sect “Family”, the criminal Charles Manson (Charles Manson), considered several songs from the “White Album” as predictions of a future interracial war. He saw the most explicit prophecies in the track Revolution 9, in which he traced references to biblical Revelations.
The song is featured in the famous myth of Paul McCartney’s death. Proponents of the theory point to the sound of a crashing car and an explosion. They also hear the phrase “Turn me on, dead man” when playing the recording backwards.
Video of Revolution 9 by The Beatles
Let’s watch the music video for Revolution 9 – The Beatles.
Fans of fantastic theories about hidden messages in the composition are invited to Revolution 9, played in reverse.
The song was performed by Phish, Def FX, Little Fyodor and other bands.
- It is the longest song in The Beatles’ official discography.
Lyrics Revolution 9 by The Beatles
Bottle of claret for you if I’d realized.
Well, do next time.
I’d forgotten all about it, George, so I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?
Then there’s this Welsh Rarebit wearing some brown underpants
About the shortage of grain in Hertfordshire
Every one of them knew that as time went by
They’d get a little bit older and a little bit slower but
It’s all the same thing, in this case manufactured by someone who’s always
Your fibers giving it diddly-i-dee
District was leaving, intended to pay for
Number 9, number 9
Who’s to know?
Who was to know?
I sustained nothing worse than
also spoken for
Whatever you’re doing
A business deal falls through
I informed him on the third night
When fortune gives
Number 9, number 9, number 9
9, number 9, number 9, number 9
I’ve missed all of that
It makes me a few days late
Compared with, like, wow!
And weird stuff like that
Taking our sides sometimes
Rouge doctors have brought this specimen
I have nobody’s short cuts, aha…
9, number 9
With the situation
They are still standing
The plan, the telegram
Number 9, number
A man without terrors from beard to false
As the headmaster reported to me
My son he really can try as they do to find function
Who could tell what he was saying, and his voice was low and his hive was high
And his eyes were low
So the wife called, and we’d better go to see a surgeon
Or whatever to price it
So, any road, we went to see the dentist instead
Who gave her a pair of teeth which wasn’t any good at all
So I said I’d marry, join the bloody Navy and went to sea
In my broken chair, my wings are broken and so is my hair
I am not in the mood for wearing
The dogs were dogging, the cats were catting
The birds were birding, and the fish were fishing
The men were themming, and the when were whimming
Only to find the night-watchman
Unaware of his presence in the building
Thrusting it between his shoulder blades
Take this, brother, may it serve you well
Maybe it’s nothing
Maybe it’s not that; it’s
What? What? Oh
Maybe even then
Exposures in London
It’s a difficulty being
Because it’s almost like being naked
If you become naked
Hold that line x4
Block that kick x9
I don’t know what impact Revolution 9 had on teen fans, but most of them didn’t appreciate it.
An anti-masterpiece… for eight minutes on the album, which is officially called The Beatles, there were no Beatles.
Robert Christgau and John Piccarella
…yes, The Beatles are people, and they do some really creepy shit sometimes.
Edward Sharp-Paul, FasterLouder
…the most unpopular piece of music that The Beatles created.
Mark Paytress, Mojo, 2003