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Notes on "Revolution" and "Revolution 1"

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Previous page: Notes on "Hey Jude" Next page: The Beatles ("White Album")

This article is from Alan W. Pollack's groundbreaking series "Notes on the Beatles". Links in the orginal article is written in this colour: index to the series, while links I have added appears as standard links. Go here for more information on my site about the song

Notes on "Revolution" and "Revolution 1"

KEY     B Major

METER   4/4

FORM    Intro -> Verse -> Refrain ->
                Verse -> Refrain -> Break (instrumental) ->
                        Verse -> Refrain -> Outro (w/complete ending)

General Points of Interest

Style and Form

Lewisohn tells us that "Revolution 1" (the album cut) retains chronological primacy over the so-called remake version which appears on the B-side of the Hey Jude single. That's fine by me, though I have a very tough time thinking of "Revolution" (the single) as anything but the "true" version of the song, and the album cut as not just a remake, but a veritable parody of the single version. For my money, the madman-on-a-street-corner raving of the single resonates more sympathetically with the sense of the lyrics than the night-club-cool-and-brassy treatment of the album cut.

I don't think there's necessarily a "conflict" here that needs resolution (the latter, being yet another one of those words that the rhyming dictionary says go with the title :-)). Perhaps, for example, John didn't connect with his true inner feelings about the song until it was "re-made." Didn't that ever happen to you with anything?

In any event, while some years ago I might have planned to cover these two tracks in separate articles of their own, I now feel that they not only need to be discussed together, but, again I assert -- the album cut needs to be understood as the "variant" in appostion to the "Ur" version on the single.

We're treated to some ultra-stylized blues here; nothing about it conforms strictly to the orthodox 12-bar form, though there's more than an adequate presence of secondary sexual characteristics (many of the chord choices and the bent notes in the melody) to establish the pheramonial aura of the genre.

The form is equally subtle; with a verse that can arguably be parsed as a verse-bridge combination, and an instrumental break in a form not used elsewhere in the piece; look to Paulie's much earlier "She's A Woman," (another stylized blues track -- quelle suprise!) for an intruiguing precedent.

The lyrics get pounced on typically because of what the FBI might have described as their "anarchic" posture. What I find most remarkable about them is the way they embody that typically Lennonesque ambiguity between tender encouragement and nasty ridicule. Add this one to the list of titles that includes "And Your Bird Can Sing," "Baby You're A Rich Man," and "Hey Bulldog." I mean, is there anyone out there who really believes, after listening to this song, that "it" (whatever the hell it is) is going to be "all right"?

Melody and Harmony

With the exception of an extroardinary out-on-a-limb gesture reiterated at the end of each verse, the harmonic vocabulary is almost entirely the routine in-out of I-IV-V.

The tune alternates between an outstretched arch and rhetorical chatting, and in both cases leans in the direction of John's much favored pentatonic style.

The accompaniment in the verse features a recurring 5-6-5 motif in the inner voice just above the basslines. Yes, on one level you might say this implies the I chord vacillating with IV in the 6/4 second inversion, but at the higher, structural level, get used to seeing (and more importantly, *hearing*) it as a simple neighbor tone, albeit one appointed with deluxe accomodations.


It's difficult to think of another Beatles track that seeks what we now-a-days call the "grunge" aesthetic with a gusto equal to the subject of our present study. I could elaborate on this quite a bit, but I'd be berating the obvious.

While the overloaded sound of the guitars and drums are what you may sonically notice the most , the dubbing of the lead vocal is given even stranger treatment; mostly alternating between plain single track and "automatic" double tracking, but punctuated by scattered bites of triple tracking that are too awkward and sloppily edited to have happened anyway other than on by accident-on-purpose.

Section-by-Section Walkthrough


The intro is only four measures long but its manic guitar triplets manage to efficiently set the tone for what is to follow:

        |B           |-           |-           |E       F#     |
         I                                      IV      V

We have lead/rhythm guitars at the start with the drum kit added on the downbeat to measure 3 and some screaming just before the downbeat to measure 4. The chord changes I've pencilled in in the final measure of more implied than explicit.


The verse uses limping, uneven phrases in a pattern of ABAB'CC'. We have not just phrases of different lengths here, but also examples of half measures thrown in the mix, all the better to keep you off your guard:

                                         - half-
        |B              |-              |-      |

        |E              |-              |B              |-              |
         IV                              I

                                         - half-
        |B              |-              |-      |

        |E              |-              |F#             |-              |
         IV                              V

        |c#             |F#             |
         ii6/4           V

                         - half-
        |c#             |A  B   |G#             |F#             |
         ii6/4                     VI            V
      c#: i              VI
                          flat-VII V

The harmony is straight I-IV-V except for that blip in the final phrase which, by no coincidence, corresponds to the metrically most surprising instant in the piece as well; its the only place where a half-measure comes in the *middle* of a phrase rather than the end, plus the chords are heavily syncopated against the beat.

Harmonically, you might say we have an unconsumated modulation to the key of ii, and that you retrospectively interpet it as a non-sequitor at least, and at most, a somewhat forced, strained pivot. Either gesture fits nicely with the mood of the message.


As the unwritten rule of balancing contrast would demand, the refrain provides much straighter phrasing and harmonic structure; an eight measure section with an even-phrased AAA+rest structure and very simple chord choices.

        |B              |E              |B              |E              |
         I               IV              I               IV

        |B              |E              |F#             |-              |
         I               IV              V


The guitar solo section starts off with what turns out to be an abridged reprise of the verse (at least the half-measure in the first phrase is preserved!), but then precedes in its second half to an orgamsic build up of 4 measures on the V chord:

                                         - half-
        |B              |-              |-      |

        |E              |-              |

        |F#             |-              |-              |-              |


The outro grows directly out of the final refrain, boiling down the lyrics of the latter to a mantra-like repetition of "all right" with increasing urgency; the last pair of which nicely start rushing the meter, big time.

        |B              |E              |B              |E              |
         I               IV              I               IV

        |B              |E              |F#             |B              |
         I               IV              V               I

I could be wrong, but this may be the first time since the likes of "No Reply" that we have a Beatles song ending with a jazzy I chord embellished with a Major 9th and an added 6th.

Some Final Thoughts

And the differences in the "Revolutions #1" album version besides the infamous added affirmative in the lyrics of the first verse are (the envelope, please):

slower tempo and a more laid back mood,

lower key (A Major),

- cleaner recording,

- brass on the backing track,

- backing vocals (singing "shoo-be doo-wop," no less!),

- no break section, and

- a fadeout ending

Otherwise, the two versions are identical :-)


Alan (

"Up the workers and all that stuff."                         033097#129

Copyright (c) 1997 by Alan W. Pollack

All Rights Reserved

This article may be reproduced, retransmitted, redistributed and otherwise propagated at will, provided that this notice remains intact and in place.

These articles were originally posted in the News Group The content from this newsgroup is archived at, and Alan W. Pollacks "Notes On" series can be found at

. I used to link to the versions published in Soundscapes before I decided to include them on my own site.

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