Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Revolver Revolution.

The cover illustrations for the classic Revolver (1966) album were created by German bassist, artist, and long-time Beatle pal Klaus Voormann.  Klaus met the Beatles back in the early Hamburg days, and along with Stu Sutcliffe and Astrid Kutchurr  helped shaped the Beatles classic mop top, chelsea boot style.  As an early, pre-fame, trusted friend, Klaus was a go-to guy when the Beatles looked for extra artistic or musical input:  He designed the Revolver cover, after the split Klaus played bass in Lennon's Plastic Ono Band, he helped and played in George's landmark Concert for Bangladesh charity event, and thirty some years later, he designed the Beatles' Anthology album covers. 

The album's cover art, like the distorted Rubber Soul (1965) cover photo before it, gave signs that the Beatles were entering a new mind-expanding phase.  As opposed to the handsome moptop photographs they usually used, with these two album covers they went for a slightly more surreal angle.  The Alice in Wonderland-like distortions in the illustration coincided with a new era of Rock album covers that moved from the soft celebrity glamour shots to utilizing artists and arresting photographs to interpret the style of music on the album.  Voormann's illustration, part line drawing/part collage, included photographs by Robert Whitaker-- whose photographs are also featured on the back cover.  Whitaker was a main photographer of the Beatles in the 1964-66 era including the infamous "butcher cover" for Yesterday and Today.  The Revolver cover, though, is the type I could sit and daydream while looking at while the album played because it has so many great little hidden designs. Voormann's own photo as well as his name (Klaus O. W. Voormann) is worked into Harrison's hair on the right-hand side of the cover. On the Revolver cover remake that appeared with his artwork for Anthology 3, he replaced his own little 1966 image with a more recent photo. And, Harrison's Revolver image was seen again on his 80s hit single "When We Was Fab" along with an updated version.

The title "Revolver" is a pun, referring both to a gun as well as the "revolving" of a record playing on a turntable.  Wikipedia says:  "According to Barry Miles in his book Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now, the title that the four had originally wanted was Abracadabra, until they discovered that another band had already used it. After that, opinion split: Lennon wanted to call it Four Sides of the Eternal Triangle and Starr jokingly suggested After Geography, playing on The Rolling Stones' recently released Aftermath LP. Other suggestions included Magic Circles, Beatles on Safari, Pendulum, and, finally, Revolver, whose wordplay was the one that all four agreed upon. The title was chosen while the band were on tour in Japan in June–July 1966. Due to security measures, they spent much of their time in their Tokyo Hilton hotel room; the name Revolver was selected as all four collaborated on a large psychedelic painting."  Many credit Revolver as the greatest Beatle album. 

Madame Cathy Berberian later covered Beatles classics in her um, operatic, style.  Her album Revolution recreated the Revolver cover art.  Turning up in thrift stores in the $1.00 bin, this novelty album still startles, amuses, and confounds.  I liken her style more to the middle school music teachers Marty and Bobbi Culp from SNL than Handel...


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