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#askNat – concerning the assembly of “Revolution 9″ (and the content of a specific segment)

Hello everyone and welcome to yet another installment of #askNat. My name is Happy Nat and this is where I select a question that is somehow Beatles-related, from anyone out there reading who sends one in, and give it my best answer. This week’s comes from Mick who is writing in from Horsens, Denmark. Here is what he has to say:

Hi Nat,

Thank you for a wonderful site! I have a question which has always bugged me:

Has the “band” or “song” which we hear from 0:38 to 0:53 during “Revolution 9″ ever been identified? It sounds like something The Beatles could have played.

Thanks,
Mick

Good question Mick. I touch a little on the origins of “Revolution 9″ in an earlier Beatles Rarity of the Week post from a few years ago where I explain how it began as an extended coda to “Revolution 1.” I also include a stream of the complete Take 20 of “Revolution 1″ that includes this coda that would later be separated from the main body of the song and used as the beginnings of “Revolution 9″ (this BROW is available on the site right here).

The construction of “Revolution 9″ was accomplished by adding to the ending of the earlier “Revolution 1″ a collection of effects, tape loops and other new sounds, all assembled by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. By June 10th, John was busying himself in the studio by experimenting with layering tape loops onto the May 30th recording of the coda for “Revolution 1.” Over the next several days, John and Yoko continued to select different sounds that were either from John’s own making or sourced from various EMI sound libraries.

 

Alternate shot of John Lennon from photo shoot used to produce portrait inserts and inner gatefold art for The Beatles, White Album, 1968

Alternate shot of John Lennon from photo shoot used to produce portrait inserts and inner gatefold art for The Beatles, White Album, 1968

 

The most hectic session for “Revolution 9″ occurred on June 20th, 1968. Paul McCartney was absent from the session, having flown to Los Angeles earlier in the day. He likely would not have had anything to contribute anyway as both he and producer George Martin wanted the track excluded from the upcoming White Album. It was on this day that John added the emotion-stripped number nine, number nine, number nine… voice which came from a Royal Academy of Music examination tape in the EMI archive. John turned it into a never ending loop and randomly faded it up and down in the multi-track whenever he thought the time was right. John also recorded a Mellotron track and a few voice tracks with himself, Yoko and George Harrison. “Revolution 9″ ended up being a composite of a hundred or so tape loops, sound effects and overdubs.

To put this all together, John took control of all three EMI studios. Reminiscent of a couple years earlier when The Beatles were using recorded tape loops to put “Tomorrow Never Knows” together for their Revolver LP, people were all over the premises spooling loops onto tape machines with pencils. This time though, instead of sound engineer Geoff Emerick at the console fading them in and out of the mix, it was John himself. Both “Revolution 1″ and “Revolution 9″ were given stereo mixes on the following day (June 21st) and John spent a lot of time getting different images through the stereo channels just the way he wanted it and panning the “number nine” voice between the channels in fractions of a second. On June 25th he would edit about a minute off of the track to put it in it’s finalized form. At 8:22, it is the longest officially released track on a Beatles record.

The part on “Revolution 9″ that Mick is referring to can be streamed immediately below:

 

The Beatles - Revolution 9 (snippet)

 

It includes a repeated sample from the orchestral overdub made for the Sgt. Pepper track “A Day In The Life” recorded on February 10th, 1967 with 40 musicians. As mentioned earlier, there is also an overdub of a Mellotron that is played by John Lennon and reversed. Finally, there is a short extract of a symphony recording (one of many used in the track) that I have not been able to identify. Actually I’m not even sure if Mick meant for this part to be included in the snippet he was referring to in his question.

I do hope that helps though, Mick. Thanks for a good topic and to everyone for reading. As always, if you have something you’d like to add, please do so in the comments section below.


Thank you to everyone who has sent in their questions! Keep #askNat going by sending your questions to me in any of the following ways:

1) There is a contact form that you fill out right on the website where you can give your name, location, email address and submit your question. The form is right here and is the same form used to submit requests for BROWs (Beatles Rarity Of The Weeks).

2) If you are a Facebook user, you can submit your question right on TheBeatlesRarity FB page at www.facebook.com/beatlesrarity. If you think about it, try to remember to flag your question with “#askNat”.

3) Similarly, if you are a Google+ user, you can submit your question on TheBeatlesRarity Google+ page at www.gplus.to/beatlesrarity. Google+ supports hashtag searchability so it will be helpful if you preface your question with “#askNat” here too.

4) For you Twitter users, www.twitter.com/beatlesrarity gets you to the right place. Post your question and be sure to add “#askNat” somewhere in the tweet.


Here are some Amazon links to read more on, or purchase music related to this post:

1) The White Album – 2009 2-CD stereo remaster of original 1968 double LP set by Apple. Includes finalized versions of “Revolution 1″ and “Revolution 9.”

2) Beatles/Beatles-related Music: The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

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