Tag Archives: Revolver

Fab Phases


The appeal of The Beatles’ work is their ever changing style, the experimentation, the boundary pushing and the pure unexpected path they would show us from album to album. In this post I’ll break down what I consider the phases of their career and pick a song from that phase. The song may not be their best or my favorite but will act as a gate to their particular wheelhouse at the time.

The Fab Years

From the second you heard or saw them you knew something was up, something just shifted. They popped from the radio with an exuberance that has yet to be equaled. From I Want To Hold Your Hand to Eight Days A Week the songs from 1963 and 1964 were pieces of youthful innocence with just a taste of cheek thrown in. Hold Me Tight sums up that time and their sound, soon it would all change.

The Look Inside Year: 1965

With Beatlemania still raging, The Beatles found a cohort amongst the madness, Bob Dylan.  They both shared a public meteoric rise and the chains that accompany it. They also admired each others’ work, Dylan went electric and The Fabs looked inside. You can hear this new introspective earlier in I’m A Loser but it really blooms in Help! and especially Rubber Soul. Songs like Hide Your Love Away, Tell Me What You See, Norwegian Wood and Nowhere Man come from a place not akin to yeah, yeah, yeah. But it’s In My Life that represents this phase in its glory. I’m still floored that two twenty four year olds penned such a beautiful song about looking back over a life lived.


Starting with 1966’s Revolver through 1967’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band the boys shook off a lot of Fab. The decision to quit touring and concentrate on studio work, and with EMI giving them full reign and unlimited recording time, they rewarded us with music so new and exciting it was if it came from another place and time.  Songs like Tomorrow Never Knows, Eleanor Rigby, Taxman, A Little Help From My Friends, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and the great A Day In The Life were so different some critics insinuated that it wasn’t really the Beatles, and in a sense they were right. The shot across the bow of this phase was the single Strawberry Fields Forever. It sounded like they recorded a fever dream of John’s and released it on an unsuspecting audience. The shot hit its target square on.

Individually Speaking

A trip of meditation to India, personal problems and shifting tastes all stewed together brought forth 1968’s The Beatles, forever known as The White Album. A wide collection of songs that were mainly written individually and recorded non-collectively. Martha My Dear is just Paul on every instrument. Paul and John even play drums on a few cuts as Ringo left the band for a few weeks. It is evidence of their talent that even in this poisoned atmosphere they got anything done, much less a two-set magnus opus. While My Guitar Gently Weeps represents this beautiful mess brilliantly in the sense that it is a George song that shines with anything John and Paul wrote at the time. It also features an outside musician in a pivotal role: Eric Clapton plays the lead guitar.

The Get Back Days

Feeling lost and anxious The Beatles decided their next album would be a return to roots. (Note:They began recording this album in 1968, due to the unpleasant process and squabbling over mixes the album was not released until 1970 as Let It Be. Even though it was their last official release, Abbey Road was recored after these sessions.) They decided to venture into a new studio, film the sessions, produce the music themselves and record everything live. So begins the band’s breakup. The Get Back sessions were a disaster. Acrimony ruled, petty arguments were so heated George stormed out and didn’t return for days. What was intended as a filmed reunion of sorts became a public recording of a band in crisis. Not that it doesn’t hold brilliant moments: the rooftop concert, the title track Let It Be, Get Back, and Across The Universe; but it is Two Of Us that shines on their purpose. Here John and Paul sing blissful harmony on a song they wrote together at a time when they were falling apart.

Note: In 2003 a new version of Let It Be was released, Let It Be…Naked. These are the original performances recorded sans Phil Spector audio clutter and wild mixes, this truthfully represents The Get Back Sessions.

Swan Songs

One thing about The Beatles, they were self aware. Knowing the troubles and bad feelings of the Get Back Sessions and their unhappiness with the work, they pulled together to do something special. Reconvening at Abbey Road Studios with producer George Martin in 1969, they set out to prove to the public and, more importantly themselves, that they were still The Beatles and still Top o the Pops. They did, they were and they are. First titled Everest, the album Abbey Road is considered by many as their finest hour. The songs are excellent and the performances are as strong as anything they recorded. Something, Come Together, Here Comes The Sun are important canon to their legacy but it is the side two medley that sums up Abbey Road. Their last shout from Everest on their final recording was all anyone could ask for from four young lads from Liverpool.  One sweet dream……

Five Favorite Album Covers

I love album covers. It’s the thing I miss the most about vinyl. I know vinyl is back, but most of the time the cover is designed for the CD, digital image AND the vinyl album. Not much room for nuance when the design is made for a .375 inch square avatar instead  of a square foot canvas.

The following are five of my favorite covers, I’m not saying they are the best, just five art/designs that hold special to me. I also admit what sound came from their sleeves made an impression on the choices.

5. Sailin’ Shoes – Little Feat  This was not only my initial introduction to the band but to their cover artist, Neon Park. He went on to make many more Feat covers and became a much in-demand  illustrator. Sailin’ Shoes remains my favorite Feat album and my favorite Park cover. I mean an anthropomorphized slice of cake on a swing, half a blue boy and a voyeuristic  snail, come on!


4. Led Zeppelin  This album burst out of the speakers like a rock blues hurricane, and the album art captures that explosion. All of Zeppelin’s covers were fantastic but its first, and starkest design, is the best. Note: the band and friends thought this album would fail like a lead ballon, thus the band name and the art: crash of the Hindenburg.


3. School’s Out – Alice Cooper  A perfect album cover for me at the time. Released in the Summer of 1972, I had just graduated high school and the single and the album became athemic. The cover was also interactive. It was a desk. Using great photography, oragami and wicked attention to detail, this design stood as art or at least a good high school shop project. Note: the original release album sleeve was a pair of girl’s panties soon replaced by a regular paper sleeve. Alice knew his audience, huh?

album-schools-out-front-cover-09-06-11 schoolsout

2. The Band – The Band   Designed by the great Bob Cato, using an Elliot Landy photograph, this simple cover speaks volumes of what waits inside. Their first album, Music From Big Pink (and a contender for this list) did not show the members of the group on either the front or the back; you had to open it up to see the group. Here they confront you head-on, staring at you from another time. This was the time of paisley and psychedelic design and fonts. Not this band, there were dressed as workers, laborers, as if they stepped out of 1940’s  America. Hell, they could’ve been mistaken for hobos then. The album was sepia toned as if taken from our grandparents’ scrapbook. And the music reflected it all, and magnificently. A masterpiece.



1. Revolver – The Beatles  Now you know I could’ve put lots of Fab covers here, as a matter of fact all five spots could be Fab covers: With The Beatles, Rubber Soul, Sgt. Pepper, The Beatles (White Album), Abbey Road. But Revolver is my favorite. Designed and drawn by their friend and fellow musician Klaus Voorman, the cover captured the band as they were moving from Fabdom to somewhere else. It captures this space in time and the music within perfectly. As a professional graphic designer I think it is beautifully rendered and remains timeless. It also won the Grammy for Best Album Cover Design, that’s one they got right.



OK, one more, not really a favorite but this design for Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats freaked me out in 1969 and still does today. Some cats have nightmares about bogeymen and monsters, I have nightmares of Hot Rats.


I’d love to know some of your favorite covers and why.