Today marks the 50th anniversary of The Beatles' Revolver - their landmark 1966 album that launched their "psychedelic era" and which many think is better than Sgt. Pepper's. PMT looks back at this classic - and the gear you can get to recreate some of its sounds!
According those who lived it (and who don't quite remember it, apparently) the Sixties were "the days", when one musical revolution followed another. And so it really seems to have been: inspired by Bob Dylan, the Beatles created 'Rubber Soul', which in turn inspired Brian Wilson to create the Beach Boys' masterpiece 'Pet Sounds', which prompted the Beatles to work even harder to create something even better - 'Revolver'.
This straight-forward telling of history is not quite accurate, because the Beatles were already working on 'Revolver' when 'Pet Sounds' came out, and only one song - 'Here, There and Everywhere' - was directly inspired by Brian Wilson. But it gives you an idea of how fast things were moving in music back in '66: and 'Revolver' was the biggest leap forward in pop music to date. It was so innovative it still sounds fresh and inspiring 50 years later.
The Beatles Heavy Guitar Tones
The Beatles' new sound made its debut in May 1966 with the 'Paperback Writer' single and its B-side, 'Rain'. In those two songs, all the templates for 'Revolver' can be heard: meatier basslines, sonic experimentation (backward sounds, tape delays) and a heavier guitar sound. The band had bought new gear that helped them to achieve this: George had a new Gibson SG guitar, and John Lennon is said to have used a WEM Pepbox Rush fuzz pedal in the sessions (if you're looking for a similar sort of fuzz, try the Way Huge Havalina, which, like the Pep Rush, seems inspired by the ToneBender).
This sonic innovation carried on in the Revolver sessions, and their choice of guitar amps also helped them to sound bigger than ever: Fender Bassman (used by Harrison), two new blackface Fender Showman amps with 1x15 cabs and a 120-watt Vox 7120 amp.
Though Eric Clapton's work in the Bluesbreakers album (also from '66) is considered a watershed in terms of high-gain rock music, many tracks in 'Revolver' have some really dirty and loud guitar parts, such as 'Taxman', which must also have sounded massive to ears at the time, not used to this sort of sound!
Other guitars used in the sessions include: Epiphone Casino, Rickenbacker 4001s Bass, Gibson J-160e acoustic, Burns Nu-Sonic bass (played by George on 'She Said She Said') and Fender Sonic Blues Stratocasters (both John and George had used one on recording sessions since 'Help').
But sound engineer Geoff Emerick also played an important part on Revolver's guitar sounds - he said his Fairchild 660 limiter played a major role: "It added a lot of presence... even if you just plug it in and use its circuitry, it sounds like the best tube amp ever."
Neumann U47 tube mics were also used - always an important element of The Beatles' sound.
Best Beatles-style Gear for Revolver-era Sounds
If you love 'Revolver' and want to try to capture some of those sounds, here's the best gear you can find here at PMT Online and at our PMT Stores.
1) Epiphone Casino Sunburst
2) Epiphone G-400 SG in Cherry
3) Vox AC30 amp
4) Fender Bassman Head amp
5) Rickenbacker 4001S bass
6) Epiphone EJ160e Electro-Acoustic
7) TC Alter Ego X4 Delay
8) Electro-Harmonix Lester pedals
9) Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar
10 ) Electro-Harmonix Mel9 Tape replay mellotron pedal