The Beatles' Revolver Turns 50


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!

The Beatles Revolver turns 50

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 revolver cover artwork

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).

George Harrison and his SG (left) & Lennon and hsi fuzz box. George Harrison and his SG (left) & Lennon with his Gretsch G6120 and Pep Rush fuzz box.

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.

Vox UL 7120 Vox UL 7120 - as used by The Beatles

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').

John Lennon & Epiphone Casino (left) and George Harrison playing his Burns bass John Lennon & Epiphone Casino (left) and George Harrison playing his Burns bass

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.

Beatles alternate Revolver cover Beatles alternate Revolver cover: originally, it was supposed to be a picture disc... far-out!

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


Epiphone Casino Used by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Still very affordable and sounds great! VIEW MORE

2) Epiphone G-400 SG in Cherry

Epiphone G400 SG The Epiphone G400 is a very affordable version of the 1962 Gibson SG, one of the defining sounds in Revolver. VIEW MORE

3) Vox AC30 amp

Vox AC30 The Vox AC30 wasn't used on Revolver, but plug in an SG to an overdriven AC30 and you'll get remarkably similar tones! VIEW MORE

4) Fender Bassman Head amp

Fender Bassman 500 Head The Fender Bassman was actually the most widely used amp in The Beatles, used by Paul McCartney from 1965 to 67, and by George Harrison and John Lennon from 1966 - the Revolver sessions! VIEW MORE

5) Rickenbacker 4001S bass

Rickenbacker 4003S The Rickenbacker 4003S is an updated version of the 4001 model, used by Macca during the Beatles psychedelic years. VIEW MORE

6) Epiphone EJ160e Electro-Acoustic

Epiphone EJ-160e The Epiphone EJ-160e is an affordable version of the Gibson model used by Lennon on every Beatles album, including Revolver. A must-have for any serious Beatles fan. VIEW MORE

7) TC Alter Ego X4 Delay

TC Electronic Alter Ego Delay X4 TC Electronic makes some great delay pedals, and the Alter Ego Delay X4 is perfect for vintage tape delays, reverse delays and looping - ie. perfect for Revolver-style sonic experiments! VIEW MORE

8) Electro-Harmonix Lester pedals

Electro-harmonix lester G Perfect pedals to Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream... the Electro-Harmonix Lester G and Lester K perfectly reproduce the Leslie cabinet effect, as used on Lennon's vocals on Tomorrow Never Knows. VIEW MORE

9) Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar

Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar George Harrison first used a sitar on a Beatles album in the song 'Love You To' from Revolver. The Electro-Harmonix Ravish Sitar pedal is the perfect choice if you want to get similar sounds - without having to learn an actual sitar! VIEW MORE

10 ) Electro-Harmonix Mel9 Tape replay mellotron pedal

MEL9 Tape Replay Machine The Beatles first used a mellotron on Revolver. The EHX Mel9 is the one and only pedal that gives you those classic sounds with your guitar, bass or keyboard! VIEW MORE

Guitar gear

Find out more:

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *