Reference Library: Revolution No. 9
From: candl <70004.2001@CompuServe.COM>
Subject: Number 9, Analysis
Date: 24 Oct 1995 09:17:39 GMT
This is an analysis of the Beatles' sound montage, "Revolution #9".
I endeavor to show that John would consider it among his best works,
and show what I feel are the autobiographical elelments of the piece.
From "Lennon Remembers" (1971), pg. 29:
Jann Wenner: "Let me ask you again, are you pleased with the
new album (PLASTIC ONO BAND)?"
John: 'I think it's the best thing I've ever done. I think it's
realistic and it's true to me...that has been developing over the
years from "In My Life", "I'm a Loser", "Help", "Strawberry Fields."
They're all personal records. I always wrote about me when I could.
I didn't really enjoy writing third person songs about people who
lived in flats and things like that...'
'The only true songs I ever wrote were "Help" and "Strawberry
Fields." I can name a few...I can't think of them offhand, that
I always considered my best songs.'
Now, the way I remember it, John had wanted to release "Revolution #9"
as a single, but the other guys wouldn't allow it. In this alone, you
would think John considered this a "best song". Add this to the fact that
the song is very biographical, which by Lennon standards qualifies his best
work. You can set a biographical time span on the song by zeroing in on
the time Beatlemania makes it appearance in the piece. This is a good place
to plot the son's timeline from:
At 4:02, a clip of an actual Beatle audience awaiting the arrival of the
group is introduced. The fans are all excited, you can kind of sense a
"hey, Beatles!" attitude among the guys, and the female fans are obviously
ready to start screaming. At approximate 4:06, you get a tune up, like a
group preparing to go on: a tone of an instrument, and a singer warming up
like a "mi, mi- mi- mi, mi-mi". This is the Beatles at their moment. What
follows at 4:18 is the sound and feel of their tours. John on touring:
"[The Hunter Davies book] was really bullshit...there was nothing
about the orgies and the shit that happened on the tour... I mean
we had that [innocent] image, but man, our tours were something
else...you know, the Beatles tours were like Fellini's SATYRICON."
(Ibid. pg. 84)
At 4:18, after you hear the shrill screaming of the female admirers
(remember, an actual Beatle sound clip), we are introduced to the sounds
of a debauched, orgiastic event, with John "licking his lip's and smecking",
so to speak, perhaps the most insidiously powerful moment in the piece.
Notice the sound of the crashing cymbal, like a whip cracking over
everything. The Beatles on tour. The Beatles marketing phenomenom. The
height of Beatlemania! The whip cracks over everything. This mounts until..
4:50. Public acclaim from both (all) sides, sounds like an audience
applauding after a show. The boys have done it, they're a universal
success. John is on a crazy ride.
At 5:00, the "hold that line" tape is introduced. The only thing I can
make of this is that in England, you have the "firms" of the football
crowd, blokes and birds that go and get crazy over their teams. Drunkenness,
fights with rival firms, etc. are common at these bashes. They are known
as very violently loyal fans. This could imply intoxication, or something
going on in the streets...
5:28. The Sgt. Pepper period is introduced, with the final note of a
"Day in the Life" (again, actual Beatle sound clips, LSO recordings from
the Pepper sessions). This is repeated three times (5:28, 5:42, 5:48),
and once more at 6:24. The war sound effects in this section might be a
comment on VietNam; they could refer to "How I Won the War".
At 6:25 the whip starts cracking again.
But by 6:30, the song starts moving out of the past, and into the present
(at least the present when the song was made). We hear a miltary band
(Pepper playing for the fans?), then jump from the past to the present at
the immediate "Take this brother, may it serve you well", 6:47. We are
present at the moment of artistic creation, so to speak...
6:50. Inside with John and Yoko. We are witness to an true autobiographical
moment, getting so close to John and Yoko that it feels like we're in
their bedroom. Yoko is expounding, John is waking up, and starts droning
something as in the backround, a crooner parody of Paul singing a period-piece
song goes on ("Good fishes again in the kettle?" Paul as the Walrus?
Just what is he saying?). This part ends with Yoko inviting us to get
naked with the Lennons: John's life has been laid bare, so to speak, in
an experimental musical piece...
This is just an outline; it's a little more difficult plotting the timeline
from the begining of the 'song' to the the emergence of Beatlemania, but not
impossible. A baby crying - John's youth? "Every one of them knew that as
time went by they'd get a little bit older and a little bit slower" - John
growing up? How about the honking horns of the first part of the song? Is
this a memory of the accident which claimed his mother's life? &c.
As you see, there's a good case to consider this one of John Lennon's best
pieces, in my and probably in his own opinion. Don't let the experimental
nature of the work alienate you. I have a strong feeling this song will
stand the test of time and will someday be considered a Beatles masterpiece,
brushstrokes and all...
As this piece deserves more credit than it usually gets, it gets my vote for
Most Underrated Beatles Song ever.
"In Pepperland, all things are possible." - "John"
"The resemblance is truly striking." - "George" (?)
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