Not Fade Away: The Beatles’ ‘Revolver’ Turns 50

Originally published with on August 4, 2016.

Revolver and I first crossed paths in the second grade when my musicteacher Ms. Soleil (what a perfect name) played “Yellow Submarine” one day during the remaining five minutes of class. I was struck—even at eight years old–by the song’s lyrical whimsy. “In the town where I was born/ Lived a man who sailed to sea/ And he told us of his life/ In the land of submarines,” Ringo Starr sang in the opening verse. I was no stranger to the Beatles–my father was a huge fan–but that song, in that moment, felt more organically “mine” than something I inherited from his appreciation.

It may seem like an odd introduction to one of the Beatles’ more important and experimental albums. Written as a children’s song, “Yellow Submarine” made an impression on me at the time, but my fondness forRevolver only grew as I did and learned about what it really meant, about the impact it had for the band and for music. Now that I’m a music writer and proudly own their albums—on vinyl, thank you very much—Revolver offers an entirely different listening experience. Hearing it now, “Yellow Submarine” doesn’t quite fit, and yet it somehow does.Revolver is an amalgamation of different styles and genres, and the Beatles excelled at all of them.

The band was heavily involved with drugs at the time—the most mild being marijuana with Lennon becoming more interested in LSD—and questioning their musical identities among other more existential inquisitions. Pair that metaphysical exploration with three months in the studio after they retired from touring and the result is an album that defies the limits often ascribed to music genres.

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