Fifty Years Ago: Abracadabra!

This brief excerpt (from Ch 4: The Embodiment of Cool) is followed by an extended, song-by-song discussion of fans’ reactions to Revolver:

 Revolver frontFans were wearing out the grooves on Yesterday and Today and Rubber Soul when Revolver entered their lives in August ’66. A new Beatle album was always eagerly anticipated, but now that fans could see them changing with each new release, their anticipation was enhanced by curiosity. They were awaiting a new experience, not merely a new record. Some fans would read an approximate release date in a teen magazine or newspaper and call record stores, or take a bike ride after school to see if it was in yet.

After the surprise of Rubber Soul and the string of 45s that followed, fans had high expectations, and couldn’t wait to see and hear the next album. Revolver didn’t disappoint on either count.

I loved looking at the cover. I looked at all the little pictures in the collage to see if there were even amounts of each of them. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like on the album, though I didn’t understand it. Female, b. ‘54

When listening alone, fans would typically examine an album cover, flipping it over and back, reading every word on it, and studying the pictures. Klaus Voorman’s drawing and collage presented fans with cutting edge visual art appropriate to the music inside, repeatedly occupying them for thirty-five minutes at a time, totaling hundreds of hours.

Every time I looked at it a I saw something new, even though it was just a black and white drawing with those eyes and little pictures in there. You could stare at it for hours. Female, b. ‘51

Several fans remember liking that there were older pictures of the Beatles in the collage; it provided continuity, and fans “appreciated that the Beatles were recognizing their past.” This was not the last time earlier images or sounds of the Beatles would appear in the midst of a new iteration.

Revolver backNine to fourteen year-old male fans especially “loved the back photo with John’s paisley shirt, and the granny sunglasses” because they looked so “cool and mysterious.” Fans often described Beatle music as different, but with the psychedelic Revolver, they started to use the word “mysterious.”

Musically, Revolver was overall less immediately accessible to many fans, but older fans were more likely to appreciate it right away. As one female fan (b. ’48) put it, “There was a different awareness in America that was reflected in Revolver. A lot of questioning authority, and they endorsed it. I didn’t know anyone who didn’t like it. It was a departure, less rock n roll, more artistic.”

Some older fans had to “explain their development” to friends, who at first liked only the songs that were immediately accessible. But even those who needed some time “knew it was cool” and “interesting,” and they “liked that the Beatles were taking risks.” Some found it “difficult” but they “listened to it a lot and got to know it.” As one male fan (b. ’56) said, “Anything they did was acceptable because it was them. I never rejected anything they did.”


One thought on “Fifty Years Ago: Abracadabra!

  1. Yes, looked for ‘even’ amounts of images of the four of them. I’d just left Los Angeles to come to college in Ohio. The transition from the most amazing music time of my life was made tolerable by this Beatles album. Already a ‘die-hard’ fan….this was one more milestone in their genius music for us all. ‘Taxman’ seems to evoke the strongest resonator of that time for me today…

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