The Beatles – ‘Revolver’

Since that day in late 1980, aged 14, when best friend David Sax lent me his dad’s Beatles Red and Blue albums, the Fabs became my musical addiction throughout the ‘80s. Over that time I bought all their studio albums, and read as much as I could, with the focus being on the life of John Lennon. Philip Norman’s Shout stands out as my favourite read, and its heavy bias towards Lennon’s musical input over McCartney most definitely influenced my early preference.

My Beatles purchase history was urgent and incessant. I bought the Red and Blue albums early, and Sgt. Peppers too as it was widely regarded as THE iconic, groundbreaking album, although for me that was Revolver. I knew very quickly that discovering The Beatles was going to be a long journey, and despite soon realising that around ’65 was when it really started happening, I would love the debut Please Please Me regardless of, or more due to, its simplicity. Those vocals and in particular the perfect harmonies were more than enough.

All The Beatles’ albums are stunning in different ways, and the musical expansion, progression and resulting influence is unarguable. Abbey Road comes a very close second as my favourite album, with Harrison’s contribution matching that of Lennon & McCartney’s for the first time, but Revolver contained such genius, such a perfect mix of simplistic beauty and never-heard-before hedonistic musical head fuck that, well… it’s just one song away from being my all-time favourite album. Yellow sodding Submarine. Great film, shit song.

By 1965 The Beatles’ music was expanding as fast as their minds. By 1966, that altered state had advanced into hallucinogens, and the resulting Revolver was just a perfect blend of groundbreaking experimentation, ‘60s pop classics and harmony-laden ballads. Truly revolutionary, Revolver was more than an album of the times, it defined the times. Eastern philosophy and instrumentation were prominent, and pioneering recording techniques were not just used, but perfected. There’s nothing short of brilliant throughout the 14 tracks, with the one obvious exception.

What age is old enough to be able to fully appreciate Revolver? To surrender to the void. I was 17, I’d been listening to The Beatles obsessively for two years, and I was very ready. In Here, There and Everywhere and For No One you have McCartney’s melodic pop perfection, Eleanor Rigby is immaculate production with the Fabs replaced by George Martin’s genius string arrangement. She Said She Said oozes Lennon, but Harrison’s guitar and in particular Ringo’s drums elevate everything, and in closer Tomorrow Never Knows, the song is a psychedelic masterpiece, a multicoloured psychotrip into a Tibetan Garden of Eden. Musical utopia.

E.L.O – ‘Out Of The Blue’

By 1977 and with two years behind me of obsessive retro radio I had developed a clear fondness for melody and harmony, though at the time it was probably more of a fondness for a song I enjoyed singing along to. Along with some cheese (I seem to remember enjoying Darts – Daddy Cool, Boy From New York City – immensely) as well as a host of ‘60s classics, I was still devouring swathes of music from the previous twenty years, still unaware of the current Top 40 charts.

It was during these years, and almost certainly listening to the Old Record Club that my love of music really began to sprout, set to grow at a rapid pace. I didn’t actually start ‘owning’ records ’til a few years later, but the first album I’d say was mine (although it wasn’t, it was my dad’s) was Out Of The Blue by the Electric Light Orchestra.

The album was, and still is, a gigantic, overblown, over-indulgent pop classic. Of course, I had very little knowledge of E.L.O prior to this album, and the fact that it was a ‘double album’ with an enormous multi-coloured space ship on the front must have impressed me too. But, I remember playing this album obsessively over a short period of time. Aged 11 I would still say sport (any and every) gave me the most pleasure in my young life, but this album and a radio show obsession, slowly but surely lead to music becoming my most beautiful infatuation.

Two years later, when E.L.O’s Greatest Hits was released containing eleven absolute gems, I probably played it more than this. Four years later The Beatles would become my musical obsession, but E.L.O’s multi-layered, harmony heavy Out Of The Blue was almost gentle opener, preparing me for the Fab Four. Jeff Lynne’s beautiful, lush production owed much to George Martin and it was the first time that listening to music would ‘take me away’. At the time I clearly had no clue about production techniques, or about rock and pop history, and whilst some may say it’s over-produced or a tad AOR, others will rightly say music is music and labels are for losers. For me, Jeff Lynne was just a genius songwriter.