Over the past couple of days, Beatles fanatics have been chattering about an amazing outtake that recently leaked onto the Internet. The 10-minute-plus recording of “Revolution” (embedded below) offers a fascinating look at the wildly ambitious plans the band originally had for the song, eventually included in much shorter form on The White Album. “As someone who’s heard, I’d say, 99.8 percent of the Beatles music that hasleaked onto bootleg, this is really interesting,” says Richie Unterberger, author of the book The Unreleased Beatles.
According to Mark Lewisohn’s definitive book The Beatles: Recording Sessions, this unheard version was recorded on May 30 and 31, and June 4, 1968. Strangely, John Lennon recorded his vocals while lying flat on his back, hoping it might make his voice sound different. The song starts off very similar to the version that was eventually released, but halfway through it veers off in all sorts of strange directions, adding whooping vocals, tape loops, and other sonic embellishments. It sounded great, as you can hear above, but there was a problem: The band quickly realized “Revolution” had potential as a single, and a 10-minute running time would make that impossible. The solution? They chopped it in half. The first part became “Revolution 1,” while the rest served as the basis for the “Revolution 9,” an experimental noise-fest that has long baffled many fans. Mystery solved! When you listen to this complete 10-minute version, suddenly “Revolution 9” starts to make a lot more sense.
How the track leaked after all this time is hard to say. It’s possible — but highly improbable — that one of the few people with access to EMI’s vaults swiped it. More likely, it came (indirectly) from Lennon himself. According to Lewisohn’s book, Lennon took a copy of the song home with him from the studio after the June 4 session. It’s possible that the recording sat in his apartment in the Dakota for years, and somebody — the cable guy? The dog walker? — recently stole it. “That’s not so far-fetched,” says Unterberger. “John kept a lot of his tapes. Who knows if it was someone rummaging through Yoko’s stuff in an unauthorized capacity, but it’s possible that she still had that tape.” But whatever happened, we’re grateful. It’s not often that completely new Beatles material trickles out, and we’re eager for anything that helps solve the endless mysteries of the band’s ever-elusive genius.
So what do you think? Is this better than the two songs it became, “Revolution 1” and “Revolution 9”? Or would you rather keep listening to the originals?