Author Robert Rodriguez book “Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘n’ Roll” is a brilliant magnifying glass focused on The Beatles Revolver album, and, as Rodriguez states early in the book’s introduction, makes an almost indisputable argument that Revolver is The Beatles “artistic high water mark”. If I didn’t believe it before reading the book, I’m 99% sold after having read it.
Since beginning my ongoing Beatles study/journey in 2009, I’ve read a score of books on the subject, and “reviewed” just over a dozen of them. I should preface “reviewed” with “I’m not a book critic, or professional reviewer, but merely a reader who gets excited and wants to share that excitement with whomever might be listening (reading)”. Regardless, Rodriguez book not only captured my attention for all 238 pages (less the timeline and bibliography), Robert Rodriguez – the author – was able to suck me in to his perspective to the point that I was no longer reading, I was absorbing.
Rodriguez excels as a storyteller, and with each page turned I was sucked in deeper and deeper to what would make an A+ persuasive speech in any Public Speaking 101 course. As a matter of fact, Rodriguez writing style is more akin to a captivating orator than written word, seldom (if more than once) distracting or detracting with endless footnotes, but instead weaving citations and sources into the story itself. I can’t say enough about the author’s ability to convey ideas, concepts and even opinion without losing the reader in endless gobbledygook. Additionally, Rodriguez research is impeccable, and at times illuminating.
Yes hardcore Beatle fans – there is something in this book for you.
Regarding the concept of Revolver being the high water mark, this theory obviously supplants Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, more commonly regarded (or perceived) as the Beatles pinnacle body of work. For those in the know, this is no new notion. As Rodriguez points out, Revolver was plagued with many obstacles which inevitably shrouded its greatness, from Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” statements gimping U.S. sales, to Capitol Records butchered U.S. version of the album and, of course, its eventually being eclipsed by the Sgt. Pepper album.
So is Revolver the superior album to the legendary Sgt. Pepper’s? Well I suppose that’s for the reader to decide, but the author does a remarkable job of presenting and re-presenting his argument solidly from virtually every possible perspective. I’d even recommend reading the book with an open mind, although there is no need for such advice – the author does a stellar job of opening it for the reader.
Being that I’ve already prefaced with my lack of reviewing credentials, and I’m bursting out of the seams to inject my personal opinions into this review, let me now warn that reading further may reveal spoilers, and be tainted with personal opinion irrelevant to a traditional review.
Three reasons why Robert Rodriguez rocks, IMHO.
1. Unlike other “Beatle Historians” and authors, Rodriguez does not accuse Paul McCartney of re-writing Beatles lore, but instead eloquently and respectfully acknowledges that years have passed since events in question, and Paul’s memory – as anyone’s – is not infallible over the span of forty decades. Instead, the author researches deeper, finding recorded clips to substantiate facts, delving where others may not have simply to confirm a McCartney claim – which he does.
2. While many Beatle authors point to “Rain” as Ringo Starr’s best work, until Rodriguez I had yet to find any who acknowledged his contribution on “Strawberry Fields Forever” as being as great as it is. The analogy Rodriguez uses to illustrate the artistic evolution of Ringo Starr apparent on that track is “as a filmmaker segueing from silent to sound pictures”, something I’ve believed for a long time. Thank you Robert for giving Ringo props where props were due.
3. Rodriguez refers to the song “Winchester Cathedral” by The New Vaudeville Band as idiotic. It is.
Whether or not Revolver is Robert Rodriguez favorite Beatles album is unclear, and I don’t dare assume. What I can assess is that his research is thorough and concise, and this book is almost the micro to Elijah Wald’s macro “How The Beatles Destroyed Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Rodriguez’s book is focused and packed with facts and theories to back up his claim, which, in the end, is made fairly elementary in this outstanding contribution to Beatledom.
As for me, I’m a Rubber Soul man.
P.S. Robert, if you’re reading this, you already corrected Ian McDonald’s work in your book, so might I suggest going all the way and writing your own “Revolution In The Head”? You’ve already got one albums worth down, and you one-upped McDonald with better detail (particularly “She Said, She Said”.