Abracadabra! version 0.1

A free e-book telling the story of the Beatles 1966 album Revolver.

Influences on Revolver

  • Beach Boys, “California Girls” (1965); Pet Sounds (June 1966) – the former set a trend for elaborate classically styled additions to pop tunes, pre-dating even “Yesterday”; the latter McCartney heard from acetate early in May 1966, and again with Lennon at a press conference to launch the record a week or so later.

  • Bell Labs/IBM 704, “Bicycle Built for Two” (1962) – an experimental recording by the American telephone company, which has a primitive voice synthesiser singing Harry Dacre's 1892 composition which is better known by it's refrain “Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do...”. Arthur C. Clarke borrowed the idea for “2oo1: A Space Odyssey” in 1969.

  • Bernard Herrmann, Fahrenheit 451 (1965); Psycho (1960) – Herrmann's scores for these two films in particular were notable in that they were scored for strings/harp/percussion and just strings respectively. Whilst McCartney suggested Vivaldi as the main influence on “Eleanor Rigby”, George Martin claims to have cribbed from Herrmann.

  • Bob Dylan, “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” - cited as a possible influence on “Yellow Submarine” by Ian McDonald in Revolution in the Head. He points out that McCartney met Donovan, his “co-writer” on the song, at one of Dylan's London concerts in May 1966, and that this tune had been released as a single two weeks before “Yellow Submarine” was written.

  • Byrds, “Eight Miles High” / “Why” (March 1966, available on Fifth Dimension) – although neither side of this single feature a sitar, both songs feature “eastern” scales, and “Why” has a droning guitar. The press coined a new term to describe these songs – “raga rock”. The Byrds cite Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane as the direct influences on this sound. They had shared a studio with Shankar – Jim Dickson’s “World Sound Studios” – and their tour bus tape in 1965/66 featured one side of Shankar’s music.

  • John Cage, Williams Mix (1952) – the score for Williams Mix is long and complex, containing instructions for the cutting together of six tapes, containing city sounds, country sounds, electronic sounds, “musique concrete”, wind sounds) and quiet sounds. It’s a more interesting as an idea than it is to listen to. This piece, as well as Stockhausen's "Kontakte", are available on OHM, a 3 CD overview of the history of electronic music.

  • Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gesang der Jünglinge (1954-55) – Stockhausen appeared on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and was name-dropped by McCartney throughout 1965-68. This piece involves the manipulation of tapes containing sung sounds to change their pitch and speed. The high-pitched laughing sounds on “Tomorrow Never Knows” are directly inspired by this kind of experimentation.

  • Kinks, “See my Friends” (May 1965); “Dedicated Follower of Fashion” (1965); “Sunny Afternoon” (1966) (available on The Ultimate Collection) – the first song on this list was the first pop recording to feature an Indian style “drone”, played on guitar. The second was a pioneering example of social realism in pop, being based on Ray Davies own observations of the pop and fashion scene. The third song is roughly contemporary with “Taxman” and deals with some of the same issues – high taxes on the rich.

  • Lovin' Spoonful, “Daydream” (1966) – Ian McDonald suggests this song as the inspiration for “Good Day Sunshine”. Available on The Very Best of the Lovin' Spoonful.

  • Luciano Berio, Laborintus II (1965) - this is the piece Berio played when McCartney saw him lecture in 1966. It is subtitled “for voices, instruments and tape”.

  • Merseys, “Sorrow” (1966) – Ian McDonald suggests that this song's “rolling swing” influenced “And Your Bird Can Sing”.

  • Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren, “Goodness Gracious Me” (1960) (available on Greatest Comedy Cuts) – a novelty single released to coincide with the Sellers vehicle “The Millionairess”, and produced by George Martin. Martin was, at that time, considered primarily a producer of comedy records.

  • Ravi Shankar, Portrait of Genius (1964); Sound of the Sitar (1965) (available on one disc) – two albums recorded by Shankar at World Pacific Studios in Los Angeles, and the most likely candidates for the particular examples of Shankar's work heard by Harrison at the end of 1965 on the recommendation of the Byrds.

  • Ray Cathode (George Martin), “Time Beat” / “Waltz in Orbit” (1962) (available on the Produced by George Martin box set) – an early experiment in electronic music produced by George Martin, which he played to McCartney in 1965. The tunes were easy listening style pieces adorned, somewhat superficially, with electronic bleeping sounds.

  • Rolling Stones, “Paint it Black”; “Mother's Little Helper”; “Lady Jane”; Aftermath (1966) – the first two songs feature sitar played by Brian Jones. The latter was a high profile example of baroque instrumentation on a pop tune which was almost certainly an influence on “For No One”.

  • Ron Grainer/BBC Radiophonic Workshop, “Dr Who” (1963) (available on Dr Who at the Radiophonic Workshop vol. 1) – Grainer wrote a conventional theme tune, and Delia Darbyshire worked on it to make it more appropriate for the tea-time children's sci-fi show. The end result is an unearthly concoction of whooshing, bleeping, ringing sounds which was probably the most commonly heard piece of pure electronic music in the mid-1960s. It was played at the beginning an end of every episode of “Dr Who” from November 1963.

  • Supremes, “Where Did Our Love Go?” (1964); “Baby Love”(1964); “I Hear a Symphony” (1965) (available on The Ultimate Collection) – the Beatles always listened to and learned from Motown. Ian McDonald cites these three songs in particular as influences on “Got to Get You Into My Life”.

  • Yardbirds, “Heart Full of Soul” (May 1965) – the first pop recording session to feature a sitar player, but not the first pop single to do so. The version of the song with the sitar sounded, frankly, terrible and wasn't released at the time. Instead, a version featuring Jeff Beck and a fuzz-box doing the same job came out and was an influence on the general interest in Eastern sounds from 1965 onward. The sitar version is available on Our Own Sound, but Yardbirds Ultimate is the best general overview of the band's work.

Download a preview of the book.

The Beatles' London, 1965-66
London as the Beatles knew it, with links to online maps and Google Earth.

Help me write this book!
I need help with interviews, references, photographs and illustrations. Please help!

About the Author
How to contact the author, and a short biography

Recommended Books
Influences on Revolver

Other websites with information on Revolver

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 License.