“Revolution” by the Beatles (1968)
One of my favourite Beatles songs was written entirely by John Lennon, but credited as was usual practice, to both McCartney and Lennon. Recorded in the Abby Road Studios this classic song is inspired by the French government under Charles DeGaulle. Student uprising were occurring all around the world primarily in the U.S. against the Vietnam War. When strikes in Paris resulted in riots. Lennon was directing this song at the world’s young revolutionaries – he was anti-war.
There were actually 2 version of this song that Lennon thought should be the first song on the new “Apple Records” label. As it turned out “Revolution #1” the first, and slower version of the song ended up on the Beatles “White Album”.
You only hear the word ‘revolution’ once in this song – the very first verse. Lennon was saying that non-violent revolution is the only acceptable form of revolution. When it was first released the political left thought that this was possibility against them when he says “But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know you can count me out”. This was really the first time the Beatles had made a political statement in a song - well unless you count “Taxman” which is a complaint about the British tax system. The Rolling Stones “Street fighting Man”, released around the same time was perceived as being more supportive of the extreme left’s cause.
The sojourn in India they had taken recently, to learn Transcendental Meditation was also at work here in the lyric – “It’s gonna be alright” repeated over and over. The idea being that God would protect the human race no matter what was going on.
This song in my mind is symbolic of the breakup of the Beatles ultimately. There were already differences occurring and they had gone their separate ways in India with McCartney leaving and Lennon staying. Lennon wanted to make controversial songs; and inject politics and social views in songs; McCartney did not have the appetite for it. He wanted to experiment with the music itself.
In 1987 when Michael Jackson owned the publishing rights to many of the Beatles songs, he sold “Revolution’ to Nike to use in a commercial for $500,000. The three surviving Beatles launched lawsuits against Nike who said that it was supported by Yoko Ono. Ono had approved the commercial release saying it was making John’s music accessible to a new generation.The ad was pulled and it was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. I think most younger people have heard of John Lennon.