#215: Revolution 9

This is pretty much universally considered the worst Beatles track ever (I can’t bring myself to call it a song), and it’s not hard to see why. Diplomatically, it’s considered a “sound collage.” More accurately, it is the auditory equivalent of seeing a dog take a leak on a pristine white carpet, because his Japanese conceptual artist girlfriend Yoko Bone-o told him it was the way of the future.

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“Be sure to check out my upcoming MoMA exhibit, in which I will shed my fur on your favorite couch.”

My capacity for unconventional music has grown over the years since I first heard “Revolution 9”–it’s hard to believe I once couldn’t stand Paul McCartney’s loopy “Temporary Secretary,” now one of my absolute favorite songs by anyone–but every time I decide to give “Revolution 9” another chance, it’s just as unrewarding and tedious as it’s always been. Here are nine reasons why it’s the worst Beatles track ever:

  1. It’s the longest (released) Beatles track ever, at over eight minutes. I’m not gonna say that I could count on one hand the number of songs of that length that I could listen to without wanting to cut my ears off Van Gogh-style, but I certainly wouldn’t have to turn to my toes.
  2. Play it just one time and an old British dude saying “Number nine” will be stuck in your head the rest of the day.
  3. “RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHTTTTTTTTTT!!!!!!!”
  4. That whimpering part at 3:46.
  5. Namechecking the Watusi instead of the far superior Batusi.
  6. They included it on the White Album instead of songs like “Junk,” “Child of Nature” (later “Jealous Guy”), and “Not Guilty.” All of these songs eventually showed up on solo albums, but each of them was worthier of valuable White Album real estate than “Revolution 9.” “Revolution 9” is the kind of song that moves into your neighborhood and brings down property values.
  7. While John was working on it, Paul was in another studio recording “Blackbird.” There aren’t many ways that song could be improved, but some nice Lennon/McCartney harmonies would do the trick. But noooooooooo, John is too busy chopping up classical music tapes.
  8. It’s easy to write off the hippie movement as overly naive, but “Revolution 9” is so cynical and sinister that you have to wonder who it was meant to reach. There was no shortage of politically aware protest songs in the late 60s and early 70s, and no, not all of them were optimistic or even followed a traditional song structure. But at least most of them were socially-conscious. Lennon even admitted as much in 1971, calling his experimental baby “antirevolution.”
  9. Paul McCartney claims he’d been manipulating tape loops to create avant-garde soundscapes a full two years before John devised “Revolution 9.” He brings this up in, like, every single interview he’s done in the past 30 years.¬†Seriously, it’s starting to rival the story of how “Yesterday” was written in the pantheon of recycled McCartney anecdotes. We get it, you want credit for being “The Innovative One.” But is “Revolution 9” really the battle you want to fight?
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#215: Revolution 9