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Beatles Album Battle: Revolver vs Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles Revolver
10/10

For all the great music that The Beatles made, my favourite two albums from the Liverpool quartet are their mid career peaks of Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Both capture the band at a point where they’d embraced studio technology, making their albums more detailed and interesting, but where they still had the tight-knit chemistry of four friends.

I’ve pitted the two albums against each other, song by song. Because Revolver has an extra song, I’ve dropped one of its less remarkable pieces, Lennon’s ‘Dr Robert’, from the contest, leaving it as 13 songs on each.

Track 1: Taxman vs Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Both albums start strongly. Taxman is one of George Harrison’s more notable Beatles’ songs, but in a possibly controversial decision, I’ve awarded it to Paul McCartney’s title track, which provides a showcase for his great rock’n’roll voice and sets the scene for the concept ahead.
Revolver 0: Sgt Peppers 1

Track 2: Eleanor Rigby vs With a Little Help from My Friends
John Lennon’s showcase for Ringo Starr is charming, but ‘Eleanor Rigby’ is one of McCartney’s greatest songs, elegiac and haunting.
Revolver 1: Sgt Peppers 1

Track 3: I’m Only Sleeping vs Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds
Two Lennon songs occupy the third slot of the first sides – they’re both strong pieces, but the psychedelic imagery of ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ is the more striking.
Revolver 1: Sgt Peppers 2

Track 4: Love You To vs Getting Better
Another Harrison vs McCartney showdown, and again McCartney’s tunefulness wins out – ‘Getting Better’ is one of Sgt Peppers’ overlooked gems.
Revolver 1: Sgt Peppers 3

Track 5: Here, There and Everywhere vs Fixing a Hole
‘Fixing A Hole’ is pretty, but a little plodding, while ‘Here, There and Everywhere’ is one of McCartney’s most beautiful, elegant melodies.
Revolver 2: Sgt Peppers 3

Track 6: Yellow Submarine vs She’s Leaving Home
It’s tough for Starr’s charming spotlight on ‘Yellow Submarine’ to stand against McCartney’s sophisticated ‘She’s Leaving Home’ – Lennon’s Greek chorus vocals are a sublime finishing touch.
Revolver 2: Sgt Peppers 4

Track 7: She Said She Said vs Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Two John Lennon pieces – the dynamic, druggy ‘She Said She Said’ is one of his best Beatles’ songs, while ‘Mr Kite’ is one of the weaker pieces on Sgt Peppers.
Revolver 3: Sgt Peppers 4

Track 8: Good Day Sunshine vs Within You Without You
I like ‘Within You Without You’ more than I used to, but it outstays its welcome and it’s got a tough match-up against a strong McCartney song.
Revolver 4: Sgt Peppers 4

Track 9: 
And Your Bird Can Sing vs When I’m Sixty-Four
Lennon’s ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ has always felt like a McCartney song to me, slight and tuneful, but it still feels more substantial than ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’, one of McCartney’s foray into geriatric-oriented show-tunes.
Revolver 5: Sgt Peppers 4

Track 10: For No One vs Lovely Rita
These are two terrific McCartney songs, but I give his tribute to a meter maid the edge. ‘For No One’ is beautiful, but suffers from sharing album space with the similarly mournful and orchestrated ‘Eleanor Rigby’.
Revolver 5: Sgt Peppers 5

Track 11: I Want to Tell You vs Good Morning Good Morning
Harrison finally gets a point – as much as I like the gimmick at the end of ‘Good Morning’ with the chain of animal sounds, ‘I Want To Tell You’ is the more solid of the tunes for me.
Revolver 6: Sgt Peppers 5

Track 12: Got to Get You into My Life vs Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)
A reprise vs a fully blown, excellent McCartney song doesn’t seem like a fair contest.
Revolver 7: Sgt Peppers 5

Track 13: Tomorrow Never Knows vs A Day in the Life
‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is a terrific closer, one of Lennon’s most successful experiments with its use of loops and backwards guitar solo. It’s one of The Beatles’ best songs, but it pales in comparison to epic closer ‘A Day In The Life’, often cited as The Beatles’ best single recording.
Revolver 7: Sgt Peppers 6

So Revolver takes a narrow win on a song by song battle. As much as it’s not a very good way of deciding the better album – albums are often more or less than the sum of their individual songs – a narrow 7-6 win is a good summation of my relative feelings towards the two records.

Which album do you think wins?

18 thoughts on “Beatles Album Battle: Revolver vs Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Leave a comment

  1. It’s the kind of choice that can never be fully made because it doesn’t need to. Both fantastic albums.
    For me the main difference is that while Revolver may be more consistent, it is full of little gems that take ‘traditional’ Beatles songs about as far as they can go. Sgt Pepper, on the other hand, introduces blockbusters that no one had even imagined – Lucy in the Sky and A Day in the Life.
    Up to and including Revolver, the rest of the music world was in with a shout, but Sgt Pepper just blew everybody out of the water (and I do include the Beach Boys, whose Pet Sounds is in the same category as Revolver). The producer of the Hollies, Ron Richards, heard Sgt Pepper once, put his head in his hands and said “I give up”.
    And bear in mind, Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were originally meant to be on it too.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks for writing in with such a detailed and thoughtful take!

      There are a few songs on Revolver that do push the envelope pretty hard – Tomorrow Never Knows is totally a studio creation – but overall Sgt Pepper is much more of a studio product than Revolver. But while Magical Mystery Tour has its moments, I don’t think they ever made anything else as great as this pair of albums.

      I feel like Sgt Peppers has suffered a backlash in the 21st century – it often used to be the consensus pick for best Beatles album, but now some revisionists paint it as psychedelic nonsense and Revolver and Abbey Road are often preferred.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I must say, this is a very silly idea and entirely appropriate to the season. It reminds me of Sixties magazine features or completely ridiculous ‘competitions’ like “Mick Jagger or Cliff Richard – Readers Choose!”

    So well done, G!

    Like a good list and a level crossing accident I could not look away and was rewarded with thrills and outrage in equal measure. As outrage is much more fun (and in line with the zeitgeist) I’ll go the latter…

    ‘Lovely Rita’ over ‘For No-one’? YOU’VE GOTTA BE KIDDING!!!!!

    (Are 5 exclamation marks too many? They were left over from my Beatles vs Stones article)

    Merry Christmas from across the Tasman.

    Bruce

    Liked by 2 people

    • I like reading this kind of silly music geek thing, so I’d figure I’d write my own. I’m sure I’ll do some more eventually.

      For No One certainly feels like the more major song, but I like Emmylou Harris’ version better, and that ‘Lovely Rita’ bass-line is pretty mind-blowing.

      Have a good Christmas too!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sgt Peppers is my favourite Beatles album because of that near perfect closing track. One thing I noticed while reading this: it seems to me that you’re a Paul. I’ve always been a John myself…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sgt. Peppers gets my vote, but I’m not much of a Beatles fan.

    There was a point where I was really interested in them (around Anthology), but it never really went anywhere and, aside from Sgt. Peppers, nothing really stuck with me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting piece. It’ll always be ‘Pepper’ for me. The concept is brilliant, for one. Macca – brilliant melodicist that he is – sounds like he’s warming up for ‘Pepper’ – ‘She’s Leaving Home’ is an improvement on ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘Getting Better’ is an improvement on ‘Good Day Sunshine’ etc etc. His stuff on ‘Revolver’ sounds a bit twee to my ears these days. It’s telling that ‘Revolver’ ends with ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, the only really revolutionary track on the album. But ‘Pepper’ is full of epochal, revolutionary stuff. Lennon’s material is stronger. Ringo’s drums sound incredible, and Paul’s bass playing has a lot more balls. And it’s just the impact it had, really. ‘A Day In The Life’ and ‘Within You Without You’ blew people’s minds, maaaan….

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right that it would have been amazing hearing all these sonic advancements coming thick and fast – we’re in an era, where it’s probably not possible to be surprised any more by recorded music, but The Beatles were coming up with new recording techniques and sounds thick and fast in the mid 1960s. Crazy that they did it all on a 4-track.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I agree with the first omment, you don’t need to make a choice which is better. For me personally, Sgt Peppers wins that battle, the songs are more memorable. Revolver is a strong set though, with excellent non-singles and plenty of experimentation. However Revolver’s lyrics aren’t quite as emotionally involving to me as Rubber Soul (1965). In time, it’s possible I’ll grow to love Revolver to the same degree as Sgt Peppers, Rubber Soul and The White album

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Always going to be a “Revolver” kind of gal myself. While I love the big ones off “Peppers”–the title track, With a Little Help (controversial opinion, Ringo is my favourite Beatle), Getting Better (love that you gave it some attention!), Lucy in the Sky, A Day in the Life–I think “Revolver” does such an excellent job of catching the band right on the cusp of going all-in with the experimental rock angle and balancing their original charm that endeared them to listeners in the first place. Revolver was my favourite Beatles album when I was 13, and I’m still in love with songs like Got To Get You Into My Life, Eleanor Rigby and Yellow Submarine (my favourite song when I was 4), so it’s definitely got a bit of a “nostalgia” factor for me.
    Great post, and happy holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. As a huge Beatles fan, I find it almost impossible to choose one over the other. It would also depend on the key selection criteria.

    From a recording innovation standpoint, Revolver is the “winner” over Sgt. Pepper. Revolver introduced novel techniques, such as tape loops, backwards recording, varispeeding and most notably artificial double tracking (ADT). ADT soon became a recording industry standard thereafter.

    From a musical standpoint, on the other hand, Sgt. Pepper has the edge. I think Lucy In The Sky and A Day In The Life are absolute masterpieces that don’t have equivalents on Revolver.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love the Revolver album, especially Eleanor Rigby, Here There And Everywhere and Got To Get You Into My Life. I just feel Lucy In The Sky and A Day In The Life are even better!😀

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Love the way you’ve pit these two against each other. You should deffo do more albums like this! Very hard to pick a winner of course. When I was a younger man I copied Revolver off my dad and omitted Yellow Submarine, though Dr Robert is unremarkable as you note. I think I probably listen to Pepper as a whole work more than as individual tracks – there’s something of an ‘experience’ to it. Though I reckon Revolver probably pips it for me. Macca at his absolute peak (For No One; Here There and Everywhere; Got To Get You Into My Life; Rigby etc). I agree with you that WYWY outstays its welcome, though it is a fabulous track. But I really really really dug the epic long version performed for the Harrison tribute in Liverpool as part of the Pepper 50th anniversary this year ( https://oldrope.wordpress.com/2017/12/21/5436/ ).
    Great post anyway, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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