When a new musical phrase is heard, it is our brain’s motor system, separate from our hearing system, that remembers what we just heard. Furthermore, the brain has a specialized system for remembering sequences of information, like a string of musical notes. Think of a song you’ve heard a million times. Got it? Every time you hear that song, or any song you’ve heard a lot, the motor system of your brain is relatively inactive. Because of this, when doing homework, I’ll listen to albums I’ve heard many times, as the music helps me focus yet my motor system is devoted to retaining what I’m studying.
The Beatles’s Revolver (in mono) is an album I’ve been listening quite a lot lately. While Sgt. Peppers showcases The Beatles at their creative pinnacle, Revolver is them at their musical peak. Up until Revolver John had been doing the majority of the creative work, making the Lennon-McCartney partnership a bit lopsided. Revolver, however saw Paul spending more time in Abbey Road, and the result was (in my opinion) the most solid, thorough album ever. In the past week, I’ve listened to Revolver fourteen times, and have decided that the most impressive thing is Paul’s bass. So here I present my five favorite bass lines from Revolver in no particular order.
Taxman: the bass here has always stood out to me. Using his new Rickenbacker bass, Paul creates a bold, solid walking bass line that manages to avoid sounding machine-like. My favorite moment is at the 55 seconds where the bass breaks away from walking, and goes on a 15 second frenzy. After Paul’s guitar solo (yes Paul), the the George’s rhythm guitar aligns perfectly with the bass line, and which establishes the bass as the highlight of the song.
I’m Only Sleeping: The bass here doesn’t stand out the same it does in “Taxman”, but what lacks in volume it makes up for in melody. Where “Taxman”features a walking bass line, the bass on “I’m Only Sleeping” seems to be dancing, seemingly flirting with John’s voice. While “I’m Only Sleeping”is primarily a John song, it is Paul’s bass here that makes this a joint effort.
She Said She Said: Opening with a powerful guitar line by George, Paul follows with an equally robust bass part. True to John’s songwriting style, this song is very horizontal (minimal fluctuation tonally), and the bass follows this pattern, staying rather simple from a melodic perspective. Yet Paul seems to be working with Ringo here, creating a rhythmically complex bass line.
Paperback Writer: While this track isn’t officially on Revolver, it was recorded along with “Rain”between “Love You To’”and “Doctor Robert”. This is the first track Paul used his Rickenbacker bass for, and consequently this is the first time we hear a high-register bass from him. The bass seems to perfectly in sync with his voice, overpowering both the drums and guitar, making this truly a Paul song.
Rain: Once again, not on Revolver but recorded at the same time. This is Paul at his creative prime with a complex and inventive bass line that at times threatens to overpower John singing. The bass acts as a contrast to John’s intentionally monotonous voice, preventing the song from being overly drab.
While Rubber Soul was primarily the product of John, Revolver is driven by Paul and his bass. These songs hopefully explain why Revolver is The Beatles in their prime. While many of these songs seem wonderfully simple from the surface, a good pair of headphones or speakers reveals each of The Beatles hitting a musical stride that may never be matched again.