REVOLUTION NUMBER 9
BY IAN HAMMOND
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For those who came in late, this is the second in a series dealing
with Revolution 9 in excruciating detail -- the kind of detail
attended to when recording, mixing and editing such a piece. In this
article I deal with the thirty seconds between 1.00 and 1.30.
Conventions used in the text are explained at the end of the post.
In the first minute we saw an orderly succession of voices ending
with a fanfare. So far, so good, but Lennon has to start doing more,
which explains the ten second stretto which begins the second
minute. First we look at the new voices introduced within the stretto:
1.00 D2 JohnAndGeorge Babble
1.00 -- JohnAndGeorge Babble + Waltz
Source: Lennon/Harrison, 20 June 1968
JL: "then there's this welsh rarebit pair of sun
brown underpants." (Michael Caine voice)
The dialog between John and George begins. This, along with the Waltz,
becomes the main background seating for the next six minutes. Much of
the text is indecipherable, thus I call it babble. It is the
impression left by key words that is important.
We know that Lennon and Harrison overdubbed this part on June 20,
...John and George went on the studio floor to read out
bizarre lines of prose -- in voices sometimes equally
bizarre -- into a couple of microphones abetted by Yoko
Ono humming at a very high pitch. These ran for the
duration of Revolution 9 being faded in and out
of the master at John's whim...
The babble is heard between 1.00 and 7.00. Ono's humming is heard
briefly at 6.54, as Lennon intones Take this brother. Lewisohn
reports they read out the prose, indicating that it had been
written down, or possibly found in some form before the session.
Perhaps they had random newspaper articles.
From a structural point of view, the spoken voice parts have one
obvious feature: they do not repeat. The lyric sheet for Revolution
9, if it could be deciphered, would run to twenty pages.
Revolution 9 is a work for orchestra and voice, including soloists,
choir and a wide range of spoken voice parts. The babble and the use
of the spoken voice in Revolution 9 is worth a separate study.
1.00 L7 Hunting horns
1.00 (BEDG) Hunting horn bass. 12/8* (4+3)
Source: Unknown. Beatle session warmup?
Style: "Hunt" style, but not really.
|b e ad~ d |g d a~ | Tune
"~" indicates the note is slightly flat
The typically shakey brass intonation on a~ makes it sound like a
Ab. Since the fragment wraps around, we hear Ab falling a sixth to B.
The horn's function is to provide an energetic brass low register part
in the noisy tutti sections. It is not heard in softer areas at all.
Where would Lennon get a cut of horn playing this kind of line alone?
My guess is that it comes from a warm up before a recording session.
The warm-up angle might explain the tune which is mostly just a
set of fourths (B E A D G). See the next entry.
1.00 L7 Duck Oboe
1.00 (CEDA Backward Duck Oboe. 3 bars of 4/4 (some triplets)
Source: Unknown. Beatle session warmup?
Style: Some kind of fill figure.
a|d ddd d c ag e |c d | Tune
|d c |e ga c d ddd d |a Tune
Again, where would Lennon pick up an oboe playing a line like this
solo? Probably a warm-up session.
Lewisohn reports one fragment coming from the A Day In The Life
session. The Geoff, turn the red light on compound fragment also
came from a session, and includes a clarinet. A Day In The Life
included horn, oboe and clarinet parts. Now, Lewisohn has the
following to say when describing the orchestral tune-up at the
beginning of Sgt Pepper:
The sound of the band warming up was easy to find. During the
10 February  orchestral overdub for A Day In The Life
four tapes had been made of the miscellaneous sound effects,
[and] stored away for possible future use.
So, it's possible all four loops came from the same session.
The oboe piece is synchronous with the horn part, thus I have marked
them both as Loop 7. While horn fragment does not seem to be reversed,
the oboe certainly is. Lennon spent some time preparing loops, and may
have constructed compound loops, which would have simplified his work
at the keyboard (the mixing desk) and permitted him to have more
The main function of this fragment is to fill out the high register
with a lively woodwind figure. It mainly appears in tuttis, but see
1.17 for a lovely touch.
1.05 L8 Fiddle
1.05 Bb-ab "Fiddle" -- Backward solo violin. Fast 6/8.
Source: Unknown. Solo violin + strings.
Style: Fiddle hero style (coffee house)
f eb|d_ c bb g f eb |ab Tune
f |Bb Eb |ab Chord
ab |eb f g bb c' d |eb f Tune
ab |Eb Bb |f Chord
Only a scrap of this energetic 6/8 fiddle part is heard here. It is
heard fully at 1.30.
The solo violin is accompanied by a small string band. It's the kind
of skittish fiddle music one associates with the late 1800s and early
1900s. But it could come from anywhere.
The fragment fills out the high register of the string section, in
particular it provides some fast runs.
1.05 D3 Stretto Choir
1.06 f:? Stretto Choir
The Stretto Choir is certainly a dub. It is heard once or twice very
briefly adding choral color at the end of the stretto. It is hard to
decipher. I am not sure whether it is a loop or dub.
Section 1.2 [1.00-1.30]
1.00 Minor Stretto
b: Waltz (stops at 1.03)
e4 Horn, Oboe
The wind instruments have the first five seconds. The horn and oboe
have time to repeat their figure about twice. The first five seconds
are not particularly dissonant, just more vigorous.
1.05 (DA) Oboe
1.06 Bb2 Fanfare
E: Backward piano
[f:] Stretto choir
1.08 Bb7: Agitato strings
The strings, fanfare and choir join the second five seconds. The
result is a delightful orgy of noise. The notation below gives a crude
picture of the main events.
1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10
ddda bbcd ddda oboe/fiddle
Ab f- f F C5 F# choral chords
Bb C F brass (fanfare)
Bb G C brass (fanfare)
Eb Bb AbEb bass (agitato)
E: E: E: E: E: piano (backward)
Lennon has turned up the volume and pans the action between channels.
This may seem insignificant, but its not. Pop music, designed for the
inequities of the car and transistor radio, traditionally makes little
use of dynamics. Pop records are typically just loud or soft. Lennon's
dynamic range on Revolution 9 is similar to that of a Beethoven:
ppp to fff.
Behind it all we sense, rather than hear, a torrent of sound created
by various instruments, choirs and crowds, all to soft or vague to be
Listening to the last five seconds slowly can be fascinating. Every
interval of the scale seems to be present. But, and it's a big but,
this is still not chaos: what you hear are orchestral instruments
playing at concert pitch: you do not near microtonal clashs. The holes
in Lennon's jeans are neatly stitched around the edges.
I've called this episode a Minor Stretto, which is something I'll
explain after the Major Stretto at 1.30. Much of the material used
here is introduced at 1.30. This is just a skirmish.
1.10 JohnAndGeorge Episode
1.10 b/E Episode: JohnAndGeorge; Waltz; Backwards Piano
JL: "They found a shortage of grain in Hartfordshire,
and every one of them knew ...
Just as suddenly as it started, the stretto stops, leaving the
backward piano and JohnAndGeorge dialog behind.
1.14 E Backward Piano stops
JL: ...that as time went by, they'd get a little bit
older and a little bit slower [but they]... the
air-force set thing...
At 1.14 the backward piano stops, leaving JohnAndGeorge and the Waltz
alone on center stage. It's a great moment that finally brings the
two main players together for a duet.
1.17 E D C Backward Piano and Duck Oboe
c# b g# Backward Piano
a f# d c e g Duck Oboe
E D a C Chord
There's a lovely touch at 1.17 where two completely separate loops are
woven together as a single rolling melodic thread. The first three
notes of the backward piano are continued by a fragment of the oboe.
The piece is now very soft. Just the odd piano note and the babble.
1.20 Eb: Stasis Strings
b: JohnAndGeorge, Waltz
JL: manufacturing person who's ... your fivers,
forgive me, give me ... district was leaving...
intending to pay for...
The stasis strings return at 1.20, which gives them time to repeat
exactly twice before 1.30.
At 1.25 there's an audible dissonance between the Eb stasis strings
and B minor piano chord. It's about the first such noticable clash in
the piece (and rather delicious). Each note of the strings and piano
stand out in the last five seconds. The final chord F diminished (with
minor ninth), poised to resolve on to Eb.
1.25 1.26 1.27 1.28 1.29 1.30
f# b d Piano tune
b Piano chord
Eb Eb f f f Eb String chord
Eb Eb f f9- f-9- Chord
So, here were are, very, very soft and ready to explode. This is good,
but quite normal orchestration. Deriving it from found sounds
requires a great ear and a good deal of skill.
Making a lot of loud noise requires no particular training. You just
bang things. It's also easy to get faster. It's the slowing down and
getting softer bit which takes more work. There's a part of Come
Together after the noisy solo, where the swampy piano, bass and
drums magically bring the tempo and dynamics back down for the last
verse. It seems to me that this would have been one of Lennon's
greater problems to solve when working on Revolution 9. His use of
these soft stasis strings shows an element of his solution. In fact,
he has an algorithm, but that emerges later.
There's another point to make about completeness: Lennon uses every
one of the voices presented in the first thirty seconds (except the
opening dub) for a particular purpose. None are forgotten.
This thirty second stretch has consisted of a compound episode,
introducing the JohnAndGeorge babble, finishing with strings. The soft
strings finish exactly on the 1.30 boundary, ready for a thirty second
major stretto to follow, which is the subject of the next posting.
Here's a summary of what we've covered so far:
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 55
0.00 - ######## "Claret"
0.10 b: ############ Waltz
(B-Bb) ################## "Number nine"
0.25 Eb: ###### Stasis strings
0.31 E: Backward piano ############
0.38 Bb7: Agitato strings ###########
0.53 Bb2 Fanfare ######
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
1.00 C: Bb: ######## Minor stretto
1.10 E: ########........ Babble
1.20 Eb: ######## Stasis strings
The next article deals with the Major Stretto from 1.30 to 2.00.
Filling me up with your rules...
I have employed a number of conventions in these articles.
You will need to use a fixed size font to read these posts sensibly.
In the first column I indicate the time, in minutes and seconds, as it
occurs on CD. I'm not always exact to the second when referring to the
time in the main text. This is not physics.
copyright (c) ian hammond 1998 -- all rights reserved
1.50 (A) This is something that happened at 1 minute 50 seconds
In the second column of titles I use "D" to indicate dubs (e.g. D1)
and "L" to indicate loops.
In the second column of examples I indicate the notes, chords or key
of a section, using the following conventions:
(A) the note A. (ABC) implies the notes A, B and C.
a the chord a minor
A the chord A major
a: the key a minor
A: the key A major
[A] square brackets enclose almost inaudible sounds
The third column may have quoted text, which is preceded by the
initials of the speaker, if known. JL, GH, YO and GM are obvious.
AT: is Alistair Taylor. The text is highly conjectural in places.
In melodic examples, "'" and "_" are used to indicate non-intuitive
jumps. "a' b" indicates the "a" is above the following "b". "b_ a"
indicates that "b" is below the following "a".
"then there's this welsh rarebit pair..."
IAN HAMMOND'S BEATHOVEN: PAGE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, - Back To Revolution Number 9