Why John Lennon Got “Pissed Off” While Recording “Revolution”
Despite being arguably the most lucrative songwriting partnership of all time, the John Lennon-Paul McCartney had its own turbulent times, like most writing partnerships in the most popular rock bands.
But a particular recording session was cited as one of the worst of Lennon’s temperamental episodes.
During the production of the legendary White Album, Lennon displayed exasperation towards McCartney’s meticulousness, despite he himself having exhibited similar tendencies while recording the song “Revolution.”
He was adamant about wanting a very specific sound, but the band wasn’t achieving it. This led to many frustrating takes. And what’s worse? Lennon was in a bad mood the whole time.
“That was his vibe: pissed off”
“All that week, while we labored over the remake of ‘Revolution,’ John had been exceptionally moody,” audio engineer Geoff Emerick wrote in his book Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles.
“This was typical of him in those days; that was his vibe: pissed off.”
Lennon wanted the second, up-tempo version of “Revolution” to be “more biting than the first one”. With his frustrations piling up, he became miserable to be around.
“‘No, no, I want that guitar to sound dirtier!’ he kept demanding of me, often without even giving me a moment’s space to try something out. By the end of the week, it was really starting to get to me. Friday’s were usually a little more tolerable than the other nights, because I at least had the weekend to look forward to — two days away from the nastiness of the studio. But on this evening, Lennon arrived at the studio looking ready to chew someone’s head off, and I was the nearest target.”
Wait, it gets worse in “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
Lennon hated “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, a song McCartney wrote. He had frequent mood swings while recording the song, often complaining about how much he openly and vocally despised it.
McCartney seemed to have learned the trick from Lennon and dragged the team The Beatles through endless takes of the song. And the latter was obviously frustrated at Paul’s perfectionism.
As they went on recording the album, the audio engineer noticed that John’s mood swings were more erratic and “occurring more frequently. Emerick knew that this “was definitely the case with the recording of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.’”
Emerick saw the band “work endlessly on just two songs: Lennon’s ‘Revolution’ and McCartney’s ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,’ done over and over again until we were all sick to death of them. Nonetheless, here we were again, breathing in the same stale studio air, working on those same two tracks.”
The people around Lennon are having a hard time dealing with his erratic behavior. “One moment he’d be into it, acting the fool and doing his fake Jamaican patois, the next minute he’d be sulking and grumbling about how the song was more of Paul’s ‘granny music sh*t.’”
And, probably as his way of fighting back, McCartney wanted to take out “Revolution” from the album, though he ultimately failed.
‘Revolution’ “turned into a piece of ice cream”
Lennon hated the stereo remix of “Revolution”. “Oh, it was awful,” Lennon said in an interview with Danny Elsas. The Beatles frontman thought the butchered releases by the Capitol during the 70s were “embarrassing”.
He said that the up-tempo version of “Revolution” was destroyed, thanks to the said remixing. “It was a heavy record, and they turned it into a piece of ice cream,” a frustrated Lennon added.
Despite Lennon’s efforts, McCartney still achieved a partial victory in the end. The former had to concede and reluctantly agree to have “Revolution” become the B-side to “Hey Jude”.
“Hey Jude”—which was a song written by Paul to comfort John’s young son, Julian—was a phenomenal hit, becoming one of The Beatles’ most memorable songs.