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The Beatless - Rotator

The Beatless - Rotator

Recorded as a Christmas present for several friends, I think it was in 1983. Peter Makin was running an excellent local recording studio called Soundlab which I later recorded some songs at with The Peppermint Dream. He had advertised for a bassist some time before and I joined the band he was putting together. It turned out to be a band that rehearsed far more than it gigged, but most of the guys in the band were all ok to be around and we quite enjoyed playing together.

When that band stopped playing together, Pete and I did an amount of recording for the fun of doing it and over a couple of beers, we decided to re-record a Beatles album. I wanted to do Sergeant Pepper or Rubber Soul, but Pete wasn't really as keen on them as he was on Revolver. I hadn't thought of Revolver as a serious option, as I imagined it would quite certainly have been too ambitious a task to replicate it on a 4-track trape machine. But, going through the tracklisting, song-by-song, we really liked it. We decided it would mean radically re-imagining all of the songs if we wanted to do it. So we did.

This is the result of a whole lot of sessions upstairs in Pete's farm cottage, over several months of dark snowy evenings, that year - racing to meet the pre-Christmas deadline. And here are the songs in the original running order..

TAXMAN

The superbly bitter George Harrison song that still rings so absolutely true today. We decided straightaway not to follow The Beatles original version note for note, impressive as it was. This was the start of me not doing straight cover versions of songs when recording on my own.

Pete programmed the drums and played guitars and sang backing vocals. I played bass and sang lead and backing vocals. I used a Wal Pro 1e bass on these recordings.


ELEANOR RIGBY

Yes, we changed the words a bit. we got the original 'Father McCartney' in that they dropped from the song, as they felt it was too spooky. We also changed the words from 'wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door'.

Pete played guitar, keyboards and backing vocals. I played bass and sang the lead and a backing vocal. This song made me learn to play a disciplined funky bass part. Pete had this just about finished when I turned up to add my parts, so the credit for the excellent arrangement is all his. He also recorded a really excellent version of 'Across the universe', which wasn't included on this album.


I'M ONLY SLEEPING

Lead vocals shared between Pete and myself. Pete plays some pretty cool keyboards and guitars. I think we both did the rather realistic rhythm snores. I played the Jazzy bass that occasionally gets lost! We pretty much made this one up as we went along, as it was one of the last we did to meet the deadline. Well, that's what it sounds like...


LOVE YOU TO

George Harrison was introducing some very Indian-influenced arrangements and sounds to his songs for the very first time on Revolver. It would have been impossible to recapture what he did, so we did a huge re-imagining of the song and while it's admittedly a little shaky in places, it turned out nicely. Lead vocal and bass by Ian. Guitars by Pete.


HERE THERE AND EVERYWHERE

I turned up at Pete's studio one day after work and was stunned to hear this coming down the stairs at me. I didn't get to play bass on this one, as it was pretty much perfect as it was, so this is Pete's solo effort - his Yesterday on the album, if you like... I really do think it's gorgeous.


YELLOW SUBMARINE

The Fabs meet Status Quo. I kid you not.

Lovely layered backing vocals and twin lead guitars from both of us - Pete does the main solo, which was very much in his style. I think I played some rhythm guitar on this one as well as bass. How to do this song if you feel you have to.


SHE SAID, SHE SAID

Pete suggested that I worked on this one by myself one night at his studio, as he had to go out to cope with some emergency on the farm, where he worked during the day. I came up with some rather lumpy half-arsed version of it that I wasn't happy with at all and (quite fortunately) can't find a copy of now.

I went home and worked on it in my own studio for the next time we got together. I worked the arrangement out quite carefully and this was the end result. Fab, though I say it myself. There was meant to be a fadeout on the recording, but I've left the twiddling about that I did until the tape ran out audible, as it's fairly interesting.


THE GOOD DAY SUNSHINE CHANT

We met up one night to do this song and both muttered about how twee it was and what Paul McCartney should have done instead of writing. This was the result of our messing with the song in an attempt to totally de-construct it for our own evil purposes. We both did guitars and vocals on this. Pete played organ.


AND YOUR BIRD CAN'T SING
The Beatles original featured some astonishing guitar work and we lived in sheer dread of learning to play it. I wasn't quite the guitar player that I am now and I'd still worry about it. We sat and pondered what to do with it for some time and got a nice random drum rhythm going and sat and mucked around with it. Once the bass got that sort of swing feel to it, it became a bit clearer what to do. We laughed ourselves silly coming up with ideas of how to totally change it and I'd love to take the credit for coming up with doing it like The Muppets with barbershop choir backing vocals, but I think it was some sort of (ahem) joint decision. There are lots of 'in-jokes' placed through out the recording.


FOR NO-ONE

Another of my earliest stabs at playing in a consistently funky bass style. Pete plays nice rhythm and the excellent twin lead guitar breaks on this. I couldn't have come up with a guitar part like that - very tasteful and lots of feel to it. I got lumbered with the lead vocal (I though Pete was going to sing this one) and then had to make up a harmony on the spot to thicken it up a bit.


DOCTOR ROBERT

Pete came up with the arrangement on this by himself. His guitar playing is great on this - very fluent. All the vocals are Pete's, too. He's very good at doing harmonies. The bass part was another departure for me - another style I hadn't played before. The whole song just sounds very good, mainly because of Pete's guitars. He has a knack of recording things properly and clearly.


I WANT TO TELL YOU

Another George Harrison epic. His three songs really made Revolver work. We dropped the discordant piano that was such a feature of the original and made the beat a lot more regular. Lead vocal, organ and guitars by Pete. His guitar solo at the end makes me wish we'd done a much longer version of the song. Bass by me, naturally.


GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE

Shared vocals - melody line Pete - harmonies by me. Anguished and constipated moans by Pete.
Horn section and bass by me. Sound effects by Pete.

Additional percussion (cups and spoons, all put through some sort of space echo pedal) by Pete and Ian. This goes to show that you CAN have fun with a song that Brian Bennett & His Rebel Trousers had a hit with.


TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS

Humourous studio chat starts this recording off. We just had such a really good time doing this. Pete plays keyboards and acoustic rhythm guitar. I play the very repetitive guitar figure throughout. Pete also came along with all these sound effects albums with all sorts of things on them, like trains going into stations, phones, bicycle bells and warp noises, birdsong. We reversed the tapes and did all sorts of tricks and could hardly believe the end result.

The great thing about listening to all this to write the notes, about 30 years after recording it, is feeling like I'm back in the upstairs side room doing it. Such a fantastic memory of a time when life was so much less complicated.


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