Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

The Beatles' best album turns 50 this year, and although I don't wish to quarrel with Einstein, it seems to me that something must have gone awry with the space-time continuum.

I simply can't listen to "Revolver" - a sonic pleasure that is to my ears what clean air is to the consumptive's lungs - and at the same time conceive that half a century has elapsed since its recording.

Paul's frenetic bass line in the pre-chorus of "Taxman," and his blistering guitar solo in the same song, can't be so old as that.

"Got To Get You Into My Life" would sound fresh were it released today.

(And how fortunate we would be if this were so. The superiority not only of "Revolver," but of pretty much the whole of The Beatles' repertoire, over any current popular music is so vast as to be unmeasurable, in years or in parsecs.)

The youthful vigor of The Beatles' music reflects the youth of the four musicians when they made it.

Paul and Ringo, the two surviving members, are 73 and 75, respectively.

Yet it always strikes me with considerable force to consider how young they were when they created such masterworks as "Revolver."

Paul turned 24 while they were recording the album. George was 23, Ringo and John both 25.

Music, of course, freezes moments forever, on magnetic tape rather than in a drop of amber as with certain prehistoric insects.

The Beatles have aged but their songs have not.

This is the most plausible explanation I can think of, anyway, for why it seems to me so strange to realize "Revolver" is 50 years old, yet other contemporary pieces of pop culture seem to me firmly entrenched in their own, increasingly distant, era.

The James Bond film "Thunderball," for instance, was released in 1965, and "You Only Live Twice" in 1967.

Both movies exude 1960s fashion and culture, their patina as obvious as the yellowed edges of a photograph.

The movies' place in a specific period is accentuated, of course, by the persistence of the Bond franchise. The latest installment, "Spectre," reached theaters just four months ago.

In 2016 we can compare and contrast today's Bond with the 1960s version - Daniel Craig vs. Sean Connery, Q branch's gadgets, Bond's cars.

But "Revolver" is a singular piece of art, and I think this, in addition to its sheer genius, explains why it is timeless.

I write this, by the way, without being encumbered by any personal nostalgia for these 14 songs.

(The number of tunes on the original British version of the album, and of subsequent releases on CD, that is. "Revolver" was the last Beatles record that its American record distributor, Capitol, vandalized by deleting songs. Three "Revolver" songs were tacked onto a U.S.-only album, "Yesterday.... and Today.")

I was born in September 1970, about six months after The Beatles broke up.

Even though I struggle to comprehend "Revolver" being well into middle age, I rather enjoy the familiar conceit of marking arbitrary milestones in the ages of pop culture bits such as albums and films.

It is the stuff of which top 10 lists are made.

This sort of reminiscing tends to follow a decennial schedule, and often, as with my feelings about "Revolver," it spawns this sort of question: "Can you believe it's been 30 years since "Top Gun" came out?

(Which, indeed, it has been. Three decades since the most glistening, bemuscled beach volleyball game in cinema history.)

It turns out that 1966 was an epochal year in music and so, to a lesser extent, was 1976.

Among the albums that share a year with "Revolver" is the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds." Although "Pet Sounds" was nothing like as popular in terms of sales as the surf/girls/cars music that the Beach Boys recorded the first four years of their career, I agree with the multitude of critics who deem it the band's - and leader Brian Wilson's - greatest achievement.

As an LP anyway.

Later in 1966 the Beach Boys released the single "Good Vibrations" - probably their best-known song, and depending on the day, my favorite Beach Boys recording.

The Beatles, perhaps not coincidentally given their well-documented but good-natured competition with Wilson, did something quite similar, although their follow-up to "Revolver" didn't quite make it into 1966.

In February 1967 the group released its double A-side single, "Penny Lane" and "Strawberry Fields Forever." This single was in effect the introduction, sonically speaking, to the album The Beatles released later in the year, the one that remains their best-known work, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." A superb album, to be sure, but I think "Revolver," as a testament to the breadth of The Beatles' musical vision and ability, puts Sgt. Pepper's in the shade.

A decade after "Revolver" and "Pet Sounds," 1976 was a similarly revolutionary year in pop music.

Two self-titled debut albums by American groups came out that year, and although the critics generally praised the former group and loathed the latter, I think "The Ramones" and "Boston" are among the better records not only of 1976, but of the decade.

Stevie Wonder's "Songs In The Key Of Life" also was released that year, as was the Eagles' "Hotel California" and Heart's "Dreamboat Annie."

None of these albums measures up to "Revolver," certainly.

But compared with some of the noxious sounds which were to blare from radios just a year later, 1976 distinguishes itself.

I could list the unlistenable litany of 1977 but I'll spare you the painful reminders.

Besides which, a single song is sufficient to explain the horror of 1977.

Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" was the biggest-selling single not only of the year, but of the whole of the 1970s.

Consider this the next time you conclude that the most unctuous musical trend of the decade was disco.

Jayson Jacoby is editor

of the Baker City Herald.

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