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Tuesday 23 December 2014

Album covers: Revolver


Revolver - Klaus Voormann
Robert Freeman proposed making a photo montage using the Beatles' four faces for the Revolver sleeve. When you would spin the sleeve, the four faces would melt into one. But the result wasn’t really satisfying. The montage is reproduced in The Beatles Anthology book.

Freeman's design, here presented as a USA edition of the album.

Because Freeman was going to turn his first movie, in 1966, it was the last time the Beatles used his services. Freeman and the group amiably ended their association. *

You can buy Robert Freeman's book of Beatles photos, "A Private View" through Amazon.

Klaus Voormann, an old friend from Hamburg, who recently had moved to London, was asked to design the cover. After hearing some tracks, he decided that the cover should reflect the same avant-garde feel. "I wanted to push the design further than normal," he told Martin O'Gorman in 2006. "I did a scribble piece on a big A2 layout sheet of paper, with lots of different sketches of the little heads, in felt pen. I didn't do the big representation. I just went to see them with that piece of paper folded up in my pocket and that was enough!"

He than made the line-drawing of the four faces. "I drew the faces from memory," continues Voormann in Mojo. "George's face was very difficult to draw. It was easier with John, Paul and Ringo, but George was always the problem. I could not get his face right, so eventually I took a newspaper and cut those eyes and mouth out."

Even though Freeman's cover design was rejected, one of his photos became the centrepiece of Voormann's design. 

According to Pete Shotton the cover was finished in Lennon's home, at Kenwood: "John, Paul, and I devoted an evening to sifting through an enormous pile of newspapers and magazines for pictures of the Beatles after which we cut out the faces and glued them all together. Our handiwork was later superimposed onto (the) line drawing by Klaus Voormann."
"The photo of Ringo with the funny striped shirt on," remembers Voormann, "that was cut out of a magazine, from a picture of a girl who had that poster on her wall. That's why the picture is at a funny angle. I had a few strange ones where John was pulling a face, or Paul was laughing, but in general, the photos show their sweet side."
"There was one picture where Paul was sitting on a toilet. I think that photo was taken in Hamburg."
Klaus recalled the presentation of the finished artifact. "I went to the EMI house, up to George Martin's office and I stood the artwork up on a filing cabinet. There was Brian Epstein, George Martin, his secretary and the four lads. I was scared, because nobody said anything. They were just looking at it. I thought, ****, they hate it.

Then Paul looked closer and said, "Hey that's me sitting on a toilet!" George Martin took a look and said, "You can't show that!" Paul said, "No, it's great!" But then he gave it some thought and said, "Well, maybe we should take that one off.." So that broke the ice.

Then they started talking about it. Everybody loved it, George loved it, John loved it, Ringo loved it. I looked at Brian, who was standing in the corner and he was crying… I thought, Oh no… what is he doing? He came up to me and said, "Klaus, this is exactly what we needed. I was worried that this whole thing might not work, but I know now that this the cover. This LP, will work – thank you.""
There's a small drawing of Klaus himself, on the right side, between John and George's heads.

Early sketch of Revolver - Klaus Voormann
The album's title isn't decided until July 2nd 1966, while the Beatles are on tour, in Tokyo. At first Abracadabra was considered. But somebody else had used that title already. Other candidates were Magic Circles and Beatles On Safari, Bubble And Squeak and Free Wheelin' Beatles. In the end, everybody is happy with Revolver. The title suggests the movement of the record on the turntable. It has nothing to do with a gun.

For the back cover, a black-and white picture by Robert Whitaker shows the four well known faces, covered in sunglasses. It was taken during the shooting of the Paperback Writer/Rain promo films.

Revolver (UK) back cover - Robert Whitaker
Uncropped original photo - Robert Whitaker

We found a different photo on this Revolver (USA) back cover, was it ever like this?  - Robert Whitaker
It just wouldn't have been the same in colour.
On 11 March 1967 Revolver is awarded with the "Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts of 1966", during the ninth annual Grammy Awards.

Klaus Voormann with the Revolver album
This article was written by Patrick Roefflaer and you can find it in it's older incarnation here.
Captions by me
Books: 'Yesterday' by Robert Freeman, The Beatles Anthology book, 'Many Years From Now' by Miles, 'In My Life' by Pete Shotton, 'The complete EMI Recording Sessions' by Mark Lewisohn and 'The Beatles London' by Mark Lewisohn and Peter Schreuder. And countless websites.

* A contributing factor to Robert Freeman's disassociation with the Beatles may have been Lennon's alledged affair with Freeman's German born wife, Sonny.


RAJ said...

What about the Russian cover where several pictures are different? I love that variation.

wogew said...

The Russian cover is not official, it's a bootleg - or in effect a pirate LP, made by the notorious Saint-Petersburg 'label' AnTrop, which stands for "Andrei Tropillo". He used to add his likeness to the albums he released.
In the Soviet Union, the official record company Melodia issued only two Beatles LPs: one album "A Hard Day's Night" and one compilation - "A Taste of Honey".
When the union was split up, Russia became a haven for "grey market" record releases, with AnTrop being the chief "mover" when it came to Beatles titles.Here's a Russian Beatles discography, while we're at it.

georgefromhenley said...

The name Revolver finally was choosen in the Hotel Tremsbüttel near Hamburg during their German tour as confirmed in various articles from the time - not in Japan. The words Revolver in Pauls hand on two different sheets of paper were sold in an auction 2 years ago - but the auction house had no idea about the relevance of those items (that are now in the possession of a friends collection...)

Anonymous said...

Rather liking that colour back cover!

georgefromhenley said...

the cover is the broadest to the right side i have ever seen....

Allan Tong said...

Amazing post. Thank you so much! Revolver is my all-time fave album.

Paul D said...

It's interesting that they cut out pictures from newspapers and magazines for the collage. I wonder how the copyright issues were overcome? Anyway this is not only my favourite album of all time the artwork is just beautiful.