My thoughts on why 'Revolver' has eclipsed 'Pepper' as the Beatles' masterpiece

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by action pact, Sep 11, 2018.

  1. action pact

    action pact Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Pretty from the time it was released and on through the '70s and '80s, "Sgt. Pepper" was almost universally lauded as the Beatles' masterpiece. It regularly topped any list of "best albums of all time" and was held up as a stunning piece of conceptual pop art.

    During the '90s something curious happened... the status of "Pepper" began to tarnish as "Revolver" (which was always considered a great album) began getting a critical reappraisal, until in many circles it has overtaken "Pepper" as the nominal "best" Beatles album.

    So what happened?

    In 1967, the release of "Sgt. Pepper" was by all accounts a major event. Top 40 pop stations took the extraordinary step of playing the album in its entirety. Many have said that everywhere they went that summer, they heard "Sgt. Pepper" blaring out of windows. It inspired countless copycat albums, by artists who should have known better. The entire pop music landscape shifted instantly. Those who were deeply affected by the album in 1967 continued to hold those impressions, and its stature only grew during the next couple of decades.

    By the '90s, the incoming generation had no first-hand memories of 1967. The quality of the Beatles' music was strong enough that many young people were still interested in it, but without the context of the era it was produced, the music was now judged solely on its merits. What had sounded revolutionary or groundbreaking in 1967 sounded quaint and dated in 1997.

    By comparison, "Revolver" cuts as sharp as a knife. There are no flowery gimmicks - even George's sitar-based song has a hard rock edge. Every song is brilliantly arranged and compact. There is a certain urgency about it. In short, it holds up as a cohesive work that sounds every bit as fresh today as it did in 1966.

    This is not to say that "Sgt. Pepper" is not a brilliant album - it is - but it is impossible to not associate it with the naive optimism of the Summer of Love, and that is what distinguishes it from the timeless brilliance of "Revolver."
    RickH, ronbow, Paulwalrus and 36 others like this.
  2. Olompali

    Olompali Forum Resident

    ....More Lennon, more Harrison, less McCartney.
    Simple as that.
  3. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen I don't suffer fools or trolls gladly...

    'Cos Revolver's got better songs, not as overproduced as Pepper, either. I reckon Revolver has aged better as well, or the world has finally caught up with it, one of the two...
  4. malco49

    malco49 Forum Resident

    the mono pepper makes it closer but there is just not enough "rock and roll" on it revolver to my ears is a stronger all around record for sure.
    goodiesguy, AidanB, broccolid and 5 others like this.
  5. MarcS

    MarcS Forum Resident

    Oradell NJ
    The other thing that happened, at least in the US, was when the album was reissued on CD it was the UK version with 14 tracks. I don't feel the 11 track Revolver is better than Pepper but the 14 track one is.
  6. Olompali

    Olompali Forum Resident

    Also, Revolver is a much cooler title.
  7. moople72

    moople72 Forum Resident

    Having the British version widely available with the 1987 release of the cds.....helped.....along with all of the reissues and hearing the whole progression on the official British releases....helped drive the album's stature home and that was key in the reassessment.
    Dan The Man1, mfp, bhazen and 10 others like this.
  8. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen I don't suffer fools or trolls gladly...

    Absolutely- prior to the worldwide release of the UK Revolver CD in '87 us North Americans had to settle for the watered down U.S. version of the album. Kinda hard to assess an album properly when it's missing three songs...
  9. Jack Lord

    Jack Lord Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    Well it's like trying to decide between a 65 and a 66 Stang. They're both excellent.

    But after an initial fascination with Pepper, I have generally liked Revolver better. Probably, as you guys just said, due to the UK version becoming more mainstream over here.

    And yea, Pepper is unmistakably 1967 Flower Power while Revolver is more ... understated psychedelia. I have said it before, but I can see it being played in a New Wave joint in late 70s New York and fitting right in.

    Together they are a great 1-2 punch. Like Godfather I and II (no jokes about III please).
  10. No cloyingly sentimental or music-hall ditties on Revolver - arguably the only Beatles album with no filler.
  11. onlyconnect

    onlyconnect The prose and the passion

    Winchester, UK
    Personally I don't think it is easy to select "the Beatles masterpiece".

    Neither Pepper nor Revolver tells the whole story.

    They are not the albums I play most.

    Zep Fan, PDK, middleWave and 12 others like this.
  12. Pizza

    Pizza With extra pepperoni

    Everybody likes to knock whoever is on top and that’s been Sgt. Pepper. (As well as the Beatles.)

    After all these years I’m really amazed that anyone still wants to debate what their best album is. Maybe Revolver is better but Pepper was more revolutionary and distinctive at time of release. To me, Revolver was a logical progression from Rubber Soul. I feel one could mix and match their tracks. Pepper is different from them. Time has mellowed it’s significance.
  13. hgfed27

    hgfed27 Forum Resident

    Issaquah, WA
    I don't know if Revolver is "the" Beatles' masterpiece. They had at least 3 albums that could easily be called a masterpiece. I personally think Abbey Road has a pretty good argument for the crown.
  14. 3coloursbeige

    3coloursbeige Forum Resident

    Well I still prefer Pepper. Just. I think, to some extent, the shift comes down to the fact that Revolver is just 'cooler' (the picture on the reverse is the coolest thing The Beatles ever did) and it isn't taught in schools. That said, I will never enjoy listening to Yellow Submarine, and Pepper has Within Without You and A Day In The Life on it wins.
  15. Fivebyfive

    Fivebyfive Forum Resident

    East coast, US
    Yes. Critics in the 90s started preferring Revolver. Critics today would pick Abbey Road or the white album. Tastes change yet the Beatles keep hanging in there with an album that meshes with the current mood.

    As for Pepper v Revolver, I've always thought Pepper was an album with a very British sensibility, and Americans did not always get that sensibility or the album's humor (or humour, if you're British). It's no surprise that Americans lean toward Revolver over Pepper. Even in the 50th anniversary Pepper remix, it was No. 1 in the UK, and "only" No. 3 here. One of the things I like most about Pepper is that very British feeling.
  16. hgfed27

    hgfed27 Forum Resident

    Issaquah, WA
    I would take the individual songs on Revolver over Sgt. Pepper's but I find Sgt. Pepper's a more satisfying full listen. I enjoy the songs on Revolver more but when I listen to Sgt. Pepper's I feel more like I've been on a Beatles-guided journey through a magical place. Plus "A Day in the Life", you know? Sgt. Pepper's has to have one of the best endings in music history.
  17. Zack

    Zack Forum Resident

    Easton, MD
    What about the yellow you-know-what?
  18. Sear

    Sear Forum Resident

    Tarragona (Spain)
    Yellow Submarine
  19. 78rpm

    78rpm Active Member

    NY, NY
    Finally Revolver is getting the recognition it always deserved -- it lead the way into Sgt. Pepper and in may ways it is still a superior effort showcasing the "real" Beatles -- not to down play Sgt .Pepper which was much more dramatic theater where Revolver was just the Boys doing what they did my humble opinion:blah:
  20. RudolphS

    RudolphS Forum Resident

    Rio de Janeiro
    Revolver better than Pepper? Isn't that already the consensus since, like, 1980?
  21. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    Didn't we already do this thread just a couple of weeks ago?

    Anyway, I disagree with the so-called "consensus" - I think Pepper is by far the better album.
  22. Colocally

    Colocally One Of The New Wave Boys

    Surrey BC.
    Yes and Yes.
  23. "Sgt. Pepper" is in my top 3 Beatles albums, along with "The Beatles (White Album)" and "Abbey Road".
    "Revolver" is my least favourite Beatles album after"Let it Be".

    Not a common opinion, I know.
  24. Diego Lucas

    Diego Lucas Forum Resident

    66 was a year so tense for the band, the tours wasn´t that good, the controverse of John´s speech, rumors of the band, these things was more speak at the time than the album Revolver itself.
    Keith V likes this.
  25. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    I don't dislike Revolver but I don't play it very often, and rarely play the whole thing. There's something about the production I don't like, I can't quite put my finger on it. But I see it as one of many very good Beatles rock albums, but Pepper is something different entirely.
    Paulwalrus, Davido, richarm and 2 others like this.

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