There are two kinds of people in the world: those who prefer the fast, distorted version of “Revolution” that served as the b-side to “Hey Jude,” and those–John Lennon among them–who favor the gentler, bouncy “Revolution 1” you’ll find on the White Album. However, there are no people in the world who would opt for what is oh-so-diplomatically referred to as a “sound collage,” “Revolution 9.”
In fairness, if I didn’t have both renditions to choose from, I’d certainly give “Revolution 1” more love, but it’s hard not to treat it as a demo of sorts for its raging counterpart. The core of the song, though, is outstanding no matter which version you choose. I’ll even give “Revolution 1” points for its fun “shooby-doo-wop” backing vocals, as a contrast to the heavy, often challenging lyrics…you won’t find those in the single version.
Ultimately, it obviously boils down to a matter of preference but there is one fatal flaw in “Revolution 1” that’s hard to overlook. While writing the song, John Lennon vowed he would not walk on eggshells in sharing his perspective of revolution. But for a split second at the end of the first verse, he betrays himself and provides one of the most cringe-worthy moments in rock history by adding just one simple word.
“When you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out…in.”
Say what you will about John Lennon’s sometimes bizarre approach to politics–I mean, I’m sure some of the world leaders he and Yoko Ono mailed acorns to appreciated the gesture–but the man was never afraid to take a stance. But in that moment, he caved in to uncertainty. It’s hard to blame him; the cultural landscape of 1968 was about as chaotic as…well, the one we’re in right now. But what made sense back then was preserved as a record of John Lennon wimping out, which is unfortunate and frustrating. (The “in” is absent on the single version, another mark in its favor.) It’s been a while since I’ve made one of my patented accurate sports references on this blog, but it’s the equivalent of a boxer going seven rounds aggressively punching his opponent in the face and then in the last round, he just walks up and hugs him for three minutes.