What are the odds that my collection would feature not one but two revelatory covers of the Beatles’ “Revolution 9”?
Anyway, I recently ran across a recording of a live, benefit show Robyn Hitchcock did a couple years back in which he and a band covered the Beatles’ “White Album” in its entirety. (It was a benefit for Medicins Sans Frontieres a/k/a Doctors without Borders, so please donate.) The main thing that makes this version of “Revolution 9” work is Hitchcock’s narration – which initially seems another daft improvisation, wherein Hitchcock simply rattles off a chronological history of recent politics.
But the effect, especially near the end, as his ranting reaches a peak simultaneously with the music’s most chaotic moments, is the creation of a “duh” moment in me: which is that I’d never considered that at some level Lennon’s piece was political art, a reaction to (and, perhaps, embodiment of) the Vietnam War. Because Hitchcock, of course, makes it crystal clear that this performance of “Revolution 9” (and the larger performance from which it’s drawn) is about Iraq.
And musically, at least, all that gives much greater emotional weight to “Good Night” (I’m not sure who deserves credit for the original album sequencing here), whose guitar-and-mellotron arrangement here rescues it from the perhaps overly soupy string arrangement of the original. (Or at least what some people would say is an overly soupy arrangement: me, I think the 1,000 Strings approach makes sense in context.)
(I’ve put up both tracks as a single file to preserve the flow between them.)