It is a slower and longer version of the song and has more melody and beat than the other. "Revolution 1" was recorded between 30 May and 4 June 1968, about 6 weeks before "Revolution," but released nearly three months later than the single. Lennon wanted the initial version to be released as a single but the other band members said it was too slow for a single.
Lennon, slightly irritated, resolved to remake the song in a version as loud and raucous as anything the Beatles had released, and he led the band through the faster recording which ended up backing "Hey Jude". Searching for a highly distorted and 'dirty'-sounding guitar sound, they plugged the guitars directly into the recording console, overloading the channel, and the resulting highly distorted tone satisfied Lennon and became the distinctive sound of the released version.
The original version, re-titled "Revolution 1" to distinguish it from the single version, was released on The Beatles in late November 1968.
"Revolution 1" contains a notable lyrical difference from the final "Revolution": Lennon's vocal for the track adds the word "in" following the line "But when you talk about destruction/don't you know that you can count me out". Lennon said in interviews that he was undecided in his sentiments toward the song's theme so he included both options.
The song was recorded during the first recordings of The White Album in May 1968, in an attempt by John Lennon to record a long version of "Revolution." The song that became "Revolution 9" was to act as a coda to what became "Revolution 1". As the title implies, it is the 20th take of the song. The first seventeen takes of "Revolution" were shorter versions, while takes 18-20 were extended versions that the band was trying to make into long versions with an extended coda, much like "Hey Jude" and the later "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" from Abbey Road. All 20 of these "Revolution" recordings took place before the single recording of "Revolution".
By this point, Lennon was fully involved with avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, and Ono's influence on Lennon was apparent in the "Revolution" recordings. Ono served as a background singer on this song. By late May 1968, Lennon had decided to split "Revolution 9" into its own song. "Revolution 1 (Take 20)" would be the closest Paul McCartney would be involved with "Revolution 9," a song he was otherwise not involved with except for the Lennon/McCartney writing credit, and along with producer George Martin had fought with the rest of the band to keep off of The White Album. Ultimately, Lennon and Ono won out.
The song starts with some studio dialogue, with McCartney's voice clearly audible. Lennon says in the background "Take your knickers off and let's go". Then McCartney says "Revolution Take 20", indicating that the taping took place before the single taping of "Revolution." It cuts out before it returns to McCartney saying "Revolution Take 20".
The band then starts playing, with the song starting to sound similar to "Revolution 1," except the electric guitar sound that is signature in the intro to both "Revolution" and "Revolution 1" is absent. The song then is identical to "Revolution 1" except for a buzzing sound that is prevalent throughout the recording.
When it gets close to the end of what became "Revolution 1", the song then gets into the extended coda. Most of the band is repeating the playing, with Ono also joining in on backing vocals at this point. Lennon then starts getting into the wailing and the seizure-like sounds that end up on "Revolution 9" while the rest of the band keeps playing. The song is then taken to its breaking point when the ghostly radio sounds of Ono start being heard. The band then "stops" playing, with Lennon going "It is that?", with a robotic voice briefly heard going "Gonna be alright". The song is then identical to the second-to-last portion of "Revolution 9." The song then ends with the band laughing in the studio, and the buzzing sound heard throughout the song is then heard one last time.
- John Lennon — Lead Vocals, Lead Guitar (1965 Epiphone 230TD Casino) and Acoustic Guitar (1964 Gibson J-160E)
- Paul McCartney — Backing Vocals, Bass Guitar (1964 Rickenbacker 4001S), Piano (Hamburg Steinway Baby Grand) and Organ (Hammond L-100)
- George Harrison — Backing Vocals and Lead Guitar (1961 Sonic Blue Fender Stratocaster)
- Ringo Starr — Drums (1964 Ludwig Super Classic Black Oyster Pearl)
- Derek Watkins and Freddie Clayton — Trumpets
- Don Lang, Rex Morris, J. Power and Bill Povey — Trombones
For more information on Revolution and its alternate versions, please see Revolution.