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DR. SPIN
Revolution Number 33 1/3
What's a 'revolver' anyway?

by Dr. Spin
October 20, 2003

Revolution Number 33 1/3_Dr. Spin-What's a "revovler" anyway? What does the Grammy award look like?

Dear Nameless,

You know, not to get all “Dear Jon” on you, but I would really appreciate if people would actually address their questions to me, or at least used some sort of name so I could address them back. These anonymous questions are really getting on my nerves!

Anyway to answer your question despite the fact that you wouldn’t leave a name, the Grammy award looks like a an old time record player, you know, the ones they used to crank by hand and they had a big funnel for a speaker… ask your grandmother (or your great-grandmother if she’s still around). They used to call them “Gramophones” (actually a brand name); hence the award is a Grammy.


Dr. Spin,

Why is the Beatles album "Revolver" called "Revolver"? There is no track with that title.

- Beatlefan


Dear BF,

The title is somewhat of a pun. When you hear the word “revolver,” most people think of a gun. But the Beatles were referring to the record itself, “revolving” on a record player (CD’s still revolve, so the title is still apropos). Honestly, this is the true story, at least according to several books I have on the Beatles.


Dear Dr. Spin,

I would grant that Johnny Cash's earliest records added a certain "boogie-woogie" rhythm to country music in songs like "I Walk the Line." But it seems that he is revered in the rock world more for his larger-than-life voice, physical presence, his songs about trouble and hardship, and his persona as a tormented saint, more than any actual musical contribution to rock and roll. What are your thoughts?

Sincerely,

-I love Cash


Dear I Love,

Hey, who doesn’t love cash!

But getting to the point of your letter, Johnny Cash actually contributed quite a bit to the early days of Rock ‘n’ Roll. During my tour of Sun Studios in Memphis, TN, I learned that originally, country music had no drums or percussion. However, Cash wanted a snare drum sound in one of his songs (I don’t remember the title). His solution? Cash taped a dollar bill around the neck of his guitar and played. Cash “cheated” and still got the sound he wanted. Cash’s association with Sun, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins also give him a legitimate claim to the Rock ‘n’ Roll world. Let’s not forget the many Rock tunes he covered over the years, including the one he won his last Grammy with, “Hurt,” by Nine Inch Nails.

As for his persona of a rebel, a man with a troubled life, and his “man in black” mystique, well that says “rock star” all over, doesn’t it? I don’t know if I would call him a “tormented saint;” Cash would be the first to admit his life was far from saintly.

Though he will always be considered a country singer and star, I think Cash’s early contributions make him a legitimate part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll history. Certainly his contributions are equal to Bill Hailey, who we’ve pretty much deemed the first person to play “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” If you allow me to paraphrase Cash’s own song, he “walked the line” between “rockabilly” and country pretty much, until Rock took a decisive turn to become its own form of music. In the early days of Sun Studios, Elvis, Cash and the others would “countrify” blues songs, while black blues artists would “bluesify” country tunes. It is for these reasons that Cash deserves and receives praise and recognition in Rock history.

About the Author:
Dr. Spin does not recommend playing Revolver on a Gramophone, even if you are trying to hear the Johnny Cash influences.


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