Could you say a song was “by The Beatles” if only one member of the band played on it? That was a question the Fab Four first confronted in 1965, when Paul McCartney wrote and recorded “Yesterday” without any other Beatles on the record.
Producer George Martin wondered what to do with it. “It really wasn’t a Beatles record and I discussed it with [Beatles manager] Brian Epstein,” Martin said in Anthology. “This is Paul’s song — shall we call it Paul McCartney?” Epstein didn’t like the idea one bit, and “Yesterday” went out as a Beatles song.
But by 1968 he situation had changed. According to Beatles engineer Geoff Emerick, Paul didn’t consider the sound collage to be Fab Four material.
Though Paul had led the Fab Four through a 14-minute experimental piece called “Carnival of Light” in early ’67, he never intended to release that track on a Beatles record. (As of 2020, it remains locked away, still unreleased.) And Paul apparently saw “Revolution 9” in the same light.
In his book Here, There and Everywhere, Emerick explained how John led the sessions for “Revolution 9” with Yoko beside him and George Harrison helping out. During the recording dates, Paul had been away and thus couldn’t participate.
When he returned to London, John played him the tapes and only got a “not bad” from Paul after the track ended. In Emerick’s recollection, John took offense to the reaction. “Not bad? You have no idea what you’re talking about!” Emerick quoted John saying.
Emerick, made a point of saying how Paul wasn’t against avant-garde music. But he thought Paul didn’t see a track like “Revolution 9” as having a place on a Fab Four record. “Paul simply didn’t see it as Beatles music,” Emerick wrote.