- John Lennon – lead vocals, scream, lead guitar, handclaps
- Paul McCartney – bass guitar, Hammond organ, handclaps
- George Harrison – rhythm guitar, handclaps
- Ringo Starr – drums, handclaps
- Nicky Hopkins – electric piano
John Lennon wrote Revolution, which came out in two very different versions. One, called simply Revolution is a noisy, electric song, and what has come to be known as Revolution 1 is slower and quieter. A third piece, called Revolution 9, was included on The White Album along with Revolution 1. It has been described as "experimental" by kind critics and by others as being unworthy of being called a song. An Internet version called Revolution 1, Take 20 has appeared, but its authenticity has not been established.
Revolution was the last of three versions to be recorded. It was released on the b-side of the single, Hey Jude late in August of 1968. It employed heavily fuzzed and distorted guitars and an electric piano (played by Nicky Hopkins). Lennon starts with a lot of overdrive on the guitar, and the drums thunder through, enhanced by audio compression. There is a scream. Lennon performs it in an overdub, but in live performances, McCartney had to do it in order for Lennon to be able to come in timely on the verse.
Though a simple rock and roll song (usual chords, usual beats), the audio enhancements truly reflect a revolution in the way the Beatles would perform their songs and opens the door to the era of heavy metal.
When the Hey Jude promo video was shot, the Beatles also made a promo for Revolution. They performed the song for the filming over a pre-recorded track of the instruments. In this film they adlibbed some of the elements of the slower Revolution 1, including the "shoe-be-do-wa" background vocal. Thus the promo film, which first was seen on the David Frost TV program on September 4, 1968, is a mix of the two distinct versions.
Ironically, after John's death, Revolution was the first Beatles song ever to be commercially licensed for a TV commercial. It was for Nike athletic shoes. In 1987, Harrison said,
every Beatles song ever recorded is going to be advertising women's underwear and sausages. We've got to put a stop to it. A law suit was filed, and settled out of court.