The Beatles (the actual title of the album ) popularly known as “The White Album“, is the ninth studio album by The Beatles, released on 22 November 1968. A double album, with its plain white sleeve, has no graphics or text other than the band’s name embossed on the front cover and a printed serial number, which was intended as a direct contrast to the vivid cover artwork of the band’s previous LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Although no singles were issued from The Beatles in Britain and the United States, the songs “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” originated from the same recording sessions and were issued as a single in August 1968. This year, specifically November 22 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of this comprehensive yet controversial collection of arguably the best and the worst music the band had to offer! Indeed, among the many Beatles-debates we’ve had over the years, our favorite focuses solely on “The White Album” and whether it’s a commanding pinnacle and creative zenith for the band or a bloated, overblown, self-indulgent, cacophony of every song idea that they hadn’t pursued yet, GOOD OR BAD!
As the perceptive reader you are, you have likely identified our position from our subtle introduction above! But, we’ll explain: It’s our opinion that “The White Album” could have been, one spectacular / classic 12 song single disc package! Instead of the 30 song admission that The Beatles were “Believing their own press!” Are You feeling us?
Yep, right here we’re pulling out the Butcher knife, cutting and pruning this “Bloated and self indulged project to a “Classic” single disc!
We will go track by track, dear reader, determining if and why a particular song should be part of the new White Album or be forever forgotten or relegated to some new “Anthology” type project!
But, here’s our favorite part, we need YOU to weigh in with your opinion on what stays and what goes!
So, let’s get started, The album opens with:
1) “Back in the USSR” We don’t think so, it’s just too derivative stealing Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia, On My Mind,” while incorporating The Beach Boys’ “California Girls,” as well as Chuck Berry’s Living in the U.S.A. It’s gotta go!
2)” Dear Prudence” One of several songs from The White Album written at the Ashram In Rishikesh India. It’s gotta be part of The New White Album, if only for the beautiful “Chimeing” George pulls off so brilliantly, while blending so well with John’s plaintive vocal! Plus, the back story with Prudence and Mia Farrow is odd and precious! It must stay!
3) “Glass Onion” This is one of our favorites, and it’s the first time we hear Ringo on this album! Ringo had “temporarily quit the band, (due to tensions between the members )so Paul played Drums on the first two tracks! John takes us on a walk down “Beatles Catalog” lane! Including at least 5 classic Beatles titles in the lyric. Plus, it’s a damn good song, written by John! It’s gotta stay!
4) “Ob-La-De- Ob-La-Da” A Paul song that John and George simply hated. They referred to it as “Paul’s Granny Music” YEP! But it’s so uplifting and the whole band sounds like they’re having such a great time! It puts a smile on our face! It stays!
5) “Wild Honey Pie” Jeeze Louise! When was the last time you thought “Gee, I’d love to hear “Wild Honey Pie” right now? We rest our case, this experimental pain in the ear from Paul, Has gotta go, And right now!
6) “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill” Another song from their stay in Rishikesh, written by John! “Bungalow” Bill and his mother were both at the Ashram and Lennon hated them both, John is trying to hard to make an animal rights point, but it gets lost, and he “borrowed “ the songs melody from an old English children’s song (“All the children say” )It’s gotta go and now!
7) “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” Our all time favorite “George” song! A clever , beautiful song from George where he perfected his “Weeping” Guitar sound! PLUS! This song features Eric Clapton adding a little extra guitar work! And, the first time a “non-Beatle, played on a Beatles record! It’s gotta stay!
8) “Happiness is a Warm Gun” This mixed up mish/mash of three or four song fragments never comes together, and the title? When you consider how John died, you can only agree It’s gotta go! Now!
9) “Martha My Dear” A classic “Music Hall” type tune from McCartney with a brass section! Although many folks believe this song was written about his English Sheep Dog, Martha, it’s actually about his relationship with his then girlfriend Jane Asher! A classic Beatles track, It stays!
10) “I’m So Tired” One Of Johns underrated greats and his vocal nails it! Also written in Rishikesh. It is also one of the song’s indicted in the “Paul is dead” theory. As the song fades you can hear John mumble something that sounds like “Paul is dead, miss him, miss him, miss him” OH! And we love John’s Yawn! You’re right, it stays!
11) “Blackbird” Some critics have said that this was Paul “Showing off on guitar” but it’s a beautiful melody and guitar piece with a poignant and contemporary lyric sentiment, especially coming from Paul, and the truth is when asking any guitar player if they’re good or not we frequently ask “Can you play Blackbird? Oh yes, it’s gotta stay!!
12) “Piggies” From George, from India, and we wish it would’ve stayed there, especially with how great “Weeps” is! George gets a little to “Preachy” with his “Orwellian lyrics plus the awful sound of pigs grunting is “All too much” so to speak! It’s gotta go!
13) “Rocky Raccoon” As much as we enjoy how well McCartney paints a picture for us, his “American Western Drawl” is annoying! This could have fit well on his first “Wings” record, But, THIS IS NOT A BEATLES SONG! It’s gotta go
14) Don’t Pass Me By” This one is easy, after all Ringo ( he wrote this one, all by himself) is simply NOT A SONGWRITER! ( you can hear that, right? ) And the fiddle playing? George Martin brought in a Violinist from the London Symphony! A perfect accompaniment don’tja think? PUH-Leeze, It’s gotta go, immediately!
15) “Why Don’t we Do It In The Road” written in Rishikesh when Paul saw two monkeys getting busy right on the sidewalk in front of him! And thought, “Hey that’ll make a GREAT song” Precious Inspiration, or not? We say NOT! It’s gotta go!
16) “I Will” Another simple, beautiful love song from Paul, he actually began working on the song in Rishikesh with Donovan, who was teaching Paul his unique “Finger picking style.” They didn’t get to far, Paul completed the song on his own later in London! And, if you listen closely you can hear Paul “Vocalize” the Bass part. Very cool! It needs to stay!
17)”Julia” This is one of Johns most intimate, personal and beautiful songs about his mother who he lost to a drunk driver when he was 17! Nuff said! It needs to stay!
18)”Birthday” One Of those rare times The Beatles tried an idea and failed! There is just NO WAY this song can compliment or replace “Happy Birthday” It’s way to complicated with too many guitar breaks! It’s gone as well!
19) “Yer Blues” This is Lennon’s deliberate and heavy-handed reaction to a popular topic being debated in the English press at the time! Quite simply, a claim was made that white men can’t play the blues! We’re not sure Lennon proved them wrong! It’s gotta go too
20)”Mother Nature’s Son” From Paul while at the Ashram he claimed it was inspired from an early lecture delivered by The Maharishi! For us that’s reason enough to jettison this dull boy! Buy Bye!
21)”Everybody’s Got something To Hide except For Me And My Monkey” Hell, it’s gotta go just cuz the title is so long! But this is Johns angry “Kiss my ass” song to the English press and the Monkey he’s referring to is his beautiful bride Yoko! And again, this isn’t a Beatles song, John and the Monkey gotta go!
22) “Sexy Sadie” another song from their days’ at The Ashram In India! This is John’s angry comment on what a “ sham” The Maharishi turned out to be. It was originally titled “Maharishi “ but George convinced John to change the title to something a little less obvious! Again, when was the last time you thought “Gee I’d love to hear “Sexy Sadie”! Case rested, Sadie’s gotta go!
23) “ Helter Skelter” This Song from Paul is Paul’s reaction to a newspaper article about how “Hard” The Who could still Rock! ( unlike The Beatles ) Paul’s “We’ll show them” attitude gave us a loud, over screamed rambling waste of time with much of the world especially America, not having a clue as to what a “Helter Skelter is! Lastly as it acquired it’s relationship to Charles Manson, it just shouldn’t be here! It’s gotta go, quietly!
24) “Long, Long, Long” Quite simply is a long song from and about George and his ongoing struggle to become one with God!, and frankly, do you care? It too written in Rishikesh! Got To Go!, please?
25) “Revolution #1” The Beatles recorded three songs with the word “Revolution” in the title during The White Album sessions. This one, an homage to early rock n roll and doo wop is a fun sing along Beatles style! It’s gotta stay!
26) “Honey Pie” Paul at his peak “Dance Hall” “Vaudeville” period witnessed further by “When I’m 64”, “You’r Mother Should Know” “Martha My Dear” The lyric reads like a 40’s movie script, but not a good one! and yet again WHO CARES? She’s gotta go!
27) “Savoy Truffle” George’s Song for his close friend Eric Clapton, his passion for sweats and his “BAD TEETH” Yeeach! Although the horn section and arrangements are very cool, the subject MATTER GROSSES US OUT, Must we? George, Eric, his candy and bad teeth, Gotta Go!
28) “Cry Baby Cry” John’s Song, where the original lyric was “Cry Baby Cry, make your mother buy” Which John took from an advert he saw! But what we like best about this track is the unlisted quiet murmur of a song that Paul improvised and the end of “Cry Baby Cry” The Song Paul is singing is called “Can You Take me back” and it was originally for the “I Will” sessions! Both songs are beautiful and they should stay!
29) “Revolution Number Nine” The most experimental piece the band ever attempted! Much of what you hear are random “Tape Loops” The Band borrowed from the EMI studio’s sound effects vault! Including the repeating “Monotone “NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE, NUMBER NINE”. Obviously a Beatles nod and a wink to this being their NINTH album! This song also alludes to the famous “Paul is dead” theory. As the story goes, if you play #9 backwards, the voice sounds like they’re saying “Turn me on Deadman” Go figure! And please report back!
The penultimate song on the album, an annoying, unlistenable, experiment MUST GO! It’s outta here!
30) “Goodnight “ The final track on the album and one of John’s best pieces of work! Written for his son Julian as a lullaby John could put his son to sleep to, it simply succeeds on every level! This beautiful recording features only Ringo backed with a Gordon Jenkins style orchestra and it’s perfect! Yes, a perfect closer to a diverse, complicated, sometimes confusing collection of songs, ideas and attitudes, from four old friends, now on the edge and the brink of fist fights! It must stay, to insure future Beatles Music!
Soooo, dear reader, here it is: The Leaner Meaner, slimmed down and revised “White Album”
And here is your revised Shorter track listing as it would appear on the revised “Single Disc Edition”
Track #1 “Dear Prudence”
Track #2 “Glass Onion”
Track #3 “Ob La Di Ob La Da”
Track #4 “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
Track #5 “Martha My Dear”
Track #6 “I’m So Tired”
Track #7 “Blackbird “
Track #8 “I Will”
Track #9 “Julia”
Track #10 “Revolution #1”
Track #11 “Cry Baby Cry”/“Can You Take me Back”
Track #12 “Goodnight”
There you have it, a classic, 12 Track Album, that would enter into the other debate: Which Beatle Album is your favorite, Rubber Soul or Revolver? But now the competition for favorite Beatle Album include’s “The White Album!
Post Script: Over the years many “Beatles Experts” have made the claim, that at this point in time and intensity with The Beatles, they each needed to focus on their own personal direction and Muse! The White Album, with all of it’s flaws of abundance was an absolute necessity if there was ever to be more Beatles music and any sense of friendship!
Now, please share your thoughts on what stays / what goes / or what ever!
Yeah, Yeah, YEAH!
I believe this was the last Beatles’ record to have both a mono and stereo version. The mono version (IMHO) sounds different, with Paul’s bass (on some songs) more defined. There are some tracks that probably could have been left out, but after the release of Freak Out, there seems to have been an interest in double albums. Chicago Transit Authority, another iconic double album, could (and should) have been pared down to a single release. Cheers and I hope everyone had a good Christmas!
Late to the game but I had to play along for the New Year…My approach was to go down the song list and agree or disagree with your pick (to go or stay!). I know you’re not gonna believe this but…I agreed fifteen times and disagreed fifteen times.
And that, my friend, is The White Album!
I knew your take on the “White” album would generate comments! — And I’m going to disagree with you. Wow! I don’t want any tracks removed. I think the Beatles were giving us a panorama of their creative process. Maybe “White” was a blank canvas or space to look at and listen to.
For me, Blackbird is the signature song. I think the very day it was released songwriter Judee Sill came over to Lynn Blessing’s apartment and sang “Blackbird” for us. (Lynn Blessing played vibes with Paul Horn, Les McCann, the Flying Burrito Bros., etc. and I was his girlfriend then.) That’s how hot people were on that song right away! It was an impact I haven’t forgotten hearing Judee singing, playing guitar on “Blackbird” before I even heard the album. I was “in the moment.” — And “My Guitar Gently Weeps” so meaningful as the years have passed.
I found some tracks messy. “Back In The U.S.S.R.” and “Don’t Pass Me By.” (What is that song doing?) — But go back and listen its instrumental intro. “Hmmm, interesting.” A portent of the future?
I doubt the Beatles would have wanted to be considered the next Gilbert & Sullivan (Dear Prudence, Martha My Dear). They were experimenting, moving on. I think they were being gutsy for letting it all hang out — or maybe they were just being the Beatles. Thanks for getting me back into the “White.”
Hey Libbie Jo,
Thank you for your insightful comments, and I love your defense of the band! Meanwhile, not sure if you noticed but it appears to me when you single out a particular song we appear to be in complete agreement!
Thanx LJ, we always love it when you and your flute drop in!
Hi, Rick, I did notice we were in agreement about songs we liked and didn’t, but I am glad they didn’t duck any of those tracks. What a fun topic!
I was watching a docu regarding the civil war and I heard a term I was never familiar with called “BLACK BIRDING”: it described the capturing of runaway slaves in the North under the “Fugitive Slave Act”. I immediately thought of “Black Bird” [which I equally did not recognize this song to be about “Freed Slaves”. It seems obvious to me that Paul has a MUCHBETTER GRASP of American history than I! Maybe my history lessons were “sanitized” and Paul learned a lot more truth??
Ron, I doubt very much that McCartney was referring to history and the slavery issue in this song. McCartney, on the other hand, had been criticized for writing “Silly Little Love Songs” and thus writing the song with that title in his defense. Lennon was jealous that McCartney’s simpler message and more melodic music would be played as ‘elevator music’ in the future and his would not be. My guess would be that you Ron, are liberal politically and see racism under every rock, or am I wrong, and it’s every other rock?
I love this site because, unlike the rest of the WWW, I can usually come here to escape the finger wagging name calling that creeps into the commentary of even the most benign, apolitical, hobby oriented blogs.
Anyway, from Wikipedia, in McCartney’s own words:
“In May 2002, following a show in Dallas, Texas, McCartney discussed the song with KCRW DJ Chris Douridas, saying:
‘I had been doing some [poetry readings] in the last year or so because I’ve got a poetry book out called Blackbird Singing, and when I would read “Blackbird”, I would always try and think of some explanation to tell the people … So, I was doing explanations, and I actually just remembered why I’d written “Blackbird”, you know, that I’d been, I was in Scotland playing on my guitar, and I remembered this whole idea of “you were only waiting for this moment to arise” was about, you know, the black people’s struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It’s not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it’s a bit more symbolic.’.”
Interesting Jim… in all my years (a fan probably since 1963) I had never heard of this explanation. I actually doubt McCartney’s account so many years later. It sounds like the story fit and he decided to start explaining it this way. But I am just guessing here and what you just posted is very interesting. Thanks.
I am not doubting your Beatles creds, and McCartney certainly must be getting tired of being asked ‘what did you mean by such and such’; but in recent years I have heard many times that ‘Blackbird’ was intended as a commentary on race issues.
Here is another of McCartney’s quotes as it appeared in ‘Many Years from Now’, by Barry Miles:
“I had in mind a black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: “Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith; there is hope.”
As is often the case with my things, a veiling took place, so rather than saying, ‘Black woman living in Little Rock’ and be very specific, she became a bird, became symbolic, so you could apply it to your particular problem.”
Anyway, whatever it’s meaning, I think ‘Blackbird’ is musically one of the most beautiful songs of the ’20th Century.
And interestingly enough, here is Chet Atkins, a good ‘ol southern boy, doing justice to it:
Hi Jim and thanks for the research… but we still should wonder why these are merely recent quotes and why oh why did we not hear of this long ago in 1968? They (the Beatles) were rich by that time and could virtually say anything they wanted to. The Lennon hostility quote of “they were more popular than Jesus” had long since died down and now they were into the hip crowd and drugs etc. Is McCartney trying to now be known as some big supporter of racial equality for history’s sake? Again, I will say this, I have been a huge fan of theirs almost from the beginning. I might not know everything, but I know quite a bit about the group and had never heard of this take on the song in question until recently. Big red flag for me.
Oh, and sorry about the ‘name calling’??? But I’m sure you’re a big boy.
No prob. Just sticking up for my old friend Ron. He and I go way back, grade school. We both ushered at the Beatles concert at the Hollywood
Bowl in ’65. And I’ll let you in on a little secret, back in the day he was for Berry Goldwater!
We always appreciate your perceptive and experienced commentary, HOWEVER, your recent comments and the path your rhetoric has taken are simply unacceptable here at SMS! We openly encourage challenging and aggressive debate but civility and respect overrides everything!
We hope you continue to be part of the conversation, but please save any political accusations for another blog!
You are free to set me free. If my rhetoric is unacceptable, that would be unacceptable to me.
As always you bring a fresh perspective to the site! We’d never heard that term “Black Birding either! But from the day the white album was released, the word was “Black bird was all about Black equality. One other nasty bit of history surrounding this Beatle classic is Crazy man Charles Manson proclaimed that The Beatles had written and released this track to alert the world of his portending “Race War” which he would lead! Thank you Ronnie!
They all stay, these songs are so interwoven thru time and memory that to edit the experience is liken to vandalizing rich analog sound into crass mp3s. IMHO.
QUIBBLE: #7, you cite Clapton as first non-beatle? Who played strings on Yesterday? Who played orchestral freakout on Day in the Life? Who played the harpsichord/clavichord whatever solo on song I think may have been For Noone (?) Who played piccolo trumpet on Penny Lane? And of course theres always Bernard Purdie lurking in the shadows LOL.
We so appreciate your comment and we agree! No matter what your opinion may be of each individual song, this body of work, “The White Album” is now embedded in our mind and an important element of our musical fabric, as it will remain forever!
As for your QUIBBLE #7, when we wrote the piece we knew some brilliant reader was going to call us on this! But please, allow us to elaborate and explain. Of course you are correct, thru the years dozens of string players, horn players, the Harpest on “She’s leaving Home” etc. we’re “Non Beatles playing on Beatle records HELL , for that matter George Martin has been playing on Beatle records for years and he’s not a Beatle, or is he?
And as far as Bernard Purdie is concerned, sure he worked on some of Paul and Johns latter solo stuff, but we’ve never believed HIS claim that he’s played on over 20 Beatle records! Thru the years it appears to us that only Bernard has made that claim and his story about receiving “Hush Money” sure sounds like musician Bull Shit to us!
BUT! To our point, Clapton was the first single celebrated musician from another band featured on a Beatles record!! If you’ve read any of the many books on the band ( and we know you have ) they frequently refer to Clapton’s performance on “While My Guitar” as the first time a non Beatle played on a Beatle record and how Clapton initially refused just for that reason!
Most important Mark, we can always count on you for keeping us honest! Please stick around and keep up the good work!
P.S. Thanx for keeping Yoko out of the conversation!
Well, like most everybody… these may not have all been my choices, but I agree (and always have) that this album was too big and self indulgent with a lot of below standard songs by my favorite group.
First and foremost, we want to welcome you to Sixties Music Secrets and we sincerely appreciate you taking the time to comment!
In that regard, we gotta ask you, which songs, among this “blotted project would YOU like to see removed?
Thanx Robert and we look forward to your further commentary!
Hi Rick… the first three songs of the list and Track 10. Just me.
We’re sure this has nothing to do with your choices but, as you may know, that is Paul playing drums on tracks 1 and 2! not Ringo, Just sayin,. And your choice of “Revolution Number one surprised us! We just had too much fun singing thru the years “”Ah ooo shooby doo wop” WE CAN’T LET THAT ONE GO!
R.S. @ SMS
I really enjoyed the insight to each song.
Glad to hear you enjoyed the piece! Actually, it was big fun dissecting the record..
I’m with John on Ob-la-whatever. I hate it. Had it not been written by the Beatles, I doubt it would ever be recorded.
We think yoou’re Absolutely right, and your comment can apply to many Beatles songs! Actually if you look back on their catalog, John and Paul constantly found ways to re-work a love song! Remember “She Loves You”? Listen to the lyric, it’s a love song where a guy is singing to another guy!
Meanwhile, do you have another White Album selection you’d like to see deleted from the album?
Thanx, D. always great when you drop by!
Rick, That is so interesting! You are controversial on this one for sure! Cool! Libbie Jo
Hey Libbie Jo,
Controversy, debate and discussion! That’s the idea! Sooo, if YOU could eliminate two songs from “The White Album” which one’s would they be?
I’ll listen again and get back to ya!!
I would definitely nix “Rocky Racoon” and “Piggies” since they don’t sound like Beatles’ songs and of course I agree, “Helter Skelter” has to go.
Agreed, we love it when we “Come Together” over Beatles songs! You’re right, those three just gotta go, along with 15 more!
Always love hearing your opinion!
Trade Ob La Di Blah Blah Blah with Sexy Sadie.
“ob la de blah blah” very clever, but we just can’t live without the great energy in that song! BTW, Didja know that Lennon’s only contribution to the recording of “Ob La De” is the brief piano intro that opens the record! John hated the song and was “Fall down drunk the day of the recording!
Ah la la la Life goes on!
Music is so subjective. A song I may fast-forward through may be someone’s else’s favorite of all-time.
Even the Fab Four are in my corner on this one stating, for the record, Sexy Sadie, she’s the latest and the greatest of them all.
Gotta admit, you’re right, that’s what they said! With tongue firmly placed in cheek!