FORGOTTEN HITS SALUTES
THE 40th ANNIVERSARY
OF THE BEATLES' WHITE ALBUM
40 years ago this month THE BEATLES released their landmark WHITE ALBUM. (Although it was OFFICIALLY named simply "THE BEATLES", it has been known ever since as "The White Album" because of the stark, white, plain design of the LP cover ... a revolutionary look coming on the heels of their overblown PREVIOUS LP release, SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND.) It was also their very first LP released on their very own record label, APPLE RECORDS. The album cover was pure white, with THE BEATLES' name embossed on the cover (and a "stamped" number, almost implying that this was some sort of "Limited Edition Collectors' Piece of some sort ... yeah right, what was the initial pressing of this LP, eight MILLION copies?!?!? Which of course makes THIS the ULTIMATE BEATLES Trivia Question ... what number was stamped on the front of YOUR LP Cover?!?!?)
In addition to sharing my OWN memories of THE BEATLES' WHITE ALBUM, several of our readers have shared THEIR memories of this momentous LP release, too. And what REALLY makes this whole tribute so special is that BEATLES Historian BRUCE SPIZER has allowed us to use HIS memories and commentaries on this landmark LP, too, as part of this special feature.
THE WHITE ALBUM was the VERY first album that I actually waited in line to buy ON its release date. The first two tracks I ever heard on the radio were BACK IN THE U.S.S.R. and ROCKY RACCOON and I fell in love with them IMMEDIATELY!!! (They remain a couple of my favorites from the double LP, along with I WILL, WHY DON'T WE DO IT IN THE ROAD, WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS, I'M SO TIRED and the slowed down version of REVOLUTION #1.) Within a week of the LP's release, my band was already playing BACK IN THE U.S.S.R. as part of our repertoire. (Hindsight's REALLY something, isn't it??? Despite ALL of the initial fuss, it sure doesn't sound as much like THE BEACH BOYS now, 40 years later, as it did when it first came out, does it?!?!?! But that's only because we've probably heard it 20,000,000 times since then!!!)
THE BEATLES received a lot of flack over the years for releasing a double-LP ... MANY fans and critics felt that in doing so, too much weak material made the cut. (REVOLUTION #9 anyone?!?!?) But I don't know about that ... Besides MY personal favorites, DEAR PRUDENCE, GLASS ONION, HAPPINESS IS A WARM GUN, MARTHA MY DEAR, PIGGIES, BLACKBIRD, JULIA , BIRTHDAY, YER BLUES, MOTHER NATURE'S SON, SEXY SADIE, HELTER SKELTER, LONG LONG LONG, HONEY PIE, SAVOY TRUFFLE and CRY BABY CRY still hold up pretty well to MY ears!!! And how many times a week do you STILL hear OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA, a sure-fire hit single had they released one from the album. (In fact, NO single was released, which only helped to spur additional album sales!) Weakest tracks for me were REVOLUTION #9 (which is probably their weakest track EVER!!! Really, what was the point?!?!?), THE CONTINUING STORY OF BUNGALOW BILL and RINGO's DON'T PASS ME BY. Even the sub-standard GOOD NIGHT and EVERYBODY'S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT FOR ME AND MY MONKEY are "listenable" once in a while.
But we wondered what YOU thought!!! What was YOUR initial reaction when this LP was first released? How do YOU feel it has held up (and MEASURED up) over the past 40 years ... and against some of THE BEATLES' other works? In MANY cases, this felt like a lot of "solo" tracks melded together into one LP that simply bore the band's name ... and, to a degree, this was true. (Hmm ... I wonder how much longer they might have survived had they explored this recording technique further ... let each guy do his own thing for a couple of tracks and then record three or four together as a band. In fact, prior to the release of LET IT BE, there was even some talk of THE BEATLES releasing ANOTHER 2-Record Set, this time allowing EACH BEATLE their own "Solo Side" ... but this, of course, never materialized. Then again, continuing in this "solo" fashion very well may have cheated us out of ABBEY ROAD, their swan song masterpiece!!!)
In hindsight, THE WHITE ALBUM has pretty much become recognized as the beginning of the end for THE BEATLES. After the loss of their manager BRIAN EPSTEIN and the failure of their holiday television special MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR ... not to mention the chaos that became their business venture, APPLE ... it just wasn't FUN being a Fab Four Mop-Top anymore. Whereas THE BEATLES had pretty much been the ones initiating all of the musical and fashion trends for the past four years, music was now starting to change AROUND them. Outside influences (including, but not limited to drugs and new women in their lives) were ALSO having an effect on the once inseparable, close-knit band. At one point during the recording sessions for the new LP, RINGO actually quit the band, feeling that he no longer fit in. (After spending literally HUNDREDS of hours sitting in the studio watching SGT. PEPPER take shape, who could really blame him??? At one point RINGO, when asked what he remembered MOST about the making of The SGT. PEPPER Album, replied "That's when I learned to play chess."!!!)
Most of the tracks included on the new LP draw their roots from THE BEATLES' tour of duty in India, exploring Transcendental Meditation with the MAHARISHI, along with their wives and girlfriends, MIA FARROW (and her Sister PRUDENCE, who inspired at least ONE of the album's tracks), MIKE LOVE of THE BEACH BOYS (see BACK IN THE U.S.S.R.) and DONOVAN (whose influence can be held in perhaps a HIGHER regard when you consider the new finger-picking sounds employed on tracks like JULIA, BLACKBIRD and MOTHER NATURE'S SON.) In an article that appeared in a recent issue of MOJO MAGAZINE (ALSO saluting THE BEATLES' WHITE ALBUM) DONOVAN LEITCH (who accompanied THE FABS on their trip to Rishikesh) says that when they first arrived, part of the routine included sitting around a campfire, singing children's favorites like SHE'LL BE COMING 'ROUND THE MOUNTAIN and YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE ... and infers that that some of these simple, child-like "sing-song" melodies MAY have been the inspiration for some of the songs that THE BEATLES wrote while they were in India ... OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DA ... THE CONTINUING STORY OF BUNGALOO BILL ... ROCKY RACCOON ... for example! JOHN and GEORGE were the ones MOST taken with their India experience ... in fact, RINGO left after just ten days because he didn't like the food!!! McCARTNEY took what he could away from the experience and, reportedly, as recently as 2004 met with THE MAHARISHI again in an effort to gain some "peace of mind".
Please join us as we take a look back at THE BEATLES' WHITE ALBUM ... and feel free to send us YOUR comments and memories, too. To paraphrase The Fabs, "We hope you will enjoy the show".
Here are some of the responses we received when we asked our readers to share THEIR memories of this VERY special LP:
I was in the Army, in Germany, when that album came out. Of course it was revolutionary, but since I was away from mainstream comments and requests, I can’t add too much. I think Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da is my favorite cut.
I am bad one to ask. I hate that album. Not only the music, but the packaging was a mess and logistically , it was one of the biggest f-up's by Capitol when they shipped them.
Name Withheld by Request
I was still two years away from the real start of my radio career in 1968 when the Beatles’ “White Album” first arrived, but I remember an older DJ telling me that at his radio station everyone assumed it was a pre-release promotional copy packaged in a plain white double LP jacket. They then speculated as to what the REAL cover might look like once the album hit stores. There were even rumors that the original cover art chosen by the Beatles had been rejected by Capitol at the last minute due to it being in poor taste. Therefore, in order to hit the predetermined release date, radio station copies were shipped by Capitol in plain white sleeves. The idea that Capitol (Apple’s distributor) might feel wary of Beatle-approved cover art, of course, had credibility – as Capitol had already had to recall, at great expense, the Beatles’ infamous butcher covers not too long before. It didn't take long after “The White Album” hit stores, though, for other artists to begin releasing albums in nontraditional packaging – round album covers from Small Faces and Grand Funk; a live Who album packaged to resemble a bootleg; Alice Cooper’s school desk with the LP encased in panties; the Rolling Stones’ zipper cover; the Dave Mason album pressed in vomitone vinyl; the reintroduction of picture discs, etc. Such marketing stunts pretty much vanished once CDs hit the scene and album art (as we’d cherished it) shrank to a shadow of its former self.
I was so immersed with the Beach Boys that I "missed" the White Album. Just an observation: It seems ironic that the White Album may have been a hint of things to come; the break-up of the Beatles: Long after the recording of The Beatles was complete, Sir George Martin mentioned in interviews that his working relationship with The Beatles changed during this period, and that many of the band's efforts seemed unfocused, often yielding prolonged jam sessions that sounded uninspired.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Beatles_(album)> ... while Friends by the Beach Boys (released that same year) was their first truly group effort, with several band members joining Brian Wilson in the writing and the producing. Hope you get some good stories!
Got the White Album in ’69 when I was 13. Fave tracks were “Ob La Di”, “Rocky Raccoon” & “USSR” right out of the gate. Fave tracks now are ”While My Guitar Gently Weeps” & “USSR. The Rockin ones hold up pretty good, and a couple of the ballads are still nice. The goofier stuff is a bit weak. As all later Beatles LP’s for me have gotten a bit weaker, a little too pretentious & lamer songs when compared to the pre Peppers Classics.
I still sing OB-LA-DI for my Alzheimer and retirement home Shows sometimes so in a way I'm still influenced by that album NOW, and the groups always love to hear it. It makes them happy ... probably the goofy sounding lyrics ... OB-LA-DI, OB-LA-DAH ... that is a HAPPY sound, and the beat and the rest of the story is HAPPY .... hey, HAPPY ... That's what the Beatles usually made ME feel.
For me ... I was a punk kid that summer ... living in a $15 dollar a week flop-house in North Wildwood, NJ ... worked on the boardwalk and somehow talked my parents into letting their way too young 'good' boy live on his own for a couple of months ... I had limited access to music, but did own a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder (5 inch reels) and spent the summer listening constantly to THE WHITE ALBUM ... it blew me away ... then ... and NOW STILL !!! (and my lifelong love of the song I WILL came from that summer). Having the WHITE ALBUM at hand made me pretty popular with the summer boardwalk workers ... GOOD DAYS ... We partied like the staff in DIRTY DANCING ... our parties started later ... after the boardwalk closed ... and THE WHITE ALBUM always takes me back to those days ... I still have remnants of the gold lame poster from the LIFE MAGAZINE cover I bought that summer ... (no words, gold back and the beatles 'carved' in black felt(?) ... cost me $3)
It's mostly 'dissolved' over the years into tatters ... but I've hung it (even in a closet) in every place I lived since then ... It's now folded in a plastic bag in the closet next to where I sleep ... I still keep bits of it in my wallet for luck ...I'D SAY THE WHITE ALBUM AFFECTED ME ... (gary) RENFIELD http://www.riprenfield.com/
I didn't hear "The White Album" until the late '90s so I look forward to reading about everyone else's "first-hand" experiences of the album. It really is eclectic. I remember thinking it was so "new" and revolutionary when I first heard it so I can only imagine what it must've been like to hear it when it actually came out.
The Beatles' WHITE ALBUM, though not one of my favorite Beatle albums, contains some little gems such as Dear Prudence, Blackbird, Martha My Dear and a couple of others. That's one huge Beatles fan's opinion.
This was the greatest album EVER made. Period.
Big Jay Sorensen
Christmas, 1968 ... 6th grade for me ... my sisters got it ... it was big and fat and white as the snow that turned brown beneath my rubber boots ... it was rockin' (Back in the USSR, Helter Skelter) enigmatic (Savoy Truffle, Yer Blues, Dear Prudence, Glass Onion) classically beautiful (Martha My Dear, Good Night, Blackbird), funny (Piggies) and scary (Revolution 9) ... these songs evoke Christmas as clearly as Hark the Herald Angels Sing ... and like the best Christmas Carols they seemed divinely inspired, but maybe that was all part of the hype we bought into at the time ... knowing now what I didn't know then, I can see that the album shows four parts of a great group pulling in their own musical directions ... and if they were contemplating solo careers at the time, they held nothing back ... rather than as evidence of the Beatles pulling apart, I prefer to think of the White Album as a sort of musical Big Bang ... sending the four members careening toward some unimaginable horizon of the known musical universe
Jim Shea Y103.9 / Crystal lake IL
I remember people being pissed because (out here in the San Francisco Bay Area) there were no white grooves separating the tracks so it was hard for the home consumer to cue up a single track. However, radio station copies of the White Album did have the white grooves.I bought my copy of the White Album from the National Record Plan (a now defunct competitor of the also defunct Record Club of America), which operated out of New York City. Imagine my surprise when my consumer copy came with the white grooves. Apple Records promo service was HQ'd in New York at the time so I wonder if the same plant that pressed the promo copies also pressed the consumer copies for the New York region.I also later bought the U.K. and French releases of the White Album and one of them (the French, I believe)contained the white grooves while the other did not.
My memory of the White Album was that Tom Donahue had arranged for an early UK press copy to be hand delivered from London, then tracked it completely twice on the air at KSAN as soon as it hit the studio - they did IDs and a short explanation while flipping it over - my future ex-wife and I were on our way to the Empire Theater on West Portal Ave, when the disc arrived - we parked in the lot behind West Portal Joe's and reclined the seats in the Corona, lit a joint and listened the first SF playing of the White Album from beginning to end! SF was the most wonderful place in the world for a 22-year old college student at that time.While I never really would like to return to those days, I miss the creative rush and a world that was interested in what me and my generation wanted and what interested us. I also miss West Portal Joe's and the great food the Vargas family served.The only thing that they seem to want to sell us today is prescription drugs and dick extensions ..........
I was a tyke back when The White Album came out ... about 7 years old. I only remember this as the beginning of the end of the "Beatles sound" and although I liked a lot of the newer stuff, there were songs on this album that I didn't "get" and seeing as I was just a kid I can understand that. All these years later I still kind of block out a lot of those "weird" songs. A part of me grieved for the loss of the sound that I literally grew up with. I imagine that a few folks with a few more years under their belt could come up with some great memories and impressions. That being said, some of my favorite Beatles songs are on the "White" album. Mother Natures Son John Denver (another favorite singer of mine) did a great version of this a few years later. Back in the USSR, Blackbird, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, & Revolution
Here's my take on the White Album. You won't like it! I was a huge fan of The Beatles and greatly admire the extraordinary talents of Paul McCartney and John Lennon. I even had the pleasure of working with them in the 60s. But the White Album? A landmark? OK, but a very ugly landmark. I just don't get it and I don't care how many millions it sold (and still sells) to me it's Lennon & McCartney taking the 'piss' out of all of us. I can imagine the thinking. 'For one last time, 'cos' we really hate each other, let's record and release everything we haven't recorded including the crap in the bottom drawer'. (Most of the songs should have stayed there.) This album has no focus, no cohesion, in fact, no reason for being released except for lots of people to make lots of money. Some of the songs sound like (and, I guess, are) one take demos. As for the rest, what's "Wild Honey Pie" all about? Or "Why Don't We Do It In The Road". And "Revolution 9"? Why is it even on the album? Can anyone who finds this 8 minutes of pretentious rubbish so interesting please explain why? The whole thing leaves me totally cold. Why didn't they simply put the few good tracks together and give us one final decent Beatles album?"
To be honest I was too young when the White Album was released to even know that it was out. My first memory of knowing its existence came a few years later when I made a friend in high school. He was a year older then me. I had no brothers or sisters but he had one of each and both were older then him. So his love of the Beatles began by listening to their records. He played the album for me and I really liked it. As I got more into the Beatles and listened to pretty much all of their albums, I have to say they did release others that were better. However, I will never forget that day as I sat in my friend's bedroom listening to music that was fairly new to me. I will never forget the laugh I had when my buddy pointed out to me that the song "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" was followed by the beautiful ballad "I Will." I am pretty sure that segue was instigated by Lennon. Sorry it took so long for me to write but I wasn't sure I should since my memory was from a few years after the album was released.
When Sgt. Pepper was released in the summer of 1967, I Loved it. I literally played the album to death, alternating with the Doors first album. These 2 would ultimately lose out to the following year's album du jour, Ina-Gadda-Da-Vida. Right at Christmas of 1967, along comes Magical Mystery Tour, and I was tremendously disappointed. It was such a letdown from Pepper. So, near Christmas the next year when the White Album appeared, I was not so ready to jump on the bandwagon. I distinctly remember Back in the USSR and Ob-La-Di being on the radio that spring, but very little else. No sale, LOL These are probably 2 of my least favorite songs from the album. A friend had it and played While My Guitar Gently Weeps, in the early summer of 1969. Now, I'm sold!! I bought the album in July 1969, well after it's release, but I did a lot of catching up. Piggies, Helter Skelter, Glass Onion, Why Don't We Do it in the Road, and Savoy Truffle ... great great stuff.
I live about 2 miles from the site of Spahn Ranch. Now this really meant nothing in July 1969, but it very soon would be world news. In early August a series of murders occurred here, the Tate-LaBianca killings, and what would be smeared on the refrigerator in blood at the LaBianca home but a version of the title of one of these brand new songs in my mind. (Healter Skelter). Misspelled, but obviously, Helter (Skelter). When Manson and family were arrested and identified later that fall, Spahn Ranch became a media center. I started college a couple weeks later in Northridge, and got my first tastes of political controversy, Vietnam was in full swing, and just my luck I had 2 classes with the head of the local SDS chapter. He was a key organizer of our Vietnam Moratorium day activities, including a speech by William Kuntsler, one of the lawyers for the Chicago 7.
Revolution was played by both bands during their time on stage that day. The White Album became so intertwined with politics that year, that it became impossible to separate the two. There were novelty songs as well, all catchy and memorable to this day ... Happiness is a Warm Gun, Rocky Raccoon and Birthday.
I guess if you take all the albums I've listened to through the years, this one probably had the most impact on events in my life, regardless of whether other albums were better to my liking musically. It would have to rank among the Top 5 albums of all time for it's innovation and originality, and it's connection to world events. Even though the Beatles by now were separated from each other, each contributing to the whole, it was a logical and flowing magnum opus.
Perspectives on “The Beatles” ’ (“The White Album”)
by Dr. Robert (Bob Rush, D.C.), US Correspondent “The Us. Beat,: The Beat Magazine
More than anything, The White Album (to refer to it in the accepted vernacular, instead of by its title, “The Beatles”) brings back troubling memories of a disturbing period of time surrounding 1968. In a sense, it (along with The Doors’ first album, out the year before) were, for me, the background music that plays in my memories of that time. I was 16 and it was a time I recall not being fully comfortable with as a teenager. The White Album, especially, was the soundtrack for this time for me, because I loved (and still love) The Beatles so much. I was sad about the way they were changing – it wasn’t what I wanted as a 16 year old – I wanted to catch up to them and understand them and the world around me.
I was disappointed by the reports that there troubles within the group – I counted on them to guide me in so many ways at that age – The Beatles surrogate parents (or big brothers) for masses of kids whose own parents didn’t understand (and how could they?) I had been enjoying “The Beatles” as I had heard them for only about four years, and I wanted that to remain and I wanted more of that joy so much that I didn’t want to see them so drastically change.
I loved the androgyny (at the time they came out most boys my age had crew cuts or regular, short cuts), the cool suits, boots, guitars and upbeat music. And I felt that by imitating it, I could meet a lot of girls, because they seemed to like it, too! (Then, I figured out, “Hey! I love to play music, on top of all that! Even alone! And especially with a group!”)
What I didn’t realize was that, by 1968, these guys were not even out of their 30’s and they had already reached the pinnacle of pinnacles, and were probably jaded (and exhausted) as hell by old routines (all right – maybe all but Paul.) They changed because they earned the right. We changed, even indirectly, because they changed! Even though they may have been reflecting the world they saw, I felt there was a certain authority to it when My Heroes trumpeted new things to the world – practically the whole world, remember.
So, to me this album’s music was somewhat cool, somewhat disturbing and a lot confusing. I kept wondering where “John had gone,” and marveled that Ringo and George were pushing out more to make personal statements, finally realizing they deserved the right, having been pretty much part of the team of Lennon-McCartney since 1962 (and great parts, too.) Paul still hung on to the melodies, and I could relate to more of what he was (in many cases, still) doing and so his new work was a bit more palatable to me. When I think of the White Album, I think of dark and confusing times when there was a senseless war and a lot of injustices came to light. Scariest was that the war may be calling me in a couple of years. I was a teenager but it was not at all as I pictured it when I was young (I pictured it looking like the 50’s I had seen it as a child). I recall head shops, the smell of incense and posters, sloppy looking guys and girls I loved anyway, Indian clothes, love beads and the rest.
People have said to me, “I’ll bet you were a hippie back then,” and I always answer, “No – I was a musician. I dressed, acted, lived and played like one.”) We wore the styles of the day to keep up on-stage, and ultimately because we grew to like them! (In hindsight, they still look cool to me!) But the senses of frustration of the times and of being not quite old enough to explore and participate were all reasons I believe I ran to Flash when it came out a few years later as a sort of small youth social revolt, and I came of age – it was a relief to get back to fun rock and roll and cool clothes – like The Beatles appeared when I was younger.
Today I hear the music of The White Album more than I did back in the day. I am still in awe of the inventiveness and creativity that was way beyond my true understanding in ’68. But I still believe the same about the feelings associated with the music. To this day, I still don’t think I’ve ever heard “Goodnight” all the way through.
Beatles history is still evolving, and we're still learning things about the White Album. Here are some of the interesting Songfacts we've discovered:
"Back In The U.S.S.R." - There was a rumor in the Soviet Union that The Beatles had secretly visited the U.S.S.R. and given a private concert for the children of top Communist party members. They believed the song was written because of the concert. Actually, some fans still believe so.
"The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" - John Lennon wrote this about a guy he met at the Maharishi's camp in India who loved to hunt. The hunter's name was Richard A. Cooke and he asked the Maharishi if it was a sin to kill a tiger. (John and George were in the room at the time). Maharishi's response was, "Life destruction is Life destruction." Cooke hasn't shot anything since, except with his camera - he became a freelance photographer for National Geographic.
"Blackbird" - Paul McCartney wrote this in Scotland after reading about race riots in the US after federal courts forced the racial desegregation of the Arkansas capital's school system. "Bird" was already in the songwriting lexicon, as the Everly Brothers did "Bird Dog."
"Helter Skelter" - The first version was a 27 minute jam, so you can imagine what Ringo was going through pounding away all that time. To convince the guys that he needed a break, he screamed, "I've got blisters on my fingers!" This was included on the fadeout.
the stones ..... dylan .... marvin gaye ..... just to name a handful of artists have all turned out albums that are defining and have stood the test of time for two generations.that being said, the 'white album' is the greatest album of all time for one reason: after delivering 'revolver' and 'sergeant pepper' and 'magical mystery tour', it seems unthinkable that any one group could package as many unique ideas with as many magnificent songs that lennon / mccartney deliver in 'white.'this goes way way back ....... but i still recall a conversation i had with our mutual buddy ray graffia about the 'white' while i was earning peanuts as a road manager with the new colony six. ray was just in awe that a group could hop in the studio and have enough creativity to put out 30 songs. my gosh, even a throwaway like 'cry baby cry' still evokes 24 karat gold passion.
chet coppockespn / wls
I don't think I will be much help on this. 1968 when this LP came out, it was a great LP but it did not leave a lasting impression on me. We by this time had Steppenwolf, Cream, John Mayall and The Blues Breakers, Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer to name a few. Music had taken a drastic change, I was on the Band Wagon for the new. A short story: I was in a band during this time doing covers of The Buckinghams, and other pop Bands of the time. When Born to be Wild (Steppenwolf) and Sunshine of Your Love (Cream) came out. I pushed the Band I was in so hard to learn these songs that they Kicked me out of the Band. (The Lead Singer). I then started my own Band and never looked back. You would have had to be there. As Bob said The Times are changing.
MY FIRST RECOLLECTION IS THAT MY UNCLE (WHO WAS IN VIETNAM AT THE TIME) SENT ME THE 8 TRACK DOUBLE SET FROM OVER THERE (I THINK IT COST HIM A BUCK OR TWO). IT WAS DEFINITELY WAY DIFFERENT FROM THE EARLY STUFF I WAS USED TO HEARING, AND WOULD ONLY LISTEN TO CERTAIN TRACKS. IT WAS YEARS BEFORE I COULD APPRECIATE THE ENTIRE ALBUM, UNLIKE CHARLIE MANSON WHO WAS APPARENTLY RECEIVING DIRECT MESSAGES FROM THE GROUP. I WONDER WHAT HIS "WHITE ALBUM ORGIES" WERE LIKE?? BY THE WAY, MY FAVORITE TRACK IS "I WILL" ....
MICHAEL G. BUSH
THE WHITE ALBUM! Well, first of all I can't believe it's turning 40! But then again, I can't believe I just turned 50, but that's a discussion for another day. This really got me to think about the semi-sad state of music these days. What albums released this year (2008) will we (or our children) be listening to in 40 years? If there are any, you know they won't have the same impact of the White Album (and other albums released during that period of the late 60's through a good chunk of the 70's). We have all lamented the passing of the day when you couldn't wait to get your hands on a new album. The photos, artwork, lyrics ... and if it was a gatefold, that was even better. But the White Album? How could it get ANY better than that???? Sergeant Pepper was cool, with the sheet of cutout stuff that came with it. BUT THE WHITE ALBUM???? Four glossy photos of the Beatles (of course the "cutest" being Paul; lyrics, more photos, all in a book (or was it a poster -- I can't seem to put my hands on my copy -- it's somewhere in the "basement" along with part of my mind!) My grandmother was the one who bought me all of my Beatles music, including the White Album. She would bring me their 45's (with picture sleeves) and all their albums (quite hip since she was in her 60's at that point). Anyway, I remember poring over all the stuff that came with that gatefolded DOUBLE album, before I even gave the thing a listen (hey, remember I was only 10 at the time ... just a Junior DJ!). Was that Paul in the bathtub (gasp) and a naked John Lennon (and what the heck was he wearing around his neck)? OH ... and the MUSIC ... well, you remember that you couldn't "shuffle" with an LP. You put it on your record player (it wasn't called a turntable back then) and just played it until the end of the side. So I think I played the grooves off of sides 1 and 2. I loved "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" and "Martha My Dear". At that point in my formative years, I had no idea that Prudence was Mia Farrow's sister or that Martha was Paul's sheepdog! And I wasn't real fond of "Why Don't We Do It In The Road" just because. I don't think I REALLY knew what it was about because 10 year olds were a bit more innocent back then! As for the second disc, I played "Honey Pie", "Savoy Truffle" and "Cry Baby Cry" over and over again. They were (to my 10 year old ears) musically pleasing. And I STILL like those songs. And I STILL don't like "Revolution 9". Different strokes ... they all can't be winners. But overall, the album certainly stands the test of time (just my humble opinion). In the late 60's, were we (or our parents) regularly listening to those popular tunes from the 20's or 30's? Not like we listen to music that is now 30, 40 or even 50 years old. Heck, how many or our kids are into this stuff? Because it's great! And even though a ton of it is "overplayed", it is still "musically pleasing." Was the White Album the Beatles best effort? It's really a matter of opinion. Look at how their music changed and matured as they changed and matured. Whether you felt it was great or just mediocre, after 40 years, it still sounds good! And isn't that the whole point?
Gerri (DJ LADY G)
Bought it with my own money at Chuck's Sound Of Music in San Pedro, CA when i was 11 (Summer '72) ... even at that late point it still had the raised 'The Beatles' on it, number stamped and the pictures and the poster ... played the heck out of it (tho Revolution #9 REALLY creeped me out ... especially with that lead in by Paul 'can you take me back') ... How it ranks today ... i think if you trimmed some of the fat off it and made it a very long single album, it would be equal to my other favorite Beatle records: Abbey Road and the British Hard Day's Night soundtrack ... Musically it holds up really well ... Blackbird is a piece of genius, side one (to me) is flawless ... thanks for the opportunity to rant!
Tin Tear (Todd)
It’s hard to believe it’s been 40 years since “The White Album” was released. Like many singer / songwriter / producers of my generation, I was influenced by the Beatles. In 1962 Jerry Landis, who later becomes known as Paul Simon, is the first one to turn me on to them. About a year before their first single is released in the US, Jerry (Paul), who just got back from a folk club tour of the UK, tells me about me the band, the look, and the sound that’s sweeping Europe.
He plays me a few Beatle records, and shows me their pictures in an English newspaper. Aquarian that I am, I identify with them immediately and it isn’t long before their influence starts creeping into my songs. I even started dressing “Mod” and wearing my hair like Paul McCartney (which is odd at the time for an American, not to mention an African-American!).
When they come to the US for the first time in 1964, I’m in the third row at Carnegie Hall to see them. When the Beatles come back to tour, I become friendly with Bess Coleman, who’s one of their press officers.
It’s when I travel to the UK for the first time, and go on part of “The Beatles For Sale” promotion tour that I find out that John and Paul haven’t collaborated on writing songs for some time, and are starting to develop their own individual styles. George is also starting to come into his own as a writer. This evolves into quite a competition when it’s time to choose songs for a new album.
By the time the “White Album” comes out, the transition is complete. The album is exploding with so much individual creativity, going in so many directions; it takes on a life of its own.
The first time I hear cuts from the album is at Freddie Gershon’s (“Sweetie, Baby, Cookie, Honey”), apartment. Freddie’s throwing a party to celebrate Apple Record’s “Those Were The Days” by Mary Hopkin, hitting #1 on the charts!
This is the first time I go out in public as Shadow Mann, my new alter ego. I had just finished recording my first album for my own label, distributed by the legendary, Morris Levy (Roulette Records). Not only did my producer Ronnie Haffkine (Shel Silverstein, Doctor Hook), produce a great record, we created a unique, look and persona for my mysterious character. I had a black suede jacket made for me with a giant red eagle on the back, whose wing opened every time I lifted my arm. I also have a big black floppy hat, black leather pants and boots.
When it comes time to get ready for the Apple party, however, I put on my new brown mohair suit and Ronnie gets pissed off at me! He wants me to wear my new Shadow outfit, but I tell him that I know a lot of lawyers and publishers who are going to be there, and I don’t want to look like a fool. Haffkine says, “This Shadow thing, is your idea, you’ve got a chance to make a big impression tonight, but you’ve got to pull it off with confidence and flair.” He continues, “No buts, if you can’t do it tonight, you’re just wasting your time,. But worse than that, you’re just wasting mine!”
I reluctantly change into my black suede jacket, tilt my floppy hat at a jaunty angle and off we go to the party. As we walk in, “Back in the USSR” from an advance copy of the Beatles White album is playing.
Mary Hopkins seems like a sweet unaffected girl and makes us feel very comfortable. Very few of the people I know recognize me in my attire and pretty strangers keep coming over to talk to me. Now I start to think it’s a good idea that I had to wear my Shadow outfit tonight!
Ronnie and I stand at the bar and talk to producer Peter Schekeryk, who married his artist Melanie (“Candles In The Wind”, “Brand New Key”) that afternoon. Everyone in the room seems to be half-listening to own their conversations and grooving to the new incredible tracks that surrealistically float around the room. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and “Rocky Raccoon”, unleashes a whimsical feeling in all of us. “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, makes us smile and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” gives us all new respect for George Harrison.
After a while, I notice that they keep playing the same songs over and over, and I say to Nat Weiss, the head of the Beatles American company, “I thought there were two albums worth of material”. He explains that George is expected any minute with the rest of the tracks.
Before he arrives, however, the latest darling of the gossip columns sweeps into the room surrounded by her “Jet Set” entourage. This Rock and Roll Goddess is wearing an outfit that’s similar to mine, including a floppy black hat. Although I’ll miss saying hello to George Harrison, when this beautiful stranger puts her arm around me and asks me to come with her, I can’t resist. I’m sure George will understand. Ronnie Haffkine, on the other hand, doesn’t look very happy when I wave goodbye.”
From the forthcoming book, “I Did It For A Song”
“If you don’t like the music of the 60s, ‘70s … you can kiss my past”
Copyright 2008 by Artie Wayne
For more of the story LEGENDARY MUSIC MAN MORRIS LEVY MEETS SHADOW MANN, A LEGEND IN HIS OWN MIND!
To hear “Come and Live With Me” by Shadow Mann
When the Beatles released the double album almost always referred to as the ‘White Album’ in 1968, I was in the Far East. No, I was not fighting in the Vietnam conflict like my father, but spelunking in the caves of Okinawa … and sifting through the coral reefs for sea shells, and other little tidbits including the occasional LIVE ammo and hand grenades … not realizing that; I even knew who I was at the time, or how LUCKY I had not been blown to bits or stung by poisonous sea creatures or bitten by a Habu.
1968 was a pivotal period in my LIFE for music, and I never even knew even as much about the Beatles, or even who Brian Epstein as their manager was, or that he had died the previous year in 1967, and that the White album was one of the first undertakings by the Beatles after Brian’s death … much less being concerned about being blown to bits.
While the Beatles are just one of the most influential bands in not only my LIFE but the LIVES of a great many other Baby Boomers … it didn’t even dawn on me, until a much later time … yet the ‘White Album’ was ONE of the band’s most major accomplishments.
I enjoy their music immensely and while I entered broadcasting a mere six years later in 1974, I am still learning about so many of the intricacies about the Beatles, that have made feel like a naïve child, even as I have begun ‘digging’ into the lives and music of so many other bands and artists, from the dawn and twilight of RockandRollHeaven.net.
To even know that the album was supposed to officially be entitled ‘A Doll’s House’ makes me want to ask even more questions … why that title?
The Beatles have always rocked, and will forever be a testament in stirring the souls of people, even if it catches up to them forty years later.
America’s Coast to Coast Entertainment Network
The White Album ? ? ?
I could pretty much leave it at that - but - what the heck!!
As Furvus the drummer in the rock and roll band The Fifth Estate, outside of some background harmony parts, I never got to say very much back then when we were recording and playing and The Beatles where putting all these albums out, so when I get a chance now, >> especially since this is truly one of the more insightful and intriguing music related questions I have been asked recently and I might even know a little something about it from having been fairly close to the situation at the time, so here goes -
To say millions of music lovers out there like the White Album a lot right to this very day is obvious from the continually high rankings this album always gets in the various greats of all time album charts out there. I sort of like it a bit myself now as music, but when it came out I was in an American rock and roll band, The Fifth Estate, which only a little more than a year earlier in 1966 had been under consideration for signing by Brian Epstein as a result of his having seen us on Hullabaloo in November of 1965 when he was co-host of that show. It turns out that as a result of John's statement about Christ and then Brian's subsequent death and with all the intervening problems that year that signing never came about. But because of all this we were very much on top of things probably more than most as to what The Beatles were putting out at the time. Although just young kids, we were an existing American rock and roll band in 1963 even before The Beatles became big here, and we loved all their earlier more rock and roll releases right up to and probably even including Sgt. Pepper (somewhat).
But the White Album was enough of a departure from the Rock and Roll law laid down in tunes we loved like Keep A Knockin, Great Balls of Fire, Rock and Roll Music, and I'm A Man, that this album just didn't seem right AND it no longer had that tough central core band thing that makes rock bands so good, you know - the sum of the parts being greater than the parts themselves. To me this is really just the subjugation of the individual egos to that of a group cause or sound, not an easy thing though for many artists. Yet the total group concept The Beatles had in spades initially. But then when they went to India and actually started looking for the very thing they already had (ego subjugation), they lost it! --- Maybe it was just time. ---- Things usually happen for a reason!
With the White album they seemed to us to be breaking down into the respective parts and without Brian's guidance all just putting a bunch of unrelated tunes into one album - actually too many for one album - making it a double album. We had put out Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead just before Sgt. Pepper as we had already felt the scene dying and shifting away from our beloved and fundamentally pure (we felt anyway) form of rock and roll and pop/rock. BUT!!! We had hoped that The Beatles of all bands would keep the FAITH!!!
Although our band The 5E was doing just great then even without Brian Epstein, 1968 had been a tough tough year for the country, and many people and in many many ways, we nevertheless wanted to be able to count on The Beatles at very least to hold it all together and give us all something we could count on at a time when everything else seemed to be breaking down. When I heard what they did on the White Album, I knew it was the end or at least the beginning of the end for what they were doing, and that feeling not only washed over us but most in the music business at the time, and although we stuck to our rock and roll guns dance band style for the most part, within a year or two the scene had completely changed, in fact it changed to such an extent that we no longer wished to participate in the aftermath. For The Beatles maybe they had had enough also. They had been through quite a bit both good and bad!
Oh Blah Di - Blah Blah - Blah Blah - Blah Blah - the ride [the real ride] was over for them!
(although it's true they went on for a short bit, probably not knowing what else to do with their lives at that point ???)
As The 5E are back in the studio again this reminds me about how the White Album was recorded. I believe it was one of the first significant albums to be recorded on 8 track. I know many will disagree with me, but again from a band person's perspective I feel the additional tracks allowed some freedom to explore for sure and even more clarity in the sound, but much more importantly so many additional tracks allowed The Beatles and any band or artist not to have their songs ready coming into the studio so that they could just stand up to the microphones and record them almost in a live performance. This technical "freedom" was a huge change, and to me it began the very negative slide away from well crafted songs and the tight bands and musicians who could really play and do it all at once on 2 tracks or at most 4. As more and more tracks were added and more computerized this and that's were added along the way, music AND THE MUSIC BUSINESS has devolved into what we have today!!!???? They can make almost anybody sound kinda good? But we know that it's not real as soon as we hear it! It doesn't feel or even smell right!! That's certainly not exciting!! And it's incredibly not at all entertaining!!!!! GREAT HUH!!?? Most young people I talk to say they feel that way about the music they hear today, it's not just me.
A little aside as to The 5E. By '69 / '70 it was over for us also and most similar bands. The 5E guys had options and we gladly took them at that point and as much as possible intentionally buried The 5E band any way we could so as not to be known as X rock stars. This was not a tag that made it particularly better for you in the "real world" especially at that time. BUT, as most of you know I am sure, once you are in the music business, it is not so easy to "escape" and before we knew it all of us had become reconnected one way or another.
And now where several reissue type companies have contacted us about our old material, maybe it is time to finally put out not only the old but also to do another real new 60s album - the new one "not for the money" as the business doesn't exist in a way that it could help create that for us I don't think (any ideas gladly accepted), but rather just for the love of it and possibly to show that we were one of the real early and somewhat overlooked mid 60s American bands all of which, not just us, had very difficult times being heard at all during the early years of the British Invasion. We, The Fifth Estate, were there before the beginning of that and all through the heart of it '63 - '69.
The most The Fifth Estate ever had to work with was 4 track and most of our stuff through 65 was done on 2 track. Just think about that if you get a chance to listen to some of our tunes. Those are pretty much the band standing there and playing. You don't get anything close to that today hardly anywhere. The 5E are going to do their best to bring back some of that "reality" which existed during that golden period of truly good songs and good music and bands, with their new 60s album to be called (and you heard it here first) "ROCKERMOST!"
Although, now since some ideas I had in writing this piece, it may be called " Not For The Money." The Beatles did a tune with a somewhat similar sounding title, "Money." We liked it a lot! --- I wish they had stuck with that. --- They'd probably still be doing it today and happy.
That's how much I dislike the White album !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!> and what it was about and did, although some of the music in it is OK.
So yes the 5E are back together and recording again. We hope to have one of the best 60s albums ever recorded out in 2009 (but recorded this year). We hope it will be the best, of course, (and very un-White Album like), but at least it will be the LATEST 60s album ever recorded for sure. Really does sound pretty much like the mid 60s still so far, only a bit clearer sound and more power in our power pop tunes. Although we liked real songsters like Buddy Holly, Gene Pitney, Leslie Gore, Martha and The Vandellas, and The Beatles, and did a lot of that kind of sound, but also on many of our early recordings we were more a true forerunner of the power pop giants like Cheap Trick and Oasis, especially listen to "Tomorrow Is Our Turn" on The Fifth Estate My Space site in this respect if you have a chance. Youtube also has some video and movie footage as well.
http://www.youtube.com/ - The Fifth Estate
Wikipedia - The Fifth Estate (band)
With some luck SUNDAZED will have some of our 60s material back out before too long and we will have a new GREAT! 60s album out in 2009!
Thanks for asking Kent -
The White Album is a great LP - one that I like almost as much as my favorite Beatles' LP, Revolver. There are so many different types of songs on The White Album that it's very much a representative of all their collective styles. When I was younger, I loved songs like "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" and "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill". When I was a rebellious teenager, I embraced songs like "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Why Don't We Do It In The Road", and "Revolution 9". I still have very fond memories of "Ob-La-Di" and "Rocky Racoon", as I used to sing them to my nieces and nephews and we enjoyed them a lot. The hopeless romantic in me will always love songs like "Julia" and "I Will". "I Will" was among the songs we selected for our wedding reception, and it always makes us smile.
Diana / Vaguememory
In 1966, I was thirteen and full folded notes about cute boys, Beatles cards, Sugar-and-Ice Avon lipstick, and Topaz perfume. I knew nothing about musical experimentation, layering tracks, feeding sitar sounds through mega-amplifiers, or using reverb for special effects. So, “Revolver” concerned me. My cute and cuddly Liverpool lads had actually included songs on their new album that I despised! I couldn’t imagine what had possessed them to record “Tomorrow Never Knows” or “She Said, She Said,” and “Taxman” left me cold. I found myself, for the first time ever, choosing McCartney songs over Lennon compositions. At least I could understand “For No One,” and “Eleanor Rigby.” At least I could dance to “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
When “Sgt. Pepper’s” came out, things went from bad to worse. An imaginary band? Costumes? And who the heck was Billy Shears? The needle of my record player only touched the “Within You, Without You” track once. After that, I never played it ever again. I was seriously afraid that The Beatles were “losing their ever-loving minds.”
So imagine my horror when “The White Album” was released! Hot on the heels of bizarre creations such as “Blue Jay Way” and “Rain,” this final concoction of musical snippets only confirmed my fears that the band I had once loved had come completely unglued.
“Where,” I asked my friend, Emily Moss, “is the cover photo? And why aren’t they smiling in those inside shots? Why are they dressed so scruffy? And why, I ask you, didn’t they comb their hair?” In the South, you didn’t get your picture made in a jeans shirt with a tee underneath. And trust me, in my small North Louisiana community, there were plenty of girls who missed the suits and boots – who missed the “gear, fab,” the winks, and the clowning about in front of the camera.
The Beatles had changed the game. They had sold us a bill of goods, and then switched products without our permission. They had evolved faster than we had evolved. And though I’m sure there were kids in metropolitan America and Europe and the UK (and everywhere) who wore paisleys, ruffled shirts, and bell-bottoms and comprehended the new rules, I did not. I didn’t like “The White Album” one whit.
It was the first Beatles album that I didn’t buy.
In fact, I didn’t own a “White Album” until my husband bought me the entire Parlaphone boxed collection eons later, when I was classically “thirty something.” And even then, I only liked the songs you might predict: “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Back in the USSR,” “Dear Prudence,” and “Birthday.” I found the ones that sounded most like The Beatles of Old, and tried to like those tunes as much as I possibly could.
Then … I began studying and researching the life of John Lennon, and I listened, really listened for the first time, to “Julia.” Touching, poignant, open, nerve-ending raw … the song brought me to tears. If you hear the lyrics of “Julia,” you hear John. It is his soul laid bare.
Drawn back to “The White Album” to see what else I’d missed, I discovered the pain and longing for creative validation in George’s lonely, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” How could I have missed it all those years?
And Ringo’s “Don’t Pass Me By” left me with a smile. It made friends with me.
John’s sardonic, rockin’, hard-edged “Glass Onion” was added to my all-time favorites list. One of the first purely Lennon tunes, it’s what my music-professor friend in Pennsylvania called “an ear worm.” The song crawls into your brain and lives there.
In 2001, when my neighbor in Yardley, Pennsylvania – the pilot of one of the two planes that crashed into the Twin Towers – was buried, “I Will” was played at his funeral. And since that day, I’ve never critiqued the song again (as I did once) as scanty or too brief or undeveloped. I see it now as simple, haunting, pure – full of love. It touches the heart.
This past year, I read Geoff Emerick’s "Here, There, and Everywhere", and learned a great deal about the various complicated techniques used in building “The White Album.” Emerick reveals the concepts each Beatle imagined, the methods they employed to make those dreams into reality, and the battles they fought to get the others to accept their poetic work. As Emerick observes, “The White Album” was really a collection of four solo albums rather than one unified composition.
To the teenager who was Jude Ann Southerland, this intent was summarily lost between burgers at the A and W, studying for the big Chaucer exam, and “riding around” with the gang. Whatever The Beatles had had in mind when they recorded, “Why Don’t We Do it In the Road?” – that purpose was lost in translation (and the fear of parental censure). And to a high school girl, “Revolution 9” had seemed a mangled mish-mash of garbage that John must’ve thought someone would be stupid enough to “go for” (in Emperor’s New Clothes fashion).
But then this past summer, I experienced “Liverpool” performing “Revolution 9” at The Chicago Fest for Beatles Fans, and their brilliant multi-media presentation of the complicated, artistic work made me a believer. (Sorry, wrong band.) At long last, I understood. Or I think I did. At least, I’m en route.
Which brings me to the admission that I could have offered you quite simply 847 words ago: “The White Album” is growing on me. “The White Album” takes maturity. “The White Album” is not for children or goody two shoes little girls. It is for those who want to invest time and understanding and life experience in what it has to offer. “The Beatles” (as I supposed it is correctly titled) is for those who have lived life and sadly wondered if there is possibly a way “to get back home.”
I am convinced that ten years from now, I will like “The White Album” even more than I do tonight. I will hold my grandchild and sing, “Good Night” with tender memories of the Ed Sullivan Show. I will watch Across the Universe a few more times until “Happiness is a Warm Gun” truly grows on me. I will endure the horror our country has chosen for itself and sing “Revolution” with real gusto. “The White Album” will open its petals slowly.
If given my druthers, I will always choose “Beatles Live at the BBC.” That is who I am. But maybe who I am becoming is “The White Album.” Maybe in my old age, I will wax poetic.
Jude Southerland Kessler
Here are my thoughts on "The White Album" .... (actual name of the album was "THE BEATLES") ...
I remember the anticipation and excitement waiting for a new Beatles album to be released. It was like no feeling I ever felt before,or since when it comes to Music.
When I heard that The Beatles were releasing a double album, I couldn't wait. I was looking forward to seeing what they would be wearing, what Guitars they would be holding, what kind of effect would be on the photo. When I got to the store, I couldn't believe my eyes. It was all white!!!! Blank ... no photos ... and just an embossed logo and serial number on the front cover. A stark contrast to the colorful outings of Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour,which came before it.
Upon opening up the album, I was pleased to find 4 black and white portraits printed on the inside ... but upon further inspection, I found four 8x10 glossy color photos and a poster with song lyrics printed on the back of it. The Beatles had done it again.
I put the needle down on that cool vinyl platter with the Apple on it, and proceeded to take in over 25 songs ... and even at the ripe old age of 16, I quickly realized that what The Beatles had done was to chart out the history of modern music ... mainly by putting almost every kind of music ever conceived of on this album ... although I don't think that was their intention. In actuality that happened because they were working mostly solo by this time, and the different influences triggered a wide range of styles on the White Album.
Through the years I have come to really love this Beatles album ... it is in my top 3.
It's held up amazingly well over the years, and gets played around my house a few times a year in its entirety.
Mitch Schecter / The Rip Chords
I wish I had time to do a lengthy piece on The White Album, but, alas, I do not. For those wanting the details of how the songs were written and recorded, how the album was put together, how the album was mastered, how George Harrison made Capitol re-master the album, how the cover and poster were designed, how the album sold and charted, etc., etc., etc., I urge you to buy my book “The Beatles on Apple Records.” The album is extensively covered in the book, along with the other Apple albums and singles. I do have time for the following comments and memories.
Here is how I rate The White Album and other Beatles albums:
Best Overall: Revolver
Most Important: Sgt. Pepper
Most Enjoyable Listening Experience: Abbey Road
Best Capitol Creation: Meet The Beatles! and Magical Mystery Tour (tie)
Best Songs: Rubber Soul (tie between U.S. and U.K. versions)
Favorite: The White Album
So there you go, The White Album is my favorite Beatles album.
Because I love its scope and variety in the music. And it has some great songs: Back In The U.S.S.R., Dear Prudence, Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da, Bungalow Bill, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Blackbird, I Will, Julia, Birthday, Sexy Sadie, Revolution 1, Cry Baby Cry and Good Night. Plus fun stuff like Why Don’t We Do It In The Road, Savoy Truffle, Helter Skelter, Don’t Pass Me By, etc.
I remember WTIX in New Orleans playing songs from the album during the week leading up to its release. I was hearing great songs. I even got to hear Revolution 9, which I did not know what to make of then (or now). Every night at 10:00 pm, WTIX played the top ten most requested songs of the day and early evening. It was called The Top Ten at Ten. On the Monday and Tuesday nights before the album came out, a handful of songs from The White Album were included. On Wednesday night, all ten songs were from The White Album!!!!!
I knew the album was coming out that Friday. I arranged for my mother to be home at 3:30 pm, so she could drive me to the record store to get the album. When I got home, I played it on the family stereo three times in a row (over four and a half hours of listening entertainment)! My mom brought me dinner on a tray. I followed along with the lyrics the first time. The next two times I concentrated on the music. I played the album so many times, that I had to replace it within a year or so with a clean copy. My enthusiasm for The White Album convinced my mom that I needed to have my own stereo rather than the hand-me-down turntable in a hat box record player with a heavy tone arm and needle that destroyed vinyl.
Would it have been better as a single album? Yes and no. Yes because every song would have been a classic. No because it is the variety and scope that make The White Album what it is.
The down side of the all encompassing concept is Revolution 9. I actually appreciate the song and do not hate it like many people. But I remember when CD players first came out, some models had a feature that allowed you to program the player to skip a particular song. I called it the Revolution 9 button! One evening I was with a female friend of mine who placed The White Album and Abbey Road into her CD player to impress (seduce?) me and set the player on random. Revolution 9 came on at a very inopportune time when we both were sounding like part of the groans and moans in the sound collage. We both wanted to change the song, but did not want to stop what we were doing. So for eight minutes, Revolution 9 it was! At least the song now brings a smile to my face!
You'll find more of BRUCE SPIZER's memories and commentary elsewhere in this article.
Another very clever piece ... kudos to George whose sense of humor comes out a couple of times on the double LP. (Listen to the lyrics on Savoy Truffle!) He would showcase more of this in his solo career (and his association with Monty Python's Flying Circus and The Ruttles!!!) How ridiculous then that this little piece of fun somehow inspired Charles Manson to declare his own personal race war!!! (kk)
"Piggies" is another of George's social comment songs dating back to 1966. Its stinging lyrics bring back memories of "Taxman". Although "pig" was a sixties derogatory term aimed at police, Harrison's target was the upper class, not figures of authority. His mother supplied the line "What they need's a damn good whacking" to rhyme with "backing" and "lacking." The original demo's last line was "Clutching forks and knives to cut their pork chops." John improved on this with "Clutching forks and knives to eat their bacon." Ironically, John doesn't appear on the final recorded version but he did put together a tape loop of pig sounds taken from the EMI sound effects tape library. Those pig sound effects (and possibly Beatle-made pig grunts) were then superimposed onto the final take. (bs)
This was the very first song I heard off the new LP back in 1968 ... and I loved it!!! The Beatles had never recorded anything that sounded like this before!!! Paul doing a very bad, hokey southern dialect as he tells the story of Gunslinger Rocky Raccoon ... and I just love the old ragtime piano break! It was about as un-Beatles-sounding a recording as I had ever heard ... until You Know My Name, of course!!! (kk)
"Rocky Raccoon" was written in India by Paul with a bit of help from John and Donovan. The song was originally titled "Rocky Sassoon" but was changed to "Rocky Raccoon" "because it sounded more cowboyish." According to Paul, "I like talking blues so I started off like that, then I did my tongue-in-cheek parody of a western and threw in some amusing lines." The multiple outtakes of the song show that Paul was still formulating the words to the introduction and the doctor verse. Take 8, which is on Anthology 3, opens with John proclaiming "He was a fool onto himself." Paul uses this line early in his intro, in which Paul tells us that Rocky came from a little town in Minnesota. This is a tip of the hat to Bob Dylan, who grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota. During the start of the doctor verse, Paul flubs the lyrics, having the doctor "sminking" of gin. This causes Paul to laugh and ad-lib his way through the rest of the verse. On Take 9, McCartney mimics Dylan's vocal style in his introduction. As was the case with "Hey Jude", Paul did not want George playing lead guitar fills on the song, and Harrison was once again relegated to the control room. However, after Ringo added his drum part, George contributed bass. Harmonica and harmonium were added by John and honky-tonk piano solos for the instrumental breaks were provided by George Martin. (bs)
DON'T PASS ME BY
One of the weakest songs on the album for me. I know they had to give Ringo a track on every album and this one must have been more of a pacifier ... his first real solo composition, it's pretty awful from start to finish. (I can't believe this would have made the cut on any other artist's album!) Fortunately, he did get better as both a songwriter and a vocalist ... but here's a real easy one to eliminate from the single LP. (Reportedly when The Beatles were working on their second album, With The Beatles, back in 1963, Ringo told a reporter that he was working on his first song ... called Don't Pass Me By. I can't even imagine that this piece of crap took five years to finish!!! (kk)
Ringo's "Don't Pass Me By" was the oldest song recorded for the album. Although the drummer had bits of the song completed back in 1963, he had to wait five years to get The Beatles to record his first solo composition. Oddly enough, EMI recording sheets initially listed the song as "Ringo's Tune (Untitled)" and "This Is Some Friendly." (bs)
In that Ringo was admittedly a huge fan of Country and Western music ... he had, after all, recorded Buck Owens' Act Naturally back in 1965, which charted on its own here in The States as the flipside of Yesterday ... and another one of his U.S. B-Sides, What Goes On, had more than a hint of a country flavor to it ... and, a few years after The Beatles split up, he would record an entire country album down in Nashville called Beacoups Of Blues ... I suppose Don't Pass Me By really shouldn't have been the "surprise" it was when I first heard it back in 1968. Tape logs indicate that this is pretty much a Beatles Duet ... only Paul and Ringo are featured on the final track (along with some orchestration provided by Producer George Martin.) Sorry, but this is one of those tracks that I will "skip over" virtually every time I play the LP!!! (kk)
WHY DON'T WE DO IT IN THE ROAD
Another immediate favorite ... less than two minutes and again unlike anything they'd ever recorded before. Here's Paul just having fun and, again being just fifteen at the time, I loved the fact that it sounded just a little bit "dirty"!!! Paul does some pretty impressive vocal calisthenics on this one, too! My understanding is that John never really forgave him for recording it on his own ... it was, apparently, one of John's favorite McCartney tunes, too! (kk)
According to Paul, "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" was "a primitive statement to do with sex or ... freedom." The idea for the song came from Paul observing a male monkey hop on the back of a female monkey for sex in the Indian jungle. After recording five takes on his own on October 9, Paul had Ringo join him in Studio Three to complete the recording the following night while John and George were involved with George Martin's string overdubs to "Piggies" and "Glass Onion" in Abbey Road's Studio Two. (bs)
Quite possibly the prettiest ballad McCartney ever wrote ... and he's written some incredible ballads over the years. Another immediate favorite ... and the blend of Why Don't We Do It In The Road into I Will just showcases again the enormous talent and versatility McCartney had as both a singer and a songwriter. I've never gotten tired of this song and I doubt that I ever will. (In that Paul now says he believes I Will was written for Linda at the very start of their relationship, it would seem all that much more unlikely that he'd be singing to Jane Asher in Martha My Dear "Please remember me" and "Don't forget me" on the same LP. The only line in the song that confuses this line of thinking would have to be "You have always been my inspiration" as Jane had been, up to that point anyway, Paul's greatest love. (kk)
Paul recalls having the melody for "I Will" prior to his stay in Rishikesh. While in India, he tried collaborating with Donovan, but was not satisfied with the lyrics they came up with. The song was recorded on September 16 at an Abbey Road session attended by Paul, John and Ringo, and produced by Chris Thomas. The trio went through 67 takes of the song with Paul on lead vocal and acoustic guitar, Ringo on maracaas and cymbals and John on temple blocks. During the session, Paul drifted into a few spontaneous performances. One of these (Take 19) was an ad-lib containing the words "Can you take me back where I came from, can you take me back?" A 28-second segment from the end of this recording was used as an uncredited link between "Cry Baby Cry" and "Revolution 9". (bs)
Julia, John's tribute to his mother was the first (and only) Beatles song that John Lennon ever cut on his own. In it, he poured his heart out ... the track was poignant, meaningful and necessary ... a precursor to the whole Primal Scream Era, I guess. Yet at first I didn't like it ... I'd actually get up and lift the needle after I Will played, probably too young at the time to appreciate the pain that went into this performance. (Lennon would duplicate this sound musically with Look At Me from his first Plastic Ono Band album ... a virtual cousin to Julia from a musical perspective ... again, NOT a sound we were accustomed to hearing coming from John Lennon ... where'd he learn to finger-pick like that?!?!?) kk
The final track on side two is John's beautiful ballad "Julia", which was written primarily in Rishikesh. Julia was John's mother, who died when he was 17 years old. The song's depiction of Julia as an "ocean child" is a reference to Yoko, whose name means "child of the ocean" in Japanese. In his Playboy Interview, John described the song as "a combination of Yoko and my mother blended into one." Some of the song's lyrics, including its opening couplet, were adopted from "Sand And Foam", a collection of writings and drawings by Kahlil Gibran, a Lebanese poet and philosopher. Gibran's words are: "Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it so the other half may reach you" and "When life does not find a singer to sing her heart, she produces a philosopher to speak her mind." The song's imagery was inspired by Yoko, who sent letters to John while he was in India. According to John, "She would write things like 'I am a cloud ... watch for me in the sky.'" This blending of people and nature probably influenced John's use of phrases like "seashell eyes," "windy smile", "hair of floating sky", "sleeping sand" and "silent cloud." John learned the finger-picking guitar style used on th esong from Donovan and / or Gypsy Dave while in Rishikesh. Donovan recalls that "John was keen to learn the finger-style guitar I played and he was a good student." This style was also used by John on "Dear Prudence", as well as some of his post-Beatles recordings such as "Look At Me" and Yoko's "Remember Love". Although "Julia" had been completed prior to the start of the White Album recording sessions, he did not record the song until October 13, making it the last new selection recorded for the album. It is John's first and only solo recording for a Beatles record. (bs)
KENT KOTAL: Another immediate favorite that received tons of airplay then ... and still does today. It's really a pretty simple song (and was another one that every band had to know how to play ... how could such a simple, basic riff never have been used before?!?!?) Paul pretty much improvised this one in the studio ... and this time we got Yoko and Pattie Harrison helping out on the background vocals (along with a couple of "Apple Scruffs" that just happened to be hanging around the outside of the studio at the time.) A medium-sized hit for Underground Sunshine in 1969, their version paled in comparison, sounding about as hollow, limp and lack-luster as ANY Top 40 Record could possibly sound. (Heck, OUR band could have recorded a better version!!!) You can check out the Underground Sunshine recording on our webpage: Click here: Forgotten Hits kk
BRUCE SPIZER: The album's third side opens with "Birthday", a powerful rocker that was made up in the studio. Chris Thomas, who served as producer, recalls that the session was scheduled to start two hours earlier than normal to accommodate the group's desire to break in time to watch the 9:00 PM BBC broadcast of "The Girl Can't Help It" at Paul's nearby Cavendish Avenue home. The 1956 rock 'n' roll film stars Jayne Mansfield and contains performances by Little Richard, Fats Domino, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, the Platters and the Treniers. Paul was the first to arrive at Abbey Road and quickly came up with the song's memorable riff. By the twentieth take, the backing track was completed and the gang headed for Paul's house to watch the film. Upon their return, the following overdubs were added: John's Epiphone Casino matching Paul's bass riff, an octave higher; Paul's piano through a Leslie speaker; Paul's scorching lead vocal; John's occasional matching lead vocal; and backing vocals and handclaps by the group, aided and abetted by Yoko Ono, George's wife Pattie (who apparently had gone to London with George so she could watch the movie with him) and Mal Evans. The party ended around 4:30 a.m. Although John later called the song "a piece of garbage," Paul considers it one of his favorites on the album because it was instantaneous and good to dance to. Most fans agree with Paul. (bs)
Paul thought enough of the song to release it again as a "live" single in the late '80's! (kk)
Another Lennon Classic ... and another song heavily influenced by his drug use at the time. The Beatles always said that they loved the blues ... but they never really recorded any. (Word is they used to jam for long, extended periods of time in the studio around a basic 12-bar blues chord progression as a way of loosening up before a recording session.) I can picture John and George in the studio recording this track and absolutely loving cutting loose like this ... another track that was very un-Beatle-like. Lennon would also perform the song on The Rolling Stones' Flying Circus Television Special and again at the Live Peace In Toronto Festival with Eric Clapton. On the one hand, it kind of showed you where his head was at at the time ... on the other hand you wonder what kind of mental struggles and anguish he was going through at the time in order to also record a track like Julia for the same LP!!! (kk)
"Yer Blues" is another song written in India by John, who later described it as a case of being "up there trying to reach God and feeling suicidal." With its opening line "Yes I'm lonely, wanna die," the song is full of anguish and foreshadows the tone of Lennon's early solo recordings. In the demo, he sings "My mother was of the earth, my father was of the sky, but I am of the universe and that's the reason why." By the time the song was recorded at Abbey Road, he had reversed the role of his parents by singing "My mother was of the sky, my father was of the earth, but I am of the universe and you know what it's worth." There is also a change in the line about Mr. Jones, the central character of Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Think Man" (from his 1965 album "Highway 61 Revisited"). In the demo, John sings "I feel so insecure, just like Dylan's Mr. Jones." In the finished master, he feels suicidal. At the request of John, "Yer Blues" was recorded in a small storage room next to the control room of Abbey Road's Studio Two. Lennon got the idea to record there when engineer Ken Scott jokingly complained to John about all the unconventional things the group was doing in the studio. Scott remarked, "Bloody hell, the way you lot are carrying on, you'll be wanting to record everything in the room next door!" John thought it was a great idea and had the studio crew set up the band's amplifiers, microphones and instruments in the control room's tiny annex. While John viewed the words to the song as "pretty realistic," he felt self-conscious about singing it in the idiom of American blues artists. Musically, "Yer Blues" became a parody of the English blues scene, particularly evident in its swing-time boogie-guitar instrumental passage and its simplistic guitar fills and solos. (bs)
MOTHER NATURE'S SON
Another McCartney folksy song ... I didn't like it much at first but it's grown on me over the years. John Denver (and I believe Kenny Rankin) both did decent versions of this over the years ... borderline for me as to its inclusion on a single album. (Just how many songs would be on this single album anyway?!?!?) kk
"Mother Nature's Son" may have also had its origin in India. John recalls a Maharishi lecture on nature that prompted him to write "I'm Just A Child Of Nature". The song, with its opening line "On the road to Rishikesh" was given demo treatment but was not recorded during the White Album sessions. Lennon later resurrected the song's melody and rewrote the lyrics for "Jealous Guy" (which is on his "Imagine" album). While John believed the same lecture inspired Paul to write "Mother Nature's Son", McCartney remembers writing the song at his father's Liverpool home and that it was inspired by "Nature Boy", one of Paul's favorite standards. Nat "King" Cole's recording of "Nature Boy" was a million seller that topped the charts in America for eight weeks in 1948. Paul describes "Mother Nature's Son" as a "heartfelt song about my child-of-nature leanings." The song was recorded at Abbey Road as a solo McCartney piece on the evening of August 9 after the other Beatles had all gone home. Paul went through 25 live performances of the song, each featuring his vocal and his Martin D-28 acoustic guitar. Take 24 was selected as the best and on August 20, additional instruments were added. Overdubs included George Martin's brass arrangement featuring four horns and Paul on bass drum, bongos, timpani and a second acoustic guitar. The drums were set up in an uncarpeted hallway to give them a natural echo staccato sound. (bs)
EVERYBODY'S GOT SOMETHING TO HIDE EXCEPT ME AND MY MONKEY
More Lennon more drug references ... one of my least favorite tracks on the LP and, in my opinion, one of his weakest tracks ever. The "monkey" on his back was making a good portion of John's music unrelatable to the average music fan out there ... and we haven't even gotten to Revolution 9 yet!!! (kk)
John's exuberant rocker "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey" was written shortly after John began his relationship with Yoko in May, 1968. In his Playboy Interview, John described the song as "a nice line that I made into a song. It was about me and Yoko. Everybody seemed to be paranoid except for us two, who were in the glow of love." The song's opening line, "Come on is such a joy" was, according to George Harrison, a favorite saying of the Maharishi. Even at the early demo stage, the song's infections nature is apparent. One can sense that the group was looking forward to recording this one. (bs)
All that being said about John's current state of mind when it came to songwriting, I've got to say that this one's a gem!!! I've always liked it and even if (in his OWN mind) JOHN copped out by changing the MAHARISHI lyrics at the last moment, I don't care ... I think it's a BEAUTIFUL song that's beautifully put together. One of my favorites. (And yes, at 15, I liked the fact that "Sexy" was in the title!!!) kk
"Sexy Sadie" was another song that originated in India. In his Rolling Stone Interview, John stated that the song was about the Maharishi, adding that he "copped out and wouldn't write 'Maharishi, what have you done, you made a fool of everyone.'" John's disenchantment with the Maharishi started when he heard rumors that the holy man had made sexual advances towards some of the women at the compound. After John and George had heated discussions about whether it might be true, they decided to confront the Maharishi. When John told the Maharishi they were leaving, he asked why. John curtly told him "Well, if you're so cosmic, you'll know why." Because the Maharishi was never told what he had supposedly done, he was unable to deny the allegations. John interpreted the Maharishi's non-denial as an admission of guilt. Although John's initial lyrics were apparently quite crude and mentioned the Maharishi by name, by the time the demo was recorded, Lennon had cleaned things up and replaced "Maharishi" with "Sexy Sadie" at George's request. (bs)
In hindsight, Helter Skelter is probably the most talked-about and over-analyzed song on the album, thanks to one Charles Manson who thought that The Beatles were speaking directly TO him via some sort of musical code. For me, this one was always just a lot of noise ... I remember reading at the time that Paul wanted to write the loudest rock song ever ... obviously he put that consideration over content. (If I'm not mistaken, Paul's inspiration was a comment that Pete Townshend of The Who had made, stating that they had just recorded the loudest rock song ever recorded ... speculation is that he was referring to their late 1967 Hit Single I Can See For Miles.) This was not a style we'd come to expect from The Beatles so, in that regard, it's kind of interesting ... if a bit overdone and, ultimately, pointless. Despite Ringo screaming about the "blisters on his fingers", I think John and George probably did have a lot of fun playing on this one!!! (kk)
"Helter Skelter" was the product of Paul's desire to record a song with "the most raucous vocal, the loudest drums, et cetera, et cetera." According to Paul, he was inspired to make such a record after reading an interview with the Who's Pete Townshend in which the guitarist described his band's new single, "I Can See For Miles", as the loudest, rawest, dirtiest and most uncompromising song the band had ever recorded. While this story may have been embellished a bit by Paul, it demonstrates McCartney's competitive nature, in this case wanting to out do the Who at their own game. Paul took the symbol of a helter skelter (a spiral slide at a British playground) as a "ride from the top to the bottom ... and this was the fall, the demise, the going down." Overdubs included John on saxophone and Mal Evans on trumpet. The final result was just what McCartney had been aiming for: his "most raucous" vocal and Ringo coming through with his "loudest drums." After pounding away for 18 unrelenting performances of the song, Ringo shouted "I've got blisters on my fingers!" at the end of the final take. His immortal words are preserved on the 4:29 stereo mix of the song. (The mono mix runs nearly a minute shorter at 3:36 and is without Ringo's scream.) Both versions begin fading out around the 3:30 mark but where the mono mix completely fades out, the stereo mix fades back in and runs to the end of the recording. (bs)
I wasn't aware of this drastic difference between the mono and stereo mixes ... in fact, I didn't think they were still making mono albums by late 1968!!! Here's hoping Capitol eventually gets around to releasing both the mono and stereo versions of The White Album (as they have with all of the other U.S. Beatles LP releases) so that we can all enjoy some of these not-so-subtle differences!!! (kk)
LONG LONG LONG
Another George Gem that's often over-looked. A very pretty melody. Recorded in such a way that you really have to listen to it to hear all that's going on ... it's a very soft and "low" mix. When people name their favorite Harrisongs, this one rarely (if ever) makes the list ... but I think it's one of the prettiest melodies he ever wrote. Coming on the heels of The Beatles' loudest recording ever, the contrast is that much more remarkable (kk)
The loudest song on the album is quickly followed by the set's softest selection, "Long, Long, Long". Although its lyrics are about lost and regained love, George insists that the "you" in the song is God. He admits that the chords were taken from Bob Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands", which is on the singer's 1966 "Blonde On Blonde" double album. The song featured Paul on the Hammond organ and towards the end of the song, Paul hit an organ note that caused a bottle of Blue Nun wine to rattle. The group liked the effect, so microphones were set up to capture the sound for use at the end of the song. Ringo added some drums to complement the rattling sound. John did not participate in any of the sessions for this song. (bs)
KENT KOTAL: Love it, love it, love it ... proof again that a good song is a good song is a good song. Much like While My Guitar Gently Weeps, this one works as both a balls-out rocker (which is the way they did it on the flipside of Hey Jude) or as a bluesy, stripped down "bomp-shoo-wop". (In fact, when they made their video for this song that ultimately aired on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour here in The States and on David Frost's Program in the U.K., they combined the two versions, rocking out on the up-tempo version with Paul and George supplying the "doo-wop" ad-libs throughout the background!) Likewise, Lennon apparently couldn't decide if we should count him "in" or "out" when it came to Revolution ... he sang it both ways and later admitted that even he was confused!!! I consider this to be an absolute "must keep" in The Beatles' Classics column ... so it hands-down earns a spot on my Single Album Edition! (kk)
BRUCE SPIZER: The fourth and final side of the album opens with the first song recorded for the disc, "Revolution". John wanted the song released as a single to serve "as a statement of the Beatles' position on Viet Nam and the Beatles' position on revolution." According to John, the lyrics expressed his feelings about politics: "I want to see the plan ... Count me out if it's for violence. Don't expect me on the barricades unless it is with flowers." John's anti-violence stance is clear as he sings the line "But when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out." In rehearsal, however, John's stance on destruction alternated between "you can count me out" and "you can count me in." Although the lyric sheet included with the album reads "you can count me out," John actually sings "you can count me out, in." In an effort to alter the sound of his voice, Lennon sang while lying on his bac on the floor of Abbey Road's Studio Three. The song's title was changed to Revolution 1 because by this point John had done a substantial amount of work on Revolution 9. (bs)
Paul doing his 1920's When I'm 64 / Your Mother Should Know schtick again ... not quite as strongly, perhaps, but I do like the old-time, scratchy record, megaphone sound effects. Another borderline track for me ... it's not bad ... but it's not great either!!! On the other hand, it certainly does show Paul's appreciation for this generation of music (which he would come back to a couple more times in his solo career.) kk
"Honey Pie" is a nod to the vaudeville tradition Paul was raised on, following in the footsteps of "When I'm Sixty-Four" and "Your Mother Should Know". It is also another of Paul's fantasy songs; this time written for a woman who sails to America and becomes a legend of the silver screen. Paul recorded the line "Now she's hit the big time" in a manner mimicking the low fidelity recordings of the 1920's. To drive home the point, his vocal is backed by the sound of a scratchy record, duplicating the effect of listening to an old worn-out 78 RPM shellac disc. (Michael Nesmith of the Monkees had used the same scratchy record sound on his tune "Magnolia Simms", from the group's May, 1968 album "The Birds, The Bees And The Monkees." bs
That "megaphone" old-time effect was also used to resounding results by The New Vaudeville Band on their late-1966 chart-topper Winchester Cathedral. (kk)
George had a pretty good "pop" outing on The White Album in my opinion ... especially after giving us the somewhat hard-to-digest Within You, Without You and Blue Jay Way from Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour respectively. I think Savoy Truffle's got a great groove (somewhat reminiscent of Think For Yourself from the Rubber Soul LP ... and perhaps a precursor to Old Brown Shoe, later the B-Side of The Ballad Of John And Yoko) and I really enjoy the clever lyrics. A keeper as far as I'm concerned. (kk)
George's fourth selection on the album, "Savoy Truffle", was inspired by Eric Clapton's addiction to chocolate. The lyrics jokingly warn Harrison's friend that he'll have to have his decaying teeth pulled out if he doesn't cut back on the sweets. Most of the candies mentioned in the song, including Creme Tangerine, Montelimart, Ginger Sling, Coffee Desert and Savoy Truffle are taken from Mackintosh's Good News double centre chocolate assortment box. Cherry Cream and Coconut Fudge are Harrison creations. The lyrics contain a cryptic reference to "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da". (bs)
LOL ... evidently George figured if John could cop his lyrics from an old circus poster, he'd give it a shot himself with a box of chocolates!!! (Who knew!!! Maybe Forest Gump's Mom was right after all!) As George told us all when he appeared on The Dick Cavett Show years later, promoting his Concert For Bangla Desh LP, "I've learned a lot from The Lennons." (kk)
CRY BABY CRY
Another Lennon favorite of mine from the LP. (And I like the little McCartney "tag" at the end, too! It was one of those by-this-time-rare true Lennon - McCartney collaborations, even if they were, in effect, two completely separate songs strung together ... kind of reminded me of Paul's "Middle 8" on A Day In The Life or, to a lesser extent, his contribution to Baby You're A Rich Man.) Despite all of his struggles and inner turmoil, I guess John had a pretty productive and prolific run of songwriting when it came to this LP after all! (kk)
John's "Cry Baby Cry" dates back to late 1967. Lennon's inspiration for the song came from an ad tag line, "Cry baby cry, make your mother buy." While in India, John refined the lyrics, which have a nursery rhyme quality. The group completed the recording of this song on July 18th, after taking the day off before to attend the premier of the "Yellow Submarine" Film. The final chord of "Cry Baby Cry" is followed by an uncredited link track, Paul's "Can You Take Me Back." The ad-lib tune was recorded during the September 16 session that produced "I Will". When the album was banded on October 16 and 17, a 28-second segment from the end of the song was placed immediately after "Cry Baby Cry", giving listeners the impression that it was part of the song. Its words, "Can you take me back where I came from, can you take me back?" are not included on the album's lyric sheet. (bs)
Without question, the most unnecessary recording The Beatles ever made. It doesn't belong on this album or any other album as far as I'm concerned. Virtually everybody at the time wondered, "If they needed to fill seven minutes of space, why didn't they just put Hey Jude on here instead?!?!?" I don't know what type of lobbying John did to convince the others to accept this as a reflective work of the most famous band on the planet ... but it didn't work then ... and it doesn't work now ... and it will never work as any type of creative art form. An embarrassment just shy of his nude Two Virgins album cover ... yet, in hindsight, can you even imagine the album without it??? (kk)
"Revolution 9" is the most controversial track ever to appear on a Beatles album. It is not really a song, but rather a sound collage of multiple tape loops put together by John. In his Playboy Magazine Interview, John recalled, "Yoko was there for the whole thing and she made decisions about which (tape) loops to use. It was somewhat under her influence." Although Paul had produced a similarly styled sound collage with the group on January 5, 1967, he did not participate in the making of "Revolution 9" and thought it inappropriate for a Beatles LP. At John's insistence, the track ended up on "The Beatles" despite objections from the other Beatles and George Martin. The track took on a life of its own, springing out of the six minute instrumental jam at the end of Take 18 of "Revolution 1". The extended ending of the song is full of feedback and John screaming "All-Right" over and over again. Yoko also got into the mix, speaking phrases such as "they look like they're naked" and "if you become naked." After overdubs were added on May 31 and June 4, "Revolution 1" was edited down to 4:15, thus freeing the chaotic six minute ending for other use. On June 6, John began assembling tapes and loops of various sound effects, some of which would be incorporated into "Revolution 9". The master version of the track was compiled during a 7:00 pm through 3:30 am session held on June 20. According to John, "There were about ten machines with people holding pencils on the loops -- some only inches long and some a yard long. I fed them all in and mixed them live. I did a few mixes until I got one I liked." To accommodate the simultaneous inclusion of multiple tape loops into the mix, all three of Abbey Road's studios were used. Prior to compiling the master version, John prepared several different tape loops that could be brought into the mix whenever it suited his fancy. The most memorable sound was lifted from the start of an EMI testing tape. It consists of an unknown engineer repeating the phrase "Number Nine." The "number nine" loop is brought into the mix nine times during the piece. George Harrison was the only other Beatle present at the session. He joined John on the studio floor to record a bizarre series of phrases and bits of strange conversation that were faded into the mix at various times. "Revolution 9" is preceded by a bit of a conversation (secretly recorded by John) in which Apple office manager Alistair Taylor apologizes to George Martin for forgetting to bring him a special claret. After Taylor asks, "Will you forgive me?", Martin replies, "Yes, son-of-a-bitch." The track begins calmly enough with the "number nine" voice panning from left to right over a slow piano theme in B-minor, which is also faded in and out of the mix throughout the piece. The serenity quickly yields to chaotic sound effects, including bits of symphonic music (some normal and some reverse looped), choral passages, crowd noises and crashing cymbals. John's dialog is brought to the front of the mix, revealing that "as time went by they'd get a little bit older and a little bit slower." The swirling symphonic sounds continue, leading into laughter, a crying baby, the "number nine" loop and George asking "Who wants to know?" Additional confusion persists and John's repeated screaming of "right" from the extended ending to "Revolution 1" is brought to the forefront of the mix. This is followed by the "number nine" loop, a ringing bell and the blended sounds of a choral passage, an unintelligible conversation, crowd noise, symphonic instruments, honking horns and other effects. The voices of George and John come forward to reveal George saying "with the situation", John adding "they are standing still" and George mentioning a telegram. John's moans from the "Revolution 1" jam and the "number nine" voice return, leading into the following dialog from John: "Who could tell what he was saying; his voice was low and his mind was high..." As the conversation fades, an "All Right" from John leads into crowd noise and the return of "number nine" and chaotic music. John can be heard saying "so the wife told him he'd better go to see a surgeon" as the crowd noises and effects build up. John continues his prose with "so anyhow, he went to see the dentist instead, who gave him a pair of teeth, which wasn't any good at all, so, so instead of that, he joined the fookin' navy and went to sea." A tape loop of a crowd chanting "hold that line" and "block that kick" also enters the mix. After the choral passage returns, John can be heard saying, "my broken chair, my wings are broken and so is my hair, I am not in the mood for wearing blue clothing" over the sound of crackling flames. John's moaning voice from "Revolution 1 returns amid gunfire and other sound effects. As the choir returns, George says "only to find the night watchman unaware of his presence in the building." The return of the "number nine" loop leads to more audible prose, including John's "industrial output, financial imbalance" and George's "thrusting in between your shoulder blades." As things calm down, the piano theme returns and John continues with "The Watusi, the Twist" and George adds "El Dorado." John then commands, "Take this brother, may it serve you well." The mood of the piece abruptly changes and Yoko's soft conversation about exposure and nakedness competes with ah operatic tenor and various sound effects. As the piano theme returns, the piece gets quiet for a brief moment to expose Yoko saying "you become naked." This leads into a crowd chanting "hold the line" a few times before switching to "block that kick." The track ends with "block that kick" panning between the left and right channels before moving to the center and fading away. For most listeners back in 1968, "Revolution 9" was unlike anything they had ever experienced. Had the piece appeared on a John and Yoko album, the piece would have been heard by a relatively small audience. But being part of a Beatles album meant that millions of listeners would hear the experimental recording whether they wanted to or not. For those who weren't initially turned off, the track made for fascinating listening. It is truly a recording that reveals new things with each listen. The famous "number nine" loop gained notoriety beyond the song, with many listeners mimicking its sound. In addition, the number nine took on significance to Beatles fans. During the height of the Paul McCartney death rumor, the tape loop was a major clue supposedly pointing to Paul's death. By some incredible coincidence, when the record is played backwards, the phrase "number nine" sounds like "turn me on, dead man." I clearly remember hearing its eerie sound and nearly runing my turntable in the process. (bs)
OK ... so now that you've explained it ... in the most minute detail ... it all makes perfect sense!!! (lol) Not!!! A track I will continue to skip over every time I listen to this LP or CD ... given that option, I can think of no reason to ever sit through it again!!! And you're right, we millions of Beatles Fans were not expecting this ... probably why John was so insistent that it be included, knowing that only a very few of the most loyal fans would ever buy a John and Yoko Record!!! Certainly another straw on the ever-weakening camel's back in Beatledom at this point ... it just doesn't belong on a "group" release.(kk)
The down side of the all encompassing concept of a double-record set is "Revolution 9". I actually appreciate the song and do not hate it like many people. But I remember when CD players first came out, some models had a feature that allowed you to program the player to skip a particular song. I called it the Revolution 9 button! One evening I was with a female friend of mine who placed The White Album and Abbey Road into her CD player to impress (seduce?) me and set the player on random. Revolution 9 came on at a very inopportune time when we both were sounding like part of the groans and moans in the sound collage. We both wanted to change the song, but did not want to stop what we were doing. So for eight minutes, Revolution 9 it was! At least the song now brings a smile to my face! (bs)
Another Ringo vocal (and pure schmaltz, too!!!) Hard to believe that John wrote this one. I suppose if it's a two album set, then Ringo's supposed to get two tracks ... but I easily could have lived without both of his White Album contributions. A very weak ending to the album in my opinion (but I will give them a bonus point for wrapping things up with a song called Good Night!!!) kk
The album's final selection, "Good Night", was written by John for his then five-year-old son, Julian. Perhaps believing the tender lullaby would harm his image, John turned the song over to Ringo. Paul fondly recalls John teaching the song to Ringo: "It was fabulous to hear him do it ... he sang it great ... he sang it very tenderly." The Anthology Video contains a segment of Ringo reciting the following prose over John's finger-picking-style guitar: "Come on, now, it's time you little toddlers are i bed. I'm having no more messing. You've been out to the park all day, you've had a lovely time. Now its time for bed. Are we ready? Daddy'll sing." Another charming introduction has Ringo saying "Put all those toys away. Yes, Daddy will sing a song for you." The final mixed version ends with Ringo whispering "Good night, good night everybody, everybody, everywhere, good night." None of the Beatles' recorded instrumental tracks were used for the final version, George Martin using these tracks instead as a "guide" to enable him to write an orchestral score. The song's lush orchestral backing, with George Martin conducting the orchestra, featured twelve violins, three violas, three cellos, three flutes, clarinet, horn, vibraphone, harp and double bass. Backing vocals by four male and female members of the Mike Sammers Singers were then recorded. (Four of the singers had previously recorded with the Beatles, being part of the backing vocal shenanigans on "I Am The Walrus".) bs
And yet Phil Spector took ALL that flack for using female voices on his mix of The Long And Winding Road!!! (lol) kk
And there you have it folks, our track-by-track remembrances of The Beatles' White Album. Very Special Thanks again to Bruce Spizer for allowing us to use his reviews in our Forgotten Hits Feature. Remember you can get the whole story ... as well as details on every other record The Beatles released on Apple Records in Bruce's Book THE BEATLES ON APPLE RECORDS, available through his website: http://www.beatles.net/
Copyright Kent Kotal / Forgotten Hits, 1998 - 2013 ... All rights reserved