Sunday, October 29, 2006

134. The Beatles - The Beatles (aka White Album) (1968)

Track Listing

Disc: 1
1. Back In The U.S.S.R.
2. Dear Prudence
3. Glass Onion
4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
5. Wild Honey Pie
6. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
8. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
9. Martha My Dear
10. Im So Tired
11. Blackbird
12. Piggies
13. Rocky Raccoon
14. Don't Pass Me By
15. Why Don't We Do It In The Road
16. I Will
17. Julia

Disc: 2
1. Birthday
2. Yer Blues
3. Mother Nature's Son
4. Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me & My Monkey
5. Sexy Sadie
6. Helter Skelter
7. Long Long Long
8. Revolution 1
9. Honey Pie
10. Savoy Truffle
11. Cry Baby Cry
12. Revolution 9
13. Good Night


This first paragraph is brought to you by the letter A, for anachronism. With it's iconic cover based on Spinal Tap's Smell The Glove, The White Album is the biggest single work by the Beatles. And it starts out as challenging and it would go on (with the exception of shit like Ob-la-di Ob-la-da). Back in the USSR starts off with thye sound of an aeroplane landing, and goes on to talk about the fine ladies of the Soviet Union in Beach Boys, surfer rock style right in the middle of the Cold War, it is then followed by a Siousxie and the Banshees cover of Dear Prudence, both recorded without Ringo Starr... not that you can tell.

And it goes on for another hour and a half. And in such a big album there would always be hits and misses, but with such a great band as The Beatles the hits are much more frequent than the misses.

Of course The Beatles had completely disintegrated as a band by this time, but that also makes the album great, the different personalities come across, at the same time independent but cohesive. Cohesive because all of the members are influenced by their fellow Beatles and in the end you have a surprising variety, in a sprawling and great album.

It is also important to note the whole experimentalism of the thing. One of my favourite things of the late 60's was that bands were allowed to be innovative, strange and try to bring something new into the world of music and still be commercially successful. I can't see Shakira doing Revolution 9 for example, or any of the groups on the charts now. None would take the chances. There are exceptions, and people like Radiohead and Bjork manage to be mildly successful commercially while still pushing the envelope of innovation, but it seems that at this time everyone was trying to do something new. And look! Helter Skelter became one of the first and most important songs in the development of Heavy Metal... they came a long way from She Loves You (Yesh, Yeah, Yeah). But as I have said there are misses, and it is not a perfect album. Probably the third best Beatles Album, after Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's. Still Great then! Buy it at Amazon UK or US.

Track Highlights

1. Helter Skelter
2. Blackbird
3. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
4. Revolution 1

Final Grade



Helter Skelter and video clips of its biggest fan:

From Wikipedia:

Many of the songs here are personal and self-referencing; for example "Dear Prudence" was written for actress Mia Farrow's sister, Prudence, who attended a Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India, at the same time as the group and who experienced violent hallucinations while meditating. She had to be kept in her room under guard for a period and after the guard was removed she was afraid to leave her room, thus the lyrics "Won't you come out to play...". She was serenaded with this song in an attempt to reassure her and help her calm down. In fact, many songs on The White Album were conceived during the group's ill-fated visit to India in the spring of 1968. "Sexy Sadie" is about Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who led those transcendental meditation classes and who allegedly tried to seduce Mia Farrow. "Glass Onion" is Lennon's song for those fans who spent their time trying to find hidden meanings in the group's lyrics; it references several other Beatles songs. The album runs the gamut of genres from pop with tracks such as "Birthday" and "Back in the U.S.S.R.," hard guitar-based rock in "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," British blues in "Yer Blues," proto-heavy metal in "Helter Skelter," ska in "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," influential and experimental audio-montages in "Revolution 9," and acoustic ballads such as "Blackbird" and "Julia."

The only western instrument that was available to the group during their Indian visit was the acoustic guitar, and several of the songs (such as "Dear Prudence", "Julia", "Blackbird" and "Mother Nature's Son") were written and first performed during their stay. These songs were recorded either solo, or by only part of the group.

Yoko Ono made her first appearance, adding backing vocals in "Birthday" (along with Pattie Harrison and Linda Eastman); Ono also sang backing vocals and a solo line on "Bungalow Bill" and was a strong influence on Lennon's musique concrète piece, "Revolution 9".

Eric Clapton, at Harrison's invitation, provided an extra lead guitar for Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." George would later return the favour by collaborating on the song "Badge" for Cream's last album Goodbye.

Several songs recorded during The White Album sessions were not part of the final album, such as, "Hey Jude" (released as a single backed with "Revolution"). Other songs would later surface on bootlegs as well as on The Beatles Anthology, including Harrison's "Not Guilty" (which he would later re-record as a solo track and release on his 1979 self-titled album, George Harrison) and Lennon's "What's The New Mary Jane?".

The album was produced and orchestrated by George Martin, and was the first album released by Apple Records, and the only original double album released by The Beatles. Martin was personally dissatisfied with the double album and advised the group to reduce the number of songs in order to feature their stronger work on a single disc. However, the group overruled him.

The arrangement of the songs on the White Album follows some patterns and symmetry. For example, "Wild Honey Pie" is the fifth song from the beginning of the album and "Honey Pie" is the fifth song from the end. Also, the three songs containing animal names in their titles ("Blackbird", "Piggies", and "Rocky Raccoon") are grouped together. "Savoy Truffle" contains a reference to "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," a previous song on the album. In addition, the four songs composed by George Harrison are distributed with one on each of the four sides.

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