The Beatles (White Album)
The Beatles is the ninth official album by The Beatles, a double album released in 1968. It is most often referred to as The White Album as it has no other text than the band's name on its plain white sleeve, designed by pop artist Richard Hamilton. The album was released at the height of The Beatles' popularity, and is often hailed as one of the major accomplishments in popular music. It was originally intended to be called A Doll's House.
In 1997 The White Album was named the 10th greatest album of all time in a 'Music of the Millennium' poll conducted by HMV, Channel 4, The Guardian and Classic FM. In 1998 Q magazine readers placed it at number 17, while in 2000 the same magazine placed it at number 7 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003 the TV network VH1 named it as the 11th greatest album ever; in the same year, it was ranked number 10 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
According to the Recording Industry Association of America, The White Album is the Beatles' best-selling album at 19-times platinum and the ninth-best-selling album of all time in the United States. Note, however, that the RIAA counts sales of double albums twice for its rankings, and without this adjustment, The White Album would be the Beatles' fourth best selling album.
During the recording of the White Album, several things developed which would eventually factor into the breakup of the band. These included the development of tensions between the members and the relationship between John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
With this album, each of the four band members began to showcase the range and depth of their individual songwriting talents and styles that would be carried over to their eventual solo careers. John Lennon displays his stark musical nakedness ("Julia"), manic insanity ("Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"), biting attacks ("Sexy Sadie"), political views ("Revolution 1"), and Yoko collaborations ("Revolution 9"). While John's songs differed lyrically, Paul's differed musically. He had delicate pop ballads ("I Will"), heavy metal ("Helter Skelter"), piano pop ("Martha My Dear"), surfer rock ("Back In The USSR") and music hall style songs ("Honey Pie"). George Harrison demonstrated his usual Indian mantra ("Long, Long, Long"), a religious cry for help ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps"), a goof off ("Savoy Truffle"), and social commentary ("Piggies"). Even Ringo had a song composed entirely by himself; "Don't Pass Me By".
The album was recorded between 30 May 1968 and 14 October 1968, largely at Abbey Road with some sessions at Trident Studios. The sessions, although productive, were sometimes fractious and exacerbated the growing tensions within the group. A major source of this tension was the constant presence of Lennon's new girlfriend and artistic partner Yoko Ono; prior to this, The Beatles had been very insular during recording sessions. Lennon's dissatisfaction with the band and growing drug use were also evident, and this left a vacuum that McCartney stepped in to fill. Often McCartney would record in one studio while Lennon would record in another at the same time, using different engineers. The studio tensions carried over into The Beatles' subsequent album and film project in early 1969, ultimately released as Let It Be. At one point in the sessions, George Martin grew disgusted and spontaneously left on vacation, leaving Chris Thomas in charge of producing the sessions.
These sessions also marked the change from 4-track to 8-track recording, although in essence this had started in 1966 and 1967 with the technique of 'bouncing down' several tracks onto one, to free up new tracks for recording.
While the Abbey Road studios had yet to install an 8-track machine that had supposedly been sitting in a storage room unpacked for months (evidently because EMI could not afford its power cord), the Beatles decided to out-source to the more updated Trident Studios.
At one point during the recording sessions for the White Album, Starr walked out of the studio. Starr returned to the Beatles after two weeks, however, after being persuaded by the other three members. During that time, McCartney replaced him as the drummer on "Back in the USSR " and "Dear Prudence.". When he did return, he found his drumset decorated with flowers, a welcome back gesture from George.
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.
"Hey Jude" was originally intended to be included on the album, but was instead released as a stand-alone single. "Revolution", an alternate version of "Revolution 1", was recorded and released as the B-side to "Hey Jude".
The Beatles was the last Beatles album to be released with a unique, alternate mono mix, albeit one issued only in the UK . Twenty-nine of the album's thirty tracks ("Revolution 9" being the only exception) exist in official alternate mono mixes, all of which are popular items amongst Beatles fans.
Beatles albums after The Beatles (except Yellow Submarine in the UK) occasionally had mono pressings in certain countries, but these editions – of Yellow Submarine, Let It Be, and Abbey Road – were always mono fold-downs from the regular stereo mixes.
In the USA , mono records had already been phased out so the USA release of The Beatles was the first Beatles LP issued in the USA only in stereo.
The album's sleeve was designed by Richard Hamilton, a notable pop artist who had organised a Marcel Duchamp retrospective at the Tate Gallery the previous year. Hamilton 's design was in stark contrast to Peter Blake's vivid cover art for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and consisted of a plain white sleeve. The band's name was discreetly embossed in the middle of the album's right side, and the cover also featured a unique stamped serial number, in Hamilton 's words, "to create the ironic situation of a numbered edition of something like five million copies."  Later vinyl record releases in the U.S.A. showed the title in grey letters. Early copies on compact disc were also numbered. Later CD releases rendered the album's title in black or grey.
The album's inside packaging included a poster, the lyrics to the songs, and a set of photographs taken by John Kelley in Autumn of 1968 that have themselves become classic.
Two re-issues in 1978 (one by Capitol Records, the other by Parlophone) saw the album pressed on white vinyl, completing the look of the "white" album. In 1985, Electrola/EMI released a DMM (direct metal mastered) white vinyl pressing of the album in Germany , which was imported to the United States in large numbers. Another popular white vinyl pressing was manufactured in France . The 1978 Parlophone white vinyl export pressing and the German DMM pressing are widely considered the best sounding versions of the album. This is due to the use of the famed Neumann lathe on the 1978 export pressing and the use of the DMM process on the 1985 pressing.
The sleeve is the only of a Beatles studio album that doesn't show the members of the band