This Friday I’m featuring The Beatles’ “White Album.” Officially named The Beatles, this the only double album by the band was put out in 1968. This was the period in The Beatles’ history where they were international stars, and starting to have problems as a band. They were confident in their ability to produce a concept record. And they did it without really presenting what the hell the concept actually was. You have to listen to get it…
Years ago I read about this time in The Beatles’ history in the book The Love You Make, An Insiders Story of The Beatles by Beatles’ former manager Peter Brown. This is by far the best book I’ve read on the band.
The book starts out with Cynthia Lennon’s account of finding her husband John in their kitchen with artist Yoko Ono. Yoko was wearing Cynthia’s bathrobe. Wooooooooo.
The Beatles had just returned from India, learning meditation with a Maharishi, and the songs on “The White Album” were started mostly in India. John and Paul were at the height of their songwriting careers.
This record not one you listen to passively. You step into their world. Themes of revolution, childlike silliness and adult poetic intimacies wind their way through this record. It seems like they started out with idealism, wanting to change the world.
But like all adults, they realize that the changes have to start with themselves. And it is daunting. I love every song on this record until it ends with “Revolution #9,” a torturous art piece that I always have had to force myself to sit through and then we get to the final song, a really sappy ballad called “Goodnight.” I guess the message could be, you go all the way through the world, reveling in poetry, silliness, love, and dreams of revolution, you meet up with relationships and your mirror image of yourself. Then the inevitable face-off with death followed with a final too-sweet goodbye. What a great record!
George Harrison has always been a quiet force in the Beatles. I’m a John Lennon fan first, but George really comes into his own on this record. After years of absorbing the Lennon-McCartney skills, he comes out with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” Other favorite songs from this collection (written by all the Beatles) are “Dear Prudence,” “Back In The USSR,” “Rocky Raccoon,” “Helter Skelter,” “Wild Honey Pie,” “Sexy Sadie,” and “Savoy Truffle.” But my very favorite is the audacious and poetic “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” I can’t but help but think this song is about Yoko: