Friday, November 22, 2013

the white album

The Beatles wiped the slate clean with this sprawling and diverse collection of solo songs.  The unprecedented success of 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' had left the band uncertain about which direction they would go next.  They worked on two feature films and their soundtracks ('Magical Mystery Tour' and 'Yellow Submarine') before embarking on a trip to the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India to study Transcendental Meditation.  Ringo left after only ten days.  Paul left after a month.  George and John stuck around for another month until they heard that the Maharishi had made sexual advances toward women at the compound.  

When the band reconvened at Abbey Road Studios, they had amassed over thirty songs, most of which had been written while in India.  The sessions were produced by George Martin and Chris Thomas and were fraught with tension as each member of the band fought for control of their own songs.  Ringo quit the band for two weeks during the recording of the album; but was convinced to return.  The album features John Lennon on lead, harmony and background vocals; acoustic, lead, bass and rhythm guitars; keyboards (electric and acoustic pianos, Hammond organ, harmonium and mellotron); extra drums and assorted percussion (tambourine, maracas, cymbals, thumping on the back of an acoustic guitar, handclaps and vocal percussion); harmonica, whistling and saxophone; tapes, tape loops and sound effects (electronic and home-made);      Paul McCartney on lead, harmony and background vocals; acoustic, lead, rhythm and bass guitars; keyboards (electric and acoustic pianos and Hammond organ); assorted percussion (timpani, tambourine, cowbell, hand shake bell, handclaps, foot taps and vocal percussion); drums (on "Back in the U.S.S.R.","Dear Prudence", "Wild Honey Pie", and "Martha My Dear"); recorder and flugelhorn; sound effects;    George Harrison on lead, harmony and background vocals; acoustic, rhythm, bass and lead guitars; Hammond organ; extra drums and assorted percussion (tambourine, handclaps and vocal percussion) and sound effects;     and Ringo Starr on drums and assorted percussion (tambourine, bongos, cymbals, maracas and vocal percussion); electric piano and sleigh bell (on "Don't Pass Me By"), lead vocals (on "Don't Pass Me By" and "Good Night") and backing vocals ("The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill");    with contributions from Eric Clapton on lead guitar on "While my Guitar Gently Weeps";   Mal Evans on backing vocals and handclaps on "Dear Prudence", handclaps on "Birthday", and trumpet on "Helter Skelter";   Jack Fallon on violin on "Don't Pass Me By";   Grant Mansell on drums on "Martha My Dear";   Pattie Harrison on backing vocals on "Birthday";   Jackie Lomax on backing vocals and handclaps on "Dear Prudence";  Maureen Starkey on backing vocals on "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill";   Yoko Ono on backing vocals, brief lead vocals and handclaps on "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", backing vocals on "Birthday", speech, tapes and sound effects on "Revolution 9";   and including session musicians Ted Barker on trombone on "Martha My Dear";   Leon Calvert on trumpet and flugelhorn on "Martha My Dear";   Henry Datyner, Eric Bowie, Norman Lederman, and Ronald Thomas on violin on "Glass Onion";   Bernard Miller, Dennis McConnell, Lou Soufier and Les Maddox on violin on "Martha My Dear";   Reginald Kilby on cello on "Glass Onion" and "Martha My Dear";  Eldon Fox  on cello on "Glass Onion";   Frederick Alexander  on cello on "Martha My Dear";   Harry Klein on saxophone on "Savoy Truffle" and "Honey Pie";   Dennis Walton, Ronald Chamberlain, Jim Chest, and Rex Morris on saxophone on "Honey Pie";   Raymond Newman and David Smith on clarinet on "Honey Pie";   Art Ellefson, Danny Moss, and Derek Collins on tenor sax on "Savoy Truffle";   Ronnie Ross and Bernard George on baritone sax on "Savoy Truffle";   Alf Reece on tuba on "Martha My Dear";   The Mike Sammes Singers on backing vocals on "Good Night";   Stanley Reynolds and Ronnie Hughes on trumpet on "Martha My Dear";   Tony Tunstall on French horn on "Martha My Dear";   John Underwood and Keith Cummings on viola on "Glass Onion";   Leo Birnbaum and Henry Myerscough on viola on "Martha My Dear";     and the overwrought production team of  Geoff Emerick on engineering, and  speech on "Revolution 9";   George Martin on record production and mixing; string, brass, clarinet, orchestral arrangements and conducting; and piano on "Rocky Raccoon";   Ken Scott as engineer and mixer;   Barry Sheffield as engineer ( at Trident Studio);   Chris Thomas on production; Mellotron on "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", harpsichord on "Piggies",piano on "Long, Long, Long", and saxophone arrangement on "Savoy Truffle".  During the sessions, the band would often separate into different recording spaces to focus on their own tracks, with the various engineers and producers scrambling to keep everything together.  George Martin left suddenly to go on holiday amid the chaos, leaving his star assistant struck Chris Thomas in charge for the first time.   

John:    "I wasn't interested in following up 'Sgt Pepper' and I don't know whether the others were or not, but I know that what I was going for was to forget about  'Sgt Pepper' . You know that was  'Sgt Pepper'  and that's alright, fine, it's over... and just get back to basic music ... The songs and most of it is just as good as anything we recorded and there was lots of group activity going down. I love the White Album ... Dylan broke his neck and we went to India. Everybody did their bit. And now we’re all just coming out, coming out of a shell, in a new way, kind of saying, remember what it was like to play...I’ve got no regrets at all, ‘cuz it was a groove and I had some great experiences meditating eight hours a day -- some amazing things, some amazing trips -- it was great. And I still meditate off and on. George is doing it regularly. And I believe implicity in the whole bit. It’s just that it’s difficult to continue it. I lost the rosy glasses. And I’m like that. I’m very idealistic.  So I can’t really manage my exercises when I’ve lost that. I mean, I don’t want to be a boxer so much. It’s just that a few things happened, or didn’t happen. I don’t know, but something happened. It was sort of like a (click) and we just left and I don’t know what went on. It’s too near -- I don’t really know what happened....There’s no point in dropping out because it’s the same there and it’s got to change. But I think it all comes down to changing your head and, sure, I know that’s a cliche... If destruction’s the only way he can do it, there’s nothing I can say that could influence him ‘cuz that’s where he’s at, really. We’ve all got that in us, too, and that’s why I did the 'Out and In' bit on a few takes and in the TV version of 'Revolution' -- 'Destruction, well, you know, you can count me out, and in,' like yin and yang. I prefer 'out.' But we’ve got the other bit in us. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I was in his position. I don’t think I’d be so meek and mild. I just don’t know."

Paul:    "Well it is another step, you know, but it's not necessarily in the way people expected. Uhh... On 'Sgt Pepper' we had more instrumentation than we'd ever had. More orchestral stuff than we'd ever used before, so it was more of a production. But we didn't really want to go overboard like that this time, and we've tried to play more like a band this time-- only using instruments when we had to, instead of just using them for the fun of it...Well, since we were in India we started writing this batch of songs. And we've written a few since. And this is mainly the Indian batch that we've sort of finished...We've always been a rock & roll group, I suppose, you know. It's just that we're not just completely rock & roll. That's what I was trying to say before about 'Obladi,' 'USSR,' they're all different kinds of things. We're not just completely one kind of group. 'Cuz like, when we played in Hamburg, we didn't just do rock all evening 'cuz we had to have these sort of fat old businessmen coming in and saying... (jokingly) or THIN old businessmen, as well, were coming in and saying 'Play a mambo. Can you do a rhumba?' And we couldn't just keep saying no, you know, so we had to get into mambos and rhumbas a bit. So this kind of thing is like a pretty sort of smootchy ballad-- 'I Will.' But we have to do that kind of stuff, you know, so we always played alot of kind of things. I don't know if it's getting off the subject, but that's why there's great variety in this LP-- 'cuz in everything we do, you know, we just haven't got one bag, The Beatles, you know. And 'cuz on one hand you'll get something like 'I Will' and then you'll get 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road,' you know. Just completely different things-- completely different feelings and... But it's me singing both of them. It's the same fella. Uhh, and I've wrote both of them, you know. So you can't explain it. I don't know why I do 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road' shouting it like that... and then do this sort of smootchy laughing American 'Girl From Ipenema.' ... Originally George [Martin] was the supreme producer but as things loosened up George gave us a bit of the control of the tools...I think it's a fine little album and the fact that it's got so much on it is one of the things that's cool about it."

George:    "It became apparent that there was more songs than would make a single album ... Obviously, we go through cycles. At the moment, it's all that bit like getting my guitar out again, and it's happened quite a bit on this next album of the Beatles...We've got 'together' for it. Like, in the early days we were pretty good because we played for so long in one place. That's why I'd like to do a resident spot. Then you've got your amps and your drums set up, and get used to the one sound...All these people come to see you, too, so you can't hide. You can't fake anything. It's like, you know, you've got your trousers down. And  there's nothing to hide...Now, we're trying to get as funky as we were in the Cavern. 'Cuz in the Cavern and Hamburg, all we really were was thump-thump-thump. But so together, you know, because we were playing all the time. And those were the days when we used to think that 'Twist and Shout' was too way-out for a single. All very 'Shadows' it was, then, and getting into suits...The next album is much simpler than 'Pepper' because it's more down to guitars, bass and drums, and maybe a piano. There's a nice one of Paul just playing with his guitar, singing by himself but with just a bit of brass on it."

Ringo:     "'Sgt Pepper' did its thing, it was the album of the decade - of the century maybe. It was very innovative. Great songs, glad I was on it. But the White Album... We ended up being more of a band again and that's what I always love, I love being in a band ... You know, there's that famous old saying, you'll always hurt the one you love. And we all love each other and we all know that. But we still sort of hurt each other, occasionally. You know... where we just misunderstand each other and we go off, and it builds up to something bigger than it ever was. Then we have to come down to it and get it over with, you know. Sort it out. And so we're still really very close people...You know, when we first started we were the nice clean mop tops and every mother's son. And everyone loved us. And then suddenly, you know, there's a few things that they don't understand, and they don't get, and they don't like. And so it turns them off us a bit, you know. But I still think we're very popular. It's just that, we're men now, you know. We're a bit older than those lads that started out. And we've got a lot of things to do, you know. And you've got to do a few of them. It doesn't matter, you know, what people say. You can't live all your life by what they want. You know, we can't go on forever as four clean little mop tops, playing She Loves You...I'm quite happy to finish an LP and go and sit back. I can enjoy myself just sitting back, you know, and playing at home with all the toys, and the kids, and the wife. (jokingly) I enjoy playing with the wife."

'The Beatles' was the first album released on the band's own Apple Records.  The eclectic mix of musical styles on the two album set was too much for many critics; but the public went crazy for it.  In the UK, it made its debut at the top of the album charts, and went to number one in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Norway, and in the US, where it remains the tenth biggest selling album of all time due to its status as a double album.  On account of its plain white packaging, it is most commonly referred to as "the White Album".

"Back in the U.S.S.R." 

Back In the U.S.S.R. from JHu on Vimeo.

"Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"

OB LA DI OB LA DA from vinod on Vimeo.

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps"

The Beatles-While My Guitar Gently Weeps by numberonereturn1


Happy Birthday-Beatles from Ehtesham-Al-Huq Sagar on Vimeo.

Also recorded during the sessions was 'Hey Jude', which was released as a single three months before 'The Beatles'.  It became the biggest single of their career.  

The b-side was a sped up version of 'Revolution'. 

'Revolution' and 'Revolution 9' were originally part of the same track; but were eventually separated.  


'The Beatles' 

full album:
(as best as the internets will allow)

All songs written and composed by Lennon–McCartney, except where noted. Lead vocalist listed.

Side one
1. "Back in the U.S.S.R."   McCartney 2:43
2. "Dear Prudence"   Lennon 3:56
3. "Glass Onion"   Lennon 2:17
4. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"   McCartney 3:08
5. "Wild Honey Pie"   McCartney 0:52
6. "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"   Lennon 3:14
7. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (George Harrison) Harrison 4:45
8. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun"   Lennon 2:43
Side two
1. "Martha My Dear"   McCartney 2:28
2. "I'm So Tired"   Lennon 2:03
3. "Blackbird"   McCartney 2:18
4. "Piggies" (Harrison) Harrison 2:04
5. "Rocky Raccoon"   McCartney 3:33
6. "Don't Pass Me By" (Richard Starkey) Starr 3:51
7. "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"   McCartney 1:41
8. "I Will"   McCartney 1:46
9. "Julia"   Lennon 2:54
Side three
1. "Birthday"   McCartney and Lennon 2:42
2. "Yer Blues"   Lennon 4:01
3. "Mother Nature's Son"   McCartney 2:48
4. "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"   Lennon 2:24
5. "Sexy Sadie"   Lennon 3:15
6. "Helter Skelter"   McCartney 4:29
7. "Long, Long, Long" (Harrison) Harrison 3:04
Side four
1. "Revolution 1"   Lennon 4:15
2. "Honey Pie"   McCartney 2:41
3. "Savoy Truffle" (Harrison) Harrison 2:54
4. "Cry Baby Cry"   Lennon, with McCartney 3:02
5. "Revolution 9"   Speaking from Lennon, Harrison, George Martin and Yoko Ono 8:22
6. "Good Night"   Starr 3:13

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