It kind of makes sense that The Beatles were being ripped apart at the seams during the recording process for the white album. At 30 tracks and over 90 minutes—not even to mention the impressively eclectic collection of stylistic references—the album is clunky as all hell.
Tackling topics from the very serious to monkeys and pigs, it’s not an album that strikes a singular mood or emotion, but it proves just how potent the illustrious quartet of songwriters could be no matter what sound they were looking for.
You can still hear the rawness in the work almost 50 years later. Yes, with No Wave on your mind, “Helter Skelter” sounds FCC approved as anything has ever been, but in the context of the album, the band takes a huge jump from the clean, backing-trio vocal harmonies of “Happiness is a Warm Gun” to those screeches of saxophone—the work alone goes to show the change the group would inspire in the ensuing decades of rock.
The band also set the tone for the folkisms/popisms/free jazzisms/bluesism that would dominate rock history to this day. Again, yes “Yer Blues” might sound like it came from a group a bit out of their element next to Buddy Guy, but the way The Beatles placed pieces of other traditions through their own aesthetic lens would certainly inspire the incorporation of all kinds of ideas into the umbrella of rock for years.
To this day, the album is both easy and difficult to write about. Give me a word count and I can fill it up with points about interesting parts of the album, but no amount of words can fully capture the essence of the work and I don’t that will ever change.
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”
“Happiness is a Warm Gun”
“Back in the USSR”
How did all of these come off the same album. seriously.