The Beatles, more commonly called the White Album, marked the transition away from the two psychedelic albums they released immediately prior. As always, their fan-base followed them every step of the way! They weren’t really embarking into new territory with this (other than the sheer novelty of its diverseness). Most of this stuff was already well-covered in the Beatles discography, except for the one instance of hard rock. The Beatles is really just a massive hodgepodge consisting of songs that they just happened to want to record at the time. It is well-documented that this wasn’t even a collective effort from these guys… There are instances of Paul recording some of these songs without the other guys’ knowledge!
Well, there are 30 tracks, and I talked about each one of them in the track reviews. I will just point out some of the highlights. That is, some of the highlights of the highlights. All of these songs are so good that they would have been considered “highlights” in any other context! But I do have a favorite song in this, and that is George Harrison’s sensational classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” It’s clearly one of the album’s more serious tunes, and it shows George at the heights of his songwriting career. Finally, the man was in a position to not only match his peers, but outshine them. I get the feeling that this song is so great compared to the others because George only ever gets limited space on Beatles albums, and he spent more time with it. But whatever. It’s a masterpiece. He even brought in his friend Eric Clapton to deliver that incredible, “weeping” guitar solo!
It was “Back in the U.S.S.R.” that opened this album, a sort of upbeat Beach Boys parody. It establishes the scene early on that this isn’t going to be another ultra-serious album like they’ve been known to make, and it’s incredibly fun to listen to! And the intense diversity is established early on with “Dear Prudence,” a haunting ballad that only John Lennon could have made. “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Dah” is sometimes singled out as a bad song by magazines that release lists. Trust me, this is not a bad song. Perhaps the hooks are a little too obvious, but that still doesn’t change the fact that this thing is CATCHY. Those goofy sound effects and horn sections they threw into the mix is also incredibly alluring. It’s inconsequential, maybe, but it’s about as far from “bad” as possible. “Birthday” is another especially popular track, probably because it’s good to play at birthdays! It’s more of a traditional rock ‘n’ roll song though it’s still goofy enough to make it fit in with the others. That also marks one of the few times that Lennon and McCartney seemed to musically cooperate in this stage of The Beatles’ careers. (They had equal share in the singing … and songwriting, too, I’m led to believe.)
“Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey” is a somewhat traditional harder rocking tune that happens to also be one of the most danceable songs of the album. Many listeners single that track out as one of the White Album’s highlights, and it’s easy to see why. It’s CATCHY! Also on the second side, George Harrison strikes again with his highly catchy and amusing “Savoy Truffle,” a song about desserts that seemed designed after ’60s striptease music. That’s not inappropriate imagery for people who can really lust after sugary foods.
John’s ‘I’m So Tired’ is a particular highlight for me, what a wonderful lyric and feel! He really DOES seem tired and then pissed off at everyone bugging him to write and record Beatles songs when all he wants to do is curl up and sleep. I love songs that really match a musical and lyrical feel together and send that emotion out to the listener and ‘I’m So Tired’ is one such magical moment. A few up-tempo rock numbers open the third vinyl side of ‘The White Album’ – ‘Yer Blues’ and ‘Helter Skelter’ are plain exhilarating, they sweep you up in a sense of fun and make you want to shout and do air-guitar in your living room whilst your bewildered children look onwards, more than slightly bemused, no doubt. Children more used to listening to, erm, ‘No Doubt’ themselves, you know? Further highlights here though include ‘Sexy Sadie’ which features such a good John vocal that it really does make you believe everything the man says. Truly life-affirming. George’s ‘Long Long Long’ is inspiring and one of his finest moments and I do love Ringo’s expertly lazily placed drum rolls. ‘Revolution’ is a great pop song, ‘Cry Baby Cry’ from the pen of John has an early Bee Gees feel about it. What more can you say? ‘Piggies’ appearing earlier on the album isn’t much cop, but ‘The White Album’ is more than the sum of its parts. Not all of its parts make perfect sense but then there is just so much here. ‘Don’t Pass Me By’? You know, the Ringo song? It’s such a simple song yet the bass lines and whole execution sounds so truly ludicrous that it works as a piece of entertainment. ‘The White Album’ is entertainment, after all. Well, more than that actually, it’s a collection of songs ranging from the good to the great to the genius and it’s an album to live in.