Happy 40th Birthday to the White Album
My favorite album of all time, The Beatles self-titled double album turns 40 this year. It was released on November 22nd of 1968 and while it is officially titled simply The Beatles, it is best known as “The White Album.”
While it’s not as flawless as Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Revolver, or Abbey Road (which I rank #2, #3, & #4 respectively) I think it’s spectacular variety makes it the most interesting listen over the long term. I’ve been listening to The White Album frequently since I first discovered it twelve years ago. And even now, 12 years later, I still discover new things about it. Songs that I used to think were dragging the album down a bit are now among my favorites. It’s an album that has just continued to grow on me over the years.
Many have argued that The White Album should have been cut down to a single album. That some of the album’s less perfect songs such as “Bungalow Bill” & “Don’t Pass Me By” could (and should) have been axed along with the experimental avant-garde “Revolution #9.” In fact the Beatles’ producer (George Martin) himself has made that argument.
I strongly disagree with that point of view. A great part of what gives the album it’s endearing charm are these songs that would have been chopped to make it into a single album. While I don’t listen to “Revolution #9” every time I play the album, I do enjoy listening to it when I’m in the mood. It’s an experience like none other.
While “Don’t Pass Me By” is definitely among The Beatles worst songs, it still has some charm. In a way it’s charming almost because it’s not such a great song. It’s neat to hear the other Beatles try to give life to Ringo’s less than stellar tune.
And how about songs like Paul McCartney’s great “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” & “Piggies.” These are songs that would be unlikely to make such a single album version and yet I find them to be extraordinarily interesting. Some people would call songs like these “filler” just because they are not hit singles. I would say to people like that: “Open your ears & your mind.” Put away your Beatles 1 CD and put in The White Album. It may be a more difficult listen at first but it’s also a far more rewarding one in the long term.
Not that The White Album doesn’t have some “hits” as well. Songs like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Birthday,” “Back in the USSR,” & “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da” among the Beatles’ most well-known and well-loved songs. “Blackbird” & “I Will” are certainly among The Beatles most beautiful songs.
The White Album is my favorite album of all time. Not despite any imperfections and not because of them either, but because of the album as a whole. It’s an incredible journey through many different types of music. So many different styles but the one common thread is The Beatles amazing songwriting talent. Whether it is “Helter Skelter” or “Julia.” “Happiness is a Warm Gun” or “Martha My Dear.” This is brilliant music that has definitely stood the test of time.
Happy Birthday to The White Album! Not all music sounds so good when it hits the big four-0.