The Beatles (The White Album) – The Beatles – 1968
Claimed Sales: 19m
First listen?: Yes
Format Listened?: Apple Music
The White Album is a daunting prospect for a new listener. Thirty songs split over two records that last over 90 minutes when combined, it’s certainly a far cry from the conciseness of their previous album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In fact, while most would agree that that seminal release is a daring, psychedelic trip with surprises at every turn, The White Album takes this to a whole new level. It’s a bonkers album to experience, flitting between genres on a whim, with no common structure between songs. You can hear the tensions within the group itself on how contrasting a track like Blackbird is to something like Yer Blues. It’s the first signs of a band becoming four distinctive solo acts, who can move between genres themselves – every George Harrison song here is vastly different – but don’t seem to ever have that distinctive ‘Beatles’ sound. I personally found the likes of Ob-La-di, Ob-La-da, Piggies and The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill so out of place among some of the rockier tracks and were often so nonsensical that I struggled to want to go back. The eight-minute avant garde Revolution 9 makes absolutely no sense following well over an hour of rock, pop and blues. That said, there’s certainly loads to enjoy, While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a definite George Harrison standout, while Helter Skelter sees McCartney channeling his most frantic frontman to date, but as a whole The White Album just didn’t work for me. At the time, it may well have been a groundbreaking achievement, but considering the rest of their discography I’d say it’s more of anomaly.
Will I listen again?: Probably not.
Best Track: I was tempted to go with Blackbird which is the most straightforward ballad here, but While My Guitar Gently Weeps captures George Harrison’s current feelings being in a band on the verge of falling apart, with Eric Clapton helping him deliver one of the greatest guitar moments of the album. One of my new favourite Beatles tracks.