BBC – Culture – Why the white album is the best of the Beatles

adminNovember 22, 2018




Five years ago I was in a room that contained nothing but white albums. For its installation We Buy White Albums, the Californian artist Rutherford Chang filled a small gallery in Manhattan with 693 copies in vinyl of the ninth album of the Beatles, some in the walls, some in racks.

The case, designed by pop artist Richard Hamilton, is famous for being blank, but each of these copies was discolored, stained, torn, illustrated, signed or altered in some unique way, either by a human hand or simply by Over time. While I was studying them, I heard several copies of side one playing at the same time and slowly desynchronizing, making these exceptionally famous songs strange and strange.

Whether you consider it the best Beatles album (I do), it is certainly the Beatles' most famous album.

There is something in The White Album that invites listeners to play with him. Joan Didion stole her title for her 1979 essay collection, an elegy for California dreams of the 1960s. The producer Danger Mouse cut it into pieces and combined the fragments with vocals from Jay-Z's album The Black Album to create his album The Gray Album from 2004. The jam band Phish covered the 30 songs on stage on Halloween night 1994. Charles Manson, notoriously, had his own theories. Even the title has been rewritten: The Beatles called it The Beatles but their fans had other ideas.

The new reissue re-familiarizes the album once again, with 27 demos, 50 takes and a painstaking digital reconstruction of Giles Martin, the son of Beatles producer George Martin. The White Album is the only record of the most analyzed group in the history of popular music that still retains a considerable mystery, because there is much of that. Whether you consider it or not the Beatles' best album (I do), it's certainly the plus Album of the beatles.

"A ruined mansion"

Therefore, it attracts two types of fan: the editor and the sprawler. The editor trims and adjusts the track list to create a more satisfactory record. The sprawler accepts it for what it is, with all its imperfections. One time I played with being an editor (goodbye to Wild Honey Pie, so much time from Savoy Truffle) and ended up with a playlist of impeccably great songs. But it was not The White Album, like Moby-Dick minus all the chapters about the whaling industry would still be Moby Dick.

The work title of the White Album was The Doll's House, and could be compared to a dilapidated mansion, with dance halls, dormitories, nurseries, cellars and rooms full of garbage that are rarely visited. Start with a joke and end with a lullaby. Between those two points, this omnivorous record takes fragments of folk, blues, rock'n'roll, ska, country, doo-wop, psychedelia, Tin Pan Alley, concrete music and easy to listen to, while providing prog-rock and heavy metal forecasts. Happiness is a Warm Gun, there are only three songs in one. Composition inspirations include a box of chocolates, a gun magazine, a Little Richard movie, Mia Farrow's sister, the sex of the monkeys and, on the Glass Onion pick, the Beatles story.

Listening to it is like watching an explosion in slow motion

The White Album was the first major release to display incoherence as a deliberate artistic strategy. It contains filling spaces, although there is no space to be filled, and it is sequenced in such a way that it accentuates its mixture of the archaic and the avant-garde, the meaningless and the profound, the generous and the toxic, the irregular. and the luminous, the spiritual and the profane, the desperately moving and the too silly for words. Many of John Lennon's cryptic contributions are an assault on one's own rationality. To be an editor is to assume that The Beatles somehow got it wrong and would rather have launched 45 minutes of games. To be a sprawler is to accept that rare and intoxicating quality that you could call all Maybe that's why they called it The Beatles. This is what The Beatles is in 1968, the title implied. All this The whole damn mess.

Over the years, we have learned almost everything there is to know about the circumstances of its creation. We know that due to several rows, angry and outcast, the first stage of the disintegration of the band, the four Beatles appear in less than half of the songs. We know of the contentious presence of Yoko Ono, the absent absence of Ringo in Back in the USSR, the contempt of John for the "shit of Paul's grandmother" of Paul, and so on. We know that there was less than a year left for the last time they were in a studio together, although in the recently released demonstrations we can also hear that there was still a lot of fun, despite these fissures. Even at that moment, I imagine, one could listen to the gang of classmates of pop excellence by dividing into four individuals, and their musical fusions disintegrate into discrete gender exercises. Listening is like watching an explosion in slow motion.

"Wild spirit, spinning"

The White Album, therefore, made a suitable cornerstone for one of the busiest years of the 20th century. The Beatles entered Abbey Road Studios to start recording on May 30, and administered the finishing touches on October 14. During that period, Charles de Gaulle repressed the student protests in Paris; The tanks of the Warsaw Pact arrived in Prague; Robert F. Kennedy was shot dead in Los Angeles; James Earl Ray was arrested for the murder of Martin Luther King; the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was marked by violence and chaos to the delight of Republican candidate Richard Nixon; Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the salute of Black Power in the Olympic Games of Mexico; the Baath Party took power in Iraq; the Tet offensive concluded in Vietnam; the problems began in Northern Ireland; Andy Warhol mounted his first exhibition in Britain (and survived an assassination attempt); The feminists of the second wave protested the Miss America contest in Atlantic City; The censorship in the British theaters came to an end, which led the cast of Hair to take the stage naked; The first abortion clinic in Britain opened its doors; and NASA launched the first manned mission into space. And that was only 20 weeks while The Beatles were in the studio. It was a year of everything at once.

If you felt that things were falling apart and that the center could not resist, then, The Beatles, did they have the perfect record for you?

The White Album does not explicitly recognize almost anything of this. On the rare occasions when he is a politician, he is confused, mean or lazy. John Lennon was so in conflict with the wave of spring protests that he covered his bets in Revolution 1 ("You do not know what you can discard … in"), and his inscrutable shows inspired by the collage of the Revolution 9 hid more than revealed. Only decades later, Paul McCartney revealed that Blackbird was destined to be an ode to the women of the civil rights movement. George Harrison's Piggies is a bitter granule of misanthropy that fires at anyone so foolish as to be normal. Most of the songs were written during a Transcendental Meditation course in India, far from the barricades of Paris or Prague.

Some 68 radicals resented the distance of the Beatles from the front lines (and scolded Lennon in their face) but The White Album did not have to describe the events of the year to capture their wild and revolving spirit . Like OK Computer from Radiohead or Ghost Town from Specials, it's one of those records where the internal turmoil of a band mingled with the discontent of the wider world: by being true to their own tensions and insecurities, the Beatles connected powerfully with the of his listeners. For many people, 1968 was exciting, exasperating, liberating, frightening, fun, sad, depressing, exhausting and disconcerting.

Between the madness of Helter Skelter, the helpless bystander of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, the suicidal routine of Yer Blues, the macabre fantasy of Rocky Raccoon, the defeated sigh of I'm So Tired, the hallucinatory swoon of Dear Prudence, Sonic maelstrom of Revolution 9, and the soft stoicism of I Will, here was an album that expressed all the emotions and their opposite. If you felt that things were falling apart and the center could not resist, then, The Beatles, they had the perfect record for you. In the Sunday Times newspaper, Derek Jewell wrote that the Beatles were "created by, created for their age."

In a much less lasting critique, the critic of the New York Times, Mike Jahn, dismissed the album as "Muzak fashion, a soundtrack for head shops, parties and discos", and compared it unfavorably with the jazz-rock group Blood, Sweat and Tears. Ups. But I can sympathize with anyone in charge of reviewing The White Album the week it came out, because even now it's impossible to summarize it. That is what keeps him alive. His illustrious predecessor, the Lonely Hearts Club by Sgt Pepper, can be felt decades later as a snowball of 1967: exquisite, of course, but hermetically sealed, impervious to new interpretations. The White Album feels spacious, unguarded and, in some peculiar way, malleable. Every time I hear it, there is always something I have forgotten or can not identify.

At first glance, one of the busy and dissonant Pop Art collages that made Richard Hamilton famous could have been a more suitable manga design for such an overcrowded album, but his blank minimalism sends him a different message: make this that you will be As EM Forster said about Herman Melville's novel, "Moby-Dick is full of meanings: its meaning is a different problem." Fifty years later, in another era of turmoil, dislocation, paranoia and confusion, The White Album continues to be the great target of pop music. whale: always captivating, always elusive.

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