Artist: "The Beatles"
Album: "The Beatles (The White Album)"
Reviewer: Max Burbank
Review: Yes, purists, I know the actual title of the album is “The Beatles”, but everybody calls it the White Album and as you all know, I am ever a man of the people.
Released in 1968, I heard tracks from it at an early, but doubt I ever sat down and listened to all four sides consecutively until I was about twelve, in 1975. To be completely factual, I was probably 14 before I stopped skipping ‘Revolution #9’ and which prior to that point I had thought of first as ‘just noise’, then as ‘a joke of Lennon’s’, then ‘a piece by Yoko’, then ‘Lennon giving the finger to McCartney’ and finally a few years later as ‘the most important track on the album’. A few years after that I calmed down and ‘just liked it’ which is where I’m still at all the years later.
I’m a lifelong Beatles fan. Not obsessional, not of the screaming weeping girl variety, but at very least the kind that knows the bands career arc as well as a good Catholic knows the Stations of the Cross. This is my favorite of their albums, a little more edgy and less cute than “Sgt. Pepper”, more coherent than “Magical Mystery tour”, and just plain longer than “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver.”
Conceived mostly during the Beatles ill fated trip to India to study meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, however goofy one might find the whole idea looking backward at it from today, it yielded some of their best work. Things ended badly with the Maharishi,(after he allegedly made a pass at Mia Farrow) and the acid disillusionment is all over the album combining with some real sweetness in an almost self contradictory feel characteristic of all my favorite Beatles cuts. “Baby’s in Black” about trying to pick up a girl at a funeral, “Getting better” which features the lyric “I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the ones that she loved”
According to numerous sources, the White Album marks the beginning of The Beatles breakup, with everyone but McCartney quitting the band at least once during production. This includes Engineers, producers and one assumes custodial workers. In some ways, the album is the work of four separate, individual artists, but I think this is where it’s greatness lies. The Beatles for me is always about dynamic tension of artistic personality, not just the love/hate Lennon/McCartney thing, but all of them tugging in increasingly different directions. The White Album is that perfect moment that often creates great art, a balanced point directly before a downward spiral. As unpleasant as the process may have been, this is the exact moment when stress was great enough to force each member to the height of their creative ability and just before the stress either went on long enough or became unbearable enough, annoying enough to get the Lads to start phoning it in or working alone.
Favorite cuts are almost too many to name. At Various times the self referential “Glass Onion” and the raucous anarchic “Helter Skelter” have been my favorite Beatles song. There’s something irresistible about Ringo’s cry of “I’ve got blisters on my fingers” that just jangles the spine, and I don’t think it’s all the Manson associations. Rather, I think the unhinged Manson fixed on it because it is such a powerful song to begin with. I always liked “Happiness is a Warm Gun” as a cultural response to the Charles Schulz inspired (But not written, you can tell by the lack of pathos) “Happiness is a warm Puppy”, which was utterly inescapable at the time the album came out. My Mom had a sweatshirt with the “Happiness is a warm puppy” graphic. “I’m So Tired” is the Beatles at their John Lennon crankiest. “Why don’t we do it in the road?”, “Piggies”? C’mon, man. Essential. And then to bring it home “Revolution #9” into “Goodnight”, it’s like the polar opposite ends of the Beatles whole thing. Challenging, daring, even upsetting winding into a loveliness that would be saccharine on it’s own.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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