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30: The White Album

It's a rainbow of facial hair.(Photo credit: http://www.beatlesagain.com/)

It’s a rainbow of facial hair.
(Photo credit: http://www.beatlesagain.com/)

The Beatles released the White Album in 1968, 30 eclectic tracks mapping the group’s dissolution in 1970. (They recorded with the working title of A Doll’s House; the official title of the album is simply The Beatles).

Joan Didion wrote a series of essays about her life in 1960s California titled The White Album. She doesn’t mention the Beatles but does provide a vivid recollection of a Doors recording session, a telling that emphasizes the role of one individual’s charisma and its effect on the collective.

It was six, seven o’clock of an early spring evening in 1968 and I was sitting on the cold vinyl floor of a sound studio on Sunset Boulevard, watching a band called The Doors record a rhythm track…On this evening in 1968 they were gathered together in uneasy symbiosis to make their third album, and the studio was too cold and the lights were too bright and there were masses of wires and banks of the ominous blinking electronic circuitry with which musicians live so easily…There was everything and everybody The Doors needed to cut the rest of this third album except one thing, the fourth Door, the lead singer, Jim Morrison, a 24-year-old graduate of U.C.L.A. who wore black vinyl pants and no underwear and tended to suggest some range of the possible just beyond a suicide pact. It was Morrison who had described The Doors as “erotic politicians.” It was Morrison who had defined the group’s interests as “anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, about activity that appears to have no meaning.”…It was Morrison who wrote most of The Doors’ lyrics, the peculiar character of which was to reflect either an ambiguous paranoia or a quite unambiguous insistence upon the love-death as the ultimate high. And it was Morrison who was missing. It was Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger and John Densmore who made The Doors sound the way they sounded…but it was Morrison who got up there in his black vinyl pants with no underwear and projected the idea, and it was Morrison they were waiting for now.

Didion’s essay begins with the line “We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” By the time the Beatles recorded their ninth album, they’d begun to break from telling the story of the Beatles, and began telling their individual stories, which you can hear in the distinct personalities of these 30 songs.

  1. Back In The U.S.S.R.
  2. Dear Prudence
  3. Glass Onion
  4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  5. Wild Honey Pie
  6. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
  7. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  8. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
  9. Martha My Dear
  10. I’m So Tired
  11. Blackbird
  12. Piggies
  13. Rocky Racoon
  14. Don’t Pass Me By
  15. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?
  16. I Will
  17. Julia
  18. Birthday
  19. Yer Blues
  20. Mother Nature’s Son
  21. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
  22. Sexy Sadie
  23. Helter Skelter
  24. Long, Long, Long
  25. Revolution 1
  26. Honey Pie
  27. Savoy Truffle
  28. Cry Baby Cry
  29. Revolution 9
  30. Good Night

One comment on “30: The White Album

  1. […] is that the old nursery rhyme about the 4 and 20 blackbirds baked in a pie inspired two songs on the White Album: Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” and John Lennon’s “Cry Baby Cry.” […]

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