Wednesday, March 16, 2016

White Album

I love when you’re listening to an album for about the 50th time and yet all of a sudden, it sounds as fresh to your ears as it did on its initial experience.  Though I love “The Beatles” and consider it one of my so-called desert island records, I can totally understand the record’s most common criticisms….

* like every other double album in history, there’s definitely filler material that could’ve been excised in the name of making a single all-killer no-filler record.
* the record is remarkably unfocused in tone, be it in terms of lyrics, song quality, genre, whatever.  This probably isn’t surprising given that the band was going through a ton of internal angst during the recording sessions.
* along these same lines, it’s a very self-indulgent record — “Revolution #9” alone would qualify, but consider the sheer number of weird little nursery rhyme-ish tracks on this record that we don’t consider unusual anymore since we’ve had this album in our lives for almost 50 years.
* there’s almost a direct split between half actual songs and half little experiments or half-finished musical snippets

All of these criticisms are 100 percent valid and yet in a crazy way, these are also the album’s strengths.  The fact that the White Album is so musically all over the place is what makes it singularly awesome.  As noted, I’ve listened to this thing probably 50 times in my life yet I couldn’t tell you the track listing for the life of me.  I’m constantly going “oh yeah” as I listen through the songs, since I’ve forgotten that yet another great track is coming up.

This is unquestionably the greatest album ever made by five guys who were mostly screwing around.  I say “five guys” since if there was ever evidence that the late George Martin was a genius producer, this album was it.  I cannot imagine what it must’ve taken for Martin to somehow corral McCartney and Lennon at their most fractious, keep Harrison feeling involved and creatively included, keep Starr happy (Ringo famously quit the band for a couple of days during the sessions), sift through countless of hours of recorded music, adjust or live up to every crazy musical idea one of the lads had, and mix it all up into a cohesively non-cohesive album.

The Beatles will always hold the title of “greatest band ever,” in part because modern music has pretty much made the idea of ‘the band’ seem quaint and/or extinct.  If you stretch it to ‘greatest musical act ever’ to include solo artists too, the Beatles still win since I can’t fathom another scenario when the unquestioned most popular band in the world was ALSO probably the most innovative band in the world and ALSO probably the objectively best band in the world all at the same time.

Ranking the White Album’s tracks!

30. Revolution #9
29. Wild Honey Pie
28. Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?
we now pass the ‘pointless garbage’ portion of our list and into the actual songs*
27. Piggies
26. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
25. Long Long
24. Yer Blues
23. Martha My Dear
22. Julia
21. Savoy Truffle
20. Sexy Sadie
19. Glass Onion 
18. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
17. Good Night
16. Birthday
15. Dear Prudence
14. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (
I feel like John Lennon’s ghost will kick my ass for ranking this ahead of ‘Julia’)
13. Mother Nature’s Son
12. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
11. I Will
10. Rocky Raccoon
9. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
8. Blackbird
7. Honey Pie
6. Cry Baby Cry
5. Revolution #1
4. I’m So Tired
3. Helter Skelter
2. Don’t Pass Me By
1. Back in the USSR

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