Almost 50 Years Later, Could “White Album” Work As A Single Album?

One of my favorite shots of the Beatles during the White Album era. They all look quite majestic here.

For the past few years in Beatleland, every other week seems to be the 50th anniversary of something. First in 2013, it was 50 years since the Beatles released their debut album “Please Please Me” and took Britain by storm. Then, in 2014, it was 50 years since the Beatles invaded America and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Last year marked 50 years since the release of the landmark Beatles album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which I wrote about here. And now, 2018 marks the 50th anniversary of two iconic Beatles projects, the movie Yellow Submarine and the release of one of the most eclectic Beatles albums, known by fans as “White Album.”

“White Album” was, like all Beatles albums, innovative and interesting for many reasons. It was released after all four Beatles took a trip to India to learn about the Maharishi and learn about Hinduism and meditation (which Ringo famously did not take to very much). It featured several songs that only had one Beatle on them, such as “Mother Nature’s Son” for Paul and “Julia” for John. Ringo also briefly quit the band while they were recording this album, though I believe that only lasted a couple of weeks. “White Album” was one of the first Beatles albums I was fully aware of, and to me it’s always marked the beginning of the Beatles coming into their own as solo songwriters.

“White Album” is also well-known for being one of the very first double albums, and the first one ever to top the charts. Even now, it’s uncommon for artists to release so much material at once that it qualifies as a double album, but back in 1968 the Beatles clearly were overflowing with inspiration. Whenever I read anything about “White Album,” it usually includes the question “what songs would you cut from ‘White Album’ to make it a single album?” Sometimes I read replies along the lines of “I wouldn’t cut anything, it’s perfect the way it is.” And I agree that its status as a double album was certainly no hindrance on the Beatles’ success. But I also don’t think that it is a perfect album. Its imperfections help solidify its iconic status, but let’s be real here, I’d be hard pressed to find a Beatles fan that truly thinks every song on this album is a masterpiece.

Theoretically, if I were to cut “White Album” down to a single album, I’d have to cut it down from 30 songs to about 17, the number of songs on disc 1 of the album. That’s 13 songs, which sounds like a lot at first. Let’s see if I can even get that far.

Songs from “White Album” that I’d honestly have no problem cutting:

“Revolution 9”- I’ve spoken about this song before and I’ll say it again, there’s a reason that I’ve only ever listened to this once. It’s scary and very confusing.

“Revolution 1”- A slower version of the “Revolution” made famous on the “Hey Jude” single, but I think this version loses a lot of its bite slowed down. It’s a little too lazy-sounding to make a statement this way, I think.

“Wild Honey Pie”- I still can’t figure out how this made it on the album, honestly. It baffles me even more than “Revolution 9.”

“Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?”- Not one of Paul’s more insightful lyrics, and while this song comes off as a bit of a joke to me, I’ve never found it that charming.

“Don’t Pass Me By”- Of the two Beatles songs that Ringo actually wrote, this is the worse one.

“Yer Blues”- It’s certainly bluesy, but I don’t think this is one of John’s more inspired Beatles songs.

“Honey Pie”- When you see quotes from other Beatles talking about Paul’s “granny music,” this is what they’re talking about. Sorry Paul, I do think it’s a cute song!

“Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”- I actually like this song, but I also am not that attached to it and could live with a “White Album” that didn’t have it.

Okay, that’s eight songs off the “White Album” that I’d be okay with cutting. That still leaves an album containing 22 songs, which for the vinyl constraints at the time is still way too many to have on one physical record. Let’s see if I can do any more trimming down to 17 songs.

Songs from “White Album” that I like, but don’t think are among its best:

“The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”- The only hesitation I have about cutting this is that it leads directly into “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and I do think it’s generally a good song. Still, the chorus here isn’t one of my favorites, and Yoko’s backing vocals don’t really do it for me.

“Piggies”- This one is hard for me because it’s a George song. It really doesn’t hold a candle to the other George songs on this album, but as I’m listening to it now I realize that I actually do like it a lot. Cutting this one would make me sad.

“Good Night”- As I’m writing this, it’s getting harder and harder to choose more songs off of “White Album” that I would cut. This song has a lush orchestration that is the real star here, along with Ringo’s friendly vocals. It’s actually a soothing, beautiful, almost Disney-esque song. I could cut this, but it’s so gorgeous to listen to that I’d miss it.

“Rocky Racoon”- Again, I like this song a lot, but it’s never become one of my true favorites off the “White Album,” so I’m putting it tentatively on the chopping block for now. Though I feel bad about it, because it tells a fun story.

“I Will”- A very pretty song, but of the several “Paul’s acoustic ballads” that made it on the album, this one is the least memorable for me.

Okay, so I’ve made it down to 17 songs on the “White Album.” Below, I’ll list the tracking that I’d do with these 17 songs, if I were creating the album order.

  1. Back in the USSR
  2. Dear Prudence (can’t mess with that one-two punch, it really works)
  3. Glass Onion
  4. Martha My Dear
  5. I’m So Tired
  6. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  7. Happiness Is A Warm Gun
  8. Blackbird (this would be the end of side one of the album if it were on vinyl)
  9. Birthday
  10. Julia
  11. Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey
  12. Mother Nature’s Son
  13. Sexy Sadie
  14. Savoy Truffle
  15. Cry Baby Cry
  16. Long, Long, Long
  17. Helter Skelter (I’ve always thought that this would be a badass album closer)

After listening to this new “White Album” I came up with, it definitely works, though I think it has a bit less personality than the original album without all of the songs I left out. I like the idea of bookending this new one-disc “White Album” with Paul rockers, and honestly I wish that “Helter Skelter” had been the original album closer because it really works so well! Obviously though, the Beatles knew what they were doing when it came to ordering songs on their albums, which is why I didn’t change that many of the original album’s track orders. When all is said and done, though, I still love the double album the way it is, and even those songs that I’d cut add a lot of character to the album that I’m ultimately glad is there.

If this post interested you, share with me how you’d theoretically trim down the double album into a single LP, or listen to these 17 songs in this order and let me know how you think it flows! Until next time then, fellow Beatlemaniacs. As John once sang, “We all shine on.” 🙂

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George Martin, The Real 5th Beatle

george martin

The man who made the Beatles into rock pioneers.

Hello followers and readers of Beatle Me Do! I have returned from a hiatus for which I greatly apologize, but I have a few ideas for fun posts that I will be publishing throughout the summer! In the meantime, I have decided to dedicate a post to the late Beatles producer, George Martin, who died on March 8 of this year at age 90. Before becoming a music producer with the Beatles, Martin primarily produced comedy albums. However, he is most well known for signing the Beatles to a record contract in 1962 and producing every single Beatles album except for Let It Be, which was (some say) infamously produced by Phil Spector.

The debate over who is “the fifth Beatle” has gone on for decades and is practically a cliche by now. Some Beatles fans support awarding this illustrious title to members of the Beatles camp such as their manager, Brian Epstein, or their first drummer, Pete Best. However, if there really is such a thing as “the fifth Beatle,” I strongly believe that George Martin deserves that title.

His work in the studio with the Beatles helped transform their songs from acoustic demos into sonic masterpieces. He was a major player in the Beatles’ studio experimentation starting in around 1965 and strongly supported their use of the studio itself as an instrument. When the Beatles were on top of the charts and the musical world, George Martin was the man behind the curtain, the wizard of Oz who literally orchestrated their success. His death marks the passing of a figure essential to the Beatles’ musical innovation.

I’d like to touch on a few Beatles songs on which Martin had a particularly noticeable influence. First up is the acoustic version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps from the Beatles Cirque de Soleil show, Love. This show features some remixes of Beatles songs, but these remixes are composed only by compiling bits and pieces from different Beatles songs. This particular version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps originates from a demo version from the Beatles Anthology 3. It features a George Martin-composed orchestration that was the only original music composed for the Love album. I absolutely love this version of While My Guitar Gently Weeps; it’s a beautiful song made even more poignant and striking by the orchestra. Seeing the Love show is definitely on my Beatles-related bucket list!

Next, I’m going back to one of Martin’s first orchestral contributions to Beatles music, the famed song Yesterday, which features only Paul McCartney, an acoustic guitar, and a beautiful Martin-composed string quartet. Supposedly Paul was a bit skeptical about the idea of putting a string quartet on a song released by a rock band, but was convinced otherwise after Martin explained exactly how he planned to arrange it based on the chords of the song. This song is now legendary among the many iconic tracks in the Beatles’ catalog, thanks not only to the beauty of its melody and lyrics but also to the perfect melancholy accompaniment that the strings provide.

Another song which has an unmistakable George Martin touch is In My Life, on which he plays the sped-up piano break at the end of the song. I believe this is one of, if not the only, Beatles songs to feature a piano solo, or if not it was definitely the first to do so. It’s songs like this that truly embody the spirit of Rubber Soul, an album which challenged the definition of rock and roll and began pushing the boundaries of musical experimentation in rock music.

Eleanor Rigby is one of those Beatles songs that features an orchestra arrangement so strikingly iconic that I could listen to just the instrumentals and enjoy the song just as much. This is all thanks to George Martin, who insisted on creating a relentlessly staccato string arrangement that I regard as an absolute masterpiece. You can listen to the instrumental version of Eleanor Rigby, a track on the Beatles Anthology 2 album, here. Every time I listen to this track and try not to let my inner sing-along drown out what I’m actually hearing, I notice new little intricacies of the arrangement. It’s songs like this that absolutely astound me as to their fearless musicality and give me a true appreciation for the power of orchestral music. This song is just perfect.

Finally, what better way to close out this George Martin tribute post than with the behemoth of all classical arrangements in rock songs, the string section in A Day In The Life. This song is often ranked as the #1 best Beatles song, and while it’s not my #1 personal favorite, it is without a doubt an absolute, indisputable masterpiece. This is largely due to the enormous, chaotic, vaguely conducted orchestra part that builds and builds and always makes me feel like a car is about to hit me. Martin’s touch on this song is evident in its sonic power to completely overwhelm your senses and leave you breathless at its conclusion. What a song to close out Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. What. A. Song. Period.

Rest in peace, George Martin. I know this tribute is a few months late, but I tried to make a post that pays the proper respect to a man who was literally  and figuratively instrumental in crafting many of my favorite songs of all time. He was among the giants of the musical world, and he will certainly be missed.

 

A Beatles Buzzfeed Bonanza

The Beatles circa 1964, likely taking one of the Buzzfeed quizzes posted below... :)

The Beatles circa 1964, likely taking one of the Buzzfeed quizzes posted below… 🙂

 

Today I’ve decided to combine two of my favorite things, the Beatles and Buzzfeed quizzes, into one post. I confess that I, like many of you I’m sure, occasionally find myself taking random quizzes on Buzzfeed just to entertain myself and pass the time. They are definitely addicting, especially when there are a whole bunch of Buzzfeed quizzes related to a topic I enjoy, like Harry Potter, Parks and Rec, theater, vegetables, and of course, the Beatles. I’ve come across many fun Beatles buzzfeed quizzes and articles over the years, and I will compile some of them for you in this post! Enjoy!

How Well Do You Know The Beatles?

I thought this one was laughably easy, in that I actually laughed out loud because I knew each one right away. Nevertheless, it’s a good quiz to make you feel like you haven’t tried that hard but still know everything about the Beatles.

Which Beatle Are You?

This quiz is not quite as straightforward as you may initially think… Instead of just the four Beatles as the four possible answers, you also have the option of being a Beatle in a certain period of their existence. For example, I got “Late 60s Paul McCartney,” although I’m pretty sure I once got “Psychedelic George Harrison” as my answer. Perhaps I put a different favorite pattern in the beginning this time, I don’t know. Honestly there’s no wrong answer for this one! (unless you get Pete Best or something, I’m so sorry if you did)

Can You Guess The Beatles Song From Its Opening Lyric?

Thankfully I got 21/21 on this one, but some of it was a bit tricky! I found myself singing most of the lyrics in my head as I read them, which made it much easier to guess the associated song title. This is a slightly more intermediate level Beatles quiz than the first quiz I posted, so if you’re feeling confident in your Beatles fandom after taking that one, go for this one next!

How Big Of A Beatles Fan Are You?

Okay, this quiz is hard. I got 18/20, and some of the ones I got right were complete guesses. This is definitely one of the hardest Beatles trivia quizzes I’ve taken. I am now a humbled Beatles fan who fully admits that she does not know everything about them. But it’s okay because now I realize that I have more random Beatles facts to learn! Yay learning!

19 Things Only Beatles Fans Will Find Funny

Finally, this is not a quiz, but it is a compilation of amusing Beatles-related GIFs, pictures, memes, etc. It is glorious. Enjoy!

I have a couple of ideas for what I could post next, but if any of you have suggestions about a post I should do, please comment below! Thank you!

 

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!

Don't know what George is eating here, but he certainly looks good. :)

Don’t know what George is eating here, but he certainly looks good. 🙂

Well, it’s time again for a glorious few days off in honor of Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving not only for the delicious foods associated with it and the fact that it’s much less stressful than Christmas, but also because it has a warm, friendly message. Although the Beatles are from England, where Thanksgiving isn’t really a holiday, here are some Beatles songs to help get you in the Thanksgiving spirit. And perhaps to help you fall asleep on the couch after the meal if you eat too much. 🙂

Come Together

So I suppose if you listen to the words of this song, it doesn’t REALLY have to do with a family coming together to sit around the table at Thanksgiving… But based on the title alone, I think it fits.
The song is supposedly about John criticizing the other band members, but if you look at it from a different perspective, maybe what he’s really saying is that despite their differences and frustrations with each other, they all managed to “come together” to make one last album, Abbey Road. Then again, maybe that’s not it. I’m purely theorizing here.

All Together Now

This is possibly one of the most adorable Beatles songs I know. Again, it’s not really about families joining together to celebrate a holiday, but you can imagine whatever you’d like. If anyone has ever enjoyed being “All Together Now” with their family on Thanksgiving, this song should work for you.

It’s All Too Much

I can never get over the cool electronic guitar blast in the beginning of this song! It’s perhaps one of my favorite single moments from any Beatles song, along with the feedback opening to “I Feel Fine”.
This song should inspire you to limit your food-related intake on Thanksgiving day. Don’t starve yourself, but please folks, be sensible. 🙂 Also, one of the lyrics is literally, “All the world is birthday cake/So take a piece, but not too much,” which I think is pretty self-explanatory.

I’m So Tired

This is definitely in contention for “laziest Beatles song,” along with “I’m Only Sleeping”. The Beatles were hard workers, sure, but of course they needed a break every now and then. I think this song pretty accurately represents anyone who has recently eaten a large meal and can’t get off the couch, and it’s also, in my opinion, one of the more underrated cuts from the White Album.

Cold Turkey

Yes, this song is about heroin withdrawal, and no, it doesn’t have anything to do with turkey itself, but it’s the only Beatles-related song I know with “turkey” actually in the title, so here you go. A not-always-publicized fact about this song is that John lobbied for this to be on Abbey Road, but Paul didn’t think it was enough of a “Beatles song,” so it was nixed. Personally, I think that if Revolution, a far more controversial song subject-wise, was okay to release as a Beatles song, this definitely could have been worked within the Beatles catalogue. But what does it really matter? I’m still very “thankful” for the song. (see what I did there?)

If you’re celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, have a very happy holiday. If you aren’t, cheers. 🙂
Since I have a few days off, I will hopefully blog again sometime this weekend! Yay for (briefly) having actual time to blog again!

Top 10 Beatles songs to listen to in the car

I got the idea for this post while listening to Breakfast with the Beatles in the car this morning, and I thought it might be helpful if any readers are looking to make a Beatles driving playlist. The songs here don’t necessarily have to do with driving subject-wise, but I think that the vibes of all these songs are conducive to driving (or passenging). Feel free to disagree or come up with your own list. Here we go!

10. I Want To Hold Your Hand

I’m not going to say a ton about each song on this list, but the opening riff to this is just so good. It’s a great song to sing along to and it’s always a crowd pleaser. If it comes on the radio, crank it up and enjoy!

9. If I Needed Someone

Again, it’s really the riff here that makes this a “car song” for me. The relaxing, slightly lazy pace makes it perfect for any drive, any time. This is one I would listen to with the windows open, unless it’s snowing. Then, definitely close the windows. 🙂

8. A Hard Day’s Night

This is a great car song mostly because the opening chord is so instantly recognizable. It’s nice to know exactly what song is playing in the car without having to take your eyes off the road (or if you’re passenging, your phone, most likely), so this song is a great candidate for any Beatlemaniac’s car playlist.

7. I Am The Walrus

I’m going to assume that no one driving will be tripping on LSD (which would be very dangerous indeed), so I don’t think listening to this in the car will blow your mind TOO much… Anyway, I’m not exactly sure why I chose this song for this list. Once again, the opening is very famous, but aside from that, I just like it a lot. Not that I ever really do this, but if I were driving around with friends late at night and the car windows were open, this is the song I would want to bother the neighborhood with.

6. Day Tripper

For anyone who thinks this song is literally about taking day trips to the countryside, you’re wrong. It’s slightly more metaphorical (and naughtier) than that. But anyway, this riff combined with the awesome harmonies and the chorus makes it a fantastic song to listen to in the car. As I’ve said before, this is definitely one of my top 5 favorite Beatles songs. For a brief time, you can at least imagine that it’s about day trips. 🙂

5. Help!

Once again, the instantly recognizable opening makes it a good car song. I also think that the layered, call and-response harmonies throughout have a sort of Beach Boys-ish vibe that makes me think of driving cars in California. (again, I am clearly not a Californian…)

4. Get Back

This song is literally about going back to somewhere, and it mentions California and Arizona (two states 3,000 miles from me), so I thought it would be a good addition to this list. I think I’ve said this before, but I really like the drums on this song for some reason. Even after everything they had already accomplished musically in such a short time, the Beatles still found ways to innovate on this album.

3. One After 909

This isn’t a hugely popular Beatles song, but it REALLY makes me think of cruising along a highway on a nice day. I love the keyboards and guitar on this track. A relatively unknown Beatley tidbit is that this was actually one of the first songs the Beatles wrote, way back in the late 1950s. There’s a couple of versions of this on Anthology 1, but I definitely prefer this faster Let It Be version to any of the earlier ones.

2. Back in the USSR

This is a classic, and the plane sound effect at the beginning gets me every time. Again, I love listening to this in the car because it’s so upbeat and has a fantastic guitar solo. Many of you may know that Ringo quit the band for a bit while they were making the White Album, so who do you suppose plays drums on this song? That’s right, it’s the multi-instrumentally talented Paul!

Annnnd…

1. Drive My Car

So it might be a bit of a cop-out to have this as #1, but I honestly could not think of a better choice. The “driving cars” in this song may be metaphorical (I bet you can guess what it refers to…), but it’s still a great song to listen to in the car! And come on, who doesn’t love the “Beep beep, beep beep, yeah!” part? Just don’t honk the horn along with that part, as you may get some Looks of Doom from neighboring drivers. 🙂

So, that’s it for this list. On my list of “future posts,” in case you’re interested: Top 10 non-Beatles songs to listen to in the car, reviews of Phillip Phillips’ “Behind the Light” and U2’s “Songs of Innocence,” my thoughts on Conan’s George Harrison Week, and much more. Stay tuned folks!