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'The Beatles' aka 'The White Album'

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The Beatles' album officially titled simply The Beatles but more commonly known as The White Album was the biggest-selling double album of all time. Released in November 1968, it sold over two million copies within its first week of release in America alone. It is a remarkable piece of musical expression that is quite unlike anything the Beatles had recorded before, through being an eclectic musical collection in which the Beatles' musical influences are moving in all directions.


On 24 August, 1967 George Harrison had persuaded the other Beatles, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and Ringo Starr, to come with him to a seminar by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi promoting Transcendental Meditation. The Maharishi then invited them onto a ten-day course at University College, Bangor. While they were at this course their manager Brian Epstein died. Seeking guidance, they agreed to spend time with the Maharishi at his ashram in Rishikesh, India early the following year.

The Beatles then concentrated on completing the Magical Mystery Tour album, which took up most of the rest of 1967. While the songs met popular acclaim, their accompanying psychedelic film Magical Mystery Tour was broadcast on Boxing Day1 in black and white to a bemused reception.

In February 1968 they flew out to Rishikesh separately to enrol on a longer course the Maharishi was running. Also there were: Mike Love of the Beach Boys, folk musician Donovan, actress Mia Farrow and her sister Prudence, John's friend Alexis 'Magic Alex' Mardas and other people who were uninterested in meditation but hoped to gain the Beatles' attention instead. Drugs and alcohol were banned while meditation was encouraged. Away from the hustle and bustle of their normal lives the Beatles were able to relax and think, although one question that dominated John's mind was whether or not to leave his wife Cynthia and pursue a relationship with Yoko Ono. With little entertainment other than their acoustic guitars and other world-class musicians, they exchanged music techniques with Donovan2 and Mike Love and it resulted in an unprecedented period of creativity. Not all the songs written in this period were released on The White Album; many have since appeared on their solo albums.

Ringo, who had packed a suitcase full of baked beans, stayed for ten days before leaving. Having had peritonitis as a child3 Ringo knew the food would not agree with him, while his wife Maureen had a phobia of insects and they were more plentiful in India than in England. Paul and his fiancée Jane Asher spent ten weeks there.

George and John had intended to stay longer, but left shortly after Paul. Alex accused the Maharishi of sexually assaulting a young woman who was also on the course or, according to one report, attempting to seduce her by offering her chicken. It has been suggested that these accusations were false and Alex made them out of jealousy that his influence over John was waning; in either event both John and George left India and returned to England. In 1977, however, George Harrison when interviewed said:

I can see much more clearly now what happened, there was a lot of ignorance that went down. Maharishi was fantastic and I admire him for being able, in spite of the ridicule, to keep on going.


In May 1968 John and Yoko Ono began their relationship when John's wife Cynthia was on holiday in Greece. On her return home she discovered Yoko in her house wearing only one of her kimonos. John announced he wanted a divorce. John would then insist that Yoko accompany him wherever he went, including into the recording studio, which caused tensions with the other Beatles.

Similarly, Paul's relationship with Jane Asher ended at this time, when in April 1968 Jane Asher discovered he was having an affair with Francie Schwartz, who promptly sold her story to the News of the World. Just before recording began he resumed contact with Linda Eastman; they moved in together shortly after the album was completed.


Tensions developed during the recording process, especially as their trusted producer George Martin now had his own independent production company and was no longer purely focussed on the Beatles. With no one in charge the Beatles began pulling in all directions, away from each other. Added to this was Yoko, who would strongly criticise the music that the others were making. This was felt to be an intrusion. John, who had overcome his LSD addiction using the techniques the Maharishi taught, was encouraged by Yoko to take heroin instead, which made him frequently on edge.

The Beatles themselves became increasingly tense. In early August George decided he needed a break and spontaneously left for Greece without telling the others. He returned on 21 August only for Ringo to announce that he was leaving the Beatles the following day and would fly off to the Mediterranean to spend a fortnight on Peter Sellers' yacht while he thought about octopuses and what he wanted to do in the future. Work on the album continued with Paul on drums, but when Ringo returned he found his drum kit wreathed in flowers saying 'Welcome back'.

32 songs were recorded between 30 May and 17 October 1968, and all but two were released on the album4. 19 of these songs had been composed in Rishikesh.


When the Beatles released The White Album they wanted a cover to contrast with the elaborate cover of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Richard Hamilton, the man credited with the creation of Pop Art in 1956, was chosen to be the artist for the album. A plain white sleeve containing only the words 'THE BEATLES' was devised. Early copies were stamped with a number, with numbers 0000001 to 0000004 reserved for the Beatles themselves5. A poster containing old photographs was also included.

There had been serious consideration that the album would be titled 'A Doll's House' while the album was being recorded. However, Family had released an album titled Music in a Doll's House (1968) so that idea was abandoned. Hamilton suggested that the album should simply be called The Beatles, but despite this being the official name, it is almost always referred to as The White Album.

The White Album was one of the first two albums to be released on the Beatles' own label6, Apple Records. Apple Records was a division of the Beatles' own company Apple Corps7.

Producer George Martin has said that he had hoped the album would have been released as a strong, single album rather than a double, leading to regular debate among Beatles fans about which tracks would have been left off. When interviewed for the Beatles Anthology television series, Ringo said that perhaps the songs should have been released on two albums. However, a fundamental part of its charm is the fact that the album contains oddities, false starts, incomplete songs8 and unusual tracks that would have been removed from an album containing purely commercial material. To quote Paul McCartney:

Shut up – it's the bloody Beatles 'White Album'!

The Songs

'Back in the USSR'

While the Beatles and Mike Love were in Rishikesh together, Love wondered aloud how a Russian version of Chuck Berry's 'Back in the USA' would sound. Inspired, Paul wrote 'Back in the USSR', using both Chuck Berry and Beach Boys hits, such as 'California Girls', as an inspiration, as a warm tribute to both. Paul enjoyed trying to emulate the Beach Boys' vocal style. This harmless fun led to some theories being published in America that the Beatles were using this song to hypnotise the younger generation into adopting Communism.

Paul McCartney frequently sings this song live, with it appearing on his live albums Tripping the Live Fantastic, Back in the World, Back in the US, Good Evening, New York City and Live in Los Angeles. It also appears on 1967-1970

'Dear Prudence'

This song is about the dangers of overdosing on meditation. Prudence Farrow became obsessed with meditation in Rishikesh and reportedly spent three weeks in her room, with American flautist Paul Horn later saying:

She was ashen white and didn't recognise anybody. She didn't even recognise her own brother, who was on the course with her. The only person she showed any slight recognition towards was Maharishi. We were all very concerned about her and Maharishi assigned her a full-time nurse.

Prudence later became a meditation teacher. She has described the song by saying:

Being on that course was more important to me than anything in the world. I was very focussed on getting in as much meditation as possible, so that I could gain enough experience to teach it myself... It was all so fascinating to me. John, George and Paul would all want to sit around jamming and having a good time... the song that John wrote was just saying, 'Come out and play with us, come out and have fun'. We talked about the things we were going through. George was the one who told me about [the song] at the end of the course just as they were leaving. He mentioned that they had written a song about me but I didn't hear it until it came out on the album. It was a beautiful thing to have done.

Ringo wasn't present when the song was recorded. Sean Lennon has frequently performed this song.

'Glass Onion'

This was a song written by John Lennon purely because he was aware his lyrics were being analysed and so playfully wanted to write some nonsense. He had written Nonsense in the literary tradition for his books In His Own Write and A Spaniard In The Works, and the same spirit is at work here, with references to previous Beatles songs9 as well as imagery of dovetail joints, bent back tulips, the Cast Iron Shore and the Glass Onion of the title. The Cast Iron Shore is the name of Liverpool's beach between Aigburth and Garston.

Apple Corps' press officer Derek Taylor explained that the bent back tulips was a reference to a particularly posh restaurant in London:

You'd be in Parkes sitting around your table wondering what was going on with the flowers and then you'd realise that they were actually tulips with their petals bent all the way back... this is what John meant about 'seeing how the other half lives'. He meant seeing how the other half of the flower lives but also, because it was an expensive restaurant, how the other half of society lived.

The line 'The walrus was Paul' is believed to be John's way of acknowledging that Paul had been the one keeping the Beatles together since their manager Brian Epstein had died in August 1967.

'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da'

Paul met Nigerian conga player Jimmy Scott in Soho's Bag o' Nails Club, where he also first met Linda. Scott came from the Yoruba tribe and told him that 'Ob-la-di Ob-la-da' in his home tongue meant 'life goes on', which inspired Paul to write this song. The song has a Reggae rather than Nigerian sound, and Scott can be heard playing the congas on it. Scott then tried to sue Paul for a co-writer credit only to drop the case after Paul paid to have him released from prison after Scott had failed to pay his ex-wife's maintenance payments. Paul had hoped to release the song as a single; however, John and George vetoed this, although a cover version by Marmalade got to Number One. A demo can be found on Anthology 3 and the song also appears on 1967-1970.

'Wild Honey Pie'

The shortest track on the album and one of only four that the Beatles released under a minute in length, this is an experimental double-tracked instrumental that Paul recorded on his own. It was included on the album because Patti Harrison liked it.

'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill'

A song written in India and inspired by true events. One of the Americans staying in the camp bungalows was Nancy Cooke and when her son Richard Cooke III came to visit they went tiger hunting, travelling by elephant. When the Maharishi learnt that a tiger had been killed, he was disgusted. John said:

[It] was written about a guy who shot a few poor tigers and then came back to commune with God.

Yoko sings a line, and Maureen Starkey also sings along to the chorus. John had previously included a story titled 'On Safairy with Whide Hunter' in In His Own Write.

'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'

The first song on the album composed by George Harrison. A musical masterpiece, sadly like many of George's compositions it was initially overlooked by the other Beatles. George has described it with the words:

I had a copy of the 'I Ching – the Book of Changes' which seemed to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is related to everything else, as opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw 'gently weeps' then laid the book down again and started the song... I worked on that song with John, Paul and Ringo one day and they were not interested in it at all. And I knew inside of me that it was a nice song.

As the other Beatles were uninterested, George invited Eric Clapton to play electric guitar on the record, making him the first rock musician other than the Beatles to play on one of their songs. It took a while for the lyrics to be finalised; a different verse can be heard on a demo found on Anthology 3. The song also appears on The Best of George Harrison, a live version is on Songs of George Harrison and a live version performed by Paul McCartney and Eric Clapton can be found on the Concert for George album.

'Happiness is a Warm Gun'

This is a song written by John Lennon which combines four song fragments, two of which he had written while in Rishikesh. The second segment, 'I Need a Fix', deals with his going through cold turkey while in the drug-free environment, while 'Mother Superior Jumped the Gun' references the 'Mother Superior' nickname he had given Yoko Ono. The version of the song on Anthology 3 continues with John singing 'Yoko Ono O Yes', which was excised from the finished song. The title and concluding part was inspired by a magazine, as John explained:

A gun magazine was sitting around and the cover was the picture of a smoking gun. The title of the article, which I never read, was 'Happiness is a Warm Gun in Your Hand'. It was put together from bits and pieces of about three different songs and just seemed to run the gamut of many types of rock music. They all said it was about drugs but it was more about rock 'n' roll than drugs. It's sort of a history of rock 'n' roll, I don't know why people said it was about the needle in heroin. I've only seen somebody do something with a needle once, and I don't like to see it at all.

The story of a Manchester City fan who had been arrested for having mirrors on his boots' toecaps to allow him to look up women's skirts inspired the line 'the man in the crowd with the multi-coloured mirrors on his hobnail boots'. The song was banned by the BBC because of sexual symbolism.

'Martha My Dear'

One of the songs not written in Rishikesh, this is a love song by Paul, who was the only Beatle to perform on the song. It began as an experimental piece written for piano. Martha was the name of his three-year-old Old English sheepdog10. Paul has described the song with the words:

This started life almost as a piece you'd learn as a piano lesson. It’s quite hard for me to play, it's a two-handed thing, like a little set piece... it's slightly above my level of competence, really, but I wrote it as that, something a bit more complex for me to play. Then while I was blocking out words – you just mouth out sounds and some things come – I found the words 'Martha My Dear'... I mean, I'm not really speaking to Martha, it's a communication of some sort of affection, but in a slightly abstract way... Whereas it would appear to anybody else to be a song to a girl called Martha, it's actually a dog, and our relationship was platonic, believe me.

'I'm So Tired'

A song written by John after three weeks in India. Living free from cigarettes, drugs and alcohol (more or less), he was meditating all day but finding it difficult to sleep at night, particularly as he was worried about his future, unsure whether he would spend it with his wife Cynthia or Yoko. He finished writing the song on his 28th birthday. Although John usually strongly disliked the sound of his voice, he thought this song had one of his best vocals.

An amalgam of early takes of this song is presented on Anthology 3.


A song written by Paul that were inspired by the American race riots of April 1968 and is about the theme of empowerment. A musical inspiration was Chet Atkins' version of 'Bourrée in E Minor' by Johann Sebastian Bach11 rather than Bach's original. A deceptively simple song, it was recorded live with three microphones: one to record his voice, one to record his guitar and one to record his feet tapping. A song of a blackbird taken from the Abbey Road sound collection Volume Seven: Birds of a Feather was added to the end.

Paul is very fond of this song and has frequently performed it live, with versions available on Wings Across America, Unplugged (The Official Bootleg), Back in the World, Back in the US, Good Evening, New York City and Live in Los Angeles, as well as at the 2010 Isle of Wight Festival. Performing this song comes with a price; instead of picking the strings correctly Paul plays 'Blackbird' by flicking them, which damages his fingernails. Prolonged playing has often caused his fingers to bleed. He now usually wears acrylic nails to protect his own when planning to play this song.

I don't have a correct finger style where you actually just pick; John learned it for 'Julia' but I never did. A lot of the guys learned the folky thing and it's lovely, but I never had the discipline. So I did 'Blackbird' and it sounds all right, but it's a bit of a cheap imitation.

His first book of poetry, Blackbird Singing (2001) was named after this song.


One of the oldest songs on the album, George had started writing this in 1966 but hadn't been able to finish the lyrics. In his autobiography I, Me, Mine, George described the song by saying:

'Piggies' is a social comment. I was stuck for one line in the middle until my mother came up with the lyric, 'What they need is a damn good whacking!' which is a nice, simple way of saying they need a good hiding. It needed to rhyme with 'backing' and 'lacking' and had absolutely nothing to do with American policemen or California shagnastics.

Song lyrics can be interpreted in many different, often contradictory, ways12. Some who listened to The White Album believed it was suggesting that Paul was dead. This song was infamously misinterpreted by Charles Manson, who in 1971 decided it was a call for mass murder. He and his followers committed eight murders, inscribing the words 'pig', 'pigs' and 'piggy' in their victims' blood and stabbing their victims with knives and forks, because they were mentioned in the song.

'Rocky Raccoon'

A song written by Paul when he was in Rishikesh playing guitar with Donovan and John, although it had a working title of 'Rocky Sassoon'. An earlier take appears on Anthology 3.

'Don't Pass Me By'

The first song written and recorded by Ringo. It was a song that he had first mentioned as having written in 1963 that the other Beatles had vetoed from including on any other album. A version without the fiddle is included on Anthology 3. When interviewed by VH-1 about the song, Ringo said:

Well, 'Don't Pass Me By' was the first song I'd written that we recorded... I remember writing it at the piano at my home in England. It's still magic when I write songs and get together with other musicians to record them.

'Why Don't We Do It In The Road?'

This was one of the very last songs to be completed, recorded on 9-10 October as the Beatles were anxiously using two studios in order to get the album finished in time. While John and George were completing 'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill', 'Piggies' and 'Glass Onion' in Studio 2, Paul and Ringo recorded this song in Studio 1. The song had been inspired by the amorous actions of monkeys in Rishikesh. Paul, always described as being the soft, gentle, romantic Beatle, had been inspired to try to break the stereotype and write a song that was more in John's style. Paul explained:

I went off with Ringo and did 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road?' It wasn't a deliberate thing; John and George were tied up finishing something, and me and Ringo were free, just hanging around, so I said to Ringo, 'Let's go and do this'. I did hear John some time later singing it. He liked the song, and I suppose he'd wanted to do it with me. It was a very John sort of song anyway. That's why he liked it, I suppose.

The idea behind 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road?' came from something I'd seen in Rishikesh. I was up on the flat roof meditating and a troupe of monkeys walked along and a male just hopped on the back of this female and gave her one, as they say in the vernacular... And I thought, bloody hell... that's how simple the act of procreation is, hopping on and hopping off. There is an urge, they do it and it's done with, and it's that simple. We have horrendous problems with it, and yet animals don't... [It] was a primitive statement to do with sex or to do with freedom really. I like it. It's so outrageous that I like it.

'I Will'

One of the earliest love songs Paul wrote for Linda, written before she came to London to stay with him. Although the melody was written in Rishikesh, the lyrics came later. The song was recorded in September 1968. One of Paul's favourite melodies, when he sang, 'I will always feel the same. Love you forever and forever' he meant it; he and Linda were together until her death13.


A personal song that was written and performed by John. This was the first of John's songs about Julia, his mother who died suddenly in a car accident when John was 1714. The song is about him telling the spirit of his mother that he has found a new woman in his life, the line 'Ocean Child calls me' refers to Yoko, whose name in Japanese means 'Ocean Child'.

Donovan taught John how to play the guitar in the finger-picking method used for the song. The opening line, 'Half of what I say is meaningless but I say it just to reach you, Julia', was inspired by a proverb by Kahil Gibran, a Lebanese mystic, that was published in 1927: 'Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so the other half may reach you'. This is one of Paul's favourite songs written by John, which he described with the words:

I love 'Julia' of John's, that's a particularly beautiful song and that's special to me because I knew John's mum Julia, and I knew how fond of her he was and the tragic circumstances in which she died. So years later, when John recorded that, it was very special. I love his finger-picking style that he used, a very gentle song and obviously very meaningful to John.


The song that opens Side 3 was written by Paul on Wednesday 18 September, 1968, six days before Linda's birthday. Paul had worked out the basic keyboard riff and then all four Beatles went to Paul's house for a break in order to watch the television premiere of The Girl Can't Help It (1956), which was broadcast on BBC2. Paul described this film as being a key influence in his youth, with the words:

'The Girl Can't Help It' is still the great music film... Little Richard is singing... and then Eddie Cochrane does 'Twenty Flight Rock'15 and Gene Vincent sings 'Be Bop a Lula', which was the first record I ever bought. I still love that film.

After seeing the film the Beatles returned to the studio at 11pm and, under the influence of early rock 'n' roll, created an old-fashion rock song. Paul later described it with the words:

It all became a little bit of a party… and then we just thought of this birthday idea because I remember saying 'Some songs are kind of useful, let's do a useful song'. What I meant was songs like 'White Christmas' are very useful if you want to get into a Christmas mood... I thought, 'Well, there's been a Christmas song and an Easter song, how about a birthday song?' Of course there was 'Happy Birthday To You' but we wanted to do a rock song for people who were into rock and roll.

A live version of this song by Paul was later released on what would have been John Lennon's 50th birthday.

'Yer Blues'

A song John composed in Rishikesh that reflects the torment he was undergoing while considering whether or not to leave Cynthia for Yoko. He described this with the words,

Although it was very beautiful and I was meditating about eight hours a day, I was writing the most miserable songs on earth. In 'Yer Blues' when I wrote 'I'm so lonely I want to die' I'm not kidding. That's how I felt. Up there trying to reach God and feeling suicidal'.

The song lyric 'feel so suicidal just like Dylan's Mr Jones' is a reference to Nobel Prize winning lyricist Bob Dylan's song 'Ballad of a Thin Man'. Dylan was a strong influence on all the Beatles, including John, whose song writing became more introspective as a result16. John even mentions Dylan in his song 'God'. However it was George who would form The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan.

John performed the song twice outside the Beatles before the Beatles officially split up. First was as 'Winston Legthigh and the Dirty Macs' with Eric Clapton, Keith Richard and Mitch Mitchel at the filming of The Rolling Stones Rock 'n' Roll Circus in December 1968, although this television project was abandoned and unreleased until 1998. He also performed the number live on 13 September, 1969 at the Toronto Rock 'n' Roll Revival festival with the Plastic Ono Band, this time with Eric Clapton, Klaus Voorman and Alan White, which was released on the album The Plastic Ono Band – Live Peace in Toronto 1969.

'Mother Nature's Son'

This simple song of Paul's was partly inspired by a lecture the Maharishi gave about the unity of man and nature17. Paul described it in his autobiography Many Years from Now co-written by Barry Miles with the words:

I seem to remember writing 'Mother Nature's Son' at my dad's house in Liverpool. I often used to do that if I'd gone up to see him… So this was me doing my mother nature's son but. I've always loved the song called 'Nature Boy'; 'There was a boy, a very strange and gentle boy...' and 'Mother Nature's Son' was inspired by that song. I'd always loved nature, and when Linda and I got together we had this deep love of nature in common.

'Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey'

Originally called 'Come On Come On', the title was inspired by Maharishi frequently saying that 'everybody's got something to hide except me' but the meaning is John and Yoko's developing relationship. John simply said:

That was just a nice line that I made into a song. Everybody seemed to be paranoid except for us two, who were in the glow of love.

'Sexy Sadie'

John wrote this song when he was disillusioned with the Maharishi, believing the accusations that he was attempting to seduce the women on the course. The original lyrics would have been 'Maharishi what have you done?' However, 'Maharishi' was changed to 'Sexy Sadie' to avoid the potential of libel. This would not be the only time that John would insult people he was angry with through his song writing, as the Lennon/McCartney Lyrics War would later attest.

'Helter Skelter'

Paul wrote 'Helter Skelter' in order to outdo The Who. He had read a review of 'I Can See For Miles' and, although he couldn't remember the exact words, recalled it as declaring the song to be 'the loudest, dirtiest, most raucous rock'n'roll ever recorded'. Considering this a challenge, Paul said:

It made me think 'Right. Got to do it.' I like that kind of geeking up. We decided to do the loudest, nastiest, sweatiest rock number we could. That was 'Helter Skelter'.

A helter skelter is a fairground slide, with 'slide' featuring in the song twice, where it rhymes with 'ride'. Despite this Charles Manson decided to interpret the song as being about a forthcoming holocaust that could only be survived by committing murders. The words 'Helter Skelter' as well as 'Piggies' and 'Revolution No 9' were written in his victims' blood.

'Long Long Long'

Another song by George. In his autobiography I Me Mine, he simply wrote:

The 'you' in 'Long Long Long' is God. I can't recall much about it except the chords [were the same as Bob Dylan's] 'Sad Eyed Lady of the Low Land'... There was a bottle of Blue Nun wine on top of our Leslie speaker during the recording and when our Paul hit some organ note the Leslie started vibrating and the bottle rattling. You can hear it on the record – at the very end.

'Revolution 1'

'Revolution 1' was the first song to be started for The White Album as it was a song that John was keen to release as a single. Both George and Paul felt that the song was too slow and were worried by its political context. The song was originally ten minutes long and was conceived as leading into the noise of a revolution. It was then cut into two with the first four minutes becoming 'Revolution 1' and the last six 'Revolution 9'.

Still hoping to release the song in some form as a single, John persuaded the others to record a much faster version named 'Revolution'. This lacked the 'shoo-bee-do-wop' backing and had an additional instrumental break. Most notably, one line on the White Album version says indecisively 'when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out/in', whereas in the second version John firmly says 'you can count me out'.

Despite the changes made, Paul and George still vetoed its release as a single and so the newer, faster version was relegated to being Hey Jude's B-Side. It is also on Past Masters: Volume Two and The Blue Album. The slower version is the track that opens the fourth side of The White Album.

'Honey Pie'

A song written to have a 1920s flavour, complete with the song opening with scratches from an old 78rpm record. Paul described the inspiration for the song with the words:

My dad's always played fruity old songs like this and I like them. I would have loved to have been a 1920s writer because I like that top hat and tails thing...

I was also an admirer of people like Fred Astaire; one of my favourites of his was 'Cheek to Cheek' from a film called 'Top Hat' that I used to have on an old 78. I very much liked that old crooner style, the strange fruity voice that they used, so 'Honey Pie' was me writing one of them to an imaginary woman across the ocean, on the silver screen... It's not a parody, it's a nod to the vaudeville tradition that I was raised on.

'Savoy Truffle'

Eric Clapton had both constant toothache and an insatiable love of Mackintosh's Good News chocolate assortment. This song is George's way of telling him that if he keeps eating Savoy Truffles at this rate he'll have all his teeth pulled out. The middle eight 'you know that what you eat you are' was inspired by Derek Taylor saying he had seen a film titled You Are What You Eat.

'Cry Baby Cry'

John's key inspiration for this song was the nursery rhyme 'Sing a Song of Sixpence' although it also has the influence of Lewis Carroll about it. The original opening line was 'Cry baby cry make your mother buy' in a comment on capitalism, but instead the song tells a story about the King and Queen of Marigold and their children, their friend the Duchess of Kirkcaldy and a midnight séance.

The song ends with a short song segment, 'Can You Take Me Back'. This can also be heard on the Love album on the track 'Come Together/Dear Prudence'.

'Revolution 9'

A sound collage that was based on the second, longer half of 'Revolution 1'. Originally intended to sound like a revolution had broken out, it developed into a piece of abstract, avant-garde experiment featuring tape loops, feedback, backwards tracks, distortions and filters. Many random sound effects from EMI's library play, some in reverse, with random snatches of dialogue and the ever-present announcer intoning over and over 'number nine, number nine, number nine', which apparently was taken from a recording of a taped examination question for students of the Royal Academy of Music. At 8 minutes and 15 seconds long, this is by far the longest Beatles track, although solely John and Yoko created it. Paul had previously created the not entirely dissimilar 'Carnival of Light'. John described the track by saying:

This is the music of the future! You can forget all the rest of the [songs] we've done – this is it! Everybody will be making this stuff one day – you don't even have to know how to play a musical instrument to do it!

Despite his saying anyone could do it, in order for the track to be created John commandeered all three studios at Abbey Road and linked their machines together with tape loops as multi-track recording was still in its infancy.

'Good Night'

A song that John composed as a bedtime lullaby for his son Julian just days before he left Cynthia for Yoko, so Julian didn't realise the song was for him until he was an adult. John was later very dismissive of this song and gave it to Ringo to sing, but Paul describes the song with affection:

'Good Night' was... so soft and melodic and so un-John. I believe John wrote this as a lullaby for Julian, and it was a very beautiful song that Ringo ended up singing... I think John felt it might not be good for his image for him to sing it but it was fabulous to hear him do it, he sang it great. We heard him sing it in order to teach it to Ringo and he sang it very tenderly. John rarely showed his tender side.

Early Takes and Demos Availability

Many of The White Album's songs' early takes and demos were released on Anthology 3 in 1996. These are labelled in Bold below:

Side OneSide TwoSide ThreeSide Four
  • 'Back in the USSR'
  • 'Dear Prudence'
  • 'Glass Onion'
  • 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da'
  • 'Wild Honey Pie'
  • 'The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill'
  • 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'
  • 'Happiness is a Warm Gun'
  • 'Martha My Dear'
  • 'I'm So Tired'
  • 'Blackbird'
  • 'Piggies'
  • 'Rocky Raccoon'
  • 'Don't Pass Me By'
  • 'Why Don't We Do It In The Road'
  • 'I Will'
  • 'Julia'
  • 'Birthday'
  • 'Yer Blues'
  • 'Mother Nature's Song'
  • 'Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey'
  • 'Sexy Sadie'
  • 'Helter Skelter'
  • 'Long Long Long'
  • 'Revolution 1'
  • 'Honey Pie'
  • 'Savoy Truffle'
  • 'Cry Baby Cry'
  • 'Revolution 9'
  • 'Good Night'
126 December.2Who also wrote songs while there, including 'Happiness Runs', 'Hurdy Gurdy Man' and 'Lord of the Reedy River'.3Ringo had spent two years of his childhood in hospital. When he was six his appendix burst and he spent ten weeks unconscious.4The two songs that weren't, John's 'What the New Mary Jane?' and George's 'Not Guilty', can both be found on Anthology 3.5In 2015 Ringo auctioned off John Lennon's copy, number 0000001, raising money for his charity. Expected to fetch $60,000 it instead sold for $790,000.6In the UK, Wonderwall Music by George Harrison was released three weeks before The White Album, in the US The White Album was released the week before Wonderwall Music.7The Apple Corps logo was made by Gene Mahon and based on a Granny Smith apple. It was inspired by René Magritte's 1966 painting Le Jeu de Mourre (The Guessing Game) that Paul bought. 8Including a 'hidden track', the brief jam segment 'Can You Take Me Back'.9'Strawberry Fields Forever', 'There's A Place', 'Within You, Without You', 'I Am the Walrus', 'Lady Madonna', 'The Fool on the Hill' and 'Fixing A Hole'10Martha died at the age of 15, in August 1981.11No relation to Ringo's wife Barbara Bach, who changed her name from Barbara Goldbach.12For example, it is possible to interpret the lyric 'row, row, row your boat gently down the stream' as being either relaxing or exhausting. Travelling gently down a stream implies it is relaxing. However, to go down the stream in the song you have to not only row, but triple the amount of rowing (row row row), which would be exhausting.13After their wedding, between 1969 and 1998 they only spent nine days apart, which was the time Paul spent in a Japanese gaol cell.14The others, on Plastic Ono Band, were 'Mother' and 'My Mummy's Dead'.15'Twenty Flight Rock' was the song the young Paul had played that impressed John enough to invite Paul to join his group the Quarrymen, which later became the Beatles.16Songs like 'I'll Cry Instead', 'I'm A Loser' and 'Norwegian Wood' had Dylan's influence, although some of John's home recordings satirised Dylan's style. These are available on the John Lennon Anthology (not to be confused with The Beatles Anthology).17This lecture also inspired John to write a song called 'Child of Nature', whose tune was later used for his solo song 'Jealous Guy'.

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