Trivia / The White Album

  • Creator Backlash:
    • Amusingly averted, in that while George Martin and many of the technicians who worked on the album felt it was too long and ought to be cut down to a single album, the Beatles themselves disagreed. When questioned about it for the Anthology, George's response was "What are you going to do with all them songs?", and mentioned that by that point there was "too much ego" for the band to be able to properly decide what songs to keep and what to leave off. Paul's response was the funniest: he thinks about it, concedes that maybe there's some justice to the idea that it could have been shorter, then admits that he likes how long it is and cheerfully ends the debate with "It's the bloody Beatles' White Album, shut up!"
    • Session musician Jack Fallon was dissatisfied with the improvisation at the end of "Don't Pass Me By", though it was left in the song.
    I thought that they had had enough so I just busked around a bit. When I heard it played back at the end of the session I was hoping they'd scrub that bit out, but they didn't, so there I am on record, scraping away! I was very surprised they kept it in, it was pretty dreadful.
  • Creative Differences:
    • Although the band kept it together throughout the recording for the album (its initial sessions were remarkably harmonious and cooperative) and managed to complete two more following it, this album is where the rot began to set in, with band members drifting apart, egos beginning to get out of control and outside influences beginning to take their toll; the observation has frequently been made that this is reflected in the overall tone of the album, which feels more like a compilation of solo efforts rather than a collaborative effort. Many of the songs were in fact recorded by one of the band working individually with perhaps a minimal amount of involvement from one of the others at most, others featured contributions but not the entire band lineup, and the final result was assembled through overdubbing.
    • There were, however, songs on which all the band members were present and recorded simultaneously ("Helter Skelter" and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" among others), and the experience of recording "Yer Blues" in a large closet in the control room of Abbey Road Studio Two later influenced the abortive first attempt to record Let It Be. George Martin's waning authority and the use of multiple rooms left a lot of the album recorded by the band members alone with Abbey Road engineers.
    • Engineer Ken Scott once recounted an incident on 20 August 1968 (two days before Ringo walked out of the sessions for "Back in the USSR") while Paul was working on the brass overdubs for "Mother Nature's Son" that illustrates how bad things were getting only two years before their breakup:
    "Paul was downstairs going through the arrangement with George [Martin] and the brass players. Everything was great, everyone was in great spirits. Suddenly, half way through, John and Ringo walked in and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. An instant change. It was like that for ten minutes and then as soon as they left it felt great again. It was very bizarre".
  • Fan Nickname: The title "The White Album".
  • Hitless Hit Album: No singles were taken from it when it was first released ("Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was belatedly released by Capitol in the US in 1976 but only got to #49 on the Billboard Hot 100 Also in 1976, "Back In The USSR" was a UK single to promote the "Rock & Roll Music" compilation, reaching #19).
  • Missing Episode:
    • The 27 minute version of "Helter Skelter" has never been released officially or on any bootlegs, but a number of songs were recorded with the intention of being put on (or recorded during the sessions of) this album, most of which are heavily bootlegged (such as a full version of "Can You Take Me Back") or included on The Beatles Anthology ("What's the New Mary Jane?"). One track that had only just found its way onto bootlegs in 2010 was a ten minute recording of the version of "Revolution 1" that ended up on the album, which largely provides the basis of "Revolution 9".
    • Some songs originally written for the album eventually ended up being later rerecorded and released on John, Paul, and George's solo albums (as detailed here).
  • Throw It In!: A few instances of Studio Chatter are left between songs (most notably, "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" ends with John saying "Hey, up!" and "Helter Skelter" has Ringo shouting "I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!")
    • The revelation in the last verse of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" that Desmond is a Wholesome Crossdresser is the result of Paul mixing up the lyrics during recording (as is evident from the demo version). It stayed in because the rest of the band liked it (or were sick of working on the song, which none of them liked very much).
  • Troubled Production: The sessions in late 1968 found the Beatles largely working alone with whatever engineers they had handy and spending hours jamming with no results. The tense atmosphere and lack of productivity caused their longtime engineer Geoff Emerick to quit halfway through, and even George Martin felt he had to take a vacation. It pretty much marked the point when the arguments and fights that would later break up the band first reared their ugly head. The atmosphere was so bad Ringo even left the band for a couple of days, leading Paul to play drums in both "Back in the USSR" and "Dear Prudence".
  • What Could Have Been:
    • What if The Beatles had listened to George Martin and agreed to cut down the album?
    • There were still quite a few omissions and outtakes from the album. One of them was "What's the New Mary Jane?", another highly experimental track featuring John, George, and Yoko. It appears in a much edited form (in order to make it sound more like a song) on Anthology 3. George also had some leftovers that eventually came out on his solo albums (like "Not Guilty"), while Lennon ultimately rewrote one of his Cut Songs into "Jealous Guy" and admitted that his contributions to side two of Abbey Road were mainly "pieces of crap" he'd written in India but which didn't make it to The White Album.
  • Working Title: A Doll's House.
  • Writer Revolt: "Revolution 1" was recorded first and John intended it to be a single, but Paul and George criticised it for being "too slow to be a single".note  In retaliation, John arranged a much faster, more heavily distorted and aggressive take of "Revolution", that ended up becoming the single instead. As Giles Martin said on the sleeve-notes for Love, "even today it defines 'distortion'". John was in fact in such a "you want it louder and faster? I'll show you louder and faster!" mood, that when the single was recorded, he added some deliberately sloppy vocal overdubs and plugged his guitar directly into the mixing console to get a harsher sound and supplied the opening Metal Scream, and engineer Geoff Emerick added so much compression to Ringo's drums that he inadvertently made the click track audible.
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" came out of George's desire to test the I Ching's contention that there are no coincidences and everything in the world is connected, by writing a song about a randomly selected phrase from a random book. As he says, he opened a book without thinking, saw the phrase "gently weeps", put the book down and started writing.