The Beatles is the tenth studio album by The Beatles, released in 1968. "The White Album" is the unofficial moniker for the album, owing to its completely white album cover. Nowadays, most people refer to this nickname rather than the official title, both because of the iconic nature of the cover and to distinguish it in discussions not only from the band themselves, but also the two self-titled compilation albums released in 1973 (which themselves are respectively known as "the Red Album" and "the Blue album").
The album had its roots in the group's extended visit to Rishikesh, India in early 1968, where they took part in a retreat at the ashram of Transcendental Meditation founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (along with Donovan, Mike Love and Mia Farrow). While the retreat ended in disappointment, all four Beatles had found the isolated environment to be musically stimulating, and they arrived back from India with dozens of new songs. After putting together a set of demos of the songs at George's house in Esher, recording formally commenced at the end of May with John's "Revolution 1". Four-and-a-half months later, another Lennon song, "Julia", was the 30th and final song recorded for an album that had experienced a dramatically Troubled Production.
The White Album became the Beatles' first and onlynote double album. The songs feature a lot of variation in style and mood. Overall the record sounds almost like a compilation record featuring the band members as solo artists instead of a unified work. The atmosphere at the sessions got so bad that the famously chill Ringo Starr grew frustrated and briefly quit the band (Paul McCartney took over on drums for "Back in the USSR" and "Dear Prudence", and John Lennon and George Harrison also contributed to the "USSR" drum track). From this album on Yoko Ono made herself present next to John in the studio and this certainly caused even more tensions, seeing that the band had always recorded with them four alone.
Though not as popular as other Beatle records like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band or Abbey Road, this album still a huge inspiration for numerous rock bands. When something gets compared to the White Album, it's almost invariably a shorthand way of saying "long album with huge variety of styles, inevitably will attract complaints about Album Filler". But everyone agrees it is an important and influential record. It generated hits such as "Back in the USSR", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da", and "Revolution" (though the single version is a totally different arrangement). "Helter Skelter", "Happiness Is a Warm Gun", "Don't Pass Me By", "Sexy Sadie", and "Blackbird" have become fan favourites, while "Revolution #9" is perhaps the most notorious and audacious track: exciting for Avant Garde Music fans and Album Filler to most other people.
Also got some notoriety because Charles Manson misinterpreted some lyrics from the songs "Piggies", "Revolution 9" and "Helter Skelter" to order his followers to go on a murdering spree.
2018 saw the album's 50th anniversary celebrated with several "deluxe" sets, which included the complete Esher demos and numerous outtakes given their first official releases (after being featured on countless low quality bootleg albums), and, as with the anniversary release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, a new stereo mix by Giles Martin.
Disc OneSide One
- "Back in the USSR" (2:43)
- "Dear Prudence" (3:56)
- "Glass Onion" (2:17)
- "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" (3:08)
- "Wild Honey Pie" (0:52)
- "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" (3:14)
- "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (4:45)
- "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" (2:43)
- "Martha My Dear" (2:28)
- "I'm So Tired" (2:03)
- "Blackbird" (2:18)
- "Piggies" (2:04)
- "Rocky Raccoon" (3:33)
- "Don't Pass Me By" (3:51)
- "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" (1:41)
- "I Will" (1:46)
- "Julia" (2:54)
Disc TwoSide Three
- "Birthday" (2:42)
- "Yer Blues" (4:01)
- "Mother Nature's Son" (2:48)
- "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" (2:24)
- "Sexy Sadie" (3:15)
- "Helter Skelter" (4:29)
- "Long, Long, Long" (3:04)
- "Revolution 1" (4:15)
- "Honey Pie" (2:41)
- "Savoy Truffle" (2:54)
- "Cry Baby Cry" (3:02)
- "Revolution 9" (8:22)
- "Good Night" (3:13)
- George Harrison - guitar, backing and lead vocals, bass, organ, drums, percussion, tambourine, sound effects
- John Lennon - lead vocals, guitar, bass, piano, organ, harmonium, mellotron, harmonica, saxophone, sound effects
- Paul McCartney - lead vocals, bass, guitar, keyboard, piano, organ, percussion, timpani, tambourine, cowbell, bell, drums, recorder, flugelhorn
- Ringo Starr - drums, backing and lead vocals, piano, jingle bell, percussion, tambourine, bongos, cymbals, maracas
"Trope-La-Di, Trope-La-Da, Life goes on, brah":
- Aborted Arc: Despite being called "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" the song just ends and isn't referred to anywhere else on the album. This may have been done intentionally, as the song starts In Medias Res, has No Ending, and seems to be an Affectionate Parody of old radio serials and other pop culture artefacts (there's also a reference to Captain Marvel, though which incarnation is unclear).
- Absentee Actor: This album is remembered partly for being the start of the dissension that led to the break-up of the band. That's partly reflected in the track list being, to a certain extent at least, the product of four solo artists. Only 15 of the 30 songs on the album feature all four Beatles playing.
- "Back in the U.S.S.R." and "Dear Prudence" had Paul playing drums after Ringo temporarily quit the band.
- McCartney recorded four "solo" songs on the album in which no other Beatle appears: "Wild Honey Pie", "Martha My Dear", "Blackbird", and "Mother Nature's Son". John Lennon, who hated it when Paul recorded by himself, appears all by himself on "Julia", the only Beatles song which Lennon did solo.
- Ringo's "Don't Pass Me By" features Ringo, Paul on bass and piano, and a session violinist. Paul's "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" also features only Paul and Ringo.
- George does not play on "I Will". John doesn't play on three of George's four songs, "Piggies", "Long, Long, Long", and "Savoy Truffle", although he did contribute backing vocals to "Piggies".
- The sound collage "Revolution 9" features studio chatter from John and George, as well as Yoko and others, but nothing from Paul or Ringo.
- "Good Night" features none of the Beatles playing, but instead is Ringo singing with a 26-piece orchestra and a choir.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: "Rocky Raccoon", "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", "Sexy Sadie".
- Affectionate Parody: Several songs on this album imitate a certain musical style and whether these songs are an homage or a parody (or both) are left to the individual listener's opinion.
- Age-Progression Song: "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" where the singer Desmond meets a girl named Molly, marries her in the second verse and they raise a family afterwards.
- Album Filler: A subject of debate even before the album was released. George Martin asked the Beatles to trim it down to one album since he felt there was too much filler, but the band didn't listen, being eager to fulfil their album commitment to the EMI record label as quickly as possible, and being unable to agree which songs to remove (Harrison noted that by that point there was "too much ego" involved). Every listener will have his or her own list of which songs on this album are a case of Throw It In! and there have even been bootleg editions of this record where the set list has been rearranged and songs that are considered filler have been removed. Paul McCartney for his part liked the album just as it was. (See the page quote.)
- Alice Allusion: Lennon said "Cry Baby Cry" was inspired by the scene in Alice in Wonderland where Alice meets the Duchess and her crying baby.
- all lowercase letters: Well, not quite. But on the lyric sheet that accompanied the record, two of the songs are actually titled "I'm so tired" and "Why don't we do it in the road?".
- Alliterative Name and Alliterative Title: "Sexy Sadie", "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", "Rocky Raccoon", "Long, Long, Long".
- Almighty Janitor: Chris Thomas, who took over as engineer after Geoff Emerick quit, then became de facto producer when George Martin went on vacation, played prominent keyboard parts on several songs (Mellotron on "Bungalow Bill", harpsichord on "Piggies", piano on "Long, Long, Long", electric piano on "Savoy Truffle").
- Artistic License History: Somewhere in the black mountain hills of Dakota there lived a young boy named Rocky Raccoon—except that the Gideons didn't start distributing Bibles until 1908, over 20 years after Dakota Territory became the states of North and South Dakota. (Although the last verse suggests that "Gideon" was an actual person and his name was a coincidence.)
- Avant Garde Music: The infamous "Revolution #9", an apparent attempt at replicating Frank Zappa's "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" (note that Freak Out had already been a major influence on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).
- Bilingual Bonus:
- A very subtle one in "Julia". Guess what the Japanese for "ocean child" is.
- "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was a Catchphrase of Jimmy Scott, a Nigeria-born percussionist who was an acquaintance of Paul. It allegedly means "life goes on" in the Yoruba language, but it's surprisingly hard to find any confirmation of this.
- Black Comedy: The little piglets in "Piggies" are whacked down and then eaten by other pigs.
- Book-Ends: "Rocky Raccoon" and the Gideons' Bible he finds.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Ringo is getting nearer to the microphone during "Good Night" when he says: "Good night, everybody. Everybody, everywhere", as if directly talking to us, the audience.
- Broken Record:
- BSoD Song: "I'm So Tired"I'M GOING INSANE!
- The lyrics of "Glass Onion" consist almost entirely of references to the band's previous songs, including "I Am the Walrus", "She Loves You", "The Fool on the Hill", "Fixing a Hole", "Lady Madonna" and "Strawberry Fields Forever". In the case of "The Fool on the Hill", the song even includes a little snatch of flute as a musical echo of the original's introduction.
- Careful with That Axe: While absent from the mono version of the album, "Helter Skelter" famously returns after seeming to fade out with Ringo screaming in anger "I'VE GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!" (given they recorded 18 takes of the song, no one can blame him).
- Chekhov's Gun: At the start of "Rocky Raccoon", Rocky checks into a hotel room and finds a Gideons' Bible. Other stuff happens, and then at the end he leaves, taking the Bible with him and apparently undergoing a religious conversion. (Another interpretation would be that Rocky is dying, but either way the Gideon Bible helps him find Jesus.)
- Continuity Nod:
- "Glass Onion" seems to be built entirely on this.
- "Savoy Truffle" - "We all know 'Ob-La-Di-Blah-Da'..."
- "Wild Honey Pie" and "Honey Pie" share the title, but are lyrically and melodically totally different.
- "Revolution 9" has a few samples from "Revolution 1", especially John's "All right!"
- Contrived Coincidence: "Birthday":They say it's your birthday!
Well, it's my birthday too, yeah!
- Darker and Edgier:
- Several songs like "Cry Baby Cry", "Julia", "Piggies"... are quite haunting compared to their previous songs.
- "Revolution 9" is perhaps their edgiest track ever officially released.
- "Helter Skelter" is basically a proto-Thrash Metal song.
- Department of Redundancy Department: In "I Will", Paul promises to "love you forever and forever".
- Despair Event Horizon: "Yer Blues". Lennon made it deliberately over-the-top so that no one would take it seriously, but later confessed that he meant it at least halfway in earnest anyway.Feel so suicidal, just like Dylan's "Mr. Jones".
- Doo-Wop Progression: "Happiness is a Warm Gun".
- Earn Your Happy Ending: Taken to levels all but unheard of on a record. It's an INTENSE roller-coaster lasting over 90 minutes long...climaxing in "Revolution 9"...before finally ending with "Good Night".
- Egomaniac Hunter: Bill from "The Continuing Adventures of Bungalow Bill", an egomaniac who gets off on killing tigers but always brings his mom in case there's trouble.
- Epic Rocking:
- Hardcore Beatles fans are dying to get a hold of the legendary 27 minute long version of "Helter Skelter", take 3 of the original downtempo blues jam version of the song. The 50th anniversary edition satiated some fans by including take 2, which runs a more manageable 13 minutes.
- While not epic in length, the faster, louder album version was recorded 18 times in one day, the last of which made it to the album. Ringo had blisters on his fingers for a GOOD reason.
- On the subject of the 50th anniversary edition, take 18 of "Revolution 1" runs 10 and a half minutes, including John's anguished "All right!" screams and Yoko's "If you become naked" nattering that ended up in "Revolution 9".
- Speaking of "Revolution 9", the album version proper runs for 8:22, making it the album's only song (if an avant-garde musique concrete piece can be called a song) exceeding six minutes.
- Subverted with songs like "Happiness Is a Warm Gun", which has the structure of a much longer song, but runs for fewer than three minutes - though to some extent, Unbuilt Trope also applies, as Progressive Rock, one of the main drivers of this trope, was in its infancy at this point. Meanwhile, the longest proper song on the album, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (4:45), has a fairly standard verse-chorus-bridge structure.
- Hardcore Beatles fans are dying to get a hold of the legendary 27 minute long version of "Helter Skelter", take 3 of the original downtempo blues jam version of the song. The 50th anniversary edition satiated some fans by including take 2, which runs a more manageable 13 minutes.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey". Although it could either be about heroin or about Yoko.
- Evolving Music: "Revolution" and "Revolution 1", two very different takes on the same song. Lennon brought the "slow" version of the song to the rest of the band, thinking it would be the next single. The other Beatles rejected it, thinking it was too slow. Lennon responded by re-arranging it to be one of the hardest-rocking songs of his career. The original, more mellow version appeared on this album as "Revolution 1". The harder version appeared on the B-side of the "Hey Jude" single as "Revolution".
- The Take that was used for "Revolution 1" (20) actually lasted 10 Minutes. The first 4 Minutes are the same as "Revolution 1" (minus the Horns and loud Electric Guitar), but the song keeps going for 5 more minutes, gradually descending into chaos, and eventually morphing into the Ending of "Revolution 9" for the last Minute. Eventually, "Revolution 1" and "Revolution 9" were separated into their respective tracks.
- "Helter Skelter" started out as a slow piece, sounding like a ragged cousin of "Yer Blues", with Looped Lyrics and extended jamming (most infamously running 27 minutes in one of its takes), before it got tightened up into a faster proto-Heavy Metal number.
- "Good Night" was originally tried with the full band, including a take with John, Paul and George singing harmony with Ringo, before John (the song's composer) opted to make it an orchestral ballad.
- Fading into the Next Song:
- "Back In the U.S.S.R." → "Dear Prudence".
- "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" → "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" is either a case of this or Siamese Twin Songs, depending upon one's interpretation of the tropes.
- Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Helter Skelter", and too many times to count on "Revolution 9".
- Food Songs Are Funny: "Savoy Truffle", which is, among other things, George Harrison's humourous ode to Eric Clapton's chocolate addiction.
- Fourth Wall Greeting: "Good Night"Good night, everybody. Everybody, everywhere.
- Gainax Ending: "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da" is about a market vendor named Desmond and a singer named Molly. They fall in love, get married, and have kids. The second-to-last stanza describes Desmond and his children working in the marketplace while Molly still enjoys her singing career. But the final stanza switches their roles, putting Molly in the marketplace and Desmond (who is now apparently a woman) in the band. This was an accidental case. The band members weren't paying proper attention during the recording, and as a result Paul got distracted by John and George yelling "Arm!" and "Foot!" in the break after the first "lets the children lend a hand" and got their roles backwards on the last chorus. They decided to keep it as-is because they thought it was neat (and they were sick of working on the song).Happy ever after in the market place,
Molly lets the children lend a hand.
Desmond stays at home and does his pretty face,
And in the evening she's a singer with the band!
- "Glass Onion" also has quite an unusual ending. After making multiple references to earlier material of theirs, the song ends rather abruptly on a discordant, depressing string section that doesn't so much "end" as it just dies out...
- Genre Roulette/In the Style of...:
- Many of the album's more acoustic-based songs seem to draw from Folk Rock.
- "Rocky Raccoon," more or less an explicit semi-Affectionate Parody of cowboy ballads and Country Music.
- "Honey Pie" is a direct homage to the British music hall style and has a 1920's/1930's nostalgic feel to it.
- "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is Ska
- "Helter Skelter" is incredibly heavy, and has been called one of the first Heavy Metal songs on occasion. It's definitely the only Beatles song you can headbang to.
- "Long, Long, Long" is very Bob Dylan; George admitted it was heavily inspired by "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" from Blonde on Blonde.
- "Birthday" is a slightly traditionalist rock 'n' roll song, inspired after the band saw a broadcast of The Girl Can't Help It on the BBC earlier that night.
- "Yer Blues" is moaned and played as a traditional Blues song.
- "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" is more or less a Little Richard tribute. The band was inspired to go back to their collective love for Rock & Roll after they had watched a broadcast of The Girl Can't Help It on TV earlier that night.
- "Good Night" sounds like a crooner song. John Lennon purposefully told George Martin to write a cheesy Nelson Riddle-type string arrangement.
- "Revolution 9" is a very brutal avant-garde musique concrète "composition", complete with tape loops, Stock Sound Effects, music played backwards and distorted sounds.
- "Piggies" puts George Harrison's social commentary over a dissonantly upbeat Baroque Pop backing.
- Country fan Ringo brought in a Nashville fiddler for "Don't Pass Me By", his first solo song-writing credit.
- "Back in the U.S.S.R." was written in the style of The Beach Boys.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar:
- "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", which Lennon used as a reference to Yoko's clitoris.
- By the time Paul came up with "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?" the radar had apparently given up.
- "But when you talk about destruction, don't you know you can count me out... In..." from Revolution #1. When asked about this in the film "Imagine" John said the addition of "in" was him keeping his options open in case he ever changed his mind. Yet when the electric version came out as a single John had apparently settled on "out" because the tacked-on "in" is absent in that particular recording.
- "Revolution 9" slips in a Precision F-Strike with the line "join the fucking navy." Not to mention John's suggestive moaning and panting halfway through and Yoko talking about "if you become naked".
- The photo collage poster included with the album has a nude line-drawn self-portrait of John (with Yoko) and a pic of a naked Paul in a bathroom mirror (with a strategically placed pole covering his genitals).
- Glorious Mother Russia: "Back in the U.S.S.R." describes a stereotypical version of Russia where Russian folk music plays constantly, snow falls and people refer to one another as comrades.Show me round your snow-peaked mountains way down south
Take me to your daddy's farm
Let me hear your balalaikas ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm!
- God-Is-Love Songs: George said that "Long Long Long" was addressed to God.
- Gratuitous Panning:
- "Back in the U.S.S.R." starts with this, simulating a jetliner flying overhead.
- The "number nine, number nine" Madness Mantra in "Revolution 9" bounces back and forth between left and right channels each time it's heard.
- Grief Song: "Julia", about John's mother, "Yer Blues", where the singer feels suicidal. and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", where George's guitar weeps about the state of the world.
- Gun Nut: Mocked in "Happiness Is a Warm Gun", complete with noticeably sexualised descriptions of shooting. And some possible parallels to drug addiction ("I need a fix, 'cause I'm goin' down"), whether intentional or not.
- Happy Birthday to You!: "Birthday" is this, as well as a "Happy Birthday to Me".They say it's your birthday!
Well, it's my birthday too, yeah!
- Hidden Track: "Can You Take Me Back?", the song fragment included at the end of "Cry Baby Cry", edited from a jam done during the session for "I Will". The whole song was finally released on the 50th anniversary box set.
- I Have Many Names: A small example from "Rocky Raccoon":Her name was McGill
And she called herself "Lil",
But everyone knew her as "Nancy".
- Incredibly Long Note: The last minute and 12 seconds of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" consists of George Harrison singing Still my guitar gently weeeeeeeee-eeeeeeee-EEEEEEEE accompanied by his powerful guitar and his haunting Aaah... Aaah... and Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! which can be heard in the background.
- Indecisive Parody: "Yer Blues". Lennon wrote it as a parody of the British Blues Rock scene, but the song rocks so hard that it succeeds on its own terms. Beatles scholar Ian MacDonald characterized "Yer Blues" as "half-satirical, half-earnest".
- In Harmony with Nature: "Mother Nature's Son", where a "poor young country boy" is completely in harmony with the tranquility of nature.
- The Insomniac: John narrates his real life trouble with this on "I'm So Tired", which could be seen as a bitter sequel to "I'm Only Sleeping" from Revolver.
- Instrumental: While "Revolution #9" has some moments where people talk or say something, it has no actual lyrics.
- Intercourse with You: "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?", which Paul wrote after seeing two monkeys doing it on the road while he was in India.
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" has Lennon singing about holding a gun in a tongue-in-cheek erotic manner:When I feel my finger on your trigger I feel nobody can do me no harm.
- Just a Stupid Accent: Paul sings "Rocky Raccoon" in an incredibly off-key fake southern accent.
- Kill the Cutie: The little piggies in "Piggies" are whacked down and eaten by the bigger piggies.
- Last Note Nightmare:
- "Long, Long, Long", which is played at a lethargic pace for the most part, then ends with George wailing while Ringo's drums try to follow him, plus some discordant organ notes which cause a wine bottle on the amplifier to rattle. Then it all ends suddenly with a drum thud.
- "Helter Skelter" is a different sort of Last Note Nightmare, as (in the stereo mix of the album) it finishes with Ringo throwing his drumsticks across the room and screaming "I GOT BLISTERS ON MAH FINGERS!!" The version that wound up on the "White Album" was the 18th take of the day. That explains the blisters.
- "Cry Baby Cry" is already a haunting track, but then out of nowhere Paul is heard singing "Can You Take Me Back?", which is a fragment from an improvisation between takes of "I Will," but here it just sounds as if he is fading away out of existence. Made worse by the fact that the next track is "Revolution 9", which is a last note nightmare from beginning to end.
- Lighter and Softer: "Revolution 1", compared to the single version. Musicologist Alan Pollack even writes in his commentary that, even though the single version was recorded afterwards, "Revolution 1" sounds to him like a parody of the single version.
- Limited Lyrics Song:
- "Why Don't We Do It In the Road":Why don't we do it in the road? (4x)
No one will be watching us
Why don't we do it in the road?
- "Wild Honey Pie" repeats the line "honey pie" over and over, with the line "I love you" at the end.
- "Why Don't We Do It In the Road":
- Location Song: "Back in the USSR", about a man being happy being back in the country after a long plane trip. Paul McCartney still performs it frequently - specially when he tours in Russia.
- Long Title: "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"
- Loosely Based On A True Story: "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" was inspired by Nancy Cooke, an American socialite who was also at the Rishikesh compound. During the retreat her son Rik visited, and they went on a tiger-hunting expedition.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "Piggies" seems to imply that the smaller piggies get slaughtered and eaten by the bigger piggies. This is made creepier by Charles Manson's misinterpretation.
- The song is a Shout-Out to George Orwell's Animal Farm where the pigs, after leading the animals in a revolution against their human master, take control the farm and begin acting like the human beings who previously oppressed them.
- "Helter Skelter". Who'd guess that what may be the first proper heavy metal song would be about a CARNIVAL SLIDE?
- Madness Mantra: Number nine... Number nine... Number nine... Number nine... Number nine... Number nine...
- Metal Scream: Paul shows off his skills in "Helter Skelter". While "Revolution 1" averts this, the far more famous single version has one by John.
- Mind Screw: "Revolution 9". While "Revolution 1" is a nice, slow, relatively tame rock song (especially compared to the harsher single), "Revolution 9" is eight minutes of pure, untapped, minimalist cacophony. This was explained later via a bootlegged version of Revolution 1, known as "Revolution 1 Take 20". This recording shows that "9" was formed out of the original coda of the song, where the outro vamp just kept going and going until the tape loops and dialogue samples take over the music itself. Lennon's intent was to make it sound like an actual revolution was taking place because of the song.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: The cover, designed by British Pop Art veteran Richard Hamilton, is all white, save for the name of the album embossed onto it, and on some LP printings, a unique serial number stamped on it (going for a bit of irony in something so plain also being unique from every other copy of it, as well as trying to emulate a limited edition abstract artwork or self-published book). Ever since, fans have called it The White Album. In fact, this might be the Ur-Example or at the very least Trope Codifier, since most album covers until then looked more like advertising posters (not to mention some of the more artistic ones, like the Beatles' own Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, as well as The Rolling Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request). Some LP editions were made using white vinyl rather than the usual black, as well.
- Amazingly, this wasn't even the most minimalistic artwork considered for the album. George Harrison said that the idea of transparent vinyl in a transparent cover was briefly kicked around. Talking Heads would eventually pull a similar stunt with the limited-edition release of Speaking in Tongues in 1983, albeit with rotatable cyan, yellow, and magenta translucent discs in the front and back of the transparent case.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Wild Honey Pie" clocks in at 0:54. "Why Don't We Do it in the Road?" and "I Will" are also under two minutes, and there's the brief fragment of "Can You Take Me Back?" at the start of "Revolution 9".
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Side Three contains some of the hardest rocking the band ever did. "Helter Skelter", probably the band's single hardest song, is rated a 6 by TV Tropes.
- Momma's Boy: The title character of "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" is "the all-American bullet-headed Saxon mother's son." And behind that tough exterior, he really does rely on his mom's defence when people start to question him - hence why he always brings her along on hunting trips "in case of accidents."
- Mood Whiplash: The tracks themselves are juxtaposed in such a way that they change moods all the time, but some songs even have sudden mood changes in themselves.
- "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" starts off with a Spanish sounding guitar solo, then out of nowhere skips to a Cold Open where the refrain "Hey Bungalow Bill" is sung. Near the end applause can be heard, until John suddenly shouts: "Ey-up".
- "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" has three different mood changes, mostly because Lennon actually took three different songs he had and stringed them together into one.
- "Revolution #9" is quite surprising seeing that all other tracks on the record were actual songs. This brutally experimental series of sounds is then followed by the sweet easy listening lullaby "Good Night".
- Mundane Made Awesome:
- The "Martha" in "Martha My Dear" was actually Paul's dog.
- "Glass Onion" is just a bunch of Beatles references.
- "Savoy Truffle" is about eating too much candy.
- "Helter Skelter" a heavy rock song about a slide in an amusement park.
- "I'm So Tired" is about, well, being tired.
- Murder Ballad: "Rocky Raccoon" where Rocky is shot down, "Piggies" where a bunch of pigs are whacked down and eaten.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Essentially the theme of "Rocky Raccoon".
- Named After Someone Famous: "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" is named after Buffalo Bill.
- National Stereotypes: "Back in the USSR" uses typical Russian clichés like farms, balalaikas and comrades and mentions Moscow, Ukraine and Georgia.
- Non-Appearing Title:
- Played with in "Wild Honey Pie" and "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", as parts, but not all of the titles appear in the songs.
- Played straight with "Yer Blues" and "Revolution 9"
- Obsession Song: "Julia", written about John longing for his long deceased mother, who died in a car accident when he was young.
- Ominous Pipe Organ:
- One-Man Song: "Rocky Raccoon" and, depending upon one's interpretation of the trope, "Sexy Sadie", as explained immediately below.
- One-Woman Song: "Dear Prudence", "Julia", and "Martha, My Dear". "Sexy Sadie" is a subversion, as even though it sounds like it's addressed to a woman named Sadie, the Reality Subtext of the song was actually directed at a man - the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose sexual advances on Mia Farrow resulted in a Broken Pedestal for John Lennon. "Martha My Dear" may also qualify as a subversion, as the Martha it's addressed to is actually a dog.
- One-Word Title: "Blackbird", "Piggies" and "Birthday".
- Only a Flesh Wound: Rocky in "Rocky Raccoon" is shot down.But Doc, it's only a scratch
And I'll be better, I'll be better, as soon as I'm able.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Although the official title of this album is simply The Beatles, pretty much everyone calls it "The White Album".
- Out-of-Clothes Experience: Alluded to in "Revolution 9."If... you become naked.
- The Parody/Affectionate Parody: The song "Back in the USSR" is both a parody of Chuck Berry's "Back in the USA" and a decent imitation of The Beach Boys' "Surfing Sound". The part that begins "Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out" is a direct send-up of "California Girls", and Mike Love, who was also at the Rishikesh retreat, says that he suggested the part.
- Pep-Talk Song: "Dear Prudence" ("the sun is up, the sky is blue, it's beautiful and so are you."), "Martha My Dear" ("hold your head up, you silly girl"). Even "Revolution" tells us "don't you know it's gonna be alright?"
- The Power of Love: "Back in the USSR", "Wild Honey Pie", "I Will", "Julia", "Long, Long, Long", "Honey Pie".
- Precision F-Strike: "Piggies". "What they need's a damn good whacking." George's mother actually suggested the line.
- An actual F-strike in "Revolution 9", "join the fucking navy and went to sea...". Of course, most listeners will be too busy freaking out to notice.
- Production Foreshadowing:
- Protest Song: Subverted with "Revolution", a protest about protesters (and specifically those supportive of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, in John's "Chairman Mao" reference" - this may specifically refer to then-recent May '68 general strike and protests in France, where many student protesters marched holding up pictures of Chairman Mao).
- Pun-Based Title: "Bungalow Bill" instead of "Buffalo Bill". "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" is a pun on "Happiness Is a Warm Puppy" from Peanuts, although it was unintentional.
- Questioning Title?: "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"
- Real Life Writes the Plot:
- "Dear Prudence" was inspired by Prudence Farrow, Mia's sister, who kept inside meditating while the group was in India. Lennon wrote the song to urge Prudence to come outside.
- "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" was a tiger-hunting man they met in Rishikesh. Lennon felt so disgusted by him that he wrote this mocking musical rendition about him.
- "Julia" was about John's mother, who was struck by a car when he was a teenager.
- "Sexy Sadie" was directed towards the Maharishi, the guru with whom the band spent some time in 1967 and 1968 and who was later accused of molesting one woman, infuriating John. Originally, the song was to have been an even more blatant attack (John had become generally disillusioned with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi during their time in India), but it was toned down to avoid offending George, who was still an admirer. All he really did was replace every instance of "Maharishi" with "Sexy Sadie".
- Rearrange the Song: The album version of "Revolution 1" sounds radically different in musical terms compared to the music single version. While the album version is slow and soothing, the single version has a loud, heavy sound.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "Sexy Sadie" and "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" are sarcastic breakdowns of the protagonists.
- Record Producer: George Martin.
- Recycled Lyrics: "Glass Onion" is filled with shout outs to other songs of theirs:I told you about strawberry fields...
(...) I told you about the walrus and me, man...
(...) Lady Madonna trying to make ends meet, yeah...
(...) I told you about the fool on the hill...
(...) Fixing a hole in the ocean...
- Religion Rant Song: "Sexy Sadie" is a Take That! from John to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
- Revenge Ballad: "Rocky Raccoon" chronicles the failed revenge plot of a man called Rocky against the man who stole his girl.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Bureaucratized, The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized and The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Because as far as our four friends are concerned they're not joining in anyway, because everything "is going to be all right". Only John might if "destruction" is involved, though he doesn't on the musical single.
- Sampling: "Revolution 9". The "number nine, number nine, number nine" is an old recording of an EMI technician testing the acoustics at Abbey Road Studios. There are also snippets of classical music and an Elektra Records sound effects album (the source of the "block that kick" chant at the end, recorded at a Collegiate American Football game).
- Rock Trio: The first two songs on the album were recorded in this formation as Ringo had temporarily left in struggles (Paul drummed for both tracks, and parts of "Back in the USSR" have percussion by the other two).
- Sarcastic Clapping: The applause near the end of "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" for the pathetic hunter Bungalow Bill is definitely not meant to be taken seriously.
- Scare Chord:
- Ends "Piggies".
- The ending of "Long, Long, Long" is way scarier. A wine bottle that was placed on the Hammond organ's Leslie speaker began to shake when Paul hit a certain note. Deciding to leave it in the recording, George added the wailing voice and Ringo threw in the ominous snare roll. It sounds like a coffin is closing at a funeral while the widow weeps.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Paul on "I Will" and "Wild Honey Pie". John, who usually didn't do this, had a duet with himself (interpolating lines) on "Julia".
- Self-Titled Album: The Beatles, although pretty much everyone knows it better as "The White Album".
- Sensory Abuse: "Revolution 9".
- "Back in the USSR": The line "and Georgia is always on my mind" is a reference to "Georgia on My Mind", a song from the 1930's, popularized by Ray Charles. Of course, the Georgia being referred to here is an Eastern European country rather than a state in the Deep South of America, so this also doubles as a pun.
- John "has another cigarette" in "I'm So Tired", then curses Sir Walter Raleigh for "he was such a stupid git." Raleigh was the first Englishman to bring tobacco to Europe.
- "Julia" — while it's about John's late mother, guess what the Japanese for "ocean child" is? The lyrics also feature two slightly reworded Khalil Gibran quotes.
- "Martha My Dear" is about Paul McCartney's dog.
- "Piggies" is based on George Orwell's Animal Farm.
- "Savoy Truffle" lists a lot of actual flavours of chocolate, and is also a joke about Eric Clapton's weakness for chocolate.
- In "Yer Blues" Lennon claims to be "suicidal, just like Dylan's Mr. Jones". This is a reference to "Ballad of a Thin Man" from Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited.note
- "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" was inspired by a title in a rifle magazine. Unbeknownst to Lennon the title itself was an Incredibly Lame Pun on the phrase "Happiness Is a Warm Puppy" from the Peanuts franchise.
- "Revolution 9" has musical quotes from Jean Sibelius' "Seventh Symphony" (the finale), Robert Schumann's "Symphonic Studies" (the finale, played backwards), Ludwig van Beethoven's "Choral Fantasy", the musical standard "The Streets of Cairo", violins from "A Day in the Life" (from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) and the Arabic song "Awal Hamsa" by Farid al-Atrash and unused shouts of "right" and "alright" taken from a long jam from an unused take of "Revolution 1".
- "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" has the line "So Captain Marvel zapped him right between the eyes." It's most likely that it's a reference to the DC Comics character, especially since Lennon said to have had contemporary comic strip Jungle Jim in mind while writing the song, and the Marvel Comics character was very recent at the time the song was made (Mar-Vell debuted in 1967, just less than a year before the album was recorded).
- Sincerest Form of Flattery: George Harrison admitted to pilfering the chord changes for "Long, Long, Long" from Bob Dylan's "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands". Once you hear the similarity, you can't unhear it.
- Singer Name Drop:
- "Glass Onion"And here's another clue for you all/ The Walrus was Paul.
- "Glass Onion"
- Single Stanza Song: "Wild Honey Pie" and "Why Don't We Do It in the Road", also counting as Broken Record and Miniscule Rocking. Also, "Can You Take Me Back", the Hidden Track right before "Revolution 9".
- Something Blues: "Yer Blues".
- Song of Song Titles: "Glass Onion" name-checks "Strawberry Fields Forever", "I Am the Walrus", "Fixing a Hole", "Lady Madonna", and "The Fool on the Hill".
- Special Guest: Eric Clapton plays lead guitar on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (because Harrison thought the presence of a respected outsider would get everyone to stop arguing for a while; reportedly, it worked); famed session musician Nicky Hopkins plays piano on "Revolution" and a few other tracks; engineer/producer Chris Thomas plays the harpsichord on "Piggies"; and jazz musician Jack Fallon provides the fiddle on "Don't Pass Me By".
- A lot of the Beatles' friends and significant others were roped in to contribute. Mal Evans does backing vocals and hand-claps on "Dear Prudence", hand-claps on "Birthday", and he and John made a bunch of harsh trumpet noises on "Helter Skelter". "Birthday" also included backing vocals from Pattie Boyd and Yoko Ono, and Ringo Starr's wife Maureen Starkey sang backing vocals on "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" alongside Yoko, who also contributed Spoken Word in Music and tapes and sound effects to "Revolution 9". And that''s not even counting all the session musicians.
- This album actually has the only fleeting moment where a non-Beatle performs lead vocals: the second verse of "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", where Yoko Ono sings "Not when he looked so fierce" (with John adding "His mummy butted in"), and singing "If looks could kill it would've been us instead of him" alongside John.
- Spoken Word in Music: "Revolution 9". "Number nine, number nine, number nine..."
- Spooky Séance: In the final verse of "Cry Baby Cry".
- Step Up to the Microphone:
- Yoko Ono and George Martin can be heard briefly in "Revolution 9". Yoko is briefly heard again during "The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill".
- Ringo gets two lead vocals, including the first Beatles song ever written by him, "Don't Pass Me By".
- Stock Sound Effects:
- A landing plane during "Back in the U.S.S.R".
- "Blackbird" has sounds of an actual blackbird mixed in.
- "Piggies" has oinking pigs.
- "Revolution 9" is almost nothing but stock sound effects and snippets from dialogues, sometimes heavily distorted and/or played backwards.
- Studio Chatter: The end of "Piggies", the beginning of "Revolution 1", John and George periodically muttering throughout "Revolution 9", and most famously Ringo's "I'VE GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!!!" at the end of (the stereo mix of) "Helter Skelter". (And if you listen closely to a high-quality recording, right before Ringo screams, you can hear Lennon say "How's that?")
- Worth noting is the snippet between "Can You Take Me Back?" and the formal start of "Revolution 9", which doesn't actually feature any Beatles. It's a tongue-in-cheek exchange between George Martin and Alistair Taylor (Apple Corps general manager and former assistant to Brian Epstein).Taylor: ...bottle of Claret for you if I'd realised.
Martin: Well, do next time.
Taylor: I'd forgotten all about it, George, I'm sorry. Will you forgive me?
Martin: (flatly) Mmm... yes.
Taylor: (deadpan snark) Cheeky bitch.
- Worth noting is the snippet between "Can You Take Me Back?" and the formal start of "Revolution 9", which doesn't actually feature any Beatles. It's a tongue-in-cheek exchange between George Martin and Alistair Taylor (Apple Corps general manager and former assistant to Brian Epstein).
- The Stinger: The stereo mix of "Helter Skelter" seems to fade out... only to come back with Ringo screaming "I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS!"
- Stylistic Suck: "Yer Blues" is deliberately written as an amateur Blues Rock song, parodying British musicians who tried making blues songs of their own despite not being familiar enough with Blues culture. Therefore, instead of authentic blues metaphors and idioms, it has both overly straightforward lyrics about being depressed and blues-like metaphors and idioms that try to sound authentic but mean nothing. And then there is the solo... or rather, the two solos played simultaneously.
- Lennon later admitted that the lyrics were inspired by his own Creator Breakdown, as the song was written while he was "trying to reach God and feeling suicidal" but he deliberately made them as over-the-top as possible so that if anyone worried and asked, he could pass the song off as just a parody. The parody aspect also comes from Lennon's own wish to write a Blues song but not being sure if he was capable of imitating the blues musicians he listened to in school, making him opt instead to parody the British blues-rock boom at the time.
- Sweet Tooth: "You'll have to have them all pulled out after the 'Savoy Truffle'!" (allegedly inspired by Eric Clapton's fondness of chocolate.)
- Take That!:
- "Sexy Sadie" was aimed at the Maharishi.
- "Revolution 1"But if you go on carrying pictures of Chairman Mao you ain't gonna make it with anyone, anyhow
- Take That, Audience!: "Glass Onion" is a sarcastic attack on their obsessive fans, in particular people overanalyzing their lyrics.
- Textless Album Cover: Some pressings almost qualify, because the only text is embossed and is coloured the same as the rest of the cover. (Some more recent copies have the name in grey letters rather than embossed letters, and the earliest copies had serial numbers on the cover.)
- There's No Place Like Home: "Back In The USSR", where the protagonist is glad to be back home after a long and terrible flight.
- Time Marches On:
- "Back In The USSR": Since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 this song sounds rather surreal... and 12 years later Paul was playing in Russia, warranting many a jokey headline\article using the song.
- "Revolution 1": "But if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/ you ain't gonna make it with anyone, anyhow". In the late 1960's and early 1970's Maoism was a bit more widespread than it is nowadays.
- Title by Number: "Revolution 9".
- Title-Only Chorus: "Helter Skelter".
- Uncommon Time: "Julia" uses patterns of nine measures in the verses, while the choruses use patterns of thirteen and the bridge is ten measures long. Several of the verses of "Helter Skelter" are fourteen measures long
- Unplugged Version:
- "Revolution 1", in contrast to the single version (though "Revolution 1" was recorded first).
- With the Beatles accompanying themselves on acoustic guitars, along with tambourines and some occasional handclaps, the "Esher demos" amount to The White Album Unplugged, though several songs weren't included, and some of the included songs were still just incomplete fragments. George Harrison's demo of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" had gained a strong reputation before it finally got released on The Beatles Anthology. Lennon's demo of "Revolution", which featured elements of both the album and single versions, also had been a fan favorite (even gaining the nickname "Revolution 0") before its official release.
- Urban Legends:
- The Paul is Dead myth centers on a number alleged clues from this album, most famously the claim that "number nine" becomes "turn me on, dead man" when it's played backwards.
- The Minimalistic Cover Art, the slightly-censored nude pic of Paul on the album's poster, and the nude photos of John and Yoko on the jacket of Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins, released around the same time, all got conflated into a false story that the cover was originally going to have nude Beatles, but was censored and painted white.
- The Walrus Was Paul: Trope Namer, sung in Glass Onion.And here's another clue for you all: the walrus was Paul.
- The Wild West: "Rocky Racoon" is a Wild West tale of failed revenge.
- Work Info Title: The unofficial nickname for this album (The White Album) lets you know it's an album. The official title is simply The Beatles.