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Flashback: The Beatles Begin Recording ‘The White Album’

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It was 50 years ago today (May 30th, 1968) that the Beatles began recording their 30-song self-titled double album, which is commonly known as “The White Album.” The Daily Beatle — formerly known as Wog Blog — posted an update regarding the long rumored upcoming “White Album” box set, stating: “There are (sic) news going ’round that Tim Young has finished mastering The Beatles (aka ‘The White Album’) in 5.1 surround sound as well as in stereo at Metropolis Mastering in London. He had been going a few times to Abbey Road for meetings with Giles Martin during the project. The actual mixings were done by Martin and probably Sam Okell. Tim Young also did the mastering of the Love album, in 2006.” So far there has been no announcement from either Apple or Capitol that a 50th anniversary “White Album” project is definitely scheduled.

On May 30th, 1968, the “White Album’s” first session was held for John Lennon’s “Revolution 1,” which was recorded in London at EMI’s Studio Two, with the session stretching from 2:30 p.m. to 2:40 a.m. the next day. It was the group’s first studio work since returning from Rishikesh, India after an extended stay to study transcendental meditation under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In 2009, a near-10-minute version of “Revolution 1” made the rounds of underground collectors — the majority of which stems from the May 30th session.

Most of the songs from “The White Album” were written while the group was in India, including “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” “Yer Blues,” “I Will,” “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill,” “Rocky Raccoon,” “I’m So Tired,” “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Dear Prudence,” “Mother Nature’s Son,” and Lennon’s thinly-veiled attack on the Maharishi, titled “Sexy Sadie.” Other highlights on the album included “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Julia,” “Helter Skelter,” “Glass Onion,” “Martha My Dear,” “Birthday,” and Ringo Starr’s first composition, the country-flavored “Don’t Pass Me By.”

Several songs originally intended for the “White Album” turned up on later solo albums, such as “Junk” which Paul McCartney released on his 1970 solo debut McCartney, “Child Of Nature” which John Lennon rewrote as “Jealous Guy” for his 1971 album Imagine, “Not Guilty” which made its way onto George Harrison’s 1979 self-titled album, and Harrison’s “Circles” which finally saw release on his 1982 album Gone Troppo.

The main difference between the “White Album” sessions and all that had come before was the constant presence of John Lennon’s then-new girlfriend, Yoko Ono, who was seemingly glued to Lennon’s side at all times, breaking a long-standing unwritten rule that girlfriends and wives pretty much stayed away from the studio. Now, they had an outsider there all the time that was quite comfortable voicing an opinion about the music they were recording.

George Harrison’s first wife Pattie Boyd says that the days of all the Beatle wives being a close-knit group pretty much ended with Yoko entering the inner circle: “John fell in love with Yoko and that was that. She was more a man’s woman than a woman’s woman. She would never have girlfriends, I don’t think, anyway. Y’know that was fine, so I knew I’d never get close to her. She was quite friendly toward me. I mean, she and John once stayed in our house and she was just so intent on John all the time. John was her only focus, really and truly.”

The Beatles’ “White Album” was released on November 22nd, 1968 and went on to top the charts for nine non-consecutive weeks beginning on December 28th.

Photo Courtesy of Apple Corps.

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