Let’s talk about the Beatles’ White Album.

Recording in 1968, after the Beatles went to India to study transcendental meditation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the White Album, thirty tracks long, is famously bloated. The band came back from India with a wealth of material and the intention to record it all. Then the recording became long and laborious, Ringo Starr quit the band, some songs were recorded virtually solo, and the result was a mass of music, far too much for a single album. and George Martin has said of the White Album that, pared down to a single LP of 14 or 15 tracks it could have been the best Beatles album ever.

On Twitter yesterday Mike Taylor asked me if I had looked at his blog post on making a single disc “White Album.”

I hadn’t seen Mike’s list. I was curious, so I took a look.

This wasn’t the first time I had encountered the idea of a one-disc White Album. MOJO had an article on their website (now gone) in July 2008 titled “Toward a One-Disc White Album.” There were several different configurations given. One was “Mountain and Valley,” another “The Nice Album,” a third “The Little Black & White Album.”

I put one together of my own at that time.

Side One:

  1. Blackbird
  2. Julia
  3. I’m So Tired
  4. I Will
  5. Martha My Dear
  6. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
  7. Long, Long, Long
  8. Cry Baby Cry

Side Two:

  1. Yer Blues
  2. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  3. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?
  4. Revolution 1
  5. Don’t Pass Me By
  6. Happiness is a Warm Gun
  7. Helter Skelter

Soft stuff on one side, harder stuff on the other. It’s a nice mix of songs, but look at all the things left off! No “Back in the USSR.” No “Dear Prudence.” No “Everybody’s Got Something to Hid Except for Me and My Monkey.” No “Glass Onion.” And that’s just four off the top of my head.

Honestly, I hadn’t thought of this list in more than a few years. Which is fortunate, because I sat down when I got home from work I made a new version without reference to that one.

I used the same rules that I used for “Hot as Sun,” the hypothetical 1970 Beatles album had recorded an album after Abbey Road. And I came up with something entirely different:

Side One:

  1. Helter Skelter
  2. Long, Long, Long
  3. Dear Prudence
  4. Martha My Dear
  5. Piggies
  6. Julia
  7. Revolution 1

Side Two:

  1. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
  2. Cry Baby Cry
  3. Birthday
  4. Yer Blues
  5. Blackbird
  6. Don’t Pass Me By
  7. I Will

And this has the same problem! There’s a wealth of material that’s just not there! Interestingly, I ended up using a lot of the same songs. “Dear Prudence” appears on one, “I’m So Tired” on the other. The thing is, I like them both. (The songs, that is.)

The problem with this exercise is that there’s a lot of really good material on the White Album, but not quite enough for a solid and consistent double album. Yes, there’s dross on the White Album — I cannot stand “Wild Honey Pie,” for instance — but there’s more good to great stuff than will fit comfortably on a single album.

I’m not happy with either of these playlists, not in the way that I’m happy with “Hot As Sun.” They suffice, but some things have to be sacrificed because they simply won’t fit.

No, I think I’ll stick with the White Album as is, flawed though it may be. It’s a strange, ungainly, gawky sort of thing, yet I love it anyway. :)

5 thoughts on “A Single-Disc White Album

  1. Well, that is extraordinarily different from mine! Truly I’m astonished that you skipped Back in the U.S.S.R, Dear Prudence and Sexy Sadie. And in exchange you get the inane Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, the throwaway Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?, and the [adjective redacted] Don’t Pass Me By?

    Truly the White Album is VERY different things to different people!

    1. Assuming that the Beatles were convinced of a single-disc release in 1968…

      Considering the amount of time that Paul put the band through on “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” I imagine he’d have manned the barricades to make sure it was there!

      John liked “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road,” though he was hurt that Paul recorded it without him.

      And as for “Don’t Pass Me By,” Ringo needs a track. :)

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