50 years ago Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr brought out their self titled White Album. Half a century is a mighty long time, but when an album as advanced and progressive as this comes along; time is flagged as nothing but a social construct. The Beatles created a soundscape that will live in infamy, paving the way for progression in the industry with a 30 song, 90 minute monster of an album that is rightfully regarded as one of the greatest ever. The White Album is troubled art, it’s less Picasso and more Jackson Pollock; less Mona Lisa and more Composition VII.
The word ‘essential’ is such a musical buzz word when praising the daring attitudes of an album’s direction. It has been a go-to avenue of praise for hundreds of albums over the years, but The Beatles’ eponymous effort takes that meaning to new levels. It truly is the project that changed everything for British rock music, brazen enough to be the soundtrack of a generation; while also being serene and tranquil enough to serenade your most blissful of dreams.
Listening to The Beatles is hardly a serendipitous experience, being the most famous band of all time comes at a price in the form of pressure and judgement from those who deem themselves above the powers of popularity. But trust me on this one sentiment, anyone who tries to tell you that they “don’t see the hype” with an album like this is an edgy hipster kid who tells everyone they listen to The Velvet Underground for nothing more than faux validation. This album is the absolute bollocks.
Clocking in at 90 minutes and containing 30 tracks makes it sound daunting and let me make this very clear, not every song on here is a bonafide classic. Track by track it isn’t perfect; but conceptually and culturally it absolutely is. You take the rough with the smooth when The Beatles try so many different innovative things on one album, they were literally doing things nobody had even heard of let alone considered. Putting the brash arena-rock sound of Back In The U.S.S.R on the same album as the pop pioneer anthem Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da is nothing short of batshit crazy; but that’s just something they could do at this stage. The stylistic challenges they set themselves gave the album an exterior look of a wounded jackal, but when all pieced together fully it rises from the ashes like a stunning phoenix.
Every single member brought their A-game on this album. In fact, no they didn’t. They brought their A* game, shooting for a level the music industry ceased to recognise at that time and absolutely nailing the landing with grace and elegance. Paul McCartney’s quirky songwriting blazes through on Martha My Dear and Rocky Raccoon, George Harrison’s guitar licks on While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Helter Skelter beggar belief, John Lennon’s lyrically discerning nature is at the peak of its powers on Sexy Sadie and Revolution 1; and Ringo Starr’s tempo and slick beats on Glass Onion and Birthday are simplistic but expertly composed.
Love them or loathe them, The Beatles changed the landscape of music forever with The White Album, they moved stratospherically ahead of the competition and were lightyears ahead of their time. It finalised their growth from national sweethearts on earlier material to an all-conquering musical trojan, releasing the seminal album to end all seminal albums. The sheer quantity of brilliant content on this project makes it hard to beat, it was very rare back then for an album to conceptually defy the laws of intrinsic thought (it is still pretty damn difficult now); but The Beatles did that and then some here. Happy Birthday to an iconic album from an iconic band. Apologies, let me rephrase that: Happy Birthday to THE iconic album from THE iconic band.