To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ White Album, here are five woefully overlooked songs on it.
Fifty years ago this month, The Beatles showed us all how a double album was done with The Beatles, or its more common moniker, The White Album. Never before had the group been so open for dissection to the public upon its release on 22nd November, 1968. John Lennon once commented that they were more like each other’s backing band, as opposed to a group, during recordings.
What’s flabbergasting is that in spite of the album’s soap-opera worthy story – drummers leaving, girlfriends arriving and never leaving, engineers walking out –, they managed to create a frighteningly multi-textured collection of 30 songs that still holds up today. From the surf rock of Back in the USSR to the folkiness of Mother Nature’s Sun, the hard blues of Yer Blues to the proto-metal of Helter Skelter.
One particular track, Happiness Is a Warm Gun is blatantly one of the strongest on the album, if not the strongest. Bold in its three-part structure, it showed that whatever turmoil was going on off record, on record the Beatles were musicians par excellence. (Radiohead even cited the song as an influence on Paranoid Android.)
But here are the top five tracks on the album that deserve more respect than they get…
5) Good Night
Myth would have it that only Paul McCartney had access to the overly sentimental. Surprisingly then, it was Lennon who wrote this light lullaby for Julian, his five-year-old son, though it was sung by Ringo Starr. George Martin’s sweeping Disney-esque score fits the album’s closing track to perfection, subsequently sending umpteen kids off to sleep forevermore.
4) Rocky Raccoon
The Beatles love of country music falls into deft parody here. McCartney’s tale about the tragic titular character is rolled along by a mock country twang, melodic acoustic strumming and barrelhouse piano. You’d have an easier time proving the world flat than not humming along it by the time of its abrupt end.
3) Honey Pie
Lennon could easily reach back into nostalgic childhood. But McCartney managed to grab back ever further into the music hall sounds of the early 20th century. Honey Pie is a fine example of this. A tuneful piano ditty that manages to stay on the right side of cheese (which its author didn’t always manage to do).
2) Revolution 9
Undoubtably the least listened to track on the album. It’s not even a song. The eight-minute collage of sound from Lennon (with George Harrison and Yoko Ono playing a part) was and still is too much for a lot of listeners. But Lennon’s “vomit of noise” is one of the subversive highlights of the late 1960s.
1) Long Long Long
This slow, acoustic paean to God is unfairly overshadowed by the more kinetic While My Guitar Gently Weeps. However, this is Harrison’s authentic peak on the album. And it has the creepiest ending to any Beatle’s song with the moaning and rattling (the latter of which turns out to be a bottle of Blue Nun accidentally vibrating on a speaker).