The Accidental Perfection of the Beatles’ White Album


Fifty years later, the White Album, the Beatles’ masterpiece, is still good, still indelible, still as clean and pure as its sleeve, requiring no explanation or description beyond the band’s name.

“To mark this month’s fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles’ ninth album, ‘The Beatles’—universally known as the White Album—several new expanded and enhanced editions are being released this week. These new versions were created under the supervision of Giles Martin, the son of the album’s original producer, George Martin. As was done last year with ‘Sgt. Pepper,’ the new editions contain, along with a wealth of archival recordings and other material, a brand-new, digitally remixed presentation—a laborious retrieval and reassembly of the contents of the original multitrack master tapes, with a comprehensive scope far beyond that of all previous remasters and releases. The result reveals what might be called the greatest record ever made, not only in terms of its innovation and its strange, impenetrable, endlessly suggestive beauty but also because of its place at the apex of the Beatles’ career and its role as an aesthetic keystone for nearly all the rock-and-roll recordings that have followed. Upon returning to England from Rishikesh, India, in April, 1968, John Lennon and George Harrison stripped and sanded the psychedelic paintwork off of their Gibson J-160E and Casino guitars; Donovan, one of the many musicians who had accompanied them to the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram for an advanced transcendental-meditation course, had told them that this would improve the sound. ‘If you take the paint and varnish off and get the bare wood,’ Harrison explained later, ‘it seems to sort of breathe.’ This stripping away of psychedelic symbolism was part of a larger campaign that the band undertook to remove the layers of Beatles mythology, habit, and convention that had accumulated since their beginnings, as Liverpool teen-agers—before Germany and America, before Astrid Kirchherr’s arty portraits had fetishized their mop-top haircuts, before Ed Sullivan and ‘A Hard Day’s Night,’ and Shea Stadium, and the rest of it. Psychedelia, and the Beatles’ influential participation in it, had peaked with the release of their landmark 1967 album, ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ the surrealist tracks on which had beguiled the world and, many said, inspired the Summer of Love.  …”
New Yorker – Nov. 10, 2018

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