I’m sorry if this ends up reading like clickbait. But ever since the 50th-anniversary edition of The Beatles’ White Album was released, online critics and bloggers have been falling all over themselves claiming that it’s The Beatles’ best album. As a lifelong fan of The Fab Four, I’m here to declare:
Now, some troll is inevitably going to write to me and say, “So you think you could do better?” The obvious answer is, Never. I’m no songwriter, and even if you counted my blog and other things I’ve written, none of my writing has any of the stamina or staying power of The Beatles at their best (which, I’m quick to admit, includes most of The White Album.)
But I would say that for one of The Beatles’ albums to be considered great, it has to have no lulls whatsoever on it. (That’s obviously a matter of subjective taste, anyway. But in that category, I would include Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, and Abbey Road, just for starters.) So please allow me to note some bumps in The White Album‘s journey to greatness.
Let me state the obvious debit first. No album which contains “Revolution 9” can possibly be called great. In fact, if you want to dare to call it a song, I’d quickly label it The Beatles’ worst. After all of John Lennon’s great work in experimental sound (e.g., “I’m Only Sleeping” and “Tomorrow Never Knows”), he throws a bunch of random sonic images at us and tries to define it as the soundtrack to a revolution. I don’t buy it for a moment. (For one thing, I’m sure the revolution will end with a bang, not with “Block that kick!”)
Someone has actually taken the time to post the “lyrics” to “Revolution 9” on Google. Take a moment to read those lyrics (because I know you haven’t listened to the song all the way through, if you could possibly help it), and then try to convince me that it is any kind of fully formulated vision, however surreal (a la “I Am the Walrus”). It just doesn’t wash.
Now, as for the rest of the album, I’ll simply list the items that I think keep the album for reaching the status of greatness. If anybody cares, I’ll do a follow-up blog in which I elaborate on the album’s virtues (of which, again, I feel there are many).
John: He has many great songs on this album. But five points to anyone who can explain to me the meanings of “Cry Baby Cry,” “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey,” and the first two-thirds of “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” (For no good reason, I consider the final section of that song to be sublime.)
Paul: “Wild Honey Pie,” not so great, even if it’s only a 52-second outtake anyway.
George: He pretty much made his bones with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” and good for him. But then there’s the droning “Long Long Long,” with an ending that’s like scraping fingernails across a blackboard.
Ringo: “Don’t Pass Me By”– a step up from his earlier work, but hardly an inclusion to make the album worthy of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
So there’s my take on The White Album. I welcome all reasonable dissenters.