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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

30 fun facts about The Beatles White Album

8:36 AM Posted by Nicole M

The year 2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles' first and only double album, officially called The Beatles, but unofficially known to fans all over the world as The White Album. Full to bursting with 30 different tracks, The White Album certainly provides a great deal of variety to the listener, as well as perhaps a few clues as to where each band member was heading individually.

Here, then, is the first part of a two-part look at The White Album, with some fun facts for each of the 30 songs.

Back In The USSR
In the opening lyric, Paul sings, "Flew in from Miami Beach, B.O.A.C.", a reference to the British Overseas Airways Corporation airline -- known today as simply "British Airways." Paul's facts are correct: British Overseas Airways Corporation did indeed historically service airports in both Miami and Moscow.

Dear Prudence
Ringo does not appear on this track, because he had temporarily quit the band. He wasn't gone for long, but in his absence, the other three Beatles went ahead and recorded the basic tracks for this song, with Paul on drums. (Bonus: at 1:46 in the song, Paul accidentally hits his bass note too soon.)

Glass Onion
This is a dovetail joint:

And all this time, I'll bet you thought John was talking about pot.

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
The first time Paul sings the closing lyrics, "Desmond lets the children lend a hand," John and George can be heard yelling "arm!" and "leg!" after Paul sings "hand." On the second pass, "Molly lets the children lend a hand," George can be heard saying, "foot!"

Wild Honey Pie
Paul did this entire track himself, including all the vocals, percussion, and guitars. Historians are still trying to figure out why.

The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
The opening flamenco guitar riff that starts this song was actually just a demo sound clip that came with the Mellotron The Beatles used in the studio.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Most Beatles fans are aware that Eric Clapton played the lead guitar solo for this track (at George Harrison's request), but not everyone knows that Clapton was quite concerned that his solo didn't sound "Beatle-y" enough. To that end, extra effects and wobble were applied to the tape in the studio, which is why on the album his guitar appears to drift in and out of tune.

Happiness Is A Warm Gun
When John begins the section, "When I hold you in my arms," the bass, guitar, and vocals all shift into 3/4 ("waltz") time while Ringo's drums stay in standard 4/4 time. The two competing time signatures are what give this section its trademark push-and-pull feel.

Martha My Dear
Much like "Blackbird" from this same album, "Martha My Dear" was born out of Paul's attempts at challenging his technical abilities. As he said to Barry Miles, "this started life almost as a piece you'd learn as a piano lesson ... it's slightly above my level or competence really, but I wrote it as that, something a bit more complex for me to play."

I'm So Tired
Why does John want to "curse Sir Walter Raleigh" after saying he'll "have another cigarette" in the final verse of this song? Because Sir Walter Raleigh was the historical figure who (so they say) first brought tobacco to England. There's even a brand of cigarette and pipe tobacco with Raleigh on the label!

The singing bird effects used in this piece are different depending on whether you're listening to the stereo mix or the mono mix. In the mono mix, that bird is singing his head off! (I wonder where that bird is today?)

George had an extra verse for this song that didn't make the final cut, but you can hear him sing it on recordings of his live concert in Japan:

Everywhere there's lots of piggies, playing piggy pranks
You can see them on their trotters, at the piggy banks
Paying piggy thanks to thee, pig brother

Rocky Raccoon
This is the third track in a row to feature an animal: birds, piggies, and now raccoons. That was deliberate. When George Martin came to the end of producing this album, he had to decide how to sequence these 30 tracks to give them some kind of coherent running order. No small task! One decision that was easy? Take the three "animal songs" and group them together.

Don't Pass Me By
It took Ringo five years to write this song, which means that he started working on it back in 1963, when the lads were still mop-tops who hadn't yet even conquered America. During an interview with the group on the BBC's show "Top Gear" in 1964, Brian Matthew asks Ringo if he plans to write any songs, and Paul starts singing the chorus from "Don't Pass Me By." So, yes, it was in Ringo's head way back then.

Why Don't We Do It In The Road?
Perhaps more than any song on the album, this track is a glimpse into Paul's near future. Barely two years later, he would be doing exactly what he did on this track: recording half-finished song ideas, and supplying (nearly) all the instrumentation and vocals himself. This track is our first taste of the future McCartney album.

I Will
There is, strictly speaking, no bass on this track. No bass guitar, anyway. The low notes are from Paul, making bass guitar noises with his mouth.

John credited Donovan with teaching him the peculiar finger-picking guitar style he uses on this song. It wouldn't be the last time he used that style, either. Play this track back-to-back with "Look at Me" from John's first solo release, the Plastic Ono Band album, and it's nearly like hearing the same song twice.