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The Off-White Album
April 22, 2003 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Should the Beatles have released the White Album as a single album? The Beatles producer, George Martin, thought so. Other music critics have come up with their own single-album versions. And now there's an applet where you can make your own version of the abridged White Album.
posted by jonp72 (36 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
George Martin is the Antichrist.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:28 AM on April 22, 2003


I would give a lot to have never heard "Martha My Dear".

It's all down hill after Revolver anyway (IMO obviously).
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 11:33 AM on April 22, 2003


That Sir George quote is commonly cited, but think about it...what tracks would you discard? Certainly Long Long Long, and maybe a few others, but that still leaves a lot more than a single LP. Sure it wasn't their strongest, but what a selection of diversity from four great songwriters (OK, three). I can't imagine the album any other way that what it is.
posted by drinkcoffee at 11:34 AM on April 22, 2003


(Cool applet, though.)
posted by drinkcoffee at 11:35 AM on April 22, 2003


I'm going to write an applet that removes all traces of Yoko from Lennon's songs, and replaces her with someone else of my choosing:

"The Ballad of John and Ethel Merman"
"Oh, Nigella"

And in Revolution Number 9, I'll replace Yoko saying "If you become naked" with the voice of Madeleine Albright.
posted by MrBaliHai at 11:36 AM on April 22, 2003


John Lennon: "The Beatles' White Album. Listen - all you experts listen, none of you can hear. Every track is an individual track - there isn't any Beatle music on it. I just say, listen to the White Album. It was John and the Band, Paul and the Band, George and the Band, like that. Paul and the Band. What I did was sort of say, 'Fuck the Band. I'll make John - I'll do it with Yoko,' or whatever."

What a cranky bastard. I still miss him. And I don't even know if he was right.
posted by Skot at 11:59 AM on April 22, 2003


I suggest anyone who says "but what would you leave out?" (I'm lookin' at you, drinkcoffee) actually test out the applet and build your own album. I felt the same way on impulse, but when it became a question, instead, of what to add, I found that a lot of stuff I thought was essential, I could really do without. "Martha My Dear?" I loved that song as a teenager, but what case could be made for putting it on a 15-song album? Ditto "I'm So Tired," etc.

I'm amused by the single-album versions that omit Revolution 9 but still close with "Good Night" - I think without that long stretch of musical anarchy preceding it, the latter song would be simply unbearable.
posted by soyjoy at 12:14 PM on April 22, 2003


if it were me, The White Album would've been a triple LP!

and while we're at it, Kid A and Amensiac should have been a single double LP.
posted by mcsweetie at 12:15 PM on April 22, 2003 [1 favorite]


You people have got it all wrong. The White Album would have made a good single, with "Ob-La-Di" on one side, and maybe "Back in the U.S.S.R." on the other.
posted by Faze at 12:23 PM on April 22, 2003


actually, mcsweetie, aphex twin had already released selected ambient works vol. II as a double album.
posted by the aloha at 12:23 PM on April 22, 2003


I suggest anyone who says "but what would you leave out?" (I'm lookin' at you, drinkcoffee) actually test out the applet and build your own album.

OK, there were quite a few songs I left out, but I was still about 5 minutes over the max for a single album and unwilling to cut anymore songs.

I think the Charles Shaar Murray quote from the second link above is the best argument for making it a double-album: "Most people agree with George Martin that [it] would have made a killer single album—it's just that no-one agrees with anybody else about what should be on it." Rocky Raccoon is one of the few that could have been left off listed by Tim Murray, but that's a personal favorite of mine.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:26 PM on April 22, 2003


An interesting idea, and though I suppose by removing some of the less great tracks (though Long, Long, Long is one of my favorite tunes) one could make a work of genius even more genius (like, SOOOPA-genius), what's the point? The White Album as a complete work captured a moment in time, a moment in the career of the Beatles, and a moment in the continuum of pop music. The fact that it is a bit of a sprawling, disjointed mess is part of its majesty.

(also, I should mention, I'm somewhat sensitive about this because the White Album was the work that turned me on to the Beatles. As a young contrarian high school punk I made a point to avoid "old" music, especially the omnipresent Beatles. One day I decided to listen through the White Album, and had a full-on Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus* experience. I've been a dedicated fan ever since)

(*Paul the Apostle, not the McCartney.)
posted by Ty Webb at 12:28 PM on April 22, 2003


I love the whole first disc. Not so keen on everything on the second one.
posted by gramcracker at 12:39 PM on April 22, 2003


This is pointless.

NO.
posted by Satapher at 12:47 PM on April 22, 2003


a full-on Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus* experience.
(*Paul the Apostle, not the McCartney.)


That's good, because when you're talking Paul, the White Album, and "...the Road," it could mean a whole different "experience."

or, maybe not.
posted by soyjoy at 12:54 PM on April 22, 2003


Kid A and Amnesiac should have been a single album. There is way too much ambient noodling on those albums. One 60 minute CD would have kicked ass especially if I had picked the tracks. Thom, I'll have my people call your people.

As for The Beatles, ummm, hey.. uh, Hail to the Thief is pretty good (mom told that when I have nothin' good to say, don't say nothin).
posted by monkeyman at 1:18 PM on April 22, 2003


re the John Lennon quote mentioned earlier: I absolutely agree, and would dare say the last album they released that was a Beatles record (as opposed to a "Beatles" record) was Rubber Soul (my favorite album of theirs, he said to smirks from the crowd)

P.S. to all you haters: Long Long Long may not be a great song, but it's a great performance. The vibrating wine bottle at the end sends shivers down my spine every time.
posted by turaho at 1:38 PM on April 22, 2003


I should mention, I'm somewhat sensitive about this because the White Album was the work that turned me on to the Beatles.

Yes, if we were having the same conversation about Exile on Main Street or Extra/Mo' Width I'd probably be foaming at the mouth right now.

*Looks in the mirror, sees a hater*
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:48 PM on April 22, 2003


No, the White Album is a mysteriously complete experience. Subtract half the songs and it would no longer be as great an album - yes, they were each pretty much doing it individually by that time, but that's part of the contrast and tension that makes the album. Add to this the sense of parody and the "throw it against the wall and see if it sticks" feel of much of the music and you have something that's irreducible. To my knowledge, only the Clash have ever attempted something like this beast with "Sandinista", and they didn't quite pull it off.

Actually, the real question is what would have Sgt. Pepper been like as a double album? Throw in the singles from Magical Mystery Tour and a few roughly contemporary songs ...

Side 1 - Sgt. Peppers/With a Little Help, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Strawberry Fields Forever, Fixing A Hole, Lovely Rita, It's Getting Better

Side 2 - Penny Lane, She's Leaving Home, Baby You're a Rich Man, Hey Bulldog, When I'm 64, Within you, Without you

Side 4 - Good Morning/Sgt Pepper 2/ A day in the Life, It's all Too much, All you Need is Love

That would be an intriguing listening experience ...
posted by pyramid termite at 2:21 PM on April 22, 2003


No, the White Album is a mysteriously complete experience. Subtract half the songs and it would no longer be as great an album - yes, they were each pretty much doing it individually by that time, but that's part of the contrast and tension that makes the album. Add to this the sense of parody and the "throw it against the wall and see if it sticks" feel of much of the music and you have something that's irreducible. To my knowledge, only the Clash have ever attempted something like this beast with "Sandinista", and they didn't quite pull it off.

Actually, the real question is what would have Sgt. Pepper been like as a double album? Throw in the singles from Magical Mystery Tour and a few roughly contemporary songs ...

Side 1 - Sgt. Peppers/With a Little Help, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Strawberry Fields Forever, Fixing A Hole, Lovely Rita, It's Getting Better

Side 2 - Penny Lane, She's Leaving Home, Baby You're a Rich Man, Hey Bulldog, When I'm 64, Within you, Without you

Side 3 - I am the Walrus, Hello/Goodbye, The Fool on the Hill, Rain, Blue Jay Way, For the Benefit of Mr. kite

Side 4 - Good Morning/Sgt Pepper 2/ A day in the Life, It's all Too much, All you Need is Love

That would be an intriguing listening experience ...
posted by pyramid termite at 2:23 PM on April 22, 2003


So this White Album, you say it vibrates?
posted by SpaceCadet at 2:36 PM on April 22, 2003


Every multi-disc rock album should be released as a single disc (I'm looking in your direction, The Clash and George Harrison). The White Album is a tough call, though; I'd leave off "Martha My Dear," "Good Night," both "Honey Pies," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "Piggies," "Why Don't We Do It in the Road," "Yer Blues," "Revolution 9," and "Long, Long, Long," and swap the album version of "Revolution 1" with the slow "shoobie-do-wa" version. I like "Not Guilty," but not enough for it to make the cut.

Don't you have to start the album with "Back in the USSR"?

And in Revolution Number 9, I'll replace Yoko saying "If you become naked" with the voice of Madeleine Albright.

That's so hot.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:37 PM on April 22, 2003


Yes, George Martin tried to convince the band that this disc should have been a single LP. However, that was from the perspective of a producer previous to the release of the disc. Martin was a visionary, and i sometimes refer to him as a fifth Beatle, but when it comes to this oft-quoted opinion he wasn't seeing eye to eye with the band.

Though The Beatles could have been pruned down to a hit-parade of tracks, that decision would have totally undone the point of the release. Part of that point was that the disc was the first release on Apple, which allowed them increased creative control over their work, which they wisely exercised.

What i have always loved, from childhood to my recently completed Beatles CD discography, is that The White Album not only gives you songs, but it gives you context -- while Lennon raves about injustice on "Revolution" Harrison is personifying piglets and guitars. McCartney turns in two wonderful "Biography Tunes" on "Ob-La-Di" and "Martha," and also chimes in with "Helter Skelter." The first published sample-track-lists inexplicably leave off "Dear Prudence." Why?. Also: the first one leaves off the superb"Rocky Raccoon" in favor of the more silly "Bungalow Bill," and the second one is the only to include "I'm So Tired, though it excludes "Ob-La." To me this is nonsense, but I only managed to give the boot to four songs in my retrack (I'm not telling which).

While all of the tracks I've named are not necessarily essential Beatles songs, but they've definitely affected my musical development. I'm not going to be so ignorant of music history as to say that The White Album was the first non-single-bearing double album to go on to huge success (the first double #1 LP in Britain, 2Mill in one week in the US) and popular acclaim, but it certainly paved the way for obtuse albums of the future (moreso, IMHO, than Pepper's, which is comparatively densely hit-laced).

For more wonderful fab-four-facts, check out the recent FPPed Beatles Discography, which makes for good late-nite reading.
posted by krisis at 4:48 PM on April 22, 2003


Actually, I would say that the best possible Beatles album would be one where they played their songs in the style of Metallica.
posted by Joey Michaels at 5:29 PM on April 22, 2003


No, no, no. In the style of barking dogs.
posted by LeLiLo at 7:11 PM on April 22, 2003


No, no, in the style of Utopia.
posted by soyjoy at 9:21 PM on April 22, 2003


God, I had so much fun cutting out separating the few grains of lovely wheat from the shitty, shitty chaff of that album. Even if I did have to open IE to do it.

I love the Beatles, but I'm of the (strong) opinion that the White Album is just wanking.
posted by padraigin at 9:53 PM on April 22, 2003


By the way, jonp--very cool link. I'd never seen that site before.
posted by padraigin at 9:55 PM on April 22, 2003


Just for the record, I've listened to more than my share of those boys, and if I never hear another goddamn Beatles song as long as I live, that'd be just fine.
posted by majcher at 12:11 AM on April 23, 2003


Am I the only person in the world never to have listened to a Beatles album?
posted by salmacis at 2:42 AM on April 23, 2003


I, for one, don't even own a record player...
posted by jpburns at 5:40 AM on April 23, 2003


My turntable has been in storage for a long time now, but the White Album still comes in handy when there's an ounce that needs to be cleaned. You just can't accomplish that task with a cd jewel case. That's reason alone for the double album.
posted by reidfleming at 6:29 AM on April 23, 2003


Don't you have to start the album with "Back in the USSR"?

I've been thinking about this. I think it works better at the start of side two. Side one could open with Birthday (and then the whole thing could be considered a present).
posted by LeLiLo at 10:37 AM on April 23, 2003


Salmacis -- no, but it still doesn't reflect kindly on you :)

Really, everyone should hear The Beatles at one point or another. Your understanding and appreciation of modern music can't be complete without it.
posted by Ptrin at 10:45 AM on April 23, 2003


Man, am I the only person who digs "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey?" That firebell goes a long way towards selling the song.
posted by ed at 11:17 AM on April 23, 2003


Man, am I the only person who digs "Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey?"

That's the 4th song on the second side of my 16-song single LP (which comes out to 45 min. 13 sec.) Amazing to me how little remorse I felt about throwing the rest out.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:28 AM on April 24, 2003


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