The White Album served as the perfect antithesis to Sgt. Pepper. What, after all, could have been more different from Pepper's collage cover than plain white? And what could have been more different from Pepper's “concept album” layout, in which the entire record can be viewed as a single large-scale product, than a series of rather aimless fragments?
One of the most common sentiments regarding The White Album is that it should have been whittled down to a single album instead of a double album; but that means omitting half of the songs, and which ones go and which ones stay is a point of tremendous contention. In fact, if you want to start a fight among Beatles fans, this might be the surest way to do so.
One major reason for the album being a double is that the three songwriting Beatles all wanted their songs to be included - they all felt that their material was worthy of the album. Thus, the album grew because neither John nor Paul nor George wanted any of their songs cut. This insistence, however, was only the tip of the iceberg - the symptoms of a much greater, more fundamental problem: All four Beatles were growing apart, and wanted to spend progressively more time pursuing their own individual projects rather than unified Beatles projects. In fact, when asked when the Beatles broke up, John Lennon indicated The White Album, because, “Every track is an individual track – there isn't any Beatles music on it. … It was John and the band, Paul and the band, George and the band” (Cott, page 88). Here again, what could be further from Sgt. Pepper?
Cott, Jonathan, ed. and Christine Doudna, ed. The Ballad of John and Yoko. Rolling Stone Press, Dolphin Books, Double Day & Company, Inc, Garden City, NY, 1982.
Formal structure of  "Tell Me What You See":
Intro (ind, verse) 0:00-0:04*
Verse 1 0:04-0:32
Verse 2 0:32-1:00
Ext & trans 1:00-1:14*
Verse 3 1:14-1:42
Ext & trans 1:42-1:56*
Verse 4 1:56-2:25
Ext & Coda 2:25-2:38*
Comments: The intro is similar to the backing of the verses, but all on the tonic chord (which is different from the verse's chord progression). Thus, the intro is somewhat based on the verse, but also somewhat independent.
All but the first verse is followed by an extension and transition. This may be considered a middle 8 (it is, after all 8 measures long), but it uses the same chords as the verse and thus does not provide the harmonic contrast that usually defines a middle 8. And given that the lyrics “Tell me what you see” are used in each verse, when they reappear immediately after the verse they feel more like an extension of the verse rather than a contrast to it. An abbreviated version of extension functions as the coda.
After A Hard Day's Night, the Beatles entered “artistic adolescence”, for just as the band grew up as people during their Hamburg residencies, so too the band matured as composers and recording artists from late 1964 through 1965, over which time they released three albums: Beatles for Sale, Help!, and Rubber Soul.
These albums include two basic types of songs: those that reflect the band's previous work (songs like “Rock 'n' Roll Music”, “I Need You” and “What Goes On”, which are rather retrospective in nature); and those that break from their recorded past work and chart new artistic territory by exploring different sounds and musical possibilities (songs like “Ticket To Ride”, “Norwegian Wood” and “Nowhere Man”)
Many songs of this period blur those two classifications by employing aspects of both. “I Feel Fine”, for example, is rather retrospective rock 'n' roll number, but it also features the first ever intentional use of feedback on a recording. Similarly, the body of “Eight Days a Week” is more similar to their previous recordings than to their later work, but it was the first recording ever to use a fade-in as the introduction. A great many recordings used fade-outs, but “Eight Days a Week” was the first to use a fade-in.
One major catalyst for this artistic maturation was Bob Dylan. The Beatles discovered his music through his second studio album Freewheelin', and they met in person for the first time on 28 August 1964 at the Delmonico Hotel in New York City. Dylan impacted the Beatles in two primary ways: First, although they had taken Preludin in Hamburg, and had a history with alcohol (with Lennon more so than the others), Bob Dylan furthered the Beatles drug use by introducing them to marijuana. Legend has it that Dylan misheard the lyrics to “I Want to Hold You Hand” (“And when I touch you I feel happy inside, it's such a feeling that my love I can't hide, I can't hide, I can't hide”) as “I get high, I get high, I get high”. It's called the gateway drug for a reason, and thereafter the Beatles' drug use escalated exponentially.
The second major influence Bob Dylan had on the Beatles was that he freed them from the conventions of pop music. This resulted in an increased use of acoustic rather than electric instruments in Beatles recordings, as well as a dramatic rise in their compositional craftsmanship. “I had a sort of professional songwriter's attitude to writing pop songs,” said John Lennon. “We would turn out a certain style of song for a single... I'd have a separate songwriting John Lennon who wrote songs for the meat market, and I didn’t' consider them (the lyrics or anything) to have any depth at all … Then I started being me about the songs, not writing them objectively, but subjectively. … I'd started thinking about my own emotions. … Instead of projecting myself into a situation, I would try to express what I felt about myself. … It was Dylan who helped me realise that” (Anthology page 158). The difference is clearly discernible in their recorded output from that time. Lennon's “I'm a Loser” off Beatles for Sale, “You've Got to Hide Your Love Away” off Help!, and “In My Life” off Rubber Soul are the obvious examples. Though Dylan's influence was most noticeable in John Lennon, Paul McCartney's songs of the same albums show similar progress. Songs like “I'll Follow the Sun” off Beatles for Sale, and especially “Yesterday” off Help!.
These Dylan-influenced songs lack the youthful “yeah, yeah, yeah” enthusiasm and energy so prevalent in the Beatles early recordings and clearly delineate the band's development from teenybopper pop phenomenon to the true artistic leaders of their generation.
Beatles. The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, 2000.
Formal structure of  "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away":
Intro (verse) 0:00-0:02
Verse 1 0:02-0:39
Verse 2 0:55-1:32
Coda (ind) 1:48-2:09
Comments: Very straight-forward structurally - no ambiguity at all.
Formal structure of  "You Like Me Too Much":
Intro (coda) 0:00-0:10
Verse 1 0:10-0:31
Verse 2 0:31-0:53
Middle 8 0:53-1:04*
Verse 3 1:04-1:26
End of verse 1:42-1:48*
Middle 8 1:48-1:58*
Verse 4 1:58-2:25
Coda (intro) 2:25-2:35
Comments: In a Beatles first, the Middle 8 has two distinct sub-sections:
I really do.
And it's nice when you believe me. If you Leave me,
In a Beatles fourth (after  "From Me To You", and  "A Hard Day's Night", and  "The Night Before"), the solo section replaces the first half of a verse, with the end of that verse remaining as previously heard.
In the early Sixties, black was the most significant color for the Beatles. They wore black leather stage outfits, wrote the song  "Baby's in Black", and Paul even admitted "Our favorite colour was black" (Anthology, page 160)
But by the mid-Sixties, however, that changed. The spread of color television helped, and no doubt psychedelic drugs (which inhibit the brain's ability to process colors) played a role, as well.
In the late Sixties, though, that changed yet again - at least for John Lennon. Yoko Ono, whose color preference was white, gradually and progressively began to occupy Lennon's thoughts from their first meeting in November 1966 through the realization of their romantic relationship in 1968. She once created an exhibition of all white objects – including an all white chess set, accompanied by the instructions, “Play it for as long as you can remember who is your opponent and who is your own self.” Chess is a game of war – strategic war rather than violent war, but war nonetheless. Furthermore, white is a symbol of innocence (which is why brides wear white dresses) and in the context of war, white is the color of surrender – meaning the end of violent conflict. Yoko was a pacifist long before she ever met John Lennon, and in creating an all-white chess set, what she is doing is pointing out the fact that despite humanity's differences we are all human and we all share the same planet (just as all pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, kings, and queens all share the same chess board), and we all need to find a way to get along peacefully, i.e. without war or violence. She found a fresh way to illustrate the cliche "more alike than different" while simultaneously advancing her pacifist principles. How different, after all, would an all-black chess set be?
Yoko's influence on John Lennon - and particularly her affinity for the color white - is discernible as early as 1968. The album The Beatles is more commonly known as The White Album because of its stark plain white color with white embossed letters. How different would the album The Beatles be if its cover was plain black?
Moreover, there are a great many pictures of the couple wearing all-white clothing:
Additionally, Lennon owned an all-white piano - not coincidentally on which he composed the song "Imagine".
Beatles. The Beatles Anthology. Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA, 2000.
Formal structure of  "The Night Before":
Intro (ind/verse) 0:00-0:12*
Verse 1 0:12-0:34
Verse 2 0:34-0:57
Middle 8 0:57-1:08
Verse 3 1:08-1:31
End of verse 1:42-1:54*
Middle 8 1:54-2:04
Verse 4 2:04-2:27
Coda (verse) 2:27-2:36*
Comments: Another four-part verse structure (following  "A Hard Day's Night",  "Things We Said Today",  "I Don't Want to Spoil the Party",  "No Reply",  "Eight Days a Week", and  "I Need You") in which the third part differs substantially from the rest of the verse:
We said our goodbyes
Love was in your eyes,
Now today I find you have changed your mind,
Treat me like you did the night before.
The third sub-section not only uses different chords, it also adds vocal harmonies.
The solo, as is often the case, takes place of a verse. But in this instance, only the first half of the verse. The end of the verse heard between 1:52-1:54, then, is the third and fourth parts of what would have been Verse 4 had it been complete (i.e. had the first half not been replaced by the solo).
The introduction uses a chord progression unique to the entire song (D-F-G7-A7), but features similarities to the progression at the end of each verse (D-F-G).
The coda employs lyrics similar to those found at the end of each verse ("Treat me like you did the night before" become "Like the night before") and is the only other time an F chord is used (during those similar lyrics).
From 7:00-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 14, 2013, I will be delivering a lecture (free and open to the public) at Middlesex Music Academy (440 Main St, Middletown, Connecticut) titled "Yesterday, The World's Most Recorded Song". Indeed, the Guinness Book of World Records has a webpage confirming the title. In preparation for that presentation, I have been researching as many of these recordings as I can find.
The most thorough list of "Yesterday" covers that I have been able to find was compiled by Beatles cover versions collector Tom Weel, Beatles Unlimited, Netherlands. His website (http://members.home.nl/tomtom/Yesterday.html) lists over 750 versions. With his kind permission, I am posting his list along with an additional 175 or so that I have discovered.
The following list, then, contains every cover, recording, and commercial release that I have been able to find references to (if not find the actual audio recording). But it is hardly exhaustive - "only" 947 in all:
Key: Performer (title of the album, record company, year)
Formal structure of  "Yes It Is":
Intro (verse) 0:00-0:05
Verse 1 0:05-0:32
Verse 2 0:32-1:00
Middle 8 1:00-1:18
Verse 3 1:18-1:48
Middle 8 1:48-2:05
Verse 4 2:05-2:31
Coda (verse) 2:31-2:42*
Comments: The coda features a fascinating chord progression that functions similarly to a deceptive cadence, but technically it isn't one:
E G#7 A B7 E
Yes it is, it's true. Yes it is, it's true.
I III7 IV V7 I
The G#7 on the word "true" is completely unexpected, having never been heard or even hinted at previously in this song, and it delays the final resolution to tonic, just like a textbook deceptive cadence does. That being said, it lacks the V to vi motion that defines a deceptive cadence, thus it cannot be called one.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.