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.
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.