The Beatles legendary self titled 1968 album is better known as The White Album for it’s purely white cover except for “The Beatles” in black print. As a double album it had four sides (two sides on each LP.) As the album was originally intended to be heard in this way I think it’s interesting to think of each of the four sides separately. That’s what this article is about. Each of those four sides. Not necessarily which one is the best and which one isn’t quite as great and so on but more just a look at the feeling that each of the four sides creates.
Side 1 of The White Album is truly breathtaking in my opinion. It’s hard to go wrong such fantastic songs. I think it may have the very best opening of any Beatles album (and that’s saying a lot) with the way “Back In The USSR” starts things off and then segues perfectly into “Dear Prudence.” And then you have the brilliance of “Glass Onion,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” & “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” While “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “Wild Honey Pie,” & “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill” are not among the band’s greatest songs, they definitely all have their charms and I wouldn’t want to hear The White Album without any of them. Well I may occassionally skip over “Bungalow Bill” but even that one (that I used to not like so much) has really grown on me.
Side 2 is the slow & quiet side of the album. Even the track that has a lot of energy “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” is done in a sort of subtle way. The other songs are either ridiculously beautiful like McCartney’s “Blackbird,” “I Will,” & “Martha My Dear” or somber like Lennon’s “I’m So Tired” & “Julia.” There’s also “Don’t Pass Me By” which I must admit is probably the worst song on the album (no offense Ringo!) but even that one has some charm to it. On the other hand, I’ve always been a big supporter of “Rocky Raccoon” despite the bad reputation it has among some.
Side 3 is the dirty rock n roll side with the pretty “Mother Nature’s Son” and the somber “Long, Long, Long” there for counterpoint to the rock n roll of “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey” and the heavy metal of “Helter Skelter” and Lennon’s version of the blues “Yer Blues.”
Side 4 features the alternative album version of the classic single “Revolution” along with the avante-garde lunacy of “Revolution 9.” Unlike many, I love that The Beatles included “Revolution 9” on the album. Sure it’s not the kind of track I can listen to often, but I find it quite fascinating in it’s own way, and I’ve really enjoyed the “trip” of listening to it on quite a few occasions. A big highlight of Side 4 for me is “Cry Baby Cry” which seems like one of The Beatles most overlooked songs (even by Lennon himself who seemed to dismiss it in interviews.) I love the “Can You Take Me Back…” bit at the end too.