Friday, June 8, 2007

The Beatles, Side One

Listening to side one of my vinyl copy of the White Album, it really strikes me, that with the possible exception of the 2nd side of Abbey Road, I don't think that the Beatles ever had a single side of music as thrilling as this.

First of all, due to better recording techniques, the Beatles were able to fit many more minutes on a side during the White Album, and side one of the White Album has close to 25 minutes of music. And the group used that extra time to perfection, here, starting out with an exquisite challenge from Paul McCartney to the Beach Boys, "Back in the USSR," which both rocks and harmonizes to an extent perhaps only formerly reached by "Paperback Writer." Lennon follows with the dazzlingly pretty, "Dear Prudence," written for the shy, reclusive younger sister of Mia Farrow, who accompanied them to India to study with the Maharishi, and the baffling "Glass Onion," for all the Beatle fans into numerology. McCartney's "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" is perfect pop, while "Wild Honey Pie" is a throwaway, included to add a live feel to the album.

As we move towards the side's conclusion, Lennon again impresses sonically with the "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" and the intriguing "Happiness is a Warm Gun," both of which are parodies on American gun obsession. Sandwiched between these two is George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" featuring the Beatles with Eric Clapton performing a guitar solo that ranks right up there with "The End" from Abbey Road as the Beatles' most thrilling moment.

It is one amazing side of one amazing album (or two, since it was the Beatles' only double studio album), and not that much shorter in minutes than some of their entire early albums. Perhaps not so widely known is that The Beatles (the White Album) was the most successful record by the group selling almost twice as many vinyl discs as Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road, which were the highest selling albums overall by the group, but were single albums and only cost half as much.

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