It was 46 years ago today (May 30th, 1968) that the Beatles began recording their 30-song self-titled double album, which is commonly known as "The White Album."
The album's first session was for John Lennon's "Revolution 1," which was recorded in London at EMI's Studio Two, with the session stretching from 2:30 p.m. to 2:40 a.m. the next day. It was the group's first studio work since returning from Rishikesh, India after an extended stay to study transcendental meditation under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. In 2009 a near-10-minute version of "Revolution 1" made the rounds of underground collectors -- the majority of which stems from the May 30th session.
Most of the songs from "The White Album" were written while the group was in India, including "Back In The U.S.S.R.," "Yer Blues," "I Will," "The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill," "Rocky Raccoon," "I'm So Tired," "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," "Dear Prudence," "Mother Nature's Son," and Lennon's thinly-veiled attack on the Maharishi, titled "Sexy Sadie."
Other highlights on the album included "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Julia," "Helter Skelter," "Glass Onion," "Martha My Dear," "Birthday," and Ringo Starr's first composition, the country-flavored "Don't Pass Me By.”
Several songs originally intended for the "White Album" turned up on later solo albums, such as "Junk" which Paul McCartney released on his 1970 solo debut McCartney, "Child Of Nature" which John Lennon rewrote as "Jealous Guy" for his 1971 album Imagine, "Not Guilty" which made its way onto George Harrison's 1979 self-titled album, and Harrison's "Circles" which finally saw release on his 1982 album Gone Troppo.
During The Beatles Anthology, George Harrison defended the group's decision to release a 30-song album: "But y'know, what do you do when you've got all them songs and you want to get rid of them so that you can do more songs? Y'know, there was a lot of ego in that band, and there was a lot of songs (on 'The White Album') that should have been elbowed, or maybe made into B-sides.” 15
The Beatles' "White Album" was released on November 22nd, 1968 and went on to top the charts for nine non-consecutive weeks beginning on December 28th.
Did you know?
"The White Album" holds the distinction of being the first album to feature the Beatles' wives -- or soon-to-be wives -- on the actual recordings: Yoko Ono sings a line on "The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill" and Yoko along with George Harrison's then-wife Pattie Boyd sings backup on "Birthday.”
The night that Linda McCartney -- then Linda Eastman -- moved into Paul McCartney's St. John's Wood townhouse, he came home in the early morning hours and played her a rough-mix acetate of "Happiness Is A Warm Gun.”
Throughout the years, a grand total of 12 of the songs recorded during "The White Album" sessions have been performed live by the former Beatles -- John Lennon performed "Yer Blues," Ringo Starr performed "Don't Pass Me By"; George Harrison performed "Piggies" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"; and Paul McCartney has performed "Back In The U.S.S.R," "Blackbird," "I Will," "Birthday," "Mother Nature's Son," "Helter Skelter," "Hey Jude" and "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da."