Wednesday, December 16, 2009

B is for "The Beatles"

The legendary Tom Petty (The famous musician Tom Petty, not the Tom Petty I went to school with who was a pothead. Well, I’m guessing both Tom Petty’s have had their fair share of the herb, but that’s not the point . . .) recently said that one amazing thing about music is “the way it enters people’s worlds to become part of the soundtrack to their lives.” One indelible piece of the western world’s soundtrack for the past forty years is an album called “The Beatles,” most commonly referred to as simply the "White Album.”

The White Album is in many ways the defining album of the greatest band of all time. As a lifetime Beatles fanatic, I have always been bothered by one fact: It’s too long. The most famous double album of all time never should have been. In fact, their producer George Martin begged the band multiple times to cut the album in half, but he never won the debate.

Before I go another word further, let’s have a quick pop quiz. Have you listened to the White Album? If you just answered “no,” go listen to the album. Really, stop reading. No, I’m serious, go find the album. I’m waiting. . . . What? You’re still here? Okay, you can stay, but come on! You really should have listened to the album by now. While I’m here on my soapbox, my favorite Beatles album is “Rubber Soul.” Just so you know.

The fact that the White Album became a double album is in my opinion the biggest sign that the band was headed for a breakup. It is in many ways indulgent, scattered, and excessive (or as critics call it, “eclectic”). The band was no longer one unit, but four masterful musicians seemingly stuck in a marriage to appease the kids (their fans). It’s almost as if none of the bandmates dared veto each other’s songs, so they said, “Ah, heck with it, let’s keep them all.” Except (as you’ll see in a bit) they still managed to leave out some of the best songs.

Ever done a group project in school with people you only kind of know? Remember how you accepted someone else’s bad idea because you didn’t know them all that well, you didn’t want to hurt their feelings, and besides, maybe a ‘B’ grade isn’t that bad? Well, that’s fine and all with a bunch of semi-strangers, but they were THE BEATLES. They shared the same room in a yellow submarine for an entire decade. My point? The White Album is amazing, but it is absolutely flawed. Having said that, somehow those flaws have made the album that much more endearing (This is one point where the critics are actually right. Stupid critics.). But still, it’s too long.

Therefore, I have condensed the album to one record (or disc, since I did it on my iTunes). Below is the list. Keep in mind that I am not trying to say these songs are the best, and my personal preferences are obviously displayed, but it is what it is.

One last thing. There are three songs written during the same period that this album was put together that didn’t make the album. Those songs? “Revolution” (The better version:, “Hey Jude,” and “The Long and Winding Road.” Wow. They included “Piggies” and left out these songs? Dumbfounding. Anyway, pretend you never heard the album (Some of you won’t even have to do that. Unbelievable.), and pretend the three songs above weren’t left out. Now look over the following condensed list and answer one question: Is this is the undisputed greatest album of all-time? My answer to this question is found in the following deep thought from Jack Handy. “What makes a perfect stranger dive headfirst into a freezing cold river to save a baby made of solid gold? Maybe we’ll never know.”

1) Back In The U.S.S.R.
2) Mother Nature’s Son
3) Birthday
4) Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey
5) Blackbird
6) I’m So Tired
7) The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
8) Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
9) While My Guitar Gently Weeps
10) Revolution
11) Happiness Is A Warm Gun
12) Hey Jude
13) Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?
14) I Will
15) The Long And Winding Road

Today’s recommendation: White Album. My version.


  1. Wow- not being a huge Beatles Fan, although being a member of the Bryson fan club, I'd have to say I learned something from your blog. Then I looked up more info on line. Sounds like they may have all indulged in that "herb" you aforementioned (or perhaps something even stronger). I have to admit that I've never even heard of some of those songs. What is the best site to "listen" to excerpts from songs? Thanks for enlightening me.

  2. A comment to please you Bryson.

  3. This way The White Album is turned into more or less a solo album by Paul. Left Julia out in favor of Ob-la-di Ob-la-da? Shame on you.

    It was anyway custom not to put singles on a Beatles album, just as Day Tripper/We can Work it out weren't on Rubber Soul, Paperback Writer/Rain weren't on Revolver, and Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane weren't on Sergeant Pepper. You had better included Child of Nature (later turned into Jealous Guy) and Junk, which had been candidates for The White Album as well.