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Not a Coincidence: 50 Years since The White Album Came Out


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On 11/22/1963, 55 years ago yesterday:

-JFK died.

-C. S. Lewis died.

-Aldous Huxley died.

-Phil Spector put out A Christmas Gift for You, which became the iconic rock Xmas album, but not until 10 years later when it was re-released by Apple records.

-The Beatles released their second album, With the Beatles.  It was actually their first properly produced album, with mostly their songs.  In Europe it was an Event, record pre-sales and then sales.  They were reaching a crescendo that didn't end for nearly ten years.                    They were unknown in America at that time, but it was soon to change.  The Fabs were getting ready to go on stage for the roll-out concert for their new songs, when they received the news from the States.  Bummer, though that was not slang at the time.

-It was the Feast Day of St. Cecilia, patron of musicians and poets, and some say the blind.

 

All those were coincidences, though they sure look like cosmic coincidences.
 

But the release of The White Album on 11/22/68, also a Friday, was intentional.  MLK and RFK had just been gunned down the previous April and June. Vietnam was at its most insane.  Thesis: TWA is the template of clues about the fascist takeover of America, and it was the start of the Boom Generation shaking off the murderous shackles of the so-called Greatest and Silent Generations.

Edited by Roy Wieselquist
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As everyone here knows, Paul McCartney was one of the earliest "conspiracy theorists," in CIA parlance.  He read Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment in manuscript form and offered to compose a score for the documentary, gratis.  The producer and director turned him down because they wanted somber music and they thought the "cute" Beatle could only write cute teenybopper stuff.

Lennon, Harrison, and Starr followed Macca into the awareness that President Kennedy's slaughter was an obvious, massive plot.  As did the vast majority of the world outside of America, fairly quickly.

I was in Mrs. (Rose) Fitzgerald's fourth grade class in western Massachusetts when Jack was killed.  There was an indescribable pall over the town until "I Want to Hold Your Hand" came out after Xmas.  It was like flipping a light switch.  And then Ed Sullivan six weeks later.  Then the top five songs on the charts in the spring.  It was as if the Moptops were the replacement for out youthful, vigorous, fallen leader.  There had been so much hope, the New Frontier, that we were robbed of, and then it was back with the British Invasion.  It was as if the kids at the time were saying, maybe subconsciously, "We don't want no more of your goodness-murdering American s**t!"

But the atrocities kept coming.  No one could find Vietnam on a map in 1963, and well into 1964.  But everyone knew where it was in 1965.  The so-called Greatest (actually the Greediest) Generation and the so-called Silent (actually the Smirking, Sneering) Generation made sure of that.  The rest of the developed world was working on health care for all their citizens, while in America those in power, who had the most advanced medical for THEM, were busy robbing the wealth of the nation to flush it down the toilet of the military.  And, most importantly, they figured they would boss around the Boom Generation, actually the Beast of Burden Generation.  They figured they knew best, just like the Roman elders of the most fascist times, ruled over their younger generations as if they were their slaves.

My family moved to North Carolina in 1966 and there weren't many Beatle fanatics here.  We visited up North Xmas 1968 right after TWA came out.  The record stores in New England couldn't keep it in stock.  The kids Studied that album.  It was something new, nightmarish parody, extreme contrasts.

I'm just getting into this in depth.  It's hitting me like a ton of bricks.  I'll try to break down the order of songs on the album and what they mean.  It's not only about the murder of our leaders who are for the people and general decency.  It's about the murder of decency itself.  It's about a Theory of Generations and a cycle of 72 or 80 years, and trying to break that cycle.

Edited by Roy Wieselquist
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But the release of The White Album on 11/22/68, also a Friday, was intentional.  MLK and RFK had just been gunned down the previous April and June. Vietnam was at its most insane.  Thesis: TWA is the template of clues about the fascist takeover of America, and it was the start of the Boom Generation shaking off the murderous shackles of the so-called Greatest and Silent Generations.

You definitely have hit on the essence Roy, and probably something little appreciated on this forum. The JFKA to us who experienced it at a certain age was nothing less than the changing of the guard, away from the coolest thing you could imagine was the Rat Pack, and Dino singing "Every boy could find what I found in your arms" at 50.  The JFKA was the death knell for for that generations control of the arts, culture and general thought. Nobody at the time thought JFK was going to  save us  from self destruction and at a certain point, we albeit in our naivete, eventually decided we were going to go out and do it for ourselves.  

Roy, I do remember very vividly the times when the double album came out. I look forward to your breakdown, and this is by no means a review, but just a spattering of notes from a song writing/studio recording perspective about some of the things I liked, that I sent out in an email to some friends, just from some recordings from youtube..

There is a new remix commemorating 50 years since the release of the Beatles White Album by George Martins son Giles. I haven't heard all of the songs but some are very enhanced, bringing up tracks that you weren't aware of from the originals. And some I did wonder why they bothered. But in general some of the remixed tracks do filter out the clutter.from the originals..
Most of these below are outtakes thrown into the collection.Some end in mistakes,not as pristine or as good as the originals but in some cases more intimate and spontaneous.But of course fascinating to those who are curious how the Beatles developed their songs, and you do get an insight into their process with some of their comments to each other..There are other never released songs such as Los Paranoias and Sour Milk Sea that you might want to check out
.
While my Guitar Gently Weeps
Paul's a real live wire here, the early punk version. You don't just hurl something at a wall and bingo, you have a song. It's blistering, but not on your fingers.
There's another version of this on the collection you might check out, but I'm going with the stock 2018 mix.
Kind of like the "It's just Another Day" version of Obla di Obla da.
Julia- 2 rehearsals one with strumming, the second the finger picking version.
They add a track at the end.
Accoustic Dear Prudence.Intimate, Ehh for me  but At 4:00, John makes a commentary at the end about some woman in their Mahareshi days. If you like some of John's spontaneous raps, check out the 10 minute version of Revolution #18!
Stripped down earliest recorded version, with no background vocals of "Happiness is a Warm Gun"
Long, Long ,Long #44, starting with a little Monkee's riff.
I actually never cared if I ever heard this again, I've heard it so many times, but Paul off the cuff is pretty persuasive.Ok, still a bit long on his own.
Sexy Sadie, the vocal mix sounds pretty good!
 
 

 

Edited by Kirk Gallaway
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17 hours ago, Roy Wieselquist said:

My family moved to North Carolina in 1966 and there weren't many Beatle fanatics here.  We visited up North Xmas 1968 right after TWA came out.  The record stores in New England couldn't keep it in stock.  The kids Studied that album.  It was something new, nightmarish parody, extreme contrasts.

I'm just getting into this in depth.  It's hitting me like a ton of bricks.  I'll try to break down the order of songs on the album and what they mean.  It's not only about the murder of our leaders who are for the people and general decency.  It's about the murder of decency itself.  It's about a Theory of Generations and a cycle of 72 or 80 years, and trying to break that cycle.

There is a link below to a good White Album site.  In particular, open up each of the sub-tabs under the Songs tab.  Some useful facts and Beatles quotes are within.  What the blogger lacks in critical polish he makes up for with fresh observations and striking research.

One of the things about the White Album is the number of songs that are parodies of non-rock songs or established rock genres; it's a small revelation, for instance, the way this blogger sees the cliched, over-the-top lyrics of Yer Blues as a parody of the British Heavy Blues genre that ended up invested with Lennon's own screaming pain.

The White Album shows a band struggling to find its future after managerial loss, religious disillusionment, multiple creative influences (especially Dylan) and changing musical tastes.  If the result drags in the assassination culture of the 1960s. we can't be surprised.  I'm not sure, though, that one can establish a universal theory of what the album is "about," thematically, since one will find the kitchen sink tossed in also.  But I'm looking forward to your thesis.

"Y'know, I listen to the White Album and go, 'We should have had less of this and more of that,' just like the critics do.  But, at the end of the day, it's the bloody Beatles' White Album.  Shut up."  -- My favorite McCartney quote, paraphrased.

https://www.thewhitealbumproject.com/

 

Edited by David Andrews
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Ron B., Kirk G., David A., thank you so much for those links/sources.  I don't believe I've seen them before, and I'm a major lurker on Beatles websites, minor poster on the Beatles Bible.  The folks here on EF are so helpful.  It's amazing, heartwarming.

The first thing about The White Album (TWA) is that it is a Satire/Parody of America.  A loving parody, but satire nonetheless.

Jonathan Swift said "Satire is the last refuge of a pure heart."  When people asked him why he chose to write mockery/satire, he said, "How can I NOT."  Desperate times call for desperate lyrics.

All aficionados of TWA remark about the musical parody of it; e. g., "Back in the USSR = sendup of the Beach Boys and Chuck Berry.  But few note the political and social ridicule of America itself.  And The States were the main muse of their musical inspiration, especially the black artists.  They adored the U. S. of A., and why not?  We made them rich, along with a few hundred of their employees.  TWA is out of love, sadness, concern.  But it's as hard as a hob-nail.  No more Mr. Nice Guy.

That great Beatles Bible philosopher, Duckrabbit, nailed it thus --

* "Parody with a hard edge of disturbing and mysterious vibes"

* "hilarious" (humor is disarming)

* "...many intellectual/Velvet Underground/Mothers of Invention/left political people embraced TWA enthusiastically where the Beatles would not have grabbed them before."

I'm somewhat loath to go through the album song by song, list-like, explaining this historical treatise, The White Album.  But actually there is an order to it, so here goes, as soon as I can type it. (next)

Edited by Roy Wieselquist
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Not since Aesop's Fables and Reynard the Fox have beasts, birds, and pets shared and commingled their selves with ours so completely and revealingly.

Jonathan Cott wrote this in the tenth anniversary issue of Rolling Stone and it  is about all that needs to be said about the White Album.

Remember a scientific approach to understanding poetry, in which a work of art is rationally taken apart much as one dissects a frog, only eviscerates it and makes it something less — and other — than what it is. D.T. Suzuki recognized the limitations of science in this respect, saying, “The scientific way kills, murders the object and by dissecting the corpse and putting the parts together again tries to reproduce the original living body, which is really a deed of impossibility.” 

save  yourself some work and save us from the "treatise" Just listen

 

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The White Album is infuriating because you want to cut it shorter, but you still can't come up with fewer than three sides.  Even some of your least favorite repeat listening has become cultural staples, thanks to Beatle fame and the album-oriented FM radio of the past (remember that?)  You start feeling guilty when you try to cut it on tape or CD-R.  But how many times can you listen to Bungalow Bill, the least valuable souvenir of a passage to India?  Apparently, forever.

Edited by David Andrews
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6 minutes ago, Ron Bulman said:

Revolution No. 9 is a movie waiting to be cut to the soundtrack.

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4 hours ago, Ron Bulman said:

Ron, for sure that's what "While My Guitar..." is about.

"love there that's sleeping" dormant, gone, for all purposes dead.

"floor...needs sweeping" lazy slackers can't take care of even the simplest tasks

"how someone controlled you"  land of the greed, home of the slave, and we think we're so independent.

"they bought and sold you"  America is a bunch of whores of the Military Complex

"you were diverted"  from common decency; "perverted too"  'nuff said, what a shame; "inverted" i. e., reversed from our original goal of freedom and justice; "no one alerted you" = we're such dumb sob's that we have to be warned about the most simple, obvious things like a retarded child.  "America, don't stick your hand in the fire."  (wage an unnecessary war that will bankrupt us)

Supposedly, Harrison randomly opened a book and put his finger on the words "gently weeps", then used the I Ching from there.

 

Ron, that is a most beautiful version of Gently Weeps.  All acoustic, what George Martin put on Anthology 3.  I don't believe I'd seen that video before of the chick dancing and letters falling all over the place.  Very effective.

Here's a knock-out version, an ear-worm in a good way:

Prince, Tom Petty, Steve Winwood, Jeff Lynne and others -- "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - YouTube

Jeff Lynne (ELO and other groups) may be the only equal of McCartney in vocal history.  Prince hits some licks that are very Hendrix-like.

Edited by Roy Wieselquist
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                                                                       INTRO

Point 1: The White Album (TWA) had more great musicians than any other original record probably ever had or will have. 

Nicky Hopkins.  Quick trivia question: What keyboardist played on the most rock albums?  Nicky Hopkins.  His biggest love was Quicksilver Messenger Service.  The quintessential studio man broke his rule of not touring to go out with QMS.  He played on records by the Rolling Stones, Beach Boys, Kinks, Who, Jefferson Airplane, all The Beatles in their solo careers, Jeff Beck, Steve Miller, Dusty Springfield, Ella Fitzgerald, Carly Simon, Peter Frampton, Nils Lofgren, Rod Stewart, to name a few.

Eric Clapton.  Heard of him? A funny observation of the Four: they were on their best behavior when outsiders were in the studio.  No hurt feelings about McCartney playing the taskmaster.

Jackie Lomax, maybe a greater producer than musician.  Good bud of Harrison's.

Billy Preston, organ specialist.  George Martin.  The Mike Sammes Singers ("Goodnight").  Friends on many odd sound effects and vocals.

36 classical, jazz, studio musicians -- England's premiere instrumentalists.

 

Point 2: The above helped them rush the album to completion.  Recording began on 5/29/68 (JFK's birthday) with "Revolution" and ended 10/13 with "Julia".  There was a major problem when the new Apple went from 4-track recording to 8- track, something about incompatible mixing boards, but they half solved the problem in time.  Final mixing was 10/18/68, Lee Oswald's birthday.  The final order of the songs was determined in a mammoth 24-hour session on 10/20 with only McCartney, Lennon, and George Martin.  Just in time for a release date of 11/22/68.

I think TWA was McCartney's soundtrack of what happened to America when John Fitzgerald Kennedy was gunned down in a most horrible fashion as the result of a most obvious, massive conspiracy.  He had been turned down for the score to the documentary of Mark Lane's Rush to Judgment.  It had been mulling around in his head ever since, and this was it, PM's Treatise on the American Coup d'Etat.

(Next: explication of Side One)

Edited by Roy Wieselquist
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Apple re-released Spector’s album in 1972.

              

DYLAN: I do know what my songs are about.

 

PLAYBOY: And what’s that?

 

PLAYBOY: Oh and, some are about four minutes, some are about five, and some, believe it or not, are about twelve.

 

Sorry, but I just don’t see any template for a coup d’etat in the album. Neither do I see where it’s about “the murder of our leaders who are for the people and general decency.” The same goes of for it being “about the murder of decency itself.” Ditto for it being about a Theory of Generations and a cycle of 72 or 80 years, and trying to break that cycle.”

 

The only person I know of who “studied” the album to that depth was Charles Manson, and I didn't see any race war in the album either.

The following is only sort of partly accurate: “Supposedly, Harrison randomly opened a book and put his finger on the words "gently weeps", then used the I Ching from there.”

George Harrison wrote "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" after his return from India, where the Beatles had been studying Transcendental Meditation under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi during the spring of 1968. Inspiration for the song came to him when he was visiting his parents in Warrington, Cheshire, and he began reading the I Ching, or "The Book of Changes".  As Harrison put it, "[the book] seemed to me to be based on the Eastern concept that everything is relative to everything else, as opposed to the Western view that things are merely coincidental." Embracing this idea of relativism, he committed to writing a song based on the first words he saw upon opening a book, which happened to be "gently weeps.” (Said book was not the I Ching.) Harrison continued to work on the lyrics after this initial writing session.

 

In the following examples, I think you try too hard to mine meaning from the songs on the album and, as a result, your arguments do not hold water because they really aren’t in the song but are merely constructs of your own mind. In addition, the lyrics are stretched constructs that exist only in your own mind and not in the work itself

·      “love there that's sleeping" dormant, gone, for all purposes dead.

·      "floor...needs sweeping" lazy slackers can't take care of even the simplest tasks

·      "how someone controlled you"  land of the greed, home of the slave, and we think we're so independent.

·      "they bought and sold you"  America is a bunch of whores of the Military Complex

·      "you were diverted"  from common decency; "perverted too"  'nuff said, what a shame; "inverted" i. e., reversed from our original goal of freedom and justice; "no one alerted you" = we're such dumb sob's that we have to be warned about the most simple, obvious things like a retarded child.  "America, don't stick your hand in the fire."  (wage an unnecessary war that will bankrupt us)

You are trying too hard in a way that will never allow you to succeed in understanding poetry.

 

To see an excellent example of what I am talking about see William Dowling’s brilliant essay "Ripple": A Minor Excursus” at http://artsites.ucsc.edu/GDead/agdl/dowling.html BTW all those musicians came close to equaling one Jerry Garcia.  Just my opinion. Dark Star on Live Dead says it all.

Peace and Happy Trails.

Remember, poetry is not a puzzle to bone solved like some parlor trick

 

Edited by Martin Blank
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