This week on #askNat I’m responding to a message from Joe D. in North Providence, R.I. who writes:
In several interviews, Beatles producer George Martin has always been of the opinion that The Beatles’ “White” Album” should have been made into one “great” LP instead of being released as a double album. Nat, has George Martin ever provided a list of the 14 or 15 songs he felt should have comprised a single LP version of “The White Album?”
Good question Joe! And yes, you are quite correct. George Martin had said to the other Beatles at the time the “White Album” was being recorded that he was against the idea of a double album and suggested that instead they make a very, very good single album by reducing the number of songs to only feature their stronger work. Martin confirms this attitude in an interview seen on The Beatles Anthology DVD set. But has anyone cornered our legendary Beatles producer into a specific track listing that he would have compiled? The answer to my knowledge is no.
We should also keep in mind that in 1968, double albums of studio recordings by rock groups were not a very common thing and The Beatles had never released one. In fact the earliest double album that would be classified even remotely as rock would be Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde which had only been released two years earlier. A question may have risen as to how so much material presented together would be received and how would it sell given the additional cost.
In the same part of the Anthology film covering the “White Album” period, George Harrison says that some of the tracks could have been elbowed as b-sides (for singles) but “there was a lot of ego in that band.” He then digresses to being in favor of the double album for the sake of clearing out the backlog of songs that the group had written at the time. Ringo Starr said that in hindsight he felt it should have been two separate albums named The White Album and The Whiter Album citing that it’s a lot of information on a double album. Paul McCartney, alternatively sticks by the album as a double, saying it was fine as it was and that the fact that it has so much on it is one of the things that’s cool about it. To quote Paul specifically he says, “It’s great, it sold, it’s the bloody Beatles ‘White Album’ – shut up!”
Personally, I agree with Paul and am a big fan of “The White Album” just the way it is. That is why I will not speculate on possible track listings if it would have been shortened. I have seen a few interesting web sites that do just that while providing some interesting considerations justifying their choices (see here, here or here). In the end, however, shortening means leaving tracks out, and I feel like all the songs on it have their own place and purpose.
Feel free to provide your own opinion, and if you like, your own shortened track listing of 14 or so songs that would have made it a better album. The comments section is just below.
Thanks again Joe for another good question to #askNat.
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Here are some links to Amazon to read more or purchase some of the music related to this post:
1) The White Album – 2009 2-CD remaster of the original 1968 double stereo 30-track classic Apple album (in it’s entirety!).
2) Anthology 3 – 1996 2-CD collection of alternates from The Beatles final years 1968-1969, including alternate takes of many tracks from “The White Album.”
3) The Beatles Anthology – 2003 5-DVD remaster of 1995/96 original documentary of The Beatles in their own words with a plethora of exclusive material in the way of interviews, live performances and studio out-takes, etc.