The Beatles, also known as the White Album, is the ninth studio album by English rock group the Beatles, released on 22 November 1968. A double album, its plain white sleeve has no graphics or text other than the band's name embossed, which was intended as a direct contrast to the vivid cover artwork of the band's earlier Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Although no singles were issued from The Beatles in Britain and the United States, the songs "Hey Jude" and "Revolution" originated from the same recording sessions and were issued on a single in August 1968. The album's songs range in style from British blues and ska to tracks influenced by Chuck Berry and by Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Most of the songs on the album were written during March and April 1968 at a Transcendental Meditation course in Rishikesh, India. The group returned to EMI Studios in May to commence recording sessions that lasted through to October. During these sessions, arguments broke out among the Beatles, and witnesses in the studio saw band members quarrel over creative differences. Another divisive element was caused by the constant presence of John Lennon's new partner, Yoko Ono, whose attendance at the sessions broke with the Beatles' policy regarding wives and girlfriends. After a series of problems, including producer George Martin taking a sudden leave of absence and engineer Geoff Emerick quitting, Ringo Starr left the band briefly in August. The same tensions continued throughout the following year, leading to the eventual break-up of the Beatles in April 1970.
On release, The Beatles received favourable reviews from the majority of music critics. Other commentators found its satirical songs unimportant and apolitical amid the turbulent political and social climate of 1968. The band and Martin have since debated whether the group should have released a single album instead. Nonetheless, The Beatles reached number one on the charts in both the United Kingdom and the United States and has since been viewed by some critics as one of the greatest albums of all time.
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After the show came the reality. Fractured, dislocated and expansive, The Beatles - housed in its legendary plain white, subtly embossed sleeve - came out in November 1968. It arrived at a time when both the group and the world had changed irrevocably: the former since their first forays into fame and fortune, the latter scarred by the ongoing war in Vietnam and the assassination of Martin Luther King, to touch upon the tip of the iceberg.
From the inside looking out, maybe everything wasn't going to be alright, despite John Lennon's assurances on the rousing Revolution 1, just one of many highlights on what is perhaps The Beatles' most ambitious studio album.
After writing dozens of songs while meditating in India in the spring, the group returned to Abbey Road - and Trident, in Soho - to record over 30 tracks of new material up until the summer. When you think of how unrest had started to simmer within the group's ranks - Yoko Ono arriving in the studio; Apple forming; Ringo leaving and then returning - and how broad the album's palette of sounds (blue beat, heavy metal, folk and doo-wop, to name a few), The Beatles still manages to hang together like few other works.
The Lennon and Paul McCartney stereotypes are at once reinforced, yet also dismissed - few would have thought Good Night was the product of Lennon's pen, and likewise Helter Skelter didn't immediately scream McCartney. Away from such showpieces, it's the doodles that delight - George Harrison's Savoy Truffle is a fine counterweight to While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey balances the gravitas of Revolution 1.
Given that it also contains Lennon, Ono and Harrison's nine-minute noise collage Revolution 9 and McCartney's genuinely pointless Wild Honey Pie, it's little wonder that producer George Martin always opined that The Beatles could have made a splendid single album. That said, without such variety on offer, the compiling of one's own version wouldn't be the national pastime it is today.