The Beatles

'White Album' at 50

Saturday 10th November 2018

Photo session. Thomson House, London. 28 July 1968. © Apple Corps Ltd.

On 22nd November 1968, The Beatles released their eagerly awaited 9th studio album, eponymously titled ‘The Beatles’ it would soon become better known simply as the ‘White Album’.

On the 9th November 2018, to celebrate its 50th anniversary, a set of lavishly presented anniversary editions will be released. The expanded album will feature 30 tracks, newly mixed by Giles Martin (son of original producer George) and Sam Okell, along with 27 early acoustic demos (the widely bootlegged Esher Demos) and 50 session tracks, many of which are previously unreleased.

The new release follows on from the success of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Anniversary editions released in 2017 and further details on them can be found towards the end of the article.

The Beatles. 1968. Photos by John Kelly / © Apple Corps Ltd.

“We had left Sgt. Pepper’s band to play in his sunny Elysian Fields and were now striding out in new directions without a map.”
- Paul McCartney

Writing of the album began with the Beatles exalted sojourn to India to study Transcendental Meditation at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s ashram in Rishikesh.

This journey marked the last time The Beatles would travel together, and it has been noted that a certain symmetry exists between it and their first trip together to Hamburg in Germany. While The Beatles' well documented time in Hamburg helped them form their identity and created a solid bedrock for the impending success and fame that would soon follow, their trip to India in contrast, ended rather unceremoniously and marked the beginning of The Beatles' final chapter.

Much has been made about the strained relationships between the band members and those close to them during the recording of the White Album - understandable, given the long hours, close quarters and numerous takes during the recording sessions which lasted a mammoth 20 weeks. This included John’s burgeoning relationship with Yoko, who was present during recording. Her presence went against the band's unwritten rule of no wives or girlfriends in the studio, something they had all adhered to throughout the career up till this point. Engineer Geoff Emerick, who had worked on everything with them since 1966’s ‘Revolver’ abandoned the recording sessions (although he would return to record ‘Let It Be’). An exhausted George Martin took a three week holiday during recording. Even Ringo Starr took eleven days off only to return to find his drum kit adorned with flowers from his bandmates.

Despite all this, the session recordings featured in the anniversary editions still "reveal the closeness, camaraderie, and collaborative strengths within the band, as well as with George Martin".

Upon returning from India, The Beatles got together at George Harrison’s house in Esher where they recorded 27 demos. These became known as the Esher demos. Well sought after and highly bootlegged the recordings have never been officially released in their entirety. All 27 tracks will be included in the deluxe and super deluxe editions.

The final album features some of the Beatles finest moments, ‘Don’t Pass Me By’ marked Ringo Starr’s first solo writing credit and George Harrison's ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ remains a Beatles masterpiece.

The healthy competition that existed between John and Paul, coupled with George's development as a songwriter and Ringo’s feelings of marginalisation did lead to some conflict between the group throughout the recording process, but it was also the friction that kindled them to create some of their most enduring work.

The Beatles album cover. © Apple Corps Ltd.

The White Album's minimalist artwork was intended as a stark contrast to Peter Blake's busy and colourful design for Sgt Pepper's. It was designed by Richard Hamilton, a highly influential British artist who, like Blake, is considered one of the forebears of the Pop Art movement.

Early copies of the album were individually numbered at Hamilton's suggestion. Later pressings didn't feature the serial number stamp and low numbered versions became collector's items. In fact, Ringo Starr's personal copy stamped 'No.0000001' sold at auction in 2015 for a world record $790,000 - with proceeds going towards his charity the Lotus Foundation. The new editions super deluxe packages have resurrected this feature and have also been individually numbered in the same manner.

Giles Martin and Sam Okell discuss remixing the album

The Beatles 'White Album' - Unboxing the Anniversary Releases

Super Deluxe Edition:
The comprehensive, individually numbered 7-disc and digital audio collections feature:
CDs 1 & 2: The Beatles (‘White Album’) 2018 stereo album mix
CD3: Esher Demos
- Esher Demo tracks 1 through 19 sequenced in order of the finished song’s placement on ‘The White Album.’ Tracks 20-27 were not included on the album.
CDs 4, 5 & 6: Sessions - 50 additional recordings, most previously unreleased, from ‘White Album’ studio sessions; all newly mixed from the four-track and eight-track session tapes, sequenced in order of their recording start dates.

- 2018 album mix in high resolution PCM stereo
- 2018 DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 album mix
- 2018 Dolby True HD 5.1 album mix
- 2018 direct transfer of the album’s original mono mix

All housed in a slip-sleeved 164-page hardbound book, with pull-out reproductions of the original album’s four glossy colour portrait photographs of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, as well as the album’s large fold-out poster with a photo collage on one side and lyrics on the other. The beautiful book is illustrated with rare photographs, reproductions of handwritten and notated lyrics, previously unpublished photos of recording sheets and tape boxes and reproduced original ‘White Album’ print ads. 

4LP -or- 3CD Deluxe Edition:
The BEATLES (‘White Album’) 2018 stereo album mix + Esher Demos.
The 3CD; 180-gram 4LP vinyl box set (limited edition); and digital audio collections pair the 2018 stereo album mix with the 27 Esher Demos.

The Deluxe 3CD is presented in an embossed digipak with the fold-out poster and portrait photos, plus a 24-page booklet abridged from the Super Deluxe book. Presented in a lift-top box with a four-page booklet, the limited edition Deluxe 4LP vinyl set presents the 2LP album in a faithful, embossed reproduction of its original gatefold sleeve with the fold-out poster and portrait photos, paired with the 2LP Esher Demos in an embossed gatefold sleeve.

Standard 2LP Edition:
The BEATLES (‘White Album’) 2018 stereo mix 180-gram 2LP vinyl in gatefold sleeve with faithfully replicated original artwork

Tracklist for the 6CD Super Deluxe edition:

CD 1: The Beatles (‘White Album’) 2018 Stereo Mix
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Dear Prudence
Glass Onion
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Wild Honey Pie
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness is a Warm Gun
Martha My Dear
I’m so tired
Rocky Raccoon
Don’t Pass Me By
Why don’t we do it in the road?
I Will

CD 2: The Beatles (‘White Album’) 2018 Stereo Mix
Yer Blues
Mother Nature’s Son
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide
Except Me and My Monkey
Sexy Sadie
Helter Skelter
Long, Long, Long
Revolution I
Honey Pie
Savoy Truffle
Cry Baby Cry
Revolution 9
Good Night

CD 3: Esher Demos
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Dear Prudence
Glass Onion
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Happiness is a Warm Gun
I’m so tired
Rocky Raccoon
Yer Blues
Mother Nature’s Son
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide
Except Me and My Monkey
Sexy Sadie
Honey Pie
Cry Baby Cry
Sour Milk Sea
Child of Nature
Mean Mr. Mustard
Polythene Pam
Not Guilty
What’s the New Mary Jane

CD 4: Sessions
Revolution I (Take 18)
A Beginning (Take 4) / Don’t Pass Me By (Take 7)
Blackbird (Take 28)
Everybody’s Got Something to Hide
Except Me and My Monkey (Unnumbered rehearsal)
Good Night (Unnumbered rehearsal)
Good Night (Take 10 with a guitar part from Take 5)
Good Night (Take 22)
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da (Take 3)
Revolution (Unnumbered rehearsal)
Revolution (Take 14 – Instrumental backing track)
Cry Baby Cry (Unnumbered rehearsal)
Helter Skelter (First version – Take 2)

CD 5: Sessions
Sexy Sadie (Take 3)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Acoustic version – Take 2)
Hey Jude (Take 1)
St. Louis Blues (Studio jam)
Not Guilty (Take 102)
Mother Nature’s Son (Take 15)
Yer Blues (Take 5 with guide vocal)
What’s the New Mary Jane (Take 1)
Rocky Raccoon (Take 8)
Back in the U.S.S.R. (Take 5 – Instrumental backing track)
Dear Prudence (Vocal, guitar & drums)
Let It Be (Unnumbered rehearsal)
While My Guitar Gently Weeps (Third version – Take 27)
(You’re so Square) Baby, I Don’t Care (Studio jam)
Helter Skelter (Second version – Take 17)
Glass Onion (Take 10)

CD 6: Sessions
I Will (Take 13)
Blue Moon (Studio jam)
I Will (Take 29)
Step Inside Love (Studio jam)
Los Paranoias (Studio jam)
Can You Take Me Back? (Take 1)
Birthday (Take 2 – Instrumental backing track)
Piggies (Take 12 – Instrumental backing track)
Happiness is a Warm Gun (Take 19)
Honey Pie (Instrumental backing track)
Savoy Truffle (Instrumental backing track)
Martha My Dear (Without brass and strings)
Long, Long, Long (Take 44)
I’m so tired (Take 7)
I’m so tired (Take 14)
The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill (Take 2)
Why don’t we do it in the road? (Take 5)
Julia (Two rehearsals)
The Inner Light (Take 6 – Instrumental backing track)
Lady Madonna (Take 2 – Piano and drums)
Lady Madonna (Backing vocals from take 3)
Across the Universe (Take 6) 

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