500 Greatest Albums of All Time

10

The Beatles, 'The White Album'

Capitol, 1968

They wrote the songs while on retreat with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India, taking a break from the celebrity whirl. As John Lennon later said, "We sat in the mountains eating lousy vegetarian food and writing all these songs." They came back with more great tunes than they could fit on a single LP, and competed fiercely during the sessions. "I remember having three studios operating at the same time," George Harrison recalled. "Paul was doing some overdubs in one, John was in another, and I was recording some horns or something in a third." The sessions became so tense that Ringo Starr quit the band in frustration for two weeks. Yet the creative tension resulted in one of the most intense and adventurous rock albums ever made. Lennon pursued his hard-edged vision into the cynical wit of "Sexy Sadie" and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," but also infused "Julia" and "Dear Prudence" with childlike yearning. Paul McCartney's playful pop energy came through on his inversion of Chuck Berry's American values, "Back in the U.S.S.R.," and he showed off his raucous side in "Helter Skelter." Harrison's spiritual yearning led him to "Long, Long, Long" and "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," featuring a guest guitar solo from Eric Clapton. Even Starr contributed his first original, the country-tinged "Don't Pass Me By." "I think it was a very good album," said McCartney. "It stood up, but it wasn't a pleasant one to make."

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