FilmInstituteEventsIn November 1968, the plain white, subtly embossed sleeve of The Beatles double 30 track album entered the world. Its name was suitably and simply The White Album. Simple in style but not in nature, it is now known to be one of The Beatles most ambitious studio albums.
Arriving in one of the most tumultuous single years in history marked by the shocking assassinations of Martin Luther King and John F Kennedy, as well as the scarring ongoing war in Vietnam. It was the year that the groups world had changed immeasurably from their early days, and since their first forays into fame and fortune. They were set free to explore a world of opportunities both inside and outside the studios, bringing beautiful creativity to an otherwise grey time.
After a transcendental meditation practice in Rishijesh, India, during the Spring, The Beatles returned to Abbey Road with dozens of songs, ready to record new material up until the Summer. The 30 tracks inside the embellished sleeve found The Beatles embrace a more natural approach to production, rejecting the psychedelic sound they had mastered in 1967 and moving away from the intricately produced music and covering of Sgt Pepper.The experiences and memories of India were fully embodied in this album. The White album was a breadth of its material, with each track telling an incredibly different story and sound than the other, “we always tried to make every song different” said McCartney “because we figured, why write something like the last one? We’ve done that.. that’s why we had strange drum sounds using table tops of packing cases. We’d say to Ringo ‘We heard that snare on the last song" The White album later became the highest selling album by any artist in to ‘60s.1968 saw every channel on the desk pulled into mixing, the year Abbey Road acquired the 3M 8-track machine, which recorded ten of the thirty-two tracks, making the mixes more involved than ever before. While the use of phasing, varispeed and ADT fell off sharply in 1968, there was a move towards a purer sound which saw changes to the fender bass adding to the natural sound of the instruments. Paul would simultaneously play the fender jazz bass while one of The Beatles would play a fender bass VI, the bass link would be double tracked with two different basses. There is a distinct White Album signature bass sound that isn’t found on other albums. Ken Scott, who took over as The Beatle’s Balance Engineer, redefined his mic choices into a setup from which he rarely deviated. A combination of The Neuman U67 and DIT would be used on bass, KM56 on drums and KM56 on snare. Piggies, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Glass Onions and Rocky Racoon also see The Beatles played a 6 string fender bass rather than the 4 string they would usually play.
One of the most infamous tape-loops used by The Beatles was the loop of an unknown man repeating the word’s number 9. One of the countless loops used by John, George Harrison and Yoko which combined to form the extensive sound collection found in Revolution 9. The track also features loops of orchestral passages, football chants, a radio broadcast, the sound of children in a playground, serval manic Lennon vocal loops, a heavenly choir plus many more.Although the early sessions were harmonious with inspiration beaming, tensions in the group began to rise by the third month of recording. The group were coping with relationship changes and substance abuse as well as in the process of launching the multimedia business Apple Corps. Many of the recordings were carried out as solo efforts, with The Beatles singly occupying separate studios.
The final stage of mixing and sequencing the album saw The Beatles hold their first and only 24-hour session at Abbey Road’s Studio One, Two and Three as well as rooms 41 and 42. It was the last album to be mixed with both mono and stereo, which came to an end on the 18th October. The highly successful new album felt like a band recording together again. In subsequent years, the British Blues and Ska genres were said to be heavily influenced by this album, leading it to be critically acclaimed as one of the most significant albums of all time