What George Harrison Thought Was Wrong with the Beatles’ ‘White Album’
On the face of it, The White Album (1968) looked great for George Harrison. Compared to Sgt. Pepper’s, on which George had only one song, The Beatles double-album release the following year featured a huge crop of tracks by the band’s lead guitarist (four altogether).
However, that’s not to say the release was dominated by George. Far from it, in fact — John Lennon and Paul McCartney each had over 10 songs on the two LPs. All in all, it was the sort of record that gets called “sprawling” for good reason.
George Martin, the Parlophone chief who produced almost every Beatles album, wanted the album to be much shorter. However, The Beatles’ top songwriters (John and Paul) didn’t seem prepared to cede any ground.
George said the ‘White Album’ was just too long — and that he didn’t listen to it
In 1969, several months after the release of The White Album, George told an interviewer he thought the record was a bit of overkill. “I think in a way it was a mistake doing four sides,” he said. “Because first of all, it’s too big for people to really get into it. For reviewers and also the public.”
Indeed, by the end of the first side, listeners had waded through through a rocking satire (“Back in the USSR“), an emotional Lennon ballad (“Dear Prudence“), a one-man McCartney romp (“Wild Honey Pie”), and a Harrison classic with Eric Clapton on lead guitar (“While My Guitar Gently Weeps”).
Then it started all over again on Side Two, which featured another nine songs. From there, you were only halfway done. You still had to get through “Sexy Sadie” before hearing the band blow the doors off with the drug-fueled “Helter Skelter.” George knew the task required endurance.
“Maybe now people have bought it, and if they’ve really listened to it since it was out, then you know, they’ll all have their own favorites,” he said. ” I find it heavy to listen to myself. In fact, I don’t listen to it myself.”
George did like how the ‘White Album’ showcased different musical styles
While he had valid criticisms of The White Album, George also had positive things to say about the release. “[Here’s] the great thing about it: There was all different types of music and types of songs,” he said. That’s impossible to to argue with.
No other band would release finger-picked ballads like “Julia” alongside swooning orchestral numbers like “Good Night” and experimental tracks like “Revolution 9.” And George’s “Long, Long, Long,” addressed to God, stands in a category of its own.
That said, George spoke of not getting to the end of Side Three (where “Long, Long, Long” fell in) very often. “I listen to mainly Side One, which I like very much,” he said. “With ‘Glass Onion.’ And I like ‘(Happiness Is A) Warm Gun.'”