It was 53 years ago today Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play

Here we are in the midst of the Pandemic.

It is a day to remember 53 years ago today in Europe the release of the long awaited Beatles album hit the record shelves. People lined up to grab copies. Parties were held. Critics waxed poetically and philosophically.  All with good reason. Sgt Pepper is one of the most listened to, scrutinized and revered albums of all time.
https://youtu.be/HCTunqv1Xt4

Following is the original New York Times Review

June 1, 1967 – Richard Goldstein

The Beatles spent an unprecedented four months and $100,000 on their new album, “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” (Capitol SMAS 2653, mono and stereo). Like fathers-to-be, they kept a close watch on each stage of its gestation. For they are no longer merely superstars. Hailed as progenitors of a Pop avant garde, they have been idolized as the most creative members of their generation. The pressure to create an album that is complex, profound and innovative must have been staggering. So they retired to the electric sanctity of their recording studio, dispensing with their adoring audience, and the shrieking inspiration it can provide.

 

The finished product reached the record racks last week; the Beatles had supervised even the album cover — a mind-blowing collage of famous and obscure people, plants and artifacts. The 12 new compositions in the album are as elaborately conceived as the cover. The sound is a pastiche of dissonance and lushness. The mood is mellow, even nostalgic. But, like the cover, the over-all effect is busy, hip and cluttered.

 

Like an over-attended child “Sergeant Pepper” is spoiled. It reeks of horns and harps, harmonica quartets, assorted animal noises and a 91-piece orchestra. On at least one cut, the Beatles are not heard at all instrumentally. Sometimes this elaborate musical propwork succeeds in projecting mood. The “Sergeant Pepper” theme is brassy and vaudevillian. “She’s Leaving Home,” a melodramatic domestic saga, flows on a cloud of heavenly strings. And, in what is becoming a Beatle tradition, George Harrison unveils his latest excursion into curry and karma, to the saucy accompaniment of three tambouras, a dilruba, a tabla, a sitar, a table harp, three cellos and eight violins.

Harrison’s song, “Within You and Without You,” is a good place to begin dissecting “Sergeant Pepper.” Though it is among the strongest cuts, its flaws are distressingly typical of the album as a whole. Compared with “Love You To” (Harrison’s contribution to “Revolver”), this melody shows an expanded consciousness of Indian ragas. Harrison’s voice, hovering midway between song and prayer chant, oozes over the melody like melted cheese. On sitar and tamboura, he achieves a remarkable Pop synthesis. Because his raga motifs are not mere embellishments but are imbedded into the very structure of the song, “Within You and Without You” appears seamless. It stretches, but fits.

What a pity, then, that Harrison’s lyrics are dismal and dull. “Love You To” exploded with a passionate sutra quality, but “Within You and Without You” resurrects the very cliches the Beatles helped bury: “With our love/We could save the world/If they only knew.” All the minor scales in the Orient wouldn’t make “Within You and Without You” profound.

The obsession with production, coupled with a surprising shoddiness in composition, permeates the entire album. There is nothing beautiful on “Sergeant Pepper.” Nothing is real and there is nothing to get hung about. The Lennon raunchiness has become mere caprice in “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite.” Paul McCartney’s soaring Pop magnificats have become merely politely profound. “She’s Leaving Home” preserves all the orchestrated grandeur of “Eleanor Rigby,” but its framework is emaciated. This tale of a provincial lass who walks out on a repressed home life, leaving parents sobbing in her wake, is simply no match for those stately, swirling strings. Where “Eleanor Rigby” compressed tragedy into poignant detail, “She’s Leaving Home” is uninspired narrative, and nothing more. By the third depressing hearing, it begins to sound like an immense put-on.

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There certainly are elements of burlesque in a composition like “When I’m 64,” which poses the crucial question: “Will you still need me/Will you still feed me/when I’m 64?” But the dominant tone is not mockery; this is a fantasy retirement, overflowing with grandchildren, gardening and a modest cottage on the Isle of Wight. The Beatles sing, “We shall scrimp and save” with utter reverence. It is a strange fairy tale, oddly sad because it is so far from the composers’ reality. But even here, an honest vision is ruined by the background which seeks to enhance it.

 

“Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” is an engaging curio, but nothing more. It is drenched in reverb, echo and other studio distortions. Tone overtakes meaning and we are lost in electronic meandering. The best Beatle melodies are simple if original progressions braced with pungent lyrics. Even their most radical compositions retain a sense of unity.

But for the first time, the Beatles have given us an album of special effects, dazzling but ultimately fraudulent. And for the first time, it is not exploration which we sense, but consolidation. There is a touch of the Jefferson Airplane, a dab of Beach Boys vibrations, and a generous pat of gymnastics from The Who.

 

The one evident touch of originality appears in the structure of the album itself. The Beatles have shortened the “banding” between cuts so that one song seems to run into the next. This produces the possibility of a Pop symphony or oratorio, with distinct but related movements. Unfortunately, there is no apparent thematic development in the placing of cuts, except for the effective juxtapositions of opposing musical styles. At best, the songs are only vaguely related.

 

With one important exception, “Sergeant Pepper” is precious but devoid of gems. “A Day in the Life” is such a radical departure from the spirit of the album that it almost deserves its peninsular position (following the reprise of the “Sergeant Pepper” theme, it comes almost as an afterthought). It has nothing to do with posturing or put-on. It is a deadly earnest excursion in emotive music with a chilling lyric. Its orchestration is dissonant but sparse, and its mood is not whimsical nostalgia but irony.

With it, the Beatles have produced a glimpse of modern city life that is terrifying. It stands as one of the most important Lennon-McCartney compositions, and it is a historic Pop event.

“A Day in the Life” starts in a description of suicide. With the same conciseness displayed in “Eleanor Rigby,” the protagonist begins: “I read the news today, oh boy.” This mild interjection is the first hint of his disillusionment; compared with what is to follow, it is supremely ironic. “I saw the photograph,” he continues, in the voice of a melancholy choir boy:

He blew his mind out in a car
He didn’t notice that the lights had changed
A crowd of people stood aud stared
They’d seen his face before
Nobody was reallysure if he was from the House of Lords.

“A Day in the Life” could never make the Top 40, although it may influence a great many songs which do. Its lyric is sure to bring a sudden surge of Pop tragedy. The aimless, T. S. Eliot-like crowd, forever confronting pain and turning away, may well become a common symbol. And its narrator, subdued by the totality of his despair, may reappear in countless compositions as the silent, withdrawn hero.

Musically, there are already indications that the intense atonality of “A Day in the Life” is a key to the sound of 1967. Electronic-rock, with its aim of staggering an audience, has arrived in half-a-dozen important new releases. None of these songs has the controlled intensity of “A Day in thg Life,” but the willingness of many restrained musicians to “let go” means that serious aleatory-pop may be on the way.

 

Ultimately, however, it is the uproar over the alleged influence of drugs on the Beatles which may prevent “A Day in the Life” from reaching the mass audience. The song’s refrain, “I’d like to turn you on,” has rankled disk jockeys supersensitive to “hidden subversion” in rock ’n’ roll. In fact, a case can be made within the very structure of “A Day in the Life” for the belief that the Beatles — like so many Pop composers — are aware of the highs and lows of consciousness.

 

The song is built on a series of tense, melancholic passages, followed by soaring releases. In the opening stanza, for instance, John’s voice comes near to cracking with despair. But after the invitation, “I’d like to turn you on,” the Beatles have inserted an extraordinary atonal thrust which is shocking, even painful, to the ears. But it brilliantly encases the song and, if the refrain preceding it suggests turning on, the crescendo parallels a druginduced “rush.”

 

The bridge begins in a staccato crossfire. We feel the narrator rising, dressing and commuting by rote. The music is nervous with the dissonance of cabaret jazz. A percussive drum melts into a panting railroad chug. Then

Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
Somebody spoke and I went into a dream.

The words fade into a chant of free, spacious chords, like the initial marijuana “buzz.” But the tone becomes mysterious and then ominous. Deep strings take us on a Wagnerian descent and we are back to the original blues theme, and the original declaration, “I read the news today, oh boy.”

Actually, it is difficult to see why the BBC banned “A Day in the Life,” because its message is, quite clearly, the flight from banality. It describes a profound reality, but it certainly does not glorify it. And its conclusion, though magnificent, seems to represent a negation of self. The song ends on one low, resonant note that is sustained for 40 seconds. Having achieved the absolute peace of nullification, the narrator is beyond melancholy. But there is something brooding and irrevocable about his calm. It sounds like destruction.

What a shame that “A Day in the Life” is only a coda to an otherwise undistinguished collection of work. We need the Beatles, not as cloistered composers, but as companions. And they need us. In substituting the studio conservatory for an audience, they have ceased being folk artists, and the change is what makes their new album a monologue.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sgt._Pepper%27s_Lonely_Hearts_Club_Band

 

Biden Needs Warren as His Running Mate

Selecting Senator Elizabeth Warren will solidify Joe Biden’s standing with the dedicated and committed large progressive wing of the Democrat Party. 

It will also put a woman in the White House who possesses the brains, political smarts and willingness to fight hard for what she believes in.

Excerpted from The Nation – Jeet Heer 5.24.2020

Not only would Warren excite the enthusiasm of progressive Democrats, she also has the policy chops the next administration will need.

Biden will face the enormous task of cleaning up Trump’s mess, with both the pandemic and the economic meltdown requiring policies that are quick, bold, innovative, and far-reaching. It’s hard to think of anyone better equipped to help Biden in such a crisis than Warren. She’s the politically smart pick. She’s also the best person for the job.

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Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the Democratic primaries on March 5. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign a month later, on April 8. Yet, more than six weeks later, both Warren and Sanders continue to rack up votes in the primaries. In the Oregon primary, on May 19, Joe Biden got 66 percent of the vote, Sanders 20 percent, and Warren nearly 10 percent. In the Hawaii primary, which ended on May 22, Biden got 63 percent and Sanders nearly 37 percent.

It remains astounding that a third of the Democratic Party continues to vote for someone other than Biden even after his receiving the endorsement of all his main rivals, including Sanders and Warren. By contrast, Donald Trump has a unified Republican Party behind him.

Biden has been making policy overtures toward progressives, notably in selecting the committees that will shape the party platform. But he still has a way to go. In April, longtime Democratic Party strategist Stan Greenberg warned the Biden camp that Sanders voters were “dangerously not” ready to accept Biden yet. A recent Change Research poll in Michigan showed that Biden was doing 5 points worse among voters under 35 than Hillary Clinton did. Biden leads the state by 49 percent to Trump’s 46 percent. If Biden could get young voters as excited as they were in 2016, he’d have a much more comfortable lead in a crucial swing state.

A recent poll conducted by Data for Progress laid out a strong case that Warren is the candidate who is best positioned to unite the party if selected as a running mate. According to the polling organization, “Sixty-one percent of Sanders supporters would be more likely to vote for a Biden/Warren ticket, compared to 42 percent for a Biden/Harris ticket, 33 percent for a Biden/Klobuchar ticket and 26 for a Biden / Abrams ticket.”

Unifying the party goes beyond any simple polling advantage. The consensus among political scientists is that a vice-presidential candidate makes little difference unless they are notably unpopular (Sarah Palin probably cost John McCain between 1 and 2 percent). But a vice-presidential pick is important for building a coalition and getting different factions of a party to work together.

As David Leonhardt pointed out in The New York Times, many of the most successful presidential tickets have involved a balancing act between candidates who are dissimilar. “Donald Trump, a divorced reality-television star, chose a religious conservative,” Leonhardt notes. “Barack Obama and George W. Bush, both worried about seeming inexperienced, chose party elders. Ronald Reagan, who was labeled a radical conservative, chose an establishment figure: George H.W. Bush.” By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s pick of Tim Kaine did little to help her, since he shared her political profile.

The fact that Warren has a record of challenging Biden on issues like bankruptcy law might make him averse to picking her. But, in cold political terms, these earlier fights should make her a more attractive candidate, one whose selection can bring the party together. She has real credibility with progressives and can be trusted to be their advocate in a Biden administration. Even progressives disappointed by her backtracking on Medicare for All still know she’s by far the most left-wing candidate on Biden’s short list.

But Warren’s credibility goes beyond her policy prescriptions. She also has the specific character traits needed in a top-level government official. Trump’s corruption and incompetence have demoralized the civil service, notably the State Department and the Centers for Disease Control. Any successful Democratic administration will need to rebuild the administrative state, attracting thousands to join the new government. Warren, uniquely among the plausible picks to be Biden’s running make, has built up a network of policy wonks who could help fulfill this task.

https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/biden-warren-vice-president-pick/

 

Payback?!! Trump’s Press Secretary Shows his paycheck in Too Much Detail

Trump has fought for years to keep secret details of his bank accounts. Well, here’s the bill coming due despite The Donald’s best efforts.

We can thank his  press secretary for this public display.   Good job.

New York Times 5.22.2020

The $100,000 check was made out to a government agency. This time his account and routing numbers were clearly visible.

In the past, the $100,000 check from Mr. Trump has been made out to the Small Business Administration initiative to help veteran entrepreneurs, to the Office of the Surgeon General to fight the opioid epidemic, and to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, among other places.

 

But on Friday, Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, did not just reveal that the president was sending his salary to the Department of Health and Human Services to help “support the efforts being undertaken to confront, contain and combat the coronavirus.”

 

She also displayed the president’s private bank account and routing numbers.

Pigs 6.1.2019

The $100,000 check she held up like a prop appeared to be a real check from Capital One, complete with the relevant details. An administration official said mock checks were never used in the briefing.

A White House spokesman, Judd Deere, said in a statement, “Today his salary went to help advance new therapies to treat this virus, but leave it to the media to find a shameful reason not to simply report the facts, focusing instead on whether the check is real or not.”

For an average civilian, that information could be used to withdraw or deposit money, make online purchases or hack an account.

“It’s not a best practice to share that information publicly,” said Eva Velasquez, the president and chief executive of the Identity Theft Resource Center. “If you don’t have protections in place, there are sophisticated schemes and ways someone could access those funds knowing the account and routing number and the individual person it belongs to.”

 

Ms. Velasquez said that a bank was almost certain to have additional protections in place on the account of a high-profile person like the president. Mr. Trump, she said, was not likely to be hacked because of photographs of the check that subsequently circulated online Friday night.

 

But she said the image of Ms. McEnany flashing Mr. Trump’s personal information in front of cameras sent a concerning message. “This is one of those situations where setting the example is very important,” Ms. Velasquez said. “It’s very important for your average person to understand this is not a best practice.”

The criminal Trump’s “Fixer” gets Covid-19 early prison release.

Michael Cohen is no angel and is guilty of the crimes he committed.

Still, there is something wrong with a Justice system which sent him to prison while his certifiably corrupt and criminal boss sits in the White House.  For now.

It’s only 284 days until the  Inauguration of a new President and Trump will be taking his corrupt crew to a life in exile.

Excerpted from Daily Mail UK – 5.21.2020

President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen was freed from federal prison just before 9am Thursday to serve the remainder of his sentence at home.

Last month it emerged he has been writing a book while behind bars.

‘He told me he’s been writing a book and he’s pissed. He told me he is going to spill the beans. What has he got to lose now?’ comedian-and-actor Tom Arnold told The Daily Beast.

Cohen had told the publication in February 2018 that he was shopping a book and had interest from publishers including Hachette.

At the time the book was tentatively titled, Trump Revolution: From The Tower to The White House, Understanding Donald J. Trump.

But in December 2018 he was ordered to spend three years in federal prison and in February 2019 he was disbarred. He reported to federal detention on May 6, 2019.

Cohen had been serving a federal prison sentence at FCI Otisville in New York after pleading guilty to numerous charges, including campaign finance fraud and lying to Congress.

He was seen leaving the low-security prison in a silver Mercedes A-class sedan driven by his son Jake. He was not wearing a mask and was wearing a crisp white shirt with French cuffs and no tie.

Michael Cohen II 5.21.2020

Later Cohen was seen arriving at his Manhattan apartment, wearing a University of Miami cap and a mask. His personal items, including a box clearly marked ‘Legal Documents’, were brought in on a luggage cart and carried in by his son Jake.  

The onetime-fixer was released on furlough with the expectation that he will transition to home confinement to serve the remainder of his sentence at home.

Cohen, 53, began serving his sentence last May and was scheduled to be released from prison in November 2021.

He had pleaded guilty to a series of offenses, including breaking campaign finance law by paying ‘hush money’ to Stormy Daniels to keep her alleged affair with Donald Trump secret.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8344205/Donald-Trumps-disgraced-attorney-Michael-Cohen-FREE-released-early.html?ito=push-notification&ci=15941&si=7511025

Breath the fresh air. Shelter in Place fantastic for the health of the planet.

Folks are inconvenienced by Shelter in Place.

But there is no denying one outstanding benefit. Global warming and pollution have gone on a completely different trajectory in the past two months.

In the ideal world life would return to pre Pandemic times without the devastating effects of pollution

Marvelous Picture above: Oakland Bay Bridge looking into San Francisco 4.23.2020

Fewer cars. Less congested cities. Decreased number of people in office buildings. Diminished air travel.

Dream on. Sounds nice, though.

San Francisco Chronicle 5.19.2020

The disruption caused by the coronavirus has been so profound that it’s altered the trajectory of global warming.

Not since World War II — and perhaps never before — have the emissions of heat-trapping gases dropped as much around the planet as they have during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The latest and most detailed study yet on the pandemic’s impact on climate pollution, published Tuesday and authored by the research group Global Carbon Project chaired by Stanford University’s Rob Jackson, finds that the Earth will see up to a 7% decrease in carbon dioxide this year. The dip is five times the decline in emissions in 2009, when the recession choked the world’s economy, and double what it was in 1992, after the fall of the Soviet Union.

While a variety of activity explains the declines, fewer people driving was the largest contributor worldwide. Less industrial pollution was also a big contributor.

“Cities from Seattle to Milan are keeping roads closed to cars and letting them stay open to bikes and pedestrians even after the shelter-in-place,” Jackson said. “And maybe COVID-19 and stimulus funding will jump-start electric cars.”

The paper’s findings mirror other reports that have similarly found sharp drops in greenhouse gases recently. The emerging research also is in agreement that the lull will likely be short-lived and, at best, buy time before the most devastating effects of climate change take hold. The lockdown that has halted factories, energy plants and automobiles during the pandemic is already lifting, and without deliberate action, carbon-intense activities are bound to resume.

“That’s the danger here,” said Jackson, a professor of earth system science and senior fellow at Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “We’ve decreased emissions for the wrong reasons. Will they jump back up starting this fall, or could the virus allow us to rethink transportation and other parts of the economy?”

The answer to the question, say Jackson and others, may not be so straightforward. Greenhouse gases could rebound in some areas, and there could be lasting decreases in others.

Measuring heat-trapping gas emissions, for which carbon dioxide is a proxy, is not easy to do, especially in real time. The researchers at the Global Carbon Project analyzed daily economic activity in 69 countries from January through April and modeled the carbon pollution that likely resulted, then compared it to last year. The countries included have historically produced almost all of the world’s carbon dioxide.

The researchers found that China, the largest polluter, reduced emissions by nearly 24% on some days in mid-February. The United States, the second-largest polluter, cut emissions by nearly 32% for almost two weeks in mid-April. The European Union, including Great Britain, trimmed emissions by about 27% during the first week of April.

The dates of peak reductions varied in different parts of the globe because each locked down at a different time. The biggest cumulative drop in carbon dioxide was on April 7 and measured about 17%, according to the study.

Based on the observed drops in emissions, the researchers estimate that going forward, carbon dioxide will fall between 4% and 7% for the year worldwide, depending on how quickly countries end their lockdowns.

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Los Angeles, California 4.23.2020

Jackson said the amount of the decline can be viewed as both considerable, given that it’s the largest ever seen, and humbling because it’s the minimum needed annually to put the planet on track to meet the Paris climate agreement — enough of a drop to prevent the global temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“We would need to do this every year,” he said.

The new paper was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

https://www.sfchronicle.com/health/article/Greenhouse-gas-emissions-on-track-for-record-drop-15279312.php

Donald Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine

Just when I thought Trump couldn’t engage in any more bizarre behavior..

Breaking News 4.15.2019

Daily Mail – UK – 5.18.2020

President Donald Trump said on Monday he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine for about a few weeks now but said he doesn’t have the coronavirus.

The president made the shocking announcement at the White House during an event with restaurant workers.

‘I’m taking it – hydroxychloroquine. Right now yeah. A couple of weeks ago, started taking it,’ he said 

He said he’s confident in the drugs because he’s heard good things about them.

‘Here’s my evidence. I get a lot of positive calls about it,’ he said.

Hydroxy has potentially serious side effects, including altering the heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death, and the FDA has warned against its use for coronavirus infections except in formal studies.

The president shrugged off reports of its side effects.

‘You’re not going to get sick or die,’ he said about taking the medication. ‘I’ve taken it about for a week and a half now. And I’m still here.’

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A study released last Monday showed hydroxychloroquine does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems.

It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and follows an earlier study in the New England Journal of Medicine that also showed the drug doesn’t fight the virus.

Additionally, the US Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health issued warnings about using the drugs for coronavirus patients.

Trump dismissed such studies.

The president repeatedly has touted hydroxychloroquine – used to treat malaria, lupus and other diseases – and the antibiotic azithromycin, often sold under the brand name Zithromax, or as a’Z-pack,’ to be used to treat the coronavirus.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8332999/Donald-Trump-says-taking-hydroxychloroquine.html?ito=push-notification&ci=15599&si=7511025

 

The Beatles’ ‘White Album’ still a landmark nearly 52 years later

In the midst of the Pandemic it’s nice to look back to a different time.  1968.

The Vietnam war was raging.  Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated in the United States. The Russians invaded Czechoslovakia to put a brutal end to the Prague Spring.

There were disruptions in Berlin and Paris as people took to the streets.

In America there was the notorious Altamont Concert near San Francisco which signaled the end of the 1960’s with its well documented violence.

And there was the Beatles White Album.

Excerpted from Deutsche Welle 11.19.2018 – Silke Wunsch

Known as the “White Album,” the Beatles’ ninth studio album came out on November 22, 1968. Going beyond the fab four’s LSD psychedelic pop, the iconic work pioneered new musical genres.

I found mine under the Christmas tree. I remember discovering the pure white cover, embossed with the letters “The BEATLES” and the number 320733 barely visible on the bottom right.

On the open cover, the titles of the songs were listed on the left side of the double sleeve, alongside four simple black-and-white portraits of John, Paul, George and Ringo on the right. Included in the album was also a large poster of the four musicians with the details of the tracks.

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A treasure trove

Most of the 30 tunes on the album are no longer than three minutes — though the shortest track is 52 seconds and the longest one over 8 minutes long. It starts out brilliantly with “Back in the U.S.S.R,” followed by tracks featuring variety, harmonies and arrangements that were a true revelation for my young ears at the time — and they keep fascinating me to this day; I still regularly break my fingers trying to play “Blackbird” on the guitar.

I still remember how Germany’s radio stations all played “Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da” to death in the 1960s, which is why it is not exactly one of my favorite songs. The record offers far more interesting tracks and moves elegantly through genres — folk, rock, country, blues, progressive rock or psychedelic. Delicate acoustic songs like “Julia,” “I Will,” “Mother Nature’s Son” or “Blackbird” alternate with powerfully orchestrated pieces; “Happiness is a Warm Gun” feels like a compact rock opera, contrasting with the earthy “Yer Blues.” “Rocky Raccoon” is arguably the first rap song in music history and “Helter Skelter,” one of the first hard rock songs ever made.

The Beatles’ self-titled work, best known as the White Album, is a gem-filled milestone, which anticipated trends that led to today’s pop and rock music. I can even say: Without this record, music wouldn’t be what it is today.

A turning point

I was too young at the time to understand the context of this double album released at the end of the “summer of love.”

What I know today is that this album was the Beatles’ way of saying good-bye to the colorful, drug-filled, flower-power era. With a few exceptions, the music does not feature many of the psychedelic approach of the previous album, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band (which included “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”). With the White Album, the four musicians freed themselves from a crazy era in order to truly start making music again — together, but each already on a journey of his own.

The Beatles at their limits

The fact that the album actually saw the light of day is almost a miracle. In early 1968, the four Beatles boys were still spending their time in the Indian meditation camp of Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, vowing to stay together forever. Then Ringo was the first to lose his appetite for transcendental meditation and vegetarian food. Paul followed him a bit later, while John and George spent several weeks in India writing songs.

Back in London, they released their most successful single, “Hey Jude,” in August 1968, founding their record company Apple Records. The new record producers however didn’t have strong managerial skills, and thus their label turned into a money pit. By then, John also had Yoko Ono constantly in tow, which really annoyed the three other band members — they couldn’t stand her.

The recording sessions for what came to be known as the White Album were exhausting; the musicians had increasingly separate artistic views as they recorded their songs, composing some of them on the go in the studio. They all played several instruments, switching spots at the piano or the drums. Paul was the most versatile player: along with the bass, he played guitars, keyboards, drums and the timpani.

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There were also a few guest musicians — strings and brass players, as well as singers, including Yoko Ono. Producer George Martin can be heard on the harmonium, and the then guitarist of Cream — Eric Clapton, a longtime friend of George — played the guitar solo on “While my Guitar Gently Weeps.”

At some point, Ringo lost his nerves during the recording sessions and briefly left the studio. When he came back, his drums were decorated with flowers: “Welcome home.” The Beatles finally completed the record with the help of their producer George Martin, who later described it as the “most difficult album of his career.”

Twilight on the horizon

All that stress is barely noticeable on the album. What is striking, however, is that each Beatle seemed to be going his own way on the songs they created, accompanied by the three others.

Once the album was recorded, the Beatles took a break from each other and met again in January 1969, weeks after the record’s release on November 22, 1968. While the ensuing period of harmony was only brief, the Fab Four nevertheless managed to create another monument, Abbey Road.

https://www.dw.com/en/the-beatles-white-album-still-a-landmark-at-50/a-46361862