On 30th May 1968, The Beatles commenced work on the follow-up to the previous years ground-breaking ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ long player which had been released almost exactly a year prior. Much had happened in the interim: The “All You Need Is Love” single and satellite broadcast, the death of Brian Epstein, the recording and filming of the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ project, the “Hello Goodbye” and “Lady Madonna” singles, their trip to India to study Transcendental Meditation and the launch of their label, Apple Records. Phew!
All the band members had new songs stockpiled and many were demoed at George Harrison’s house in May 1968. They block booked Abbey Road and for the next five months recorded these tracks and many more new ones whilst at the same time, the fab four’s interpersonal relationships began to unravel with the individual members recording alone sometimes on their own songs.
Despite the sidelining of their esteemed producer George Martin who found himself unwanted by the band for long periods and even the brief departure of Ringo for a few weeks, the fact that the group managed to pull the disparate strands together into a cohesive albeit wonky double album which stands today as some fans favourite album by the band is a testament to their abilities to overcome their issues to still put out great work. To add to the albums mystique, artist Richard Hamilton in collaboration with Paul McCartney put the two records in a plain white sleeve, an antidote to the elaborate front cover for ‘Pepper’. In the words of Bobbi Flekman from Spinal Tap: “The White Album? What was that? There was nothing on that god damn cover”.