Contact Us

47 Years Ago: The Beatles Begin Recording ‘The White Album’

Beatles White Album
Apple Records

In May 1968 – nearly a year after the release of the triumphant Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and a few months after the major movie blunder Magical Mystery Tour – the Beatles began working on their next album. They had been writing songs (including “Dear Prudence,” “Mother Nature’s Son” and “Sexy Sadie”) during their trip to India earlier in the year, and later made demo versions at George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher, England.

Astounded by the amount of material they already had (23 tunes were finished at Harrison’s place), the Beatles decided that a single LP wouldn’t be enough to contain the sheer volume of music they had written. So the band prepared to make its first double album.

Recording for The Beatles (which would come to be known as The White Album) began at 2:30PM on May 30, 1968, at EMI Studios on Abbey Road in London.  All members were present for the first day, as was John Lennon’s new girlfriend Yoko Ono, who would become a fixture at Beatles sessions for the rest of the band’s run.

Within a few months, the group would become more fractured, with members working in separate studios on their own songs, culminating in Ringo Starr quitting the band — although he returned after a couple of weeks and after much begging from his bandmates. But at the first session, all four Beatles worked together on Lennon’s “Revolution 1“ (simply called “Revolution” at the time). He had started writing the song — a response to the antiwar protests that raged on in America and the recent assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. — in India and continued working on it after returning to England.

The quartet laid down 16 takes of the song, although the last one was markedly different, stretched out to more than 10 minutes and ending with six minutes of feedback, screaming and moaning, some of it from Ono. The White Album’s infamous “Revolution 9″ sound collage came from the improvisational coda.

The first part of the song would undergo its own changes. In order to get Harrison and Paul McCartney’s approval to release “Revolution” as a single, Lennon had the band record a faster version of “Revolution,” which was released as the b-side to “Hey Jude” more than four months before The White Album came out.

The original, more deliberate version was renamed “Revolution 1″ and kicked off Side Four of The Beatles (which also included “Revolution 9″ but not the single version of the song). The band’s most varied collection of music was released as a double-LP on Nov. 22, 1968, in the U.K. and three days later in the U.S.

See the Beatles and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’60s

You Think You Know the Beatles

Next: Top 10 Beatles Songs

Recommended For You

Around the Web

Best of Ultimate Classic Rock

Leave a Comment

It appears that you already have an account created within our VIP network of sites on . To keep your personal information safe, we need to verify that it's really you. To activate your account, please confirm your password. When you have confirmed your password, you will be able to log in through Facebook on both sites.

Forgot your password?

It appears that you already have an account on this site associated with . To connect your existing account just click on the account activation button below. You will maintain your existing VIP profile. After you do this, you will be able to always log in to http://ultimateclassicrock.com using your original account information.

Please fill out the information below to help us provide you a better experience.

(Forgot your password?)

Not a member? Sign up here

Sign up for Ultimate Classic Rock quickly by connecting your Facebook account. It's just as secure and no password to remember!