The Beatles' self-titled ninth studio album, released in 1968, marked a significant musical departure for the group. The band's albums had grown more experimental, and the album that would become known as The White Album was no exception, taking influences from a variety of places including the band's trip to India where they studied Transcendental Meditation.
Recording of The White Album proved to be a tense experience, with the presence of Yoko Ono breaking their rule about girlfriends and wives in the studio and causing problems within the group. Things got so bad that engineers quit and one member even briefly left the band. Despite the drama surrounding the album, it went on to become one of The Beatles' most acclaimed releases. Let's take a look at some of the most fascinating aspects of the legendary White Album.
Interestingly, George Harrison's "Savoy Truffle" was written about the band's friend Eric Clapton. Harrison was struck by Clapton's love of chocolate, which had begun to have a negative effect on his dental health, and decided to write a song making fun of the guitar legend's predicament.
"His dentist said he was through with candy. So as a tribute I wrote, 'You'll have to have them all pulled out after the Savoy Truffle'. The truffle was some kind of sweet, just like all the rest - cream tangerine, ginger sling - just candy, to tease Eric," Harrison said of the song in his book I Me Mine.
While The Beatles were in India writing for The White Album, they encountered Beach Boy Mike Love - who later claimed he contributed an idea to the song that became "Back In The U.S.S.R."
"I was sitting at the breakfast table and McCartney came down with his acoustic guitar and he was playing 'Back In The U.S.S.R.' and I told him that what you ought to do is talk about the girls all around Russia, The Ukraine and Georgia. He was plenty creative not to need any lyrical help from me but I gave him the idea for that little section," Love said of his contribution to the song.
The song was written as a send-up of the Beach Boys hit "California Girls," with the bridge's lyrics being about feeling an attraction towards girls from the Ukraine, Russia, and Georgia.
The short "Wild Honey Pie" was written and recorded solely by Paul McCartney, who later explained that some down time in the studio prompted him to begin experimenting.
"It was very home-made; it wasn't a big production at all. I just made up this short piece and I multitracked a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and a harmony to that, and built it up sculpturally with a lot of vibrato on the strings, really pulling the strings madly," he said.
"Wild Honey Pie" was not initially included on the album, but Harrison's wife, Pattie, liked it so much that they decided to include.
The Beatles began to come apart during the making of The White Album. The sessions were often tense and staff at Abbey Road Studios would be asked to leave when the band needed to figure things out.
At some point, Ringo Starr hit a wall and began to question whether he was the one causing the tension due to the way he was playing at the time. He decided to leave the band, and visited John Lennon to give him the news.
"I said, 'I'm leaving the group because I'm not playing well and I feel unloved and out of it, and you three are really close.' And John said, 'I thought it was you three!'" Starr recalled in Anthology. "So then I went over to Paul [McCartney]'s and knocked on his door. I said the same thing: 'I'm leaving the band. I feel you three guys are really close and I'm out of it.' And Paul said, 'I thought it was you three!'"
After recording "Back In The U.S.S.R." with McCartney on drums, the band realized that they needed their drummer and sent a telegram asking him to come back.