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The Most Fascinating Facts You Didn't Know About The Beatles' ‘White Album’

Updated May 18, 2021 307 votes 44 voters 59.5k views12 items

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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. 

  • Photo: Yummifruitbat / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    Eric Clapton Was Worried About His Solo On 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'

    Eric Clapton's iconic guitar solo on George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" almost never happened. Initially, Clapton declined Harrison's invitation to contribute - saying that "nobody ever plays on The Beatles' records."

    Harrison ultimately convinced Clapton to play, but was worried that his part didn't sound enough like the Fab Four. The solution was to create a chorus effect on his part using a technique called Automatic Double Tracking. 

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    The Phrase 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' Came From A Conga Player

    "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" was a McCartney song that came from a Nigerian conga player named Jimmy Scott. The song's hook - "Ob la di, ob la da, life goes on" - was a catchphrase used frequently by Scott.

    "I used to love this expression... He sounded like a philosopher to me. He was a great guy anyway and I said to him, 'I really like that expression and I'm thinking of using it,' and I sent him a cheque in recognition of that fact later because even though I had written the whole song and he didn't help me, it was his expression," McCartney later said of the song in Anthology.

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  • Photo: The Fabs / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The Album Prompted Ringo Starr To Quit The Band

    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. 

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    'Happiness Is A Warm Gun' Was Based On A 'Peanuts' Book

    The title for the Beatles classic "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" was inspired by Charles Schultz's Peanuts book Happiness Is a Warm Puppy. Lennon said he thought the title was a "fantastic, insane thing to say." Lyrically, there were perceived references in the song to heroin, which Lennon had begun using around the same time as the recording sessions. 

    Paul McCartney loved the song and called it his favorite on the album. During recording, the band took two nights and 70 takes to get the song down - thanks to its complicated tempo changes and odd structure. 

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