3 Things to Know About the Beatles’ Final Recording Session for ‘The White Album’

Amid inner turmoil, the Fab Four delivered an uneven but fascinating record.

By Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff)

Although The Beatles were dealing with inner turmoil at the time, they still managed to pull everything together for their self-titled “White Album” with the famously minimalist cover.

The final product of The Beatles garnered mixed reviews at the time of its release, but over time it established itself as a strong record even by the Beatles’ standards with several standout tracks like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, and “Helter Skelter”.

But considering the state of the band at the time, “The White Album” was generally considered an uneven effort.

There are obviously a multitude of reasons behind that, but there are a multitude of details about the album’s final recording session on October 14, 1968 that likely contributed to those general opinions. Here are some of the most fascinating stories behind the session.

1. Ringo Starr wasn’t present for the mixing

Ringo Starr in London, July 8, 1968.  (AP Photo) Ringo Starr in London, July 8, 1968. (AP Photo)

Ringo has at times carried a reputation as the weak link in the Beatles. Whether or not that’s true or fair, this detail certainly does nothing to dispute that argument.

According to the book The Beatles Recording Sessions, Ringo left Abbey Road Studios on the morning of October 14 for a two-week vacation with his family in Sardinia. So he played literally no role in the final mix or mastering of the album. This could explain why one of his only writing credits, “Don’t Pass Me By”, got shoved right into the middle of the track listing.

2. The very last session lasted 24 straight hours

From left, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr of The Beatles are shown in February 1968. (AP Photo) From left, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr of The Beatles are shown in February 1968. (AP Photo)

It literally took an entire day to finalize The Beatles, with extensive overdubs added in addition to work on the final mix, but the guys got it done. While Ringo put his feet up on a lounge chair on an Italian island, John, Paul, and producer George Martin put all the finishing touches on the record.

The marathon session may have contributed to the rising tension within the band and their fractured state at the time, and it shows through in the music on the album. But John & Paul showed their true work ethic in ultimately putting aside their differences to get the album finished.

3. Eric Clapton remixed his own lead guitar on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

Arguably the most famous uncredited guest performer ever, Eric Clapton’s superb lead guitar on the George Harrison-written “While My guitar Gently Weeps” remains one of the instrument’s finest recordings. It’s vintage Clapton in his prime, but he didn’t exactly want it to sound that way.

During the final mixing process, the band remixed the sound of Clapton’s guitars to better fit the Beatles’ sound, rather than try to force Clapton’s tone into their recordings. Clapton himself remarked that his solo “wasn’t enough of a Beatles sound.” So that would explain the space-y effects added to Clapton’s bluesy soloing.


More from Breakfast with the Beatles

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Listen Live