3 Things to Know About the Beatles’ Final Recording Session for ‘The White Album’
Although The Beatles were dealing with inner turmoil at the time, they still managed to pull everything together for their self-titled double album. The final recording session for The Beatles took place on October 14, 1968, as well as the beginning of the final mixing session.
The final product 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 great standout tracks, including “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”, “Blackbird”, 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 here are a few details about the album’s final recording session that likely contributed to those general opinions…
1. Ringo Starr wasn’t present for the mixing
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
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.
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