Okay, I’ll admit it: the White Album might be my least favorite Beatles album. Or at least it was. It’s not that it’s a bad album – it has great songs on it! But there’s always been something about it that I’ve disliked, and I wasn’t sure what it was. I think people (including me) have historically placed the blame on the divergent styles of the four guys, and the varied sort of songs on the album not going together, but lately I’ve been thinking this might not be so. Now I think I’ve figured it out: it’s the order of the songs that is maddening! Whereas Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road seem to flow from first track to last track, The White Album is a nightmare when played as a single (or double) album.
Fortunately, today we can choose the song order ourselves. And so that’s exactly what I’ve done (on my ipod). And now (at least in my opinion) the album plays much better. But before I get to my version, let’s look at the original version, with its hodgepodge of moods:
1 Back In The U.S.S.R.
2 Dear Prudence
3 Glass Onion
4 Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da
5 Wild Honey Pie
6 Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
7 While My Guitar Gently Weeps
8 Happiness Is A Warm Gun
9 Martha My Dear
10 I’m So Tired
13 Rocky Raccoon
14 Don’t Pass Me By
15 Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?
16 I Will
19 Yer Blues
20 Mother Nature’s Son
21 Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey
22 Sexy Sadie
23 Helter Skelter
24 Long, Long, Long
25 Revolution 1
26 Honey Pie
27 Savoy Truffle
28 Cry Baby Cry
29 Revolution 9
30 Good Night
Okay now my version: Just like the original, I begin with “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Dear Prudence”, because it’s a great way to kick off the album, and “Prudence” pivots well off of the opening rocker.
Then I stick in “Honey Pie” before getting to the hard edged “Glass Onion.”. This smooths over the awful transition from the original album where “Glass Onion” was like a slap in the face following “Dear Prudence.” Then I go to “Piggies”, which unlike the polka “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da”, pivots well off of “Onion”.
This is followed by “Rocky Raccoon” and “Don’t Pass Me By” just like the original album, building some momentum with each song, before we pivot into “Martha My Dear” – which sounds ten times better in this order than where it was originally. (I love “Happiness” but “Martha” is not the sort of song you want to follow it up.) Then I continue with “I’m So Tired”, before speeding things up slightly with “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?”, which I once saw on a list of “Rock’s strangest rhetorical questions”. And then after this, HERE’S where you stick “The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill”. Seriously, listen to these last two songs back to back and tell me that’s not what the order should have been. Sometimes I think “Wild Honey Pie” (which I lopped off my version of the White Album) was only stuck in to smooth the bridge between “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da” and “Bungalow Bill”. But it just makes the album order stranger.
Anyway, back to my version: I follow “Bungalow Bill” with the same followups as the original: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Happiness is a Warm Gun” – before pivoting into “Savoy Truffle” and “Mother Nature’s Son” (the latter of which is a very pretty song that on the original album is buried between two totally different sort of songs; it sort of like putting a John Denver song between songs by the Rolling Stones and The Who.) Now we’re ready to polka, and that takes us to “Ob-la-di Ob-la-da”, another song badly misplaced on the original album.
We pivot off of that joyous fun into the sympathetic “Julia”, followed by the sensitive, “I Will”. Now we’re ready to rock with “Yer Blues”, followed by the underrated “Cry Baby Cry” and the overrated “Blackbird” before another rocker, “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except for Me and My Monkey”. Like the original album, we pivot off of that to “Sexy Sadie”, “Helter Skelter”, “Long Long Long”, and “Revolution 1” – all of which have a nice flow when put next to each other.
Following this slow version of “Revolution” we speed things up with “Birthday”, which is actually a great album starter – but I wanted to make one album (as opposed to the original double album) for my ipod, and so I had to move the song somewhere else. It does make a nice “almost finale”, like the reprise of Sgt. Pepper’s does for its album. This leads to “Revolution 9” before the finale, “Good Night”.
Now I realize many people have grown up with the original White Album order and will stand by it. (And it’s not like I have a lot of influence when it comes to this sort of thing anyway.) However, I’m glad I finally have what sounds like a complete, cohesive album! Thankfully Paul already fixed the “Let It Be” album for me with the superior “Let It Be Naked” which reorders the songs and gets rid of the unpolished snatches of songs from the original (replacing them with “Don’t Let Me Down”). Most people were upset with Paul for doing this. I guess if Paul McCartney can’t get people to accept change in a Beatles album, I have little hope.