The Beatles, better known as The White Album, hit #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart for the week of December 28, 1968, and spent nine weeks at #1 in two stretches at the top. But the raw numbers don’t capture the fascination this album has had for listeners in the 44 years since its release. Although we view it today as a document of the Beatles’ breakup, most fans didn’t know that then. On all those turntables at Christmas 1968 and beyond, fans heard an odd, challenging album, one that would reward repeated listening more than any other Beatles record.
Here are five random factoids about The White Album:
—According to Wikipedia, the album’s working title was A Doll’s House, which was scrapped when another album came out with a similar name.
—The album was the first the Beatles recorded using eight tracks rather than four. After recording a couple of tracks at another studio in London, the Beatles learned that Abbey Road Studios had eight-track equipment but had not yet installed it. Two engineers performed an unauthorized installation of the machinery so that the Beatles could use it.
—None of the songs on the album were released as singles in either the United States or Britain in 1968 or 1969, although in Australia, a single version of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” backed with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” was a #1 hit. Several songs came out on singles in 1976: “Back in the USSR” in the UK, “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” backed with “Julia” in the States. “Helter Skelter” also appeared in America as the flip side of the top-10 hit “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
—Part of the fascination of The White Album involves its connection to the Manson Family, and how it inspired the Tate-LaBianca murders in the summer of 1969. Manson believed it predicted a coming race war between blacks and whites that he called “helter skelter.” The murders were intended to bring it on.
—Like all previous Beatles albums, The White Album was issued in both stereo and mono versions, but only in the UK. In the United States, it became the first Beatles album to be released in stereo only. The mono version of “Helter Skelter” doesn’t include Ringo’s famous “I got blisters on my fingers.”