Beatles White Album Songs Ranked Worst to Best
The Beatles' self-titled 1968 LP, more commonly known as the White Album, was famously made while the band was falling apart.
As they became more entrenched in the studio, where they painstakingly assembled classic works like Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, tensions among George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr boiled over to the point where they weren't a band anymore but backing groups for each other's solo recordings.
When The Beatles was released on Nov. 22, 1968, fans found 30 songs divided among four sides, with the majority of them, once again, penned by Lennon and McCartney. The album immediately reached No. 1 across the world and has consistently been named among the band's greatest works. (A 50th-anniversary edition of the album -- expanded to six CDs and filled with demos, sessions and a new mix -- is due on Nov. 22.)
But there's no getting around it: The White Album often sounds like it was made by four different artists (more, if you count such nontraditional songs like "Revolution 9"). Within the record's 93 minutes are some of their greatest songs, but some of their biggest duds are there too, as you'll see in our list of Beatles White Album Songs Ranked Worst to Best.
30. "Wild Honey Pie"
McCartney is the only one on this less-than-a-minute oddity tucked into the middle of the album's first side. So you can blame him for it. There was quite a bit of self-indulgence on The Beatles. This was McCartney's chief contribution to that occasional mess.
29. "Good Night"
Lennon wrote the White Album's fitting last song, but Starr sings it. Lennon asked producer George Martin to score "Good Night" like an old Hollywood melodrama. None of the other Beatles are here; just Starr, a bunch of strings and a super-sappy vocal group.
28. "Don't Pass Me By"
Starr's first solo composition isn't bad. It isn't all that good either. The drummer's love of country music informs the song, which – like many of the tracks on the LP – includes only part of the group. Here, it's just Starr and McCartney, who adds bass and piano.
27. "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill"
Lennon wrote "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill" about one of the Beatles' fellow guests who was visiting Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India at the same time. Reportedly, the upper-class American rubbed Lennon the wrong way, and after he killed a tiger there, Lennon got the inspiration for a biting new song.
26. "Honey Pie"
McCartney never shied away from his love of vintage British music hall tunes. He applied it to his writing from the time of the Beatles' first record and continued through to his solo career. "Honey Pie" is one of his most obvious songs in the style.
25. "Revolution 9"
It's not a Beatles song at all, but eight-plus minutes of Lennon and Yoko Ono (with a little help from Georges Harrison and Martin) messing around with tape loops and assembling a sound collage that sounds like nothing at all other pop artists were doing then or now.
24. "Cry Baby Cry"
The individual Beatles grew so obsessive with fine-tuning their work during this period that engineer Geoff Emerick quit midway through the recording of "Cry Baby Cry." The Lennon song – buried on the LP's final side, right before "Revolution 9" – features a snippet of a never-released McCartney song. Neither is all that essential.
23. "Long, Long, Long"
Written by Harrison during the group's visit to India, "Long, Long, Long" marks one of his first compositions in a long line of spiritual songs. After years of neglect by his fellow songwriting Beatles, Harrison contributed four songs to the White Album. This is the most disposable one.
Charles Manson and his followers used The Beatles as a sorta guide to their murder spree in 1969. Harrison's "Piggies," a take-down of the establishment, was pinpointed as a key track. The baroque music simultaneously softens and heightens the song's message: "What they need's a damn good whacking."
21. "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?"
There's not much to this McCartney song from the White Album's second side. He pretty much repeats the same two lines for nearly two minutes as he and Starr (Lennon and Harrison weren't at the session) pound out a 12-bar blues. Still kinda fun, though.
20. "Savoy Truffle"
For years, Harrison's songs were shoved aside in favor of the Beatles' other two writers' compositions. The White Album gave him several opportunities to branch out. The sound of Harrison's solo career starts here, as horns power a soulful song about, of all things, how much his pal Eric Clapton likes chocolate.
A rare late songwriting collaboration between Lennon and McCartney and one of the handful of White Album tracks to include all four Beatles. In a way, "Birthday" signals the band's return to its roots on its next project, the aborted Get Back sessions (which later turned into the Let It Be album).
18. "Martha My Dear"
"Martha My Dear" is so McCartney. It's a love song written after the breakup. Its title is a reference to his pet sheepdog. And there's an old-timey music hall piano rolling throughout its two-and-a-half minutes.
17. "Rocky Raccoon"
Even though it sounds like it has its origins in American country music, "Rocky Raccoon" was conceived by McCartney during the Beatles' trip to India. It's a jab at folk songs, complete with colorful imagery and Lennon on harmonica (the last time he played the instrument on a Beatles album).
16. "I Will"
McCartney started writing "I Will" when the Beatles were in India but was still working on it when they hammered it out in the studio (without Harrison) in September 1968. It's one of McCartney's slightest but prettiest ballads from the era.
15. "Glass Onion"
One of the group's most self-referential songs, with nods to "Strawberry Fields Forever," "I Am the Walrus," "The Fool on the Hill" and others appearing throughout. Lennon wrote it to mess with fans, who later used the song to support the "Paul Is Dead" rumors. An early anchor from the record's killer first side.
14. "Mother Nature's Son"
Another acoustic McCartney ballad was written while the Beatles were in India. This one was directly influenced by a lecture given by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (Lennon's unreleased "Child of Nature" was inspired by it too). Things were so bad among the group at the time of recording, that none of the other Beatles even bothered to show up.
13. "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da"
McCartney's attempt to write a reggae song – music that was just starting to cross over into England at the time. It's breezy and kinda goofy, but also fun ... in a breezy, goofy kinda way. All four Beatles are in their traditional spots too, something that didn't happen all that often during the album's sessions.
12. "Yer Blues"
Lennon wrote this blues parody while the band was in India. It started sincere enough but Lennon eventually took the song into a more satirical direction, aiming at England's crop of blues rockers that was springing up at the time. Almost as good as the real thing.
11. "I'm So Tired"
Lennon had a miserable time when the Beatles went to India to study under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He missed Yoko Ono and couldn't sleep. This song came out of one of those bouts of insomnia. It doubles as a love letter to Ono. Listen for the mumbling at the end, which helped spur the "Paul Is Dead" conspiracy.
10. "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey"
One of the album's toughest songs, which may or may not be about heroin. Lennon, who wrote and sang it, said it was about Yoko Ono, whom he'd marry nine months after recording the track. Another rare White Album song with the individual Beatles playing the instruments they were usually associated with.
A sign of things to come from Lennon, "Julia" explores his relationship with his late mom. Unlike the more abrasive "Mother" from Plastic Ono Band, this soft, acoustic ballad is limited to just finger-picked guitar and one of Lennon's most plaintive vocals. A solo breakthrough from a pivotal period.
8. "Sexy Sadie"
Of all the Beatles, Lennon had the worst time during their spiritual retreat to India in February 1968. His most vicious White Album song is a direct slam at Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who allegedly came on to actress Mia Farrow, another visitor. Harrison, who spearheaded the trip, asked Lennon to change "Maharishi" to "Sexy Sadie."
7. "Back in the U.S.S.R."
McCartney pays tribute to both Chuck Berry and the Beach Boys in the album's opening song. He pushed Starr so hard that the drummer quit, walking out of the session and leaving McCartney to finish the drum track himself. Even so, it's one of the LP's least indulgent numbers and sturdiest rockers.
6. "Dear Prudence"
Lennon wrote "Dear Prudence" for actress Mia Farrow's sister Prudence when all of them were in India together studying Transcendental Meditation. She'd had a bad acid trip and was looking for spiritual relief, to the point where she retreated into herself. The song was a plea for her to "come out to play."
McCartney wrote "Blackbird," which he performs entirely by himself, as commentary on race relations in the U.S. The idea came to him while he was in India with the other Beatles (the trip was a fountain of inspiration for the group). The result is one of his most enduring songs, open to interpretation and timeless in its appeal.
4. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun"
Lennon pooled together three different songs The Beatles' Side One closing song. It's a remarkable piece that starts in one place and ends up somewhere else, never losing its focus along the way. "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" runs less than three minutes, but its breadth reflects what the group could achieve when everyone is on the same page.
3. "Revolution 1"
It eventually transformed into an electrified hit single, but even in its stripped-down state, this early version of "Revolution" is one of the Beatles' greatest songs. The White Album take is more of a slow blues than a balls-out rocker, but there's no disguising the intensity that drips through the grooves.
2. "Helter Skelter"
The Beatles never rocked so hard. Things got so intense that Starr threw his drumsticks across the room and shouted "I got blisters on my fingers!" McCartney, who wrote and sang the song, pushed his bandmates to prove a point: He was tired of being called soft by critics. "Helter Skelter" is anything but.
1. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
All of the Beatles had showcase moments on the White Album, but nobody's was as glorious or as revelatory as Harrison's Side One highlight. Eric Clapton shows up on guitar, but this is mostly Harrison's song – from the spiritual undertone that flows throughout the song to the climactic finale that caps it in a tangle of moans and instruments. A triumphant centerpiece to a classic album and career.
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Gallery Credit: Michael Gallucci