The only Beatles album session that lasted 24 hours

After the glow of Sgt Pepper died down, The Beatles were a hot mess. Since the death of their manager Brian Epstein, the Fab Four had been desensitised to the business side of their brand, taking full creative control of their finances and going on a meditation retreat in India to relax. While the goal was to find their inner self, what arrived back at Abbey Road Studios turned into an internal brawl between the bandmates.

Coming up with more songs than could appear on the album, The Beatles made their only double record as an assortment of the various ideas they had over the past few months. While most of the material was terrific, The White Album also made for the most drastic tonal shifts to turn up on a Beatles project.

With each member soaking in different influences, every song inhabits a different world than its predecessor. While Paul McCartney may be trying to make pop masterpieces on tracks like ‘Martha My Dear’ and ‘Honey Pie’, John Lennon’s approach to bridging avant-garde with rock and roll sparked songs like ‘Glass Onion’ and the infamous ‘Revolution 9’.

The biggest step up in the studio came from George Harrison. Having grown into a seasoned songwriter on the same level as Lennon and McCartney, Harrison’s strongest songs from the project are considered the most celebrated Beatles songs of all time, like ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’.

Everyone’s need for a voice on the record didn’t come without its fair share of arguments. Since each writer was set in their way, the album tends to feel like the rest of the group are session musicians playing on one another’s songs. The animosity ended up getting so bad that Ringo Starr left the group for a while, thinking that he wasn’t playing well on their songs anymore.

While Starr would eventually return, the group spent every hour of the day fine-tuning the songs until they were right, ducking back into the studio at night to record ‘Birthday’ after watching the Little Richard film The Girl Can’t Help It. When everything was finalised, it was up to Lennon and McCartney to put a proper track listing together.

After mixing McCartney’s blues-infused throwaway piece ‘Why Don’t We Do It In the Road’, the songwriting duo spent started to lay down the crossfades for the album on October 16th, 1968. The session wouldn’t end until 5pm the next day, marking the only time that The Beatles ever had a session that went for 24 hours.

Though a number of fans have claimed that the album is bloated because of the massive tracklisting, the crossfades the group made at the time served as different moments between songs. Although a song like ‘Wild Honey Pie’ might seem scatterbrained and unnecessary when listened to on its own, the way it blends into the flamenco guitar setting on ‘The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill’ makes for a nice bit of cacophony before getting into the next song. The Beatles may have had more than a few blemishes on The White Album, but in this case, the imperfections might actually make it perfect.

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