The White Album is an exercise in “kitchen sink” mentality, being that during its production, the Beatles threw everything they could think of at it, including the kitchen sink. After “Revolution 1” comes the second cheesiest song on the entire album, “Honey Pie.” It’s a tribute to British music hall of the 19th and early 20th century. It even features crackles from a 78 RPM record in the intro. This song doesn’t appeal to me. Not only am I too far removed from the music hall era for the homage to work nostalgia in my ears, but it’s so heavy-handed that it just comes off as cheap.

George makes his final appearance as vocalist and songwriter on “Savoy Truffle.” It was written about George’s dear friend Eric Clapton, who both guest starred on guitar on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and was simultaneously pining hopelessly away for George’s wife, Patty Boyd. But “Savoy Truffle isn’t about any of that; it’s about Eric’s love of sweets. About 50%of the lyrics are directly derived from a box of Mackintosh’s Good News chocolates. Clapton is a passionate man, and his passions translated directly into addictions: for chocolate, for sex, for drugs, and for romance. He was a man that was truly at the complete mercy of his vices. “Savoy Truffle” is just about one of those vices, but can be viewed as a character study of Eric Clapton in miniature.

Interpretations of “Cry Baby Cry” are few, and most are met with the furrowed brow of skepticism. My own is somewhat lame, but here it is. The King, Queen, Duke and Duchess, all being adults, do things that the children think are ridiculous, and the behavior of the children makes the adults “sigh.” It puts the dissension between the generations that was so prevalent in the late 60s (see Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel) in fantasy and allegorical words.

the “cry baby” from TV’s Firefly

Interesting geek side note. In Joss Whedon’s stupendous but short-lived sci-fi TV series Firefly, there is a device the crew of smuggling ship Serenity uses to distract government ships from their presence by sending out a fake distress signal from the opposite direction. It’s called a Cry Baby. To order its use, Captain Reynolds radios the pilot and says, “Cry baby cry,” to which Wash the pilot responds, “Make your mother sigh!” It probably flies by a lot of people, but I always notice it.

After “Cry Baby Cry” comes the secret song that’s appended to it, called by most fans “Can You Take Me Back.” Then comes “Revolution 9” and its 8 and a half minutes of strangeness. Finally, The White Album comes to a close with “Good Night.” It’s right in front of “Honey Pie” as the cheesiest song on here, purposefully made so by John. It features Ringo’s second turn as lead vocalist, which fits the maudlin feel. John wrote “Good Night” as a lullaby for Julian, though it’s mostly the work of producer George Martin. He made the orchestration full-bodied and incredibly over the top, like a Golden Age of Hollywood musical number. And with that, the White Album is over.

As you can see, John and Paul are taking a wide scatter-shot approach with this record. In a way, it’s very disjointed, jumping from one style to the next and to the next in a wild, unpredictable fashion. It may seem like disjointedness at times, but the real genius of The White Album comes when you take a few steps back and look at the entire picture. This is the first album (and there have only been a few since) that has a “kitchen sink” mentality, truly counting nothing as an impossibility. The vast majority of musicians limit themselves to what they can do well and what is comfortable for them. This is not a bad thing; I don’t say to Lady Gaga or the Kings of Leon, “you didn’t make the White Album, so why’d you even bother?” But the fact that the logical standard for an album is fairly limited makes albums like The White Album even more remarkable. The Beatles dared to stretch themselves beyond their apparent capacity and found that they hadn’t even hit the ceiling yet. Just by itself, that’s inspiring.

Tomorrow: Charlie Manson’s crazy-talk

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