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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Dark Facts: The Beatles White... or Black Album?

The Beatles is a double album released by the band of the same name in 1968. It is also known as the White Album since its cover is white. The plain cover with the quietly embossed The Beatles can be interpreted as a reaction against the colourfulness of the pyschedelia that had characterized the previous beatle period. The white album also reflects a disturbing reality: the Beatles were deep in drugs at that time and McCartney, in particular, had become addicted to cocaine (also known as white girl, white horse, white lady, white mosquito and white powder).
The name of the album also expresses the wish of the band to return to simplicity after the extravangance and colourfulness of Sgt Pepper’s. This astonishingly great two-record album contained the mind-bending songs Helter Skelter and Piggies, which tragically inspired the American criminal Charles Manson. Manson was the leader of the Manson family, whose members were responsible for the murder of actresss Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianca, among other people.
The Beatles had intended to call the album A Doll's House but they had to discard that name since the progressive rock band Family had released the similarly titled Music in a Doll's House earlier that year. The original title, though never used, still pervades the album: female souls lend their colour to it in numerous songs. Dear Prudence was dedicated to Mia Farrow’s sister, Prudence, who accompanied the Beatles on their trip to India. Honey Pie is about a working girl who becomes a Hollywood star. The cowboy song Rocky Raccoon is about a girl called Nancy. Martha My Dear is about a girl but it was inspired by Paul McCartney’s dog, also called Martha. Happiness is a warm gun begins with the mysterious line: She's not a girl who misses much. The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill does not only feature Bungalow Bill: his mummy appears in the song too. Though Julia is primarily dedicated to John Lennon’s mother, there is another lady who is also mentioned: an “ocean child” (Yoko means ocean child in Japanese!) Two royal ladies (the queen and the duchess of Kirkcaldy) are featured in the nursery-rhyme-based Cry Baby Cry. Even Everybody's Got Something To Hide Exept For Me And My Monkey is not about a monkey at all but about Yoko Ono, who at that time was called Monkey by the media.
Though Sexy Sadie appears to refer to a girl, it was writiten in India and inspired by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who deeply disappointed Lennon since he had allegedly made a sexual advance at one of the female members attending his course. The Manson Family member Susan Atkins, who was nicknamed Sadie Mae Glutz prior to the release of the White Album, was referred to as Sexy Sadie by Charles Manson.

The colour white is briefly featured in the song Piggies:
Have you seen the bigger piggies in their starched white shirts
The piggies in the white shirts are the white-collar people who form the Establishment and whom Lennon hated so much. The Manson family wrote the phrase Death to Piggies on the walls of the LaBianca home, in Leno's blood. The forks and knives referred to in the song also seem to have inspired the members of the criminal family. Rosemary LaBianca received 41 knive wounds, Leno LaBianca received 12 knive wounds and 7 fork wounds. Actress Sharon Tate, pregnant at that time, was stabbed sixteen times.
In spite of the white cover, black makes a triumphant appearance in the album. The song Blackbird reflects McCartney’s concern for a disturbing social issue: racism and especially for the Black Movement that was rising at that time. According to Sony/ATV Songs LLC 1968, McCartney stated that he had a black woman in mind when he wrote the song as "bird" is British slang for a woman. Black also appears in the song Rocky Raccoon: the black mountain hills of Dakota tragically foreshadow Lennon’s death at the entrance to the Dakota building where Lennon lived.
Though the white album has a plain cover of the same colour, many other colours permeate the album: the mystic hues of India, the kaleidoscopic quality of women, the bright visual intensity of the animals mentioned (monkey, blackbird, piggies, raccoon) and the colourful food imagery of Savoy Truffle (hues of tangerine, cherry, ginger, coconut, coffee and chocolate). But, all in all, black is the predominant colour for the obscurity of most of its lyrics and the tragedies inspired by some of the songs contained in it. 

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