“The White Album”, a.k.a “The biggest mish-mash of songs in music history”, is both the most inconsistent and the most remarkable album in the Beatles’ discography. While not every song is great, the fact that the band managed to make thirty unique songs in one package is nothing short of genius.
Every band member gets their chance to prove their songwriting chops (well, maybe not Ringo …) and it results in some of the greatest songs of all time. How would I rank all of the tracks?
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30 – Revolution 9
I don’t bust out the “Terrible” tier very often, but I don’t think any song in music history is more worthy of that accomplishment than “Revolution 9”.
It’s a mess of sounds which don’t come together in any cohesive or satisfying way, and it almost ruins the entire album. If there wasn’t a song after it to end on a high, this would have been the worst closing track in music history by a landslide.
29 – Don’t Pass Me By
Ringo only ever wrote two songs for the Beatles … and thank goodness “Octopus’s Garden” is good otherwise he would’ve had one of the most laughable returns ever.
“Don’t Pass Me By” is an annoying mess with bad vocals and instrumentals, and the Irish / Gaelic violin abomination does more harm than good. Not a travesty like “Revolution 9” , but clearly a lacklustre Beatles song.
28 – Wild Honey Pie
Some people hate “Wild Honey Pie” more than “Revolution 9” … why? This is just a harmless interlude track, not meant to be taken seriously.
It is fairly stupid though, and the album would have been better without it.
27 – The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill
One of the most boring Beatles songs ever, I always feel like falling asleep whenever “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill” comes up.
I’ve never engaged in the wishy-washy story it’s trying to tell, and neither the chorus nor verses are remotely interesting. 90% of the time I give this song a skip.
26 – Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?
Another insignificant interlude track, but I quite like “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” – a track based on McCartney’s experience in India watching some monkeys … having an experience of their own.
It’s a very funny song that comes and goes quickly, and it adds to the overall experience.
25 – Revolution 1
The best version of “Revolution” on the album, but it’s nowhere near as good as the hard rock original.
I don’t know why they decided to butcher the song so badly, as this low-energy version doesn’t really work at all. Not a bad song by any means, but not a good one.
24 – Piggies
One of the weirdest Beatles songs ever, “Piggies” is a Harrison track that doesn’t even try to hide its contempt and themes.
The production is very off-putting at first, and if it wasn’t so creative and wacky it could have been a complete flop.
23 – Honey Pie
The most mundane McCartney song on the album, “Honey Pie” is the kind of generic, vanilla track that made the rest of the band turn against him in the end.
The old-school American vibe certainly earns it a few points for ingenuity, but it’s not enough to get me gripped.
22 – Cry Baby Cry
“Cry Baby Cry” feels a little bit like a Lennon throw-away song, but the last few seconds where they splice in a McCartney song knocks it up a tier.
21 – Rocky Raccoon
A little bit like “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill”, “Rocky Raccoon” is the type of pure story-telling track that I don’t really like, but McCartney’s style works better in this case.
It’s a decent story with its own twists and turns, but it’s the whimsical instrumentation to accompany it that I keep coming back to.
20 – Yer Blues
One of the heaviest songs on the album, “Yer Blues” is like a really fun cry for help by Lennon.
It’s only a blues song, so there isn’t much going on in terms of ingenuity and chord progression, but the heaviness and lyrics bump it up a place or two.
19 – I’m So Tired
“I’m So Tired” doesn’t have nearly the same effect as “I’m Only Sleeping” had, and as such I always think of it as inferior to its Revolver counterpart.
You can absolutely tell that this is a song that would’ve never made the cut if this was just a single album, but there’s a uniqueness to it that I kinda like.
18 – Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey
Points deducted for having a name that’s way to long and annoying for me to type out, but “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey” is a decent rock track.
There’s a great energy to the whole thing, and the guitar work is splendid. (Now I’ll need to rest my fingers from the marathon of typing the name out twice!)
17 – Mother Nature’s Son
A nice little track, “Mother Nature’s Son” is a bit strange as far as Beatles songs go but that doesn’t mean McCartney doesn’t shine on it.
It sounds a little more like 70’s Indie McCartney than his 60’s Beatles style, and it makes for a nice contrast to some of the harder songs.
16 – Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Apparently everyone in the band collectively lost their minds from having to play this track over and over again, and even I have to admit that “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” is wearing a bit thin on me.
It’s nothing if not uproariously fun, though, and the cheeky lyrics are some of McCartney’s most endearing. That being said, if I listen to it a few more times I think my head’s going to explode.
15 – Martha My Dear
The other members of the band despised “Martha My Dear”, saying that McCartney had written a song that had nothing to do with the Beatles … which I find odd when tracks like “Honey Pie” and “Mother Nature’s Son” exist as well.
It’s a decent track with some lovely piano, strings and horn work, and McCartney’s vocals are on top form as always.
14 – I Will
One of the most underrated tracks on the album, “I Will” is a gorgeous McCartney ballad. My only complaint is that it isn’t longer.
13 – Sexy Sadie
With 13 great songs on one album, one could only imagine how good a single album could have been rather than a double (although the extra, weirder songs certainly give “The White Album” its charm).
“Sexy Sadie” is a great Lennon track with one of the catchiest vocal melodies on the album, and the guitar outro at the end is classic Beatles.
12 – Good Night
Some people loathe “Good Night” and consider it to be one of the worst songs on the album, but I consider it a saving grace after that bombshell that was “Revolution 9”.
The lullaby nature of the track might put people off at first, but Ringo’s vocal performance makes it really endearing and quite lovely. A charming and feel-good way to close the album.
11 – Long, Long, Long
A super underrated Harrison track, my only complaint about “Long, Long, Long” is that it’s a little too quiet and hard to hear at times.
The melodies and instrumentation are gorgeous, and Harrison’s vocals are on top form in both the choruses and verses.
10 – Glass Onion
One of the early songs on the album, “Glass Onion” is a real thumper of a track that works in upping the energy.
Lennon’s lyrics are mischievous and mysterious – you can tell he’s just adding fuel to the fire when he includes lines like “Here’s another clue for you all – The Walrus was Paul“.
9 – Savoy Truffle
The most underrated George Harrison song of them all, I have a bit of a sweet tooth for “Savoy Truffle”.
I really love the saxophone bursts throughout the song, and I find the vocal melody to be one of the catchiest and most sing-able on the entire album.
8 – Birthday
“Birthday” is a song I can only play once a year in good conscience, but it’s always worth it when the day finally comes (and I also listen to it when I put the album on, of course).
It’s a great McCartney rock banger, with simple guitar hooks and vocal melodies that everyone can love.
7 – Julia
A surprisingly heartfelt song in the middle of all the zany ones, Lennon’s ballad about his mother “Julia” really tugs on the heart-strings.
It’s the kind of luscious guitar work that you’d expect from McCartney, and Lennon’s sincere and emphatic vocals make it work better than it would have done otherwise.
6 – Back In The U.S.S.R.
The track to kickstart it all, “Back In The U.S.S.R.” is an uproariously fun rock song that gets you dancing along within seconds.
Fun fact – the Beatles were put on an FBI watchlist after this song released for being potential Soviet allies. I’m guessing they never found any incriminating evidence.
5 – Dear Prudence
“Back In The U.S.S.R.” is a fantastic opener, but I’ve always had more of a soft spot for its follow-up “Dear Prudence”.
McCartney’s bassline is possibly the best on the entire album, and the final minute of the track is mesmerising.
4 – Happiness Is A Warm Gun
An underrated gem, “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” may just be the most underrated Beatles song of them all.
The various movements and sections completely break from normal song etiquette, and it’s the kind of song mastery that only someone like Lennon could pull off.
3 – Blackbird
McCartney had an uncanny ability to write one of the best songs of all time on a whim – “Blackbird” seems so simple in its execution and message, yet it’s bafflingly perfect.
I always laugh whenever I hear the “Paul is dead!” argument online, since that would mean the replacement Paul would’ve written “Blackbird” within his first year of picking up the guitar. This is not the kind of song you can write and perform after just a year – it takes a decade of practice and mastery to get to that level.
2 – Helter Skelter
“Helter Skelter” was a song that McCartney wrote to one-up The Who (who said they had made the heaviest song ever at the time), and he managed to create what was effectively the first metal song.
The screeching vocals, Lennon’s clunky bass, Ringo’s thumping drums … It’s rock perfection, and it’s no wonder they all ended up with blisters on their fingers.
1 – While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Harrison famously wrote “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by opening a book and writing a song about the first words he saw – “gently weeps” was the phrase that came up, and the rest is history.
While the acoustic version that has released since is gorgeous, it’s the hard rock original that I keep coming back to. The rest of the band lays down a really catchy riff and rhythm section, and then Eric Clapton gives multiple of the best guitar solos of all time.
Not only was George Harrison beginning to shine on the later albums, he started writing the best songs on the album – beating Lennon and McCartney in the process – during the Beatles’ twilight years.
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