This was really the first Beatles album that I heard properly. I grew up listening to jazz great Duke Ellington, before discovering these guys. I remember getting the album, and being scared by Helter Skelter.
I fell asleep while it was playing, and got a right shock when the music suddenly got louder. It really frightened me; I was convinced that Charles Manson and his family were gonna get me. That song still makes me shudder a bit to this day. It’s also very heavy. People never credited the band with being able to play heavy music, but they could.
I know there are a lot of people who regard this as a sub-standard Beatles album. But I disagree. It has some of John Lennon’s best songs, even though there’s a lot of laid back stuff. I love Dear Prudence. For me, that’s the real start to the album. Yes, I know that Back In The USSR is the actual opening song, but I tend to skip that one, and go straight into Dear Prudence.
I’m not sure how many people know this, but Ringo isn’t on Prudence – Paul McCartney did the drumming instead. Dear Prudence has that whole Maharishi vibe going on. There’s also Sexy Sadie, which is about that Indian time when McCartney, Harrison, Lennon and Starr spent time on retreat with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
I also love the blues on Yer Blues, even though it’s not regarded as a classic. And they got experimental with ska on Ob-La-Di, Ob-LaDa… that’s one of the things which makes this album so interesting. There’s a lot of diversity happening.
I appreciate While My Guitar Gently Weeps is a major song on here, but it’s something I never really got into until I heard George Harrison playing it live on the Concert For Bangladesh album. And isn’t Hey Jude on here? Oh no, it was recorded during the same sessions, but kept only as a single. Great song, though. And that sleeve – so simple, yet really amazing. Who else would have thought of it at the time?
I’d have to say that The Beatles in general, and for me this album in particular, are a big influence on Wolfmother. In fact, some of those bands we’d cite as important in our sound got their ideas from them!
Someone once told me that Sonic Youth were thinking about covering the whole of the White Album – and it was a double record on vinyl, so that would have been amazing. They didn’t do it in the end, so maybe there’s an opportunity for us to take it on in the future! Just kidding. The record’s too special and iconic for anyone to have been arrogant enough to cover the thing.”
Andrew Stockdale was speaking to Malcolm Dome.