A Guide to 12 Acoustic Guitar-Based Tracks on The Beatles' 'White Album'
Guitar World takes a look at the acoustic guitar-based songs on the "White Album" -- how they were written and the process they went through to become finished tracks.
Recorded August 28-30, Trident Studios, London
Beginning with "Norwegian Wood," from 1965's Rubber Soul, John Lennon drew increasingly from his personal experiences in crafting his lyrics, a trend that culminated in the confessional songwriting style of his first solo album, 1970's Plastic Ono Band. The "White Album" features two narratives inspired by Lennon's adventures in Rishikesh: "Sexy Sadie," his poison pen letter to the Maharishi, who had allegedly attempted to seduce some of the women attending his camp; and "Dear Prudence," inspired by Prudence Farrow, who had accompanied her sister, actress Mia Farrow, to the Maharishi's camp.
As one of the Maharishi's more devoted followers, Prudence would spend her days meditating while the others engaged in group activities, leading to Lennon's sung invitation for her to leave her tent and "greet the brand new day."
The distinctive fingerpicked guitar line played throughout the recording, sometimes doubled by a second guitar, is both haunting and lovely. Whether the first guitar is acoustic or electric is difficult to discern, and the studio notes detailed in Mark Lewisohn's The Beatles: Recording Sessions make no such distinction. Nevertheless, the folky Travis picking employed by Lennon is very much associated with the acoustic guitar, and Lennon most likely began composing the song on an acoustic during his stay in Rishikesh.
"Dear Prudence" is one of several "White Album" tracks recorded at Trident Studios, an independent London facility whose eight-track equipment represented a marked improvement over Abbey Road's four-track machines. (The Beatles had originally used Trident for the recording of "Hey Jude," the group's first single for their own Apple label, on July 31.)
Little did the group know that Abbey Road had already acquired its own eight-track machine, but was keeping it under wraps until the studio's technicians could work out a few bugs. When the Beatles learned of Abbey Road's eight-trade recorder, they promptly "liberated" it, putting it to use on September 3 for the recording of George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
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