January 2019

The Yin and Yang of The Beatles

A Playlist from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and “The White Album

The Classic Album Covers column in the January issue of In Tune juxtaposes the wildly divergent covers of two albums by The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and The Beatles, universally nicknamed “The White Album.”

In a mere decade together, The Beatles explored a vast yin and yang of possibilities in modern pop music, laying revolutionary groundwork for all to follow. Even within the space of just two years, 1967-68, the music of The Beatles would shift from the baroque art-pop of the conceptual Sgt. Pepper’s to the loosely knit, back-to-basics double-LP grab bag of “The White Album.” The radical stylistic evolution between these two albums was reflected by their covers. Like the music of Sgt. Pepper’s, its kaleidoscopic cover melded Edwardian nostalgia with the band’s wide-ranging cultural tastes. Along with The Beatles kitted out in fancifully multi-colored military-band garb, the cover featured a virtual orchestra of their cultural heroes: cut-outs of ’60s icons Bob Dylan and Marlon Brando but also stars of earlier eras (Marilyn Monroe, Fred Astaire) and 19th -century literary favorites (Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde), among others. As opposed to the rococo artwork for Sgt. Pepper’s, the cover of “The White Album” was an ultra-minimalist, all-white “tabula rasa” – just as much of a statement in its own way.

Super deluxe editions of both Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and “The White Album,” have been released, and they are fascinating for any Beatles fan, as they are filled with non-LP singles, demo recordings, alternate takes and rare versions of songs destined for other albums. This playlist samples famous tracks from these two Beatles albums, as well as some of the most interesting rarities included on the deluxe editions. Even at 25 songs, this playlist only scratches the surface… — Bradley Bambarger