When the four Beatles finally took their individual songs into Abbey Road Studios in May 1968, they worked more autonomously than ever before. Abandoning the meticulous crafting that had served them so well on Sgt. Pepper, they jammed out a few backing tracks collectively, but generally worked individually.
The majority of the White Album was recorded as if four solo albums were being made simultaneously. McCartney was no longer editing Lennon and vice versa, Harrison was left to his own devices, and Ringo spent entire days twiddling his sticks in the studio’s reception; each songwriter took care of his own overdubs separately. A frustrated George Martin eventually abandoned production duties to go on holiday. His position as omnipresent fifth Beatle had been usurped.
While you can debate whether or not The Beatles were the first rock band, there’s no doubt whatsoever that Yoko was the first Yoko. John’s relationship with her was finally consummated just 11 days prior to the start of the White Album’s sessions at Abbey Road, and it caused him to re-evaluate his pampered existence. He had not been happy with Beatle-life for a long time, and his feelings were becoming clear as the band reconvened for the sessions.
“I was too scared to break away from The Beatles, which I’d been looking to do since we stopped touring [in ’66],” Lennon revealed in 1980. “I was vaguely looking for somewhere to go, but didn’t have the nerve – so I hung around. And then I met Yoko and fell in love: ‘This is more than a hit record. It’s more than everything…’”
Yoko, who wasn’t in the slightest bit impressed by Lennon’s Beatle status, opened his eyes to the vacuity of stardom. “That’s how The Beatles ended,” Lennon said. “Not because Yoko split The Beatles, but because she showed me what it was like to be Elvis Beatle and to be surrounded by sycophants and slaves who were only interested in keeping the situation as it was. She said to me:, ‘You’ve got no clothes on.’ Nobody had dared tell me that before.”