The Beatles: How The White Album Changed Everything

The Beatles How The White Album Changed Everything

There was nothing particularly wrong with his marriage to Cynthia. It was, as he put it, “a normal marital state where nothing happened”. But Lennon wanted more, just as he always had. Above all else he wanted to be mothered. And with Yoko newly identified and installed as John’s perfect life partner, Cynthia wasn’t the only one facing redundancy. “Once I found the woman, the boys became of no interest whatsoever,” he said.

Their relationship was way beyond close. They had become two inseparable halves of a single entity, and Yoko a permanent fixture in the studio; she would be found sitting on top of a guitar amp or under the piano. When she became ill, a bed was installed in the studio. The besotted Lennon, oblivious to the feelings of his bandmates, stoked more resentment. The fact that the pair were now using heroin heightened tensions as Lennon became prone to temperamental outbursts.

The LSD-driven Technicolor pop lightness of Sgt. Pepper gave way to darker rock shades as the opiates held sway. Guitars distorted as moods blackened, and Yoko’s very presence initiated an edginess that mirrored the social chaos occurring outside of The Beatles’ bubble: a happy accident that only served to enhance the band’s rock’n’roll relevance.

To their credit, the others reacted to the Yoko-isation of the studio fairly well. They had to ask her to move every time they wanted to adjust their amps, but they generally favoured passive aggression over the frank exchange of fisticuffs you might expect of a band like The Who.

Lennon was hypersensitive to any negative reaction to his newly attached Siamese twin. The indignation of his fellow Beatles was at least understandable, but the negative press and public reaction to Yoko was not. It was this undue criticism (partly born of racism) that particularly rankled. A dormant hard-man persona came to the fore in Lennon. The moptop-era puppy fat was gone forever, now replaced with a lean, mean demeanour: Lennon the Peace Yob. It was the template for Liam Gallagher 25 years later, and a role Lennon himself would inhabit for the remainder of the decade.

Angry John was easily mistaken for Political John. Resentful that nobody liked his new girlfriend, he started ranting about peace, furiously planting acorns and shouting at journalists from bed. In so doing he inadvertently supplied the blueprint for Bono and every other rock star who assumes that just because they can sing in tune they’re Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Jesus Christ rolled into one.

The onset of John’s apparent political conscience coincided with Yoko’s arrival. And as civil unrest continued to simmer across the globe, The Beatles suddenly found their voice. The White Album sessions commenced with Revolution, written by Lennon in the foothills of Rishikesh.

“I wanted to put out what I felt about revolution,” he explained in 1970. “I thought it was about time we thought about it. The same as I thought it was about time we stopped not answering about the Vietnam War.”


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