Friday, June 1, 2007

The Beatles - The Beatles (aka White Album)


To my knowledge, this was the first rock cover that dared to be this simple. By having the vision and courage to strip the cover down to nothing*, The Beatles established a standard that no one has surpassed (and very few have even tried). It's proof that sometimes the most compelling design is the simplest one.

The original pressing was a glossy white cover designed by British artist Richard Hamilton. The band's name was embossed (not printed) at a slight angle, and a unique number was embossed on each cover.** As happened with The Wall, subsequent editions had the words "The Beatles" printed in grey or black, a change that destroyed the integrity of the design.

* Part of this cover's beauty lies in the fact that it can be interpreted in so many ways. Since white is the inclusion of every color in the spectrum, I see this album cover as The Beatles' statement that they included every color of their musical spectrum in this recording. In that sense, the cover doesn't represent 'nothing;' it represents 'everything.'

** To me, giving each album a unique number recognizes the unique relationship that each fan has with an album. By doing this, The Beatles acknowledged the most important color of their musical spectrum: each and every one of their listeners.

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8 Comments:

Blogger bob_vinyl said...

I like your interpretation of the "white." The White Album certainly draws on a lot of different influences, so that makes sense whether it was their intention or not.

I also like your angle on the numbering (which was stamped, not embossed), because I firmly believe that half of the artistic process is the interpretation. What would be the point of art that no one experienced?

June 2, 2007 2:27 AM  
Blogger rock_of_ages said...

The numbering is also a little misleading as well as I read that there multiple copies of each number due to multiple pressing plants starting at 000001!

I find it interesting that they followed Sgt. Peppers with something so polar opposite yet managed to created another legendary cover.

One of the other covers considered for this album (when it was to be titled Doll's House) was actually eventually used as the cover for the 80s compilation album The Bealtes Ballads.

June 2, 2007 11:55 AM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I was wondering who was going to take this on. Everything mentioned here just adds to immortality of this album. I kept wondering if Prince's Black Album was genius for its all-black cover, but then, considering it was never intended to be released originally, that becomes questionable, although I'm thinking that it's a potshot against Warners.

I think the dissemination The Beatles presented here is just a way to stop and consider your surroundings, re-examine what you already know, take it back to basics and see if you return that person you were before.

June 2, 2007 12:33 PM  
Blogger taotechuck said...

Hmmm... that's all actually really interesting. I'm not certain what the difference is between stamping and embossing, so I just called it embossing. And it's fascinating that they re-used numbers. (Rumor has it that Hamilton liked the idea of numbering an album that would sell hundreds of thousands of copies, completely killing the concept of limited numeric editions.) And I really like the interpretation of stopping to re-examine things, then seeing if you're still in the same place.

June 2, 2007 4:28 PM  
Blogger The Lone Beader said...

This album cover didn't have to be more than what it is. The music says it all.

And, I do believe that Prince's black alum was a shot at the record companies. It doesn't mention who the artist is either. But, again, his music says it all....

June 3, 2007 12:11 PM  
Blogger David Amulet said...

I like your take on the "color" and the numbers. Good review of the classic cover.

-- david

June 3, 2007 6:40 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

This post has been removed by the author.

June 4, 2007 12:11 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

I thought Prince's Black Album was called that because it was only available as a bootleg with a black cover for many years, but it looks like is only part of the story. If he pulled it due to inferior quality, you have to respect that he had a record ready to go and just shelved it because it wasn't his best work. There's a whole list of bands that should have done the same.

June 4, 2007 12:19 AM  

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