Today sees the release of The Beatles' back catalogue on remastered CD. For what it's worth, my favourite Beatles album is The Beatles, AKA The White Album. Not only do I think it's the best Beatles album, I happen to think it's the best album by anyone.
There's a long-running argument amongst fans of the Fabs over how The White Album would have been as a single-record set. Personally, I think it's more than fine as a double album, but to get in the spirit of things, here's how my track-listing would have looked if it was distilled down to a 45 minute LP (and, yes, it does include Revolution 9):
1. Everybody's got something to hide except for me and my monkey
2. Dear Prudence
3. I'm so tired
4. While my guitar gently weeps
5. I will
7. Martha my dear
8. Happiness is a warm gun
9. Back in the USSR
10. Sexy Sadie
11. Revolution 1
12. Cry baby cry
13. Revolution 9
14. Savoy Truffle
16. Long, long, long
But let's leave the music aside for a moment and consider the sleeve. Rolling Stone described the all-white cover as "stylish minimalism." Its designer, Richard Hamilton, said that:
"Pop Art should be popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and big business."
David Quantick, Revolution: The making of the Beatles' White Album, p. 163
It will be interesting to see how the album sells this time around because, if the anti-smoking groups are correct, the plain cover should be a major deterrent to consumers, especially the young (PDF).
The research showed that smokers would associate smoking from a plain pack as being less stylish, less sociable and less mature than smoking cigarettes from packs with full branding, and also that the product would be less satisfying and of lower quality tobacco.
Indeed, plain packaging would create negative imagery. Instead of being a badge product to be proudly displayed, the ugly pack would be a source of embarrassment.
Ugly? That's a bit strong. The plain pack above (from ASH promotional material) actually looks quite smart and attractive. But the anti-smoking groups say that people will definitely be put off from buying something with a plain white cover. I wonder.
The White Album went platinum 19 times and is the tenth biggest selling album of all time. Just think what it could have done without that "ugly" sleeve.