Released in November 1968, the White Album did a Pollock on all the principles of freedom the Beatles had been shaping since 1965’s Rubber Soul kicked off their long, disciplined freakout, and splattered the canvas with every elementary Beatle colour: rock and roll, British music hall, folk-and-pop, country, novelty songs, in no apparent order or thematic unfolding. In its elemental, revelatory mess and as a rock double album it bears resemblance to Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde (1966) or even Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland (released just the month before), and if you took the long view you could, I suppose, think of it as part of the strengthening trend in the late 1960s towards the belief in rock music as art. While The White Album may not be a lot of things to otherwise die-hard Beatles fans, it is very definitely Art. Self-conscious Pop collage. If the grinning nods-and-winks of yore are replaced by the dour four studiously not having a good time together during these last years of their existence (or perhaps merely shrugging the veil of idolatry), the music gives the lie to this not being good for the rest of us and for popular music in general across the timeline of centuries. That Abbey Road and its blueprint for rock’s next steps was still in their future is almost impossible to believe.
“I’m So Tired” is a late Beatles-era Lennon masterpiece, a song of yearning and uncertainty. Its central line, “I’d give you everything I’ve got for a little peace of mind” is both a call of desire for Yoko Ono and, in its cultural context, maybe the expression of the need to cool off for a bit, get some bearings amidst the drugs and money and politics and war and bullshit. This is what makes great songs. And of course it doesn’t hurt that there’s a lazy kind of rhythm to it, torch ballad sway giving way to hard rock march in the B section. Twice through and out, nothing to it really, but in its barely 2-minute glory it contains in its molecules everything the Beatles were and would be.
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