Unforeseen side effects of the iPod: I probably couldn’t have put together Short Sharp Shocks without the help of iTunes breaking down my music library by length of song. And I wouldn’t have had the patience a couple of years ago to edit down classic double albums to single albums without being able to tinker with iTunes playlists.
While I’m off in the desert this week, I thought you might enjoy a few installments of that project, previously published under the Rolling Stone “Rock and Roll Daily” umbrella.
Some double albums represent a rock act having an extraordinary creative outpouring, coming up with too many great songs to fit on one disc. But only a few. Many more double albums are the result of ego, band infighting, and an unwillingness to edit down two overweight discs into a killer single record. Yeah, we’re looking at you, Use Your Illusion.
So how would various classic-but-flawed double albums sound if the musicians behind them had cut them down to single albums? Let’s look at five edited versions of major albums—all of which sound better with a haircut. If you don’t believe me, plug these playlists into your MP3 player and judge for yourself. You might never go back to the originals.
We start, of course, with the Beatles’ 1968 release known as The White Album. It was one of the very first rock double albums and set the brilliant-but-bloated standard for the format. Producer George Martin implored the Beatles to make a “very, very good single album, rather than a double,” but they ignored him. What if they hadn’t? What if John and Paul had made some hard decisions (while making sure Ringo and George still got a turn at the microphone)? The record might have sounded like this:
1. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
2. Martha My Dear
3. I’m So Tired
4. Helter Skelter
6. Wild Honey Pie
7. Don’t Pass Me By
9. Back in the U.S.S.R.
10. Dear Prudence
11. Savoy Truffle
12. I Will
13. Happiness Is a Warm Gun
14. Rocky Racoon
15. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?
16. While My Guitar Gently Weeps
(total running time: 46:05)
(This is one mix I’ve modified since its original publication; originally, I mistakenly put two George songs back-to-back, which never would have happened.)