In many ways, the Beatles' ninth and longest studio album is their most enigmatic release. Originally loosed upon the world as The Beatles in November 1968, the so-called White Album is easily the most contentious and least understood masterwork among the band's unmatched artistic corpus. As the essayists in this special issue demonstrate, we are only just beginning to understand the LP's unique creative achievements.

In contrast with the band's previous opus Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967), The White Album was decidedly more fragmentary and generically diverse. But at the same time, it was also their most determined, self-conscious effort. Begun in May 1968 at EMI's Abbey Road Studios, the album was a font of creative activity that rivals, if not supersedes, some of the most prolific moments of their career. “The entire White Album was written in India,” John Lennon later remarked. “We got our mantra, we...

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