What Makes The Beatles' "White Album" Cover Unique?

by Miranda Morley Google

The best-selling Beatles album, which fans today call the "White Album," was actually a self-titled release, "The Beatles." The White Album was the band's ninth release in the United Kingdom and its 15th in the United States. Its eclectic mixture of Eastern-inspired melodies and mysterious lyrics won acclaim, and its cover art is unique.

Minimalist Design

The bright, busy cover of The Beatles' previous release, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," had excited audiences. Paul McCartney wanted what would become the White Album to be as simple as "Sgt. Pepper" was extravagant. He worked with Richard Hamilton to do just that. The album's artwork was indeed "clean and empty," as Hamilton described, featuring only the band's name toward the right. Early editions also had serial numbers; these are collector's items today.


The White Album was originally entitled "A Doll's House," taken from Henrik Ibsen's play by that name, and cover art for "A Doll's House" was designed. This artwork was more in the extravagant style of "Sgt. Pepper." with slightly abstract paintings of The Beatles and animals. However, the group decided to change the album's name after another band released an album with a similar name. With the name change came an artwork change. The original artwork for this release was eventually used for the 1980 release of "The Beatles Ballads."


In addition to its unique cover, the White Album came with several inserts, including an 8-by-10 portrait of each band member and a poster designed by Hamilton. In the United States, two of the pictures in the poster were censored: an image of Paul McCartney naked and a drawing of John Lennon and Yoko Ono naked.

Rejected Ideas

Before the final, white design was chosen, Hamilton considered a few other additions. He toyed with adding a brown ring on the cover that would make it look as though a coffee cup had been resting on the CD. Another idea was to have a green apple stain on the white cover. Hamilton rejected these, because he thought the coffee ring was "flippant" and the apple stain concept would not be understood.