You don’t have to be a fan of the Beatles to appreciate their brilliance.
What we can learn from the Beatles' 'White Album'
Over their relatively short career as the fab four from Liverpool, the Beatles recorded 206 original compositions across several different albums. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many albums sold, but data suggest it’s somewhere between 272 million and 600 million.
More recently the Beatles celebrated the 50th anniversary of the so-called “White Album” (actually knowns as The Beatles) by remastering the originals and releasing a treasure trove of outtakes & previously unheard versions in a new box set.
As I listened to the new, sonically superior versions of classic songs like Back in the U.S.S.R, Blackbird, and Dear Prudence, I found myself clamouring for the other goodies nested in the box set package.
As part of the 50th-anniversary celebration, the new “White Album” comes with early recordings logged from George Harrison’s home. During the mid-to-late 1960’s, Harrison lived in the village of Esher, a part of Surrey and southwest of London. Before going into the famous Abbey Road Studios to record the “White Album,” the Beatles spent time at Harrison’s home going through their material to develop early-stage arrangements. All of it was recorded on a four-track recorder.
The new box set of the “White Album” contains cuts of the songs in very raw and often acoustic splendour. The songs are known as the “Esher versions” because of their recording location; Harrison’s home.
Think of it as your first chance to own the Beatles in an unplugged format. Each of the songs was polished up ever so sophisticatedly by producer Giles Martin, son of the famous Beatles producer, George Martin. Indeed these acoustic gems are a wonderment to Beatles lore.
The new release also contains all sorts of different takes on the songs when the band were officially recording the album in Abbey Road Studios.
There is a 15th take on Mother Nature’s Son, a 17th take on Helter Skelter, a 27th take on While My Guitar Gently Weeps and an amazing 102nd take on Not Guilty, a song that never even made the album’s original release in 1968. (The Harrison-crafted song had to settle for a solo release of his in 1979.)
The re-issue of the “White Album” got me thinking about how well we prepare ourselves for a performance in the business world.
How much time are you spending to ensure you are prepared for the limelight? Perhaps it’s a meeting, a 1-1 coaching session with a team member, a speech, or maybe you’re about to write an important summary report.
Whatever the case, how much time do you devote to planning and testing before the big moment?
In the case of the Beatles, what was evident to me after I spent a considerable amount of time this past weekend listening to the “White Album” was the amount of preparation they put into making the album. It helped ensure the album itself came across as “off the floor.”
The original “White Album” possesses an earthy, rambunctious sound, often feeling as though it was recorded live without post-production polishing. It turns out that didn’t happen at all.
The amount of time that went into crafting the songs before the Abbey Road Studios time—the acoustic practicing and recording at George Harrison’s home as an example—became step one of their preparation.
Step two was when they entered Abbey Road Studios. Although we are not privy to all takes on all songs, when you listen through some of the unusual takes courtesy the new box set, you are left with sublime insights into their continued preparation for a final take.
The lesson I gleaned from listening to the new box set was about time; we need to remember to carve out ample preparation time before a big moment. To become an expert in our execution as a leader we must remember the importance of preparation.
When we wing it and fly by the seat of our pants, we will end up unprepared. When it comes to those we are serving or leading, they may question our abilities as a leader.
We would be wise to prepare (and practice) before hitting the record button. Everyone is better off for it.