it was 37 years ago today ...
this was the album that really changed my life. 1968 was a very wierd year, things were changing very fast all over the world (i remember my aunt claiming it was the end of the world during the riots after martin luther king, jr was shot). but i was only 12 so to me that was just the way it was supposed to be. nothing had been normal in my life to that point and that was a time where it felt as if anything goes. that was the year i found sex, drugs and rock and roll. my aunt gave me her old guitar for my birthday in janurary and i was off to the races. constantly listening to songs on the radio and trying to pick them apart for chords or watching shindig and hullabaloo hoping to see the fingers on the frets, (i woulda learned a lot faster if they had the early emp-tv back then). the music seemed to be getting cooler as i got older, like it was following my lead (altho now i know it was the other way around). i started reading and listening to anything and everything ...and i kinda sucked up as much as i could, as fast as i could, from that year on.
the beatles were always on the radar. when i was 10 my best friend's dad was a lieutenant in the las vegas police dept. he got the two of us tickets and we sat in the back of the convention center on that afternoon of august 20, 1964. i sorta remember the band, but mainly we went there to watch all our female classmates pee on themselves over the beatles. i didn't really care about music then (or about girls, unless it was to humiliate them), so i don't feel as it really counts for much. but things changed in the next year or so. my first real album was a copy of 'yesterday and today' that i got xmas of '66. my sis got what she wanted, 'headquarters' by the monkees and i remember these bloody knock-down-drag-outs over who was the best band. we would spend our weekends fighting over this massive, ostentatious piece of furniture that was mom's stereo only to have her cut in and start playing a sinatra record to break us apart (we would flee in all directions at the first hint of frankie. funny how your tastes change as you age, i love that stuff too now!). but in the long run it seems my argument has won out. and i still have that first record in my archives, along with about another hundred or so other beatle albums, 8 of those being copies of the white one because i kept playing them til they were unplayable (plus 4 on cd, because i keep finding lower numbers, daggnnabbitt!, my first white l.p. i got for xmas of '68 is #0307809, i haven't found one lower yet on vinyl, but i'm not done.)
it's now known that the beatles were also going through a lot of changes that year. at the time no one had any idea of the turmoil within the greatest band in the world, the output had slowed but the music was so much better. they were no longer those lovable mop-tops. the fab four had found new loves and interests that made the whole concept of stardom a bit less attractive. earlier in the year all the beatles and their friends and lovers went on a sabbatical to india to study meditation under the maharishi. they left seperately after it was found that his exhaultedness was chasing the young women in the group like harpo marx (john became very bitter in the aftermath and wrote a scathing song about the guru that evolved into 'sexy sadie'). and it would be the last time they would gather as a group for anything other than making records. and they only had that to keep them together at all from that point on ...
the record was begun on may 30th with the initial sessions focused on john's 'revolution' (which was morphed into to three radically different
released versions) and ended on the 21st of october. in between the band had many rows, with even the mild mannered ringo quitting the band for 2 weeks because of the squabbling. of course no word of anything rotten in the land of beatles got out, but the feel of their music on the white album had definetly gotten edgier and in john's case, more personal. gone were the frilly promises of a psychedelic wonderland envisioned only a year ago. this was no mystery tour, it was more like a misery tour. john even reported later that it was really a solo record by the band, each one using the rest to highlight their songs.
yet the white album, with all it's uneveness, is more a beatle record in feeling than 'sgt. pepper', which relied more on studio wizardry over songwriting prowess. each song on the white one is like a celebration of life itself, the loose studio feeling of songs like 'birthday' and 'yer blues' with hooping and hollering all throughout, the little snippets of songs that float in and out, the heartfelt ballads wedged in between the raucous rockers, the sense that every song did not fit with the last, all made for a roller coaster of a ride. even the dreaded 'revolution 9' is a snapshot of the times the beatles were living in with it's aural description of the wars, riots and chaos of 1968. in fact the whole l.p. encapsulates it's surroundings more than any other record, while still sounding relevent and mysterious, even after 37 years of repeated listenings. i have tried to collect as much of the outtakes over the years, and have amassed all that i know is out and about, except for a mono copy of the white one (if ya got one for sale i am in the marrket), take 3 of helter skelter and the 20 something minute version of revolution 1, but i am afraid if i ever do find them my hunger for music will be filled and then i'll just wither and fade away. but i keep looking anyway .
a few rare alternate tracks from the white album sessions on mp3 (via yousendit):
i'm so tired (take 14)
step inside medley (recorded 9-16-68)
sexy sadie (remix from take 117)
revolution 1 (yoko's diary/session mix take 20) 23 min
buy the white album!
along with the beatle's 'anthology' tome, mark lewisohn's essential beatle books, 'recording sessions' and 'complete chronicles' are a constant source of reference and entertainment, a real must for any beatle fan of any age.
not done yet tho ...
here is a link to the charlie manson/white album connection,
and a track from dj dangermouse's mash-up of the white album and jay-z's black album on the grey album... (which is fairly bizarre in it's own right, this cut features rips of helter skelter)
... i think that is all i got to say, for now.