Beatles White Album 50th Anniversary SDE – Anyone Else Worried?

We’ve just taken delivery of the new Beatles 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album), and we love the look of the packaging.

It is undeniably beautiful in its pure-white, large format book form, and the clear plastic slipcase – printed with the four band members on the front and the track listing on the back –  creates a very special first impression. But for how long?

While we appreciate the design, we couldn’t help but be reminded of two similar approaches to this style of packaging that have not stood the test of time.

Both examples signal that there will be definitely be a long-term deterioration to your pristine new 50th Anniversary White Album clear plastic slipcase.

As it turns out the two examples were both released twenty years ago in 1998, and the first is from the Beatles own Apple Records, so you might have thought that they’d have learned something about what happens to clear plastic outer slipcases over time.

It’s actually The White Album in its 30th anniversary edition version:

While a much smaller and more modest design, the 30th anniversary White Album also comes in a clear plastic outer slipcase, similar to the new 50th anniversary edition. The example shown here was purchased brand new in 1998 and we’ve tried hard to keep it in mint condition. But even so, that plastic outer sleeve is beginning to show the first signs of ageing and yellowing:

Likewise, there’s a wonderful deluxe, long-box style book and three CD set called The Look of Love – The Burt Bacharach Collection, that’s showing even worse signs of age on its once crystal clear plastic outer sleeve:

This too has been in our collection since new from 1998, but that plastic outer sleeve – on which is printed the album title and a list of some of the top songs it contains – is now almost completely yellowed, especially around the spine area where it is glued:

At the time of release this clear slipcase was a real design plus – but sadly it’s now looking quite ordinary and aged:

Interestingly the cardboard packaging part of the design inside both slipcases have stayed nice and white:

So, it begs the question: in twenty years time what will your 2018 Super Deluxe Edition of The Beatles White Album look like?

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The White Album: The Album, The Beatles and the World in 1968

The Beatle world is in the middle of The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) 50th Anniversary fever right now.

Giles Martin’s 2018 stereo remix is now out, as are the accompanying album demos (a.k.a. The Esher Demos). Add to that no less than three CDs of previously unreleased recording session outtakes and studio chatter, a new 5.1 surround sound mix, plus a lavish accompanying book about the making of the album. The package is getting very good reviews too. But to get all that content you’ll have to buy the Super Deluxe Edition.

If you’re a more casual Beatle fan though, or the purse strings don’t quite stretch to the significant asking price of the SDE, there’s a possible alternate route for you. Just buy the new remix/Esher demos in the reasonably priced three-disc “basic” CD version, and add this new book by Brian Southall called The White Album – Revolution, Politics and Recording: The Beatles and the World in 1968.

Brian Southall worked as a journalist with Music Business Weekly, Melody Maker and Disc magazines before joining A&M Records and then EMI Music, where over a 15-year career he served in press, promotion, marketing, artist development and corporate communications, working on many Beatle solo projects. He’s been a consultant to Warner Music International, the HMV Group and both the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). His other books include the official history of Abbey Road Studios, the story behind the Beatles’ publishing company, Northern Songs, The Beatles in 100 Objects, and (with Julian Lennon) Beatles Memorabilia: The Julian Lennon Collection.

True to its title, Southall’s book takes an in-depth look The White Album in what he likens to two “sides” of a record. The A-side providing a definitive guide to the album, it’s recording and the events surrounding it, while the B-side examines world events, politics and the history of 1968, and how turmoil and revolution helped shape the context in which The Beatles where working on their extraordinary new double LP.    

The book has a great Foreword written by Chris Thomas who, in 1968 as a fledgling producer, found himself almost by accident in the studio producing (and playing with) the greatest band in the world as they made their new LP.

It is also filled with a treasure trove of great images, around 150 of them in colour and black and white, and there’s a song-by-song breakdown of the album, with each track examined in detail. The story of how the album’s stark white cover came about is told, and there’s a section on the reaction the record received in 1968: “Within a week The Beatles was at No.1 in Australia, Canada, France, Norway and West Germany, while in America Capitol Records sold over 3 million copies into record stores within 4 days. Consequently, on December 14 it debuted at No.11, jumped to No.2 the following week, and topped the US album chart on December 28 – and stayed there for nine weeks, spending a total of 155 weeks on the Billboard 200 chart.”

Brian Southall’s White Album book is a companion to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Album, The Beatles and the World in 1967where he utilises a similar A-side/B-side examination linked to the 50th anniversary re-issue of the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band LP last year: 

The White Album – Revolution, Politics and Recording: The Beatles and the World in 1968 is published in the UK by Carlton Books.

(As usual, click on images to see larger versions)

All the Songs – The Story Behind Every Beatles Release

Another Beatles book has come into the collection. It is an impressive one which we are surprised we missed when it was released just last year. Maybe it became overshadowed by Lewisohns’ massive Tune In, and Howlett’s Beatles BBC Archive books – also released last year and both with great publicity and much fanfare.

All The Songs – The Story of Every Beatles Release is up there with them as a reference work and a piece of research. Principally the work of two Frenchmen, Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon (assisted by American Scott Freiman, and with a Preface by the legendary Patti Smith), this book huge and is pretty much as it states in the title – each album and each song on that album dissected and explained in great detail.All the Songs Front

Here’s the rear cover:All the Songs Rear

It is a big, heavy book – 671 pages in all – and with a great layout, lots of photos, memorabilia, and artistic flair in the design and layout:All the Songs ContentsAll the Songs Please 1All the Songs Please 2

There is a good amount of detail too, plus lots of snippets of information if you just want to casually browse:

All the Songs Detail 1All the Songs Detail 2Some background on All the Songs from the official press release:

Drawing on decades of research, the authors recount the circumstances that led to the composition of every song, the recording process, and the instruments used. Organized chronologically by album release and illustrated with 600 black & white and color photographs, this information-packed book provides readers a comprehensive look at how The Beatles changed music forever.

Throughout the song-by-song recording history are informative details such as John Lennon’s purchase of a 1958 Rickenbacker 325 Capri for £100 in Hamburg, in 1960. Diving into The Beatles’ song and album recording process, readers discover that The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me, was recorded in one epic 12-hour session in 1963 for £400. In contrast, they spent month after month in 1967 layering sounds on a four-track recorder to create their masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Praise for All the Songs:

“Enough technical tables to please everyone’s inner nerd” — The Wall Street Journal

“[This] doorstop collects a galaxy of Beatles song data into impressively simple and digestible form. Beautifully illustrated.” — SPIN

“If you’re looking for yet another attractive book to place with a Beatles coffee-table tableaux, there’s Jean-Michel Guesdon and Philippe Margotin’s ‘All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release’ ”— Chicago Tribune

“[All the Songs] should delight casual listeners and make even hard-core Beatlemaniacs smile.” — The Dallas Morning News

There are more reviews here, and here, and there’s an interesting Q&A with the authors here.

You can see the first 21 pages in high quality on the publishers (Black Dog & Leventhal) website, and Amazon has a “Look Inside” if you would like to see more.

Michael McCartney Book – “Remember”

Got the chance to go to a CD and book fair recently and picked up what is really a very nice second-hand book of photographs and memories by Michael McCartney (or Mike McGear as he is sometimes known).

Beatles books are dime a dozen – but this one is special because it’s an historic and unique window into the behind-the-scenes life not only of Paul McCartney and the Beatles, but the whole Liverpool scene which spawned the band.

The book is called Remember: Recollections and Photographs of the Beatles, and it was released in 1992 by Friedman Books:Remember - Recollections and Photograhs

Michael McCartney is the younger brother of Paul, and with camera in hand he had a backstage pass to record the evolution of the Beatles. His book is filled with amazing photographs from the very earliest days of his and Paul’s lives – from intimate family photos, right through to the onset of Beatlemania and the contrast of crowds everywhere.

McCartney’s photographs have been frequently used by his older brother, notably scattered throughout this film clip for the Wings song “Let ‘Em In” from 1976 (which also name-checks “brother Michael”):

Many of those images in the promo film clip appear in this book. Paul McCartney also used a Michael McCartney image for the CD single “No Other Baby”, a song taken from his 1999 album Run Devil Run:

no_other_baby_brown_eyed_handsome_man_fabulous_UK_v2_a

Michael McCartney writes that the photograph (above) is of their cousin Bett Robbins (right), her son Ted (left)- with Paul sitting in the middle sitting in Ted’s pushchair. “By this time Paul was so obsessed with the guitar that he took it everywhere – the bogs, the bus, and even the beach….”. The photo was taken on the same day as this one below. It is the same group, but this time with Paul and Michael’s dad Jim McCartney included:Paul at the Beach

Michael’s work was used for the front cover of Paul’s 2005 solo release Chaos and Creation in the Backyard:Chaos and Creation

That photo appears on page 26 of Remember: Recollections and Photographs of the Beatles. On the opposite page is this image – a striking one – again of Paul with his guitar: Paul McCartney in the Backyard

There are of course many photographs of Paul, but also some wonderfully unique images of the other Beatles as young men:

George Harrison and Ford carRingo and George

In this year of looking back on 50 years of the Beatles, Remember: Recollections and Photographs of the Beatles is well worth looking out for to add to your collection. It came out in 1992 so you will have to hunt around for it, but it’s a unique insight into the early days of the band. You can find out more about Michael McCartney in these two interesting articles: Part One and Part TwoPaul McCartney