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)

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Beatles 50th Anniversary White Album – First Look

Some reviewers are flouting the embargo on showing and reviewing The Beatles new 50th anniversary edition of The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album).

While it is not officially released until November 9, Michael Fremer – who is an equipment reviewer for the legendary Stereophile magazine, but who also runs his own YouTube channel and a blog called AnalogPlanet – has given fans a tasty preview of what to expect.

Fremer shows us not only the 4 LP set, but also the Deluxe 6 CD plus Blu-ray box containing Giles Martin’s new remix, the Esher Demos, and much much more in this YouTube clip:

He’s also published this lengthy review. In a nutshell – he really likes the vinyl:

“….the reissue does not sound like the original U.K. pressing nor was it intended to. Yet it remains true to the original’s intent, in part because there was less Mr. Martin could do to change it.

The new mix does sound more “modern” because modern techniques and gear were used, and the final source was a modern digital storage system, but this reissue does not sound “digital” as the pejorative use of the term has come to be used.

You’ll definitely be able to hear further into the reissue mix because it has greater transparency. And you can crank it up farther because it’s less harsh and somewhat smoother but not to where it’s soft.”

Mr Fremer also says that the Esher Demos LP is exceptional:

“…..they are truly wondrous. John brought 15 songs, Paul 7 and George 5. You are in the Kinfauns Bungalow as they strum, bang and shake and you’ll love every minute of it.”

So, how was the CD box set by comparison?

“When I played the CD version….all of that magic disappeared. I was hearing a plastic-sounding recording. Was it different EQ? Was it the downrez from 96/24 to 16/44.1? I don’t know and I don’t care. Am I prejudiced against CDs? Damn straight I am! Based on what I hear and nothing else.”

And how does he sum it all up?

“My conclusion about this remix is that if you have an original British pressing that you love, you will still love that. If you have an open mind you will also love this re-mix. You might be surprised which one you choose when you want to revisit this album. Yes, The Beatles has been “Martinized” but you won’t be left thinking you’ve been taken to the cleaners!”

Hey Jude/Revolution – If It’s Re-issued Should This Be The Look?

Loved this Tweet yesterday by Canadian Beatle aficionado and author, Piers Hemmingsen:  

It made us think that if (and it seems to be very likely) there are plans to re-issue a physical ‘HeyJude’/’Revolution’ single as part of the forthcoming Beatles White Album 50th Anniversary, then it really should come in a white sleeve like the 1968 Canadian issue.

What do you think? Does this…..

….look better (and more appropriate) than this…..

Piers Hemmingsen is the author of The Beatles In Canada – The Origin of Beatlemania!

We Buy White Albums – Exhibition

That New York art installation/exhibition that features multiple copies of The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) we wrote about last year has now transferred across the Atlantic to the UK – to the city of Liverpool no less.

“We Buy White Albums” is now on show (until September 14) at the FACT space in Fleet Street, Liverpool. It’s the world’s largest collection of first-edition copies of The Beatles’ White Album. Artist Rutherford Chang has collected over 1000 copies of the double album on vinyl. The exhibition presents the records and, as you can see below, allows visitors to examine up close the decades of wear-and-tear, marks, doodles and damage that have affected the album’s minimalist cover:

We Buy White Albums1 We Buy White Albums2 We Buy White Albums3We Buy White Albums5Dust and Grooves did a great interview with artist Rutherford Chang and provided lots of other great photos of his White Album collection too. And there’s a video from the New York exhibition.

Visit fact.co.uk/whitealbum to find out more.

 

 

How Many Copies of the White Album Do You Own?

A couple of months ago this interesting Dust and Grooves article about a performance artist named Rutherford Chang really grabbed my attention.

You see, Rutherford Chang is a Beatles collector who only collects one particular Beatles album.

It’s the double LP that comes comes in the plain white cover and is simply called The Beatles….or as it’s more colloquially known: The White Album.

Dust_and_Grooves_3542

You can take a look at a video featuring Chang’s very large collection here.

And then there’s the rather amazing beatlealbum.com website, dedicated solely to exploring every aspect of The Beatles.

All this got me wondering. How many copies of The White Album do you have in your collection?

They can be on vinyl, compact disc, 8-track tape, reel-to-reel, cassette…or maybe even as a digital download.

I added up the copies in my collection in various formats and it comes to a total of 16 copies in all. That’s 5 x CDs, and 11 x LPs…nothing on Chang’s extensive collection!

But I’d be very interested to hear from you.

How many do you have?

You can drop us a line by using this contact form: 

A Big Beatles Garage Sale Haul

In my previous post I was bemoaning the scenario where you make the effort to get out and about early on a Saturday morning on the hunt for Beatles vinyl – and return frustrated and empty-handed.

Not so this last weekend which produced a wealth of great Beatles treasure, including one LP I’d not seen before. My son has taken to joining me on these forays into others people’s garages and front lawns. He calls it “crate digging“. He’s on the lookout for jazz plus wide range of other artists he might be able to take samples from to load into his computer. He then uses short grabs from these to mix into new songs he’s creating himself.

Anyway, we go to this one house early Saturday morning and the lady says yes, she has some records, but as she hasn’t gone through them she doesn’t want to put them out right now. If we could come back after lunchtime she’d find them (somewhere up the back of a very packed garage) and we could have a private look through to see if there is anything we want. We like the sound of an exclusive “crate dig” and so return at the appointed time. By this time four very large plastic bins filled with records have been located and we begin to look through….

First out of the crate comes an Australian copy of Sgt Pepper. It is in the old-style gatefold cover with the fold-over tabs, plus it has the original paper inner and the “cut out” insert. Things are looking good. This one is on the old Parlophone black and silver “Stereo Banner” label. Jaesen Jones, the author of “An Overview of Australian Beatles Records“, says this label was used on some pressings of Pepper by EMI here between between the years 1967-1969:sgt Peppersgt Pepper Inner Sgt Pepper InsertSgt Pepper Aust BannerNice. Next find was an Australian copy of Let It Be. It’s not an original issue, but one of the many, many re-issues of this disc. This one is on the Apple label and is in pretty good condition – near mint. Here’s the rear cover and label:beatles-collection2-lib-rearLIB Label Aust

While flipping through the boxes we got talking to the lady and it turns out this collection of records (which was literally a couple of hundred discs across a wide variety of genres – but mostly rock and pop) came from a very well-known Sydney radio and TV personality. He was an old family friend and years ago when moving house asked the lady if she wanted his records…

Next I find, in quick succession, a Beatles White Album and an Abbey Road (both re-issues on Apple and probably about the same vintage as the LIB above). The White Album even has the poster and all four photos and is in very good condition: beatles-collection-beatles-all-insertsThe Beatles Aust LabelABBEY_ROAD_sleeveabbey-road-label

Further digging then reveals a red The Beatles/1962-1966, again an Australian copy, with the Apple label and a red background. It has both lyric sheet inserts and is in reasonable condition. Not mint, but OK:beatles_1962_1966-800x800Beatles Red Aust Apple LabelThe final Beatles treasure to come out of these crates is a bit of a rarity. It’s an album I’ve not seen before The Beatles – Birth of  Legend. A New Zealand release from 1983 on the budget Music World Records, it features twelve songs from the famous Decca audition tapes:IMG_0051IMG_0052IMG_0055As the liner notes on the rear cover say, the Decca audition refers to the now-famous audition by the Beatles for Decca Records before they reached international stardom. In what was considered one of the biggest mistakes in the music business ever, Decca decided to reject the band selecting instead a band called Brian Poole and the Tremeloes.

So, after a weekend before of nothing, this time around it is a different story.