Walrus gumbo: white album re-release

The reissued white album includes the much-sought-after demos, recorded at “George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher, London, fresh from the band’s fabled Rishikesh trip.”

white albumI distinctly remember the first time I heard the “white album” by The Beatles. In November 1968, a bunch of our merry band, dubbed Holiday Unlimited – “a splendid time is guaranteed for all” – were in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Binghamton, NY.

Our friend Steve, the only UU among us, “sponsored” our gathering as an LRY (Liberal Religious Youth) event. we listened to each of the four sides, with only a brief bathroom breaks.

We were gobsmacked. The sounds were all over the place. But I must have liked it, because I got it for Christmas (or maybe my next birthday), but I had to replace one of the discs because the intro to Birthday skipped.

The album The Beatles, generally referred to as the “white album,” is being reissued in several formats, including a limited 6 CD + 1 Blu-ray audio Super Deluxe box set.

It includes the much-sought-after Esher Demos, recorded at “George Harrison’s bungalow in Esher, London, fresh from the band’s fabled Rishikesh trip,” plus three sessions discs and a slip-sleeved 164-page hardbound book. “The book also includes new introductions by Paul McCartney and Giles Martin and in-depth track-by-track details and session notes.”

The Deluxe 3 CD set which includes the Esher demos, has a 24-page booklet abridged from the Super Deluxe book. There are also a couple different LP versions. I may purchase the 3 CDs at about $30, because the super deluxe set, at $150 may be too rich for my blood.

Paul McCartney goes through The White album track by track.

I’m now convinced that people will still be talking about Beatles’ music fifty years from now. Part of the reason is the sheer volume of their music being released decades after their breakup. I have approximately three dozen albums that are strictly Beatles covers. The band remains a regular topic on the Quora website.

YouTube automatically rolled to Ticket to Ride by the Beatles. the music is as seminal as ever and the video is a hoot. Minimal attempts to feign playing their instruments, the wry look at 1:40 from John.

Here’s The Story Behind John Lennon’s Walrus. It reminded me of a little joke my junior high school friend Ray made, musing on whether Lennon meant “standing in the English rain” or perhaps the “English reign,” meaning the Queen.

Today is Sean Lennon’s 43rd birthday, which is really hard to fathom; I saw him in concert about a decade ago. It would also have been John Lennon’s 78th birthday.
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A book about the White Album?

Lots of people speculated what the album would have been like if it were a single LP

beatles-whitealbumSomeone I know has asked me to compile and edit a book about the album The Beatles, generally called the white album. I haven’t said no, but I haven’t said yes yet because, to quote a white album title, “I’m So Tired.”

Still, it’s an interesting proposition. That album is, in its own way, as emblematic as its predecessor, Sgt. Pepper, and I think it ages better. It is the way people describe Tusk by Fleetwood Mac, e.g., an album with individual artists, rather than a band, with the others showing up as each other’s sidemen, or in this case, NOT showing up sometimes.

The first time I heard the white album was in the basement of the Unitarian church in Binghamton, NY in late November or early December of 1968. Our friend Steve was a member of a church group called LRY, Liberal Religious Youth, so he had access to the building.

We listened intently to the four sides. I remember or think I do, being struck by the Beach Boys effect of Back in the U.S.S.R.; the Beatles’ self-reference of Glass Onion; confusion over the meaning of Happiness Is A Warm Gun; the harpsichord on Piggies; the interesting segue between Birthday and Yer Blues; the sheer loudness of Helter Skelter, followed by the nearly inaudible Long Long Long; the familiarity of Revolution 1; and the utter confusion of Revolution 9.

I got the album for Christmas 1968. No doubt I read the lyric foldout sheet to try to figure out the meaning of it all. But when I got to side 3, the record skipped! It was just before the vocals on Birthday, and I later learned that there were thousands of copies with the same defect. I got it replaced a few days later.

Lots of people speculated what the album would have been like if it were a single LP, rather than a double, starting with producer George Martin. But it was The Beatles we’re talking about, who, that year, put out a seven-minute single, Hey Jude. (Now if YOU want to speculate what would be lost, besides Revolution 9, go ahead.)

If there were a book on the White album, what kind of items would you want to see? I know it’d have reference to cover versions of the songs, at least the ones that charted.

Listen to:

Back in the U.S.S.R. – Chubby Checker, #82 in 1969
Dear Prudence -5 Stairsteps, #66 in 1970
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – Arthur Conley, #51 in 1969

There are a bunch more…