Thursday, February 28, 2013

Why Was The White Album White?

Screenwriters and directors make it their aim to create something memorable. They do this with great scenes and great lines. Our lives are similarly made up of lines and scenes. Not all moments in a life are equally memorable, but some certainly get elevated above the rest, capturing and re-capturing our attention as we reflect upon them.

When I think of the Beatles' White Album, numerous associations and memories come to mind. Perhaps most memorable for me is the manner in which the album was introduced to U.S. audiences. I was a teen in New Jersey when the album came out in 1968. A New York FM station spent two evenings playing and talking about one song at a time, beginning with sides 1 and 2 the first evening and sides 3 and 4 the following evening. I remember lying on my bed looking up at the ceiling, taking it in.

I'm not the first to have taken a shine to the White Album, and hardly the last. Yesterday I read a news story about a fellow in New York who has transformed collecting original vinyl White Albums into an art form.  His record shop has only 1 record... or rather, 650 copies of this one album. He's not selling them, he's buying them. It is fascinating to see pictures of Rutherford Chang's collection. The album sleeves are in a wide range of conditions, and not many are white any more.

As for why the White Album was white... rumors abounded when I was in school. One rumor was that the original image on the Brit version was so unspeakably gruesome that the marketing people felt it would hinder sales in the U.S.  Another rumor was that if you soak the album an image would appear, much like invisible ink that becomes visible when you soak the paper in lemon juice. 

All rumors aside, my guess is that it was white "just because." Certainly it was bold. It wasn't my first white album, though. I had purchased an underground Crosby, Stills & Nash bootleg for three dollars under the counter at our local record store in Bridgewater, for three dollars, and it came in an unmarked white sleeve as well.

Alas, when I think white what comes to mind is "seeing the light."

I'd say more but it's time to start another day.

No comments: