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White Out in The Doll's House
These days plenty of people buy collectors edition vinyl with no intention of ever owning a turntable. The records and jacket are seen as form of concept art - the music is secondary to a wider idea of being an object d' art to puzzle over and to project one's own ideas on to.One of the challenges of being born later than ideal is that profound, disruptive ideas have been repeated, replayed and remixed into obscene cliche. Almost as if a Michelin starred chef made a superb meal that then was covered in own brand salad cream and microwaved over and over again until it was less honest, tasty and appealing than pavement vomit on piss soaked cardboard. What was fresh and gold is hard to see in retrospect. The White Album falls into this unfair bin for me, at least until now.Our Elites have failed to protect, help us, understand and engage with the problems of the day,The tool kit on Left and Right alike is rusted, retarded and long obsolete.Much like trying to hammer in a pesky nail with a screwdriver made of spit and tears, none of the big things can be moved. This is why many of the best minds I have known turn to the worse and weird in one way or another, whether the hard right mongoloid notions of Bitcoins or the wacked left mirror rejecting all technology, modernity and medicine as its all a conspiracy. The Beatles met a bearded cult conman selling a consumerised version of ancient jive and started to get weird around the time this enigmatic record was cut.The Beatles were an Elite that also ultimately failed to evolve into continued relevance, as any attempt to find value in Let it Be, Imagine or for fucks fucking sake Wings will reveal.In 1968 something different was expected of The Beatles than they were feeling. Something clearly catchy and political, paisley and kaftan oriented. Right on but without any real aesthetic challenge. Instead they delivered a sprawling, satirical contradiction of double album.I have a strange relationship with The Fab Four. I respect their legacy, but think they get too much love in the wrong places. And George Harrison is too often ignored, much like Dennis Wilson.I'm not sure if they are the best most magical and able Boy Band in the history of pop, a collection of magic that turned to turd by the end of the much misunderstood 60s, neither, both or something else.Other than an accidentally acquired copy of Sgt. Pepper, no Beatles other than reggae or soul or jazz covers is in my racks. The Stones are all across it. After Philippe reminded me that "Are You Experienced" is pure sex, Jimi came back, but I am very suspicious of the 60s idols I'm meant to worship without question. When everyone is praising Degas, I go for Sargant, Sickert, Lautrec and those not pure enough to be acclaimed by the mainstream.A very musically gifted friend of mine, who is rather younger until I steal his youthful verve, had never known the Beatles much. He listened to the classic albums, they made his Dad smile again and had some great moments but he just did not feel moved consistently. He'll not seek them out, but won't turn them down. I'm similar, and until today I never realised I'd not heard the White Album as an Album, rather than covers of Dear Prudence or a few singles. In places it is like a bad parody of Zappa, in others an abode of bliss.And as interesting and in a way majestic as the White Album is, Zappa's attempt to get clearance for the impressive hate letter to all hippiedom that is "We're only in it for the money" is instructive, a tale of wack well told in Wikipedia:Zappa's art director, Cal Schenkel photographed a collage for the album's cover, which parodied The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Zappa spent $4,000 on the photo shoot, which he stated was "a direct negative" of the Sgt. Pepper album cover. "[Sgt. Pepper] had blue skies [...] we had a thunderstorm." Jimi Hendrix, a friend of Zappa's, took part in the photo shoot, standing where a wax sculpture of Sonny Liston had appeared on the Beatles album cover.Zappa phoned Paul McCartney, seeking permission for the parody. McCartney told him that it was an issue for business managers, but Zappa responded that the artists themselves were supposed to tell their business managers what to do. Nevertheless, Capitol objected, and the album's release was delayed for five months. Verve decided to package the album with inverted artwork, placing the parody cover as interior artwork and the intended interior artwork as the main sleeve, out of fear of legal action. Zappa was angered over the decision; Schenkel felt that the Sgt. Pepper parody "was a stronger image" than the final released cover.My mother's record cupboard did not have the White Album. But Tom's house did. His recollection is thus:"The White Album.As a child there were only 2 albums my parents had that I knew all the songs on by heart. The Greatest Hits of Paul Simon: clever, musical, but ultimately annoying. Also very American.And the White Album. I know, it's too long, it doesn't all work, but in the words of Paul in the Anthology series, 'Shut up. It's the Beatles White Album'.Also, I didn't choose the way of Piggies. I chose the way of I'm So Tired, Birthday, Why Don't We Do It In The Road, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and Helter Skelter.The White Album is the most common 'rare record' that actually has value, and so we constantly are playing copies in the shop to grade them.It still sounds interesting."After getting that I felt a bit of an extra foolish philistine until Philippe cut through it all and gave me, and everyone groovy a way out out out of the Beatles paradox:"I've no real ideas about the white album. What i know about the Beatles can be put into one quote from lennon : " In Liverpool, Hamburg and other dancehalls...what we generated was fantastic, where we played straight rock, and there was nobody to touch us in Britain. As soon as we made it, we made it, but the edges were knocked off... We always missed the club dates because that's when we were playing music" Lennon, 1970.
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