Friday, June 24, 2011

The Album with No Name

I was just becoming musically aware during the 1960s (yes, I'm really that old!)--a process that still continues. Around 1970 I converted to classical music, which is a bit like being a Franciscan monk, but you don't have to get up so early in the morning. Before then, I was a pop musician. I had three memorable experiences in pop music. The first was hearing the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964, which made little impact at the time. The second was hearing "I Am the Walrus" on radio. It was actually released as a single, the 'B' side to Paul's "Hello, Goodbye". The wild thing about hearing it on the radio, that you miss completely hearing it on CD is that in the middle of the song, the radio seems to fade out and into a different station--something we were used to hearing with poor radio reception. It is very unsettling to realize that this is actually part of the song.

I have intentionally chosen the version without video so you won't be distracted. Imagine hearing this on commercial radio! Weird time, the 1960s. The third memorable experience was November 22, 1968. I rarely listened to AM radio, but for some reason I was still awake. It was a Friday night. Just after midnight, probably following some commercial of some kind, the DJ said, "we have it." Now I had no idea what he was talking about as I didn't keep track of the news either. Then I heard this:

Right away I knew it was the Beatles. A new Beatles song was a pretty big deal in 1968. By the way, for that graphic of the album cover, they had to highlight the name: in the original, there is no print whatsoever on the front of the album. The name "The Beatles" was just embossed so you can see it if you hold the cover at an angle to the light. After this song came TWENTY-NINE more. Holy cow, a double album! Of course, this only became evident as they played the album. Imagine, AM radio and they just played all four sides in a row, with no commercials. Also on side one was this tune:

I don't remember if I recognized the guitarist playing that big solo. I was a big Clapton fan even then, but George Harrison, who wrote the song, could do some pretty great guitar solos too. Then on side two was this gem:

Side three had this:

And side four ends with this song, sung by Ringo:

That comes after the notorious "Revolution #9" the eight and a half minute long tape music collage that is possibly the most radical piece of 'pop' music ever. Then "Goodnight" which sounds like something from a 40s musical. Wow. It's now about 2 in the morning and I'm overwhelmed. The DJ comes back on and says,  "Wow. Let's hear that again." And plays all four sides over again, which I stayed up to listen to. Imagine, four hours of AM radio without a single commercial. By the way, the album, which has no printing on the white cover, really has no name either. It is universally referred to as The White Album.

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