Two weeks to go and counting. Hey, y’all, it’s time to get your Christmas Mojo working. For those readers who are concerned, I think I’m doing a pretty good job keeping up with my holiday obligations this year. Keep your fingers crossed.
Believe it or not, one of the Christmas presents being talked about for me this year is the 50th anniversary edition of “The Beatles” — aka, the White Album.
I really have to scratch my head and ponder the 50th anniversary part. How could so much time have gone by so fast?
I’m not going to say it seems like yesterday — that wouldn’t be true — but 50 years? OMG.
I’d pretty much moved on from the rock and roll thing by Nov. 22, 1968 when the White Album saw release. Of course, I had every Beatles album that had been released plus a bunch of picture sleeve 45s (most of them I sadly gifted to an old girlfriend).
As a musician, I always found myself more attracted to the British Parlophone releases than the American ones. I had the address of a little record store in London where I could get the records.
Back in those days I’d send them a cashier’s check (in English denominations) and they would send me a record in return. The records took weeks to arrive — London to New York by ship, and then by parcel post across America, but I was happy to hear the English releases because they weren’t drenched in reverb like the American ones. They also contained 14 songs rather than 11. I still believe the English releases are superior and unless you’re buying the Capitol reissue CDs, the English mixes are what’s available today.
Honestly, I don’t remember asking my mother for a copy of the White Album for Christmas, but I’m sure I must have. Long-playing records were $3.99 in those days and this double album cost about $8. A fortune for a record.
Since June 1968 (when I graduated from Fresno High School) I’d been hanging out in the coffee houses, both feet stuck firmly in the folk music thing. I was all acoustic all the time by then, and the idea of playing an electric guitar never crossed my mind. Heck, I didn’t even play with a flat pick because I was learning finger-style guitar.
But having said all that, I do remember getting the double album for Christmas. We still lived in that old, two-story farmhouse on Van Ness Avenue in Fresno. I’ve always considered that my childhood home. I think my brothers and sisters would agree with that assessment.
I promptly took the White Album (the original pressing with the rubber stamp number on the cover — I still have it) to my bedroom at the top of the stairs and listened to it front to back as my mom and my sisters made breakfast for the family. I remember my favorite song initially was “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey,” as weird as that sounds. It was the laughter that got me. Too much fun.
And I quickly adapted “Dear Prudence,” “Blackbird,” “Piggies,” “Rocky Raccoon” and “I Will” into my folksy repertoire.
But what’s most interesting to me about the White Album’s 50th anniversary reissue is the inclusion of the Esher Demos, frequently called the White Album unplugged — a series of mostly acoustic demos of most of the White Album’s songs recorded at George Harrison’s house in the Surrey suburb of London. I’ve heard those recordings, of course, but as bootlegs. Now they’re finally available as a studio quality release. Could be interesting.
So, in a couple of weeks I may have a flashback to a Christmas 50 years ago — a time when my parents and my brothers were still alive, a time when we kids were kids, a time when we all naively believed our course was firmly set and our lives could never, ever change.
But alas, that was then, and this is now, half a century later. Let me encourage you to cherish your holiday celebration with your family and friends this year. May you look back 50 years on and remember the day fondly as I do now. Oh, what I would give to share just few moments of that day again — the sights, the smells, the sounds, the fellowship of the people I love most dearly inside that big old house we called home.
Merry Christmas, everybody.