Lex Neon on The Beatles (aka “The White Album”)

Mostly through the fine art of whining and begging, I successfully scored almost all of the Beatles’ double albums in print up to 1977… all except the “moby disc” of the bunch; The Beatles (aka “The White Album”).

(cue the theme from “Mission Impossible”)

As an 8-year-old kid back in 1977, saving up $9.99 (plus tax) to buy a copy of the Beatles’ “White Album” seemed an impossible mission.  Because of its price tag, it was the Beatles album that was last on my list.   Thanks to my mom, I already had the other double disc sets available at the time (1962-1966, 1967-1970, and Rock and Roll Music).  All I needed was the “White Album,” and my Beatles collection would be complete.

I made a deal with my mom.  I would do any and all chores necessary to allow me to walk into Sears, score the record, and take it home for the collection.  She thought that the time was right for me to have an allowance of sorts, so we struck a deal.  She would start a list of chores for me to accomplish, and give me the grand sum of 2 dollars at the end of each “work week.”  That was good enough for me, so I “signed on the dotted line” for chore duty.

It was a lot harder than I thought.  I had never used a lawn mower before, so cutting the lawn was an all-day task for me; it cost me big time when the mower shredded part of my sneaker (don’t ask).  Thank goodness for my little blue Realistic transistor radio, which saved me from boredom!

I had never washed dishes before, but eventually learned to let the dishes soak to loosen up any sticky food particles.  I also learned to use this weird stuff called dishwashing liquid to get the things properly cleaned.  (One more thing: it helps to actually rinse the soap from the dishes once they’re washed!)

I had never taken out the garbage cans at 5:30 in the morning before, but every Thursday morning, I was up and lugging out 7 huge garbage cans from the backyard to the sidewalk.  After school, I had to wash out the cans and make them shine.

I not only learned how to wash her car (a sporty, champagne-colored ’74 Camaro), but to detail it to make it look radiant.  This was easy – my mom loved that car, so I took special care to make sure it looked good for her.

I had to keep my room clean at all times.  This was easy as well – I never went anywhere; I stayed in my room and listened to records and the radio all day.

Each week, I was rewarded with the princely sum of 2 dollars.  I guarded it with my life.  I forsook all of the childhood temptations there were at the time; I didn’t blow my money on Mad Magazine, bubblegum cards, Cup O’ Gold and Chunky candy bars, cream soda, root beer, or chocolate milk.  I stayed away from the new Winchell’s Donut shop that I passed everyday on my way to school.  I also stayed away from Mickey’s Place, the cool hamburger place at the end of my block.  Staying away from Mickey’s was tough – he had the best chili burgers and fries (plus a drink) for $1. 65.

Sometime in August of ’77, I was rewarded with a special trip to Sears Department Store.  As I did back in those days, I walked through the front doors of the store, scooted pass the Sears cafeteria, down the small flight of stairs, past the popcorn and concession vendor, and hopped onto the escalator.  Once at the top of the escalator, all hell broke lose and I turned into McQueen in The Great Escape.

I shifted into overdrive and ran as fast as I could.  The shoe department on the left and women’s clothing on the right were all a blur in my peripheral vision.  In high stride, I made a right-hand turn and cleared the boys’ clothes, the girls’ clothes, the bicycles, and the toy department.  I made another right, raced past the televisions (all tuned to the same station, of course), and hurdled the hi-fi equipment.  I didn’t stop until I hit the record department.  Out of breath, I flipped through all of the Beatles records.

There were no more copies of the “White Album!”

“What the hell?!?”

I flipped through the record bin again, and still came up short.  I ran over to the cashier.  Out of breath and quickly losing my mind, I asked if there were anymore copies of the “White Album.”  She said, “The one that was sitting in the bin was just sold about 5 minutes ago. I’m sorry, honey.  Would you want to buy something else?”  I walked away from the record department and went to the nearest restroom.  I sat in the stall and cried for five minutes, then went looking for my mom.

When mom noticed that I didn’t have a shopping bag, she asked what happened. “They ran out.  Somebody bought my record five minutes before I got there.  I ran as fast as I could, but it was gone.”  She hugged me real hard, and told me “Just hold on to your money.  We’ll see what we can do.”

After shopping, we headed home.  About a mile from home, we usually passed through the street that separated the campus of USC and the shopping mall called University Village.  My mom noticed a humongous sign on the side of one of the stores facing Jefferson Boulevard.  The sign was in the shape of a vinyl disc, and in big letters the words “Record Retreat” were printed.  She pulled into the parking lot of the Village, and together we walked into this new record store.

It didn’t take long for one of the clerks to walk over to the door when we entered.  “Hi, welcome to Record Retreat.  I’m Lee.  How can I help you?”  I sheepishly asked, “Do you have any Beatles records?”  Lee motioned for me and my mom to follow him, and he lead me to the bin containing my favorite band’s record.  Of course, the first album in the bin was “The White Album.”  I grabbed it, and said, “This is it.  I want this one.”

It seemed like an eternity before I was back in my room.  I placed the first disc on my turntable, and heard the familiar jet plane intro to the McCartney rocker “Back In The USSR.”  There were dozens of songs I had never heard before, such as Lennon’s “Dear Prudence,”  “Glass Onion,” “Yer Blues,” “Cry Baby Cry”  and “Happiness Is A Warm Gun” (which is still my favorite White Album track).  McCartney weighed in with the bold (“Helter Skelter,” “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road,” and “Birthday”), the beautiful (“I Will,” and “Blackbird”), and the strange (“Rocky Raccoon,” and “Wild Honey Pie”).

George Harrison started coming into focus for me on this album.  “Piggies” was the first one to catch my ear.  It took many listens until I could really appreciate “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” but “Long Long Long” was instantly one of my favorites.  Ringo’s “Don’t Pass Me By” was another one that I had to listen to quite a bit before I finally got it.  His version of Lennon’s “Goodnight” was (and still is) a great ending to this massive amount to Beatles music.

Least favorite?  I would have to say “Revolution 9.”  I didn’t understand it then.  I had no idea of the history of how it came to be, and it wasn’t really a song.  Once I understood the “Yoko” aspect years later, it made sense.  But for me, as an 8 year old, it didn’t make sense.  So, I left that one alone for a long, long time.

It’s almost 40 years to the day when the “White Album” was originally released, and it still sounds as modern as any album out there.  Most of my older friends remember it as the first Beatles album that caught their attention as children.  Not only was there music, but there were the 4 individual pics of the guys, and the poster that contained printed lyrics.  I was lucky to live in an age when you could still have those extras packaged in with the records.

I also love the fact that the album came out one month before I was born.  It marks time in musical years for me.  It makes me feel proud that when I was born, the Beatles were still producing great music together, even though by the time the album came out their career as a unit was coming to an end.

If you haven’t listened to the “White Album” lately, give it a spin and let me know what you were up to when you first heard this monumental piece of work.

(Lex Neon is the musical mastermind behind the music of indie sunshine pop / rock band Poppermost.  For more info, go to http://www.poppermost.com/)

(Please note: the original release date of The Beatles was November 22, 1968)

Currently listening :
The Beatles (The White Album)
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~ by Poppermost on November 16, 2008.

3 Responses to “Lex Neon on The Beatles (aka “The White Album”)”

  1. hahah LOVED your story and can relate to some of the places & things you talked about! I visulized the whole thing-

    man you had to do alotta chores huh? heheh

    What no more Beatles records woi;d you like to vuy something else?

    lmao!

    hell no we don’t want something else! doncha hate when that happens?
    ta
    hb~

  2. ps Im stumbling you post!

  3. Wow…what a great story. Brings back so many memories…yeah. the ’70s, chores, going to Sears. Beatles were a staple of my childhood (born in ’64), and then became favorites of my boys as well, the White Album, of course. Still the greatest band of all time.

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