As I see your current issue (#738, cover date Nov. 7, 2008) features The White Album, I thought you might be interested in this copy I have (pictured above). It’s signed by Charles Manson and four other main “family” members. This, of course, is the album that Manson heard his “messages” on, songs like “Helter Skelter,” “Piggies” and “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?” were supposedly the motivation for his antics. The LP is for sale on my Web site, www.popculturesignatures.com. The signatures were gotten by a (as far as I know former) family member, at the institutions where they’re each housed in California.
— Jim Falkenstern, via e-mail
It seems to me, asking if The White Album is “fab or filler” 40 years after its release is a bit unfair.
It also seems that the people who give The Beatles and the music of the ’60s such a hard time either didn’t live through that period or were too young to know what was going on. If compared to the music that came out at that same time, it seems it’d be an easier question to answer. At that time (and being 17 at the time of it’s release) The White Album, like Sgt. Pepper, was way ahead of time.
The Beatles and Dylan set the agenda for “pop” music in the ’60s. They’d do something and everyone else followed — not the other way around. I’m listening to The White Album as I write this, and, with very few exceptions, can’t see where that album really even dates itself that much — especially compared to other albums from 1968. Most of the songs on the album could easily be hits today by today’s artists.
I have to admit that I’ve been a Beatles fan since the ’60s, and, now, near the age of 60, I’m still a fan. There hasn’t been a group that’s even come close to setting the music trends that The Beatles set. Not only the music, but the fashions and the culture of the time were affected by The Beatles. If their new album cover had them wearing a mustache, everyone started wearing a mustache. Not to say that everything The Beatles did I liked, but, in general, their albums were not the kind of albums you got up and moved the needle to the next cut very often. When you consider that The Beatles wrote and recorded 13 albums in about six years, they were and have remained the most prolific group in not just rock history but music history in general. From Rubber Soul to the last album, each one was different. Each album set the bar a little higher than the last.
The “fab or filler” question could be asked of almost any album by any group. Pretty easy question to answer when you look at today’s artists like Coldplay, for example. No matter how much of their press they read and believe, Coldplay will never be The Beatles or have the impact. The Beatles and Dylan will never happen again. I keep waiting for Capitol to re-release the rest of the Beatles catalog like they did the first eight American pressings. The mono mix of The White Album was very different from the stereo version. I’d love to have a clean mono copy. (Has there been any word on if and when Capitol will release the rest of the catalog?)
So for the short answer on fab or filler, I think The White Album falls in the fab category more than the fill side — with the exception of “Revolution #9.”
— Will Beeley, via e-mail