White Album

Chapter Thirty Eight

1968-18-Yer Blues

Er Fred, Bunch, have you got a moment?

Yes I’m lonely wanna die

Brown, not my favourite third year since the masturbation of life and death incident the previous summer, poked his head around the Music Room door.

What is it?

Look I am really sorry, I know I didn’t ask your permission but it’s my birthday and my parents bought it for me anyway.

Bought what?

You’ve got an album?

Er, yeah, I should have checked with you first in case you’ve got it but I couldn’t say no when my parents offered to buy it for me. it’s too expensive to buy on pocket money.

Yes I’m lonely wanna die

Too expensive? It’s not a double album is it?

Um, yeah, it is a double album.

You’ve got a double album? Then come in!

It’s not the, it is! You’ve got The Beatles!

Yeah, sorry, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity, you haven’t got it have you?

If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why.

No we have not! Come on in Brown.

Oh great, you mean I get to play it?

You can play it all day as far as we are concerned!

Brown gave me a small smile, part apology, part hope, so I responded as best I could.

Look this is really great of you Brown, thanks, we’d already decided that we would have to wait til Christmas to buy The Beatles so this is really appreciated. Thanks.

He beamed back at me with evident relief.

Can I put it on?

It’s your birthday, you can do what you want.

Oh great, I was so worried that you wouldn’t let me play it and then I would have to wait til the holidays to hear it.

In the morning wanna die

Hey, let’s hear all of it right now! Mind you you’ll have to leave the album in the Music Room, you know the rules.

Yeah I know, but I’ll take the poster with me if that is alright.

Of course. They’re your posters after all.

In the evening wanna die

This time Ringo got to kick off the album with some pounding drums, sounds like a jet taking off and loads of pounding piano, Paul in sneering Elvis mode. It was a major pisstake, mostly of the USA, with lots of musical puns and lyrically funnies; great start as usual. We were all impressed as it burst out of the speakers and Bunch loved the segue into Dear Prudence which however didn’t grab me that strongly as a track. By the end of side one we had agreed that George had stolen the honours with a great rock track, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which there had already been a strong buzz about because of the presence of the Lord Clapton.

If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why.

Side two, by comparison, was laid back with several acoustic tracks, which Brown didn’t seem so interested in. We didn’t mind as it was his birthday and he was celebrating it by letting us listen to The Beatles double album with him. I suddenly found a new patience in dealing with him.

My mother was of the sky
My father was of the earth

He didn’t have to wait long before things picked up though, as the Beatles began an impromptu chorus of celebration, just for him.

You say it’s your birthday, Well here’s to you boy

How cool is that, the Beatles singing you happy birthday on your birthday?

Yeah it is cool. And it is a great song.

He was a lucky lad, and side three continued in this vein by sliding into the classic Yer Blues which Bunch, with his developing taste for all things Blues, got straight away.

But I am of the universe
And you know what it’s worth

We played the “White Album” all the way through, even Number 9 and Good Night. It was a surfeit of 30 tracks that was too difficult, or perhaps too rich, or maybe just too many, to take in first time around. Just like Sgt Pepper had been, but for very different reasons.

Phew! What do you reckon? Yer Blues or Guitar Gently Weeps?

Got to be Birthday!

No! Yer Blues.

I reckon Guitar, although I really like that opening track.

Do you mind if I go now?

No Brown, that’s fine, you can go. It is your birthday after all!

When can I hear it again?

Well we are going out tonight, so if you meet us after dinner I’ll set the room up for you.

Oh thanks that would be great. Thanks!

I guess you’ll want to play it to all your friends?

If I could? Can I?

Okay, I don’t see why not. But no more than three of them in the room at any time, rules are rules. We will be back by nine and we’ll want the room back then, so make the most of it.

Thanks Fred! Thanks Bunch! Wow I really appreciate this.

Brown slipped out the door smiling, leaving all things White with us. We were very pleased with ourselves, even if we were a little bit guilty that it was us who were controlling the destiny of his birthday.

You know what we’ve become? I said to Bunch

The lucky recipients of The Beatles?

Yes, that too ! But we’ve become the Central Committee for the Purchasing of Records…

Yeah! Back in the USSR!

I’m lonely, wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why.

The following week Headmaster Frith’s son was back from Cambridge and Bunch and I were determined to initiate him into the wondrous mysteries of the Music Room and the glories of Beefheart, Beatles and the Byrds. We had heard he was a musician and we were keen to get his opinion, given how dramatically we felt music had changed during 1968, especially the resurgence of American artists through the innovations of the West Coast Bands. I was especially proud of my Jefferson Airplane single White Rabbit and we had even bought an import copy of Beefheart’s second album Strictly Personal which we took to be the height of cool and were desperate to play for him.

The eagle picks my eye
The worm he licks my bones

We got him down to the Music Room the following weekend and played him some of our legendary collection. He wasn’t much impressed. In fact he wasn’t impressed at all. There wasn’t enough blues and Fleetwood Mac wouldn’t do it for him. Nor did the opportunity to hear The Beatles new double album all the way through thrill him either. Curiously though he did want to hear Number 9.

I feel so suicidal
Just like Dylan’s Mr. Jones

You know you two need some authentic music. Let me go back to my Dads and get you something real to listen to.

Our mouths opened ready to be disputatious. Then we looked at each other. A musician, an authentic musician, who was at Cambridge, Christ that’s two strikes before we open our mouths! Perhaps agreement was the better part of argumentation.

OK Fred, bring out your best stuff!

Oh I don’t have to do that with you two! Hang on a sec I’ll be right back…

Lonely wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why.

There listen to this, now this is real music.

So Fred Frith put on Mississippi John Hurt for us and we listened to that for the best part of the next hour. It was good, it was definitely authentic, but I didn’t think it was revolutionary.

Black cloud crossed my mind
Blue mist round my soul

Actually it was depressing. Boarding School is depressing enough, well less depressing now we had young Janet the cook to cheer us up, but we still had to steal money from the Tuck Shop to buy albums. And listen up, Mr Fred Frith the Cambridge undergraduate, bloody imports were a damn sight harder to get hold of than you could possibly understand, thank you very much! So a kind word about our taste would be, well it would be kind dammit!

Feel so suicidal
Even hate my rock and roll

So what do you two think?

Different! It is different to what we usually listen to.

Yeah, different, but good. I can hear what Clapton heard in it.

Yeah; depressing though.

No it’s not depressing, it’s real. It isn’t fake like the Pop Music you listen to. Now I can see that you two love your music, you just have to listen a bit deeper. Tell you what. You’ve got a good record player so I don’t mind lending you the album until you break up next week? You can get to know it properly, you really need to meditate a bit when you listen to it, I’m probably a distraction.


Yeah, what do you say…

Wanna die yeah wanna die
If I ain’t dead already
Ooh girl you know the reason why

Well! Thank you very much Mister Cambridge Fred Hurt!!

Yeah, you can tell he doesn’t have to manage the record buying behaviour of a bunch of tone-deaf second years.

And their parents.

Yeah and their bloody parents!

I bet he gets to buy his own records all by himself!

Lucky bastard!



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