I was lost in the White Album in 1969 while The Beatles lost their way
PUBLISHED: 19:06 27 January 2019 | UPDATED: 19:23 27 January 2019
Broadcaster and Beatles fanatic David Clayton unwrapped the band's White Album on Christmas Day 1968 and it became a constant companion for him while the band were going through the toughest part of their career
unwrapped the present from my parents on Christmas Day 1968 knowing full well it was the new Beatles LP. It was hard to disguise the shape and there were hints both ways I’d be getting it as my main present. The double LP, simply called The Beatles, has become better known as the White Album. It had been released at the end of November and I guess it was the main present for many teenagers like me.
I can remember the excitement of finally getting my hands on it. A double, gatefold LP, with a poster and four colour pictures of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Back in the day, the pleasure of any LP was reading everything on it. The track listing, the notes, the over-indulgent wordage about the band and, given the minimalist White Album was pretty much just that, a plain white cover what was inside was special.
As 1969 dawned it was all you’d hear coming from my bedroom.
The rocking Back in the USSR, the gentle and beautiful I Will and Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps, were played repeatedly. The fact it had four sides meant I didn’t tire of it easily. It was my staple listening for the first half of the year and convinced me of the band’s genius.
My portable Dansette record player took a bashing. Knowing what I know now about that time in the Beatles evolution, it explained the eclectic mix of styles as the Fab Four’s friendships fractured and strained throughout the making of it.
I love the slow version of Revolution which is on the album but thought the experimental Revolution No 9 was a waste of space on side four. I wasn’t alone. I favoured McCartney’s melody, over Lennon’s raw, Yoko Ono-influenced, weirdness.
I still have the album. It was the only Beatles LP I owned at the time, but has now been joined by many more I’ve acquired over the years. Up until that point, I’d appreciated the Beatles – we all did. They were everywhere and were very much part of my formative years. Little did I realise then, I was buying into the end-game of the Beatles as a group.
In 1969 I was into sixth form school life and it cut us a bit of slack. I say “us,” because my mate lived two doors away in Burgh Road, Gorleston. Martin Getliffe and I would hang out together. He would wander round to my house and we’d play the White Album through the winter months of 1969. I liked it a lot. Having called him on the phone the other day to check, he says he remembers not liking the LP. He reckoned that, after the seminal moment of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the White Album felt like a ‘mismatch, as you listened through to it.’
He had a point. More than ever before the Beatles had turned up with their individual compositions and perhaps felt more precious about their own.
Come the summer, Martin and I had summer jobs. There was lots of seasonal work for teenagers in and around Yarmouth. My job was in Fine Fare’s supermarket on Gorleston High Street – I stacked a mean shelf! Martin worked in a Burger Bar on Regent Road in Yarmouth where his speciality was an over-generous Knickerbocker Glory.
What this really meant was we had disposable income to spend on LPs.
Martin bought Abbey Road as soon as it came out in September ’69 and we sat together listening to that. Straightaway I thought it poor in comparison to the White Album. Martin preferred it. In our catch-up call recently, to confirm my misty memories of that year as well as our Beatles listening habits, he’s now concluded he’s grown to like the White Album and having now got my own copy, I’ve warmed to Abbey Road.
For Beatles fans these are two special albums capturing the end of a musical phenomenon.
MY SHRINE TO THE BEST BAND EVER
I call it my ‘Beatles shrine’. In truth I’ve just put all my Beatles things together in one cabinet. Having been a DJ and radio presenter for much of my working life I’ve accumulated Beatles singles and LPs and still buy more.
Back in the early seventies I played a guitar just for fun, so bought song sheets for tracks on the Beatles Let it Be album so they’re in there. Then books including John Lennon’s In My Own Write from 1964 which, if I’m honest, was bought by my older sister now living abroad. Keep quiet, because I’m not sure she knows I’ve got it!
I was lucky enough to grab a radio interview with Paul McCartney when he came to the UEA to talk about his book of poetry and song lyrics, Blackbird Singing in 2001 I bought a copy – he signed it.
My ‘shrine’ has been a solution to Christmas and birthday gifts for years, so I have a Beatles jigsaw, and even a Beatles wash bag.
I’ve just done a stock-check, I appear to have two Help albums, two copies of Let it Be and three, yes three White Albums.”
Would I collect more? Er – yes!