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We Buy White Albums
February 16, 2013 4:44 PM   Subscribe

We Buy White Albums is a New York record store dealing exclusively in first pressings of the Beatles' self titled 1968 double album (aka the White Album). The store is actually an art installation from Rutherford Chang. The inventory is growing (currently over 700 copies), with vinyl condition ranging from very good to scratched, warped, and graffitied, all filed by serial number. Each copy is being digitized and photographed with plans to press a new double-LP made from all the recordings layered upon each other and a composite cover of all of the photos. Vinyl collector site Dust and Grooves has an interview with Chang and a lot of pictures of the "store" and individual copies.
posted by Slack-a-gogo (50 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
Neat. Sort of a fancified version of EIT's Jerry Maguire Project.
posted by koeselitz at 4:51 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


I’m collecting them as cultural artifacts.

Does systematically removing them from circulation diminish them as cultural artifacts?
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:58 PM on February 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


I"m picturing a plain brown album cover with an album of white noise as the end product.
posted by HuronBob at 5:05 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


A few weeks ago I walked past the store and shot a quick photograph, when there were only one or two LPs on the wall. These days there are many more. I had wondered what sort of stunt / popup store it was, but was always rushing somewhere and didn't stop in. In concept it reminds me of Ed's Martian Bookstore, which sold only one book. (1 and 2, also my photos).
posted by autopilot at 5:07 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm collecting copies of groundhog day.
posted by pmcp at 5:14 PM on February 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Too bad they didn't go with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack or that Streisand/Kristofferson album--there are copies of those in every thrift store in America.
posted by box at 5:24 PM on February 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


God I wish I still had mine. With the embossed lettering... and I poured over that collage poster that came with it for, like, years.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:28 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


with plans to press a new double-LP made from all the recordings layered upon each other

leave DOH-blah-dee-DOH-blah-daa off, please.
posted by philip-random at 5:30 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


leave DOH-blah-dee-DOH-blah-daa off, please.

Seconded. Could leave Honey Pie off, too, on account of it being excruciating.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:35 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


HuronBob - The Dust and Grooves article has a audio of side one with 100 copies layered on top of each other. It's a bit muddy, but more not as white noisey as I expected. But I'm sure when you seven or eight hundred more layers it's going to get awfully noisey. At least I hope so.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 5:38 PM on February 16, 2013


The most he's paid for a copy: $20. My copy will remain in the closet.
posted by tgyg at 5:47 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The most recent episode of Portlandia had a sketch about "Art projects".

Basically, that. Ugh.
posted by kafziel at 5:50 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Dust and Grooves article has a audio of side one with 100 copies layered on top of each other.

Which was the thing I was most excited to get my hands on as soon as I started reading this, because holy shit yes. A hundred copies of the same record, in varying condition, tracked together off a turntable? You're gonna get steadily more and more out of sync as the side goes on, between turntable variance, wear on the records, needle skips and hops?

It's already great by Dear Prudence; echoes and pre-echos, crazy flam on the snares for the tracks that are still mostly together but starting get off by fifty or a hundred milliseconds, a slow collapse of cohesion as everything starts to sort of smear.

It's a whole side of the cacaphony build in A Day In The Life.
posted by cortex at 5:54 PM on February 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


I think it's neat. But then I'm a record collector and this barely rates on the scale of weird things audiophiles do with records. Can I interest you in a $400 domestic pressing of Sergio Mendes? The zany behaviour of audiophiles aside, record stampers do wear out, and there is a difference between the first and last pressing made from a given stamper; so it seems this fellow would be in the unique position to identify which range of serial numbers would be most likely to produce an above average sounding copy of the record.
posted by Lorin at 6:01 PM on February 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Love this, but I'm keeping my two numbered copies.
posted by freakazoid at 6:15 PM on February 16, 2013


Also, While My Guitar Gently Weeps x8 is pretty great too if you want a less throughly disorienting listen than the Side 1 x100 recording.
posted by cortex at 6:17 PM on February 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


Too bad they didn't go with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack or that Streisand/Kristofferson album--there are copies of those in every thrift store in America

Yep, those were always in the record bins at the thrift stores - but there was one artist that topped them both. He was always there.

My friends and I were thrift store obsessed. Chicago had some awesome places to shop. Every apartment we had was decorated with thrift store finds. We knew which stores to hit, at which times and on what days. Thrift shopping was an all day event - a pilgrimage to the shrine of wonderful cheap happiness.

Each time we went, there was a game we played called "Dan buys Lunch". At the first thrift store we stopped at - we would all race to the record rack and start a mad search. Any cool or rare records were passed up for the moment - you needed to find something much more important. You see, the rule of the contest was - the first one to find a Dan Fogelberg album - well the other guy had to buy lunch that day. Usually burritos at El Gallo De Oro on 63rd.

These days I don't hit the thrift stores as much.
But when I do, I always stop at the record bins - just to say hi to Dan.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 6:23 PM on February 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Also, this makes me feel slightly better about owning so many Beatles records that I rarely listen to. But when I do pull them out, I remember right away why I haven't sold them off. I prefer my EAS Japanese pressing of the White Album, but probably only because I've never been lucky enough to find a UK pressing that was as quiet. I don't mind surface noise, especially on thrift store records (Herb Alpert! Nana Mouskouri! Charley Pride!) but there's something about a nice clean copy.
posted by Lorin at 6:30 PM on February 16, 2013


Rutherford and I met during our freshman year in college at NYU (before he transferred, apparently), when we lived in the same dorm and spent the better part of that year together (his roommate and I were best friends). Say what you will about this project, but it makes me incredibly happy to see that he's doing so well.

Before he even realized that he was interested in art, he was always making collages, cutting things up, rearranging things, and had this amazing ability to see absolutely everything as a blank canvas or material to be used for a future project. He would get obsessed with a project and actually finish lots of cool stuff, was always collecting things for future projects, and was a huge source of inspiration for all of our friends. He was aloof and would rather work on something than talk about art or himself, although he could occasionally be talked into having some whiskey and playing chess and wandering around NY.

So in other words, 14 years later, Rutherford has found a way to make a living by doing all of the things that he was doing before, not because he was supposed to or felt like he had to, but just because that's the way his brain worked and that's what made him happy. And, for some reason, that makes me incredibly happy.
posted by blazingunicorn at 6:59 PM on February 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is there some way to merge these two FPPs?
posted by John Cohen at 7:00 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


In my limited thrift store digging, I got into Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. I thought I got most of them, but with 6 or 7 albums, I was well short. Never saw any Beatles, but I got a few albums from my parents.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:11 PM on February 16, 2013


The most he's paid for a copy: $20. My copy will remain in the closet.

It's not like they're rare or anything. They made millions of the damn things. I see them in used shops all the time for $8 - $15.

Now, the one on white vinyl'll go for $30 - $40 but, heck, the black vinyl's even back in print these days.
posted by dobbs at 7:13 PM on February 16, 2013


I've never understood people's preoccupation with this album. It's an okay album, but nowhere near as good as REVOLVER or RUBBER SOUL.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:19 PM on February 16, 2013


If this were my project, it would be Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours"
posted by billyfleetwood at 7:30 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


The moral of the story is: all White Albums get wet eventually.
posted by telstar at 7:47 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never understood people's preoccupation with this album. It's an okay album, but nowhere near as good as REVOLVER or RUBBER SOUL.


It's basically all the Beatles working solo, not as a group. It's got a Bob Dylan parody, a sound collage, a song about slides that inspired Charles Manson and heavy metal and a 30 second song about public sex. It's just so weird.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:52 PM on February 16, 2013


> Too bad they didn't go with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack or that Streisand/Kristofferson album

I believe you meant Loverboy's Get Lucky.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:54 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never understood people's preoccupation with this album.

It's interesting because it's uneven. Most of the Beatles' albums are outstanding from start to finish, so much so that they preclude certain kinds of conversations. Saying you like Revolver is like saying you like Mozart. Of course you do, now tell me something I don't already know.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:42 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's got a Bob Dylan parody

Which song would that be, Charlemagne?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:44 PM on February 16, 2013


Ah, never mind. A quick googling reveals that there are some who think of Rocky Raccoon as some sort of Dylan parody. I wouldn't agree with that at all, though, personally, unless I heard McCartney verify that it was...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:47 PM on February 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Listen to Lily, Rosemary & The Jack of Hearts off Blood on the Tracks first. Sexy Sadie is about the Maharishi.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 8:58 PM on February 16, 2013


I say this as a HUGE Beatles fan

I understand all the hype and mystique about the White Album, but it's just a shame that it couldn't be about a good album.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:02 PM on February 16, 2013


I think the whole project/concept is just wonderful. I wonder what Richard Hamilton would think?
posted by carter at 9:05 PM on February 16, 2013


Listen to Lily, Rosemary & The Jack of Hearts off Blood on the Tracks first

I've listened to the song many, many times. One of my favorites of Dylan's 'story songs'. So, the two songs are set in the old west. Far as I can tell, that's where the similarity between the two begins and ends. I remain unconvinced!

Sexy Sadie is about the Maharishi.

Knew that. But... is there supposed to be some Dylan parody connection with that one, too?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:47 PM on February 16, 2013


I understand all the hype and mystique about the White Album, but it's just a shame that it couldn't be about a good album.

If you removed a few songs (almost all McCartney transgressions) and replaced them with others that were recorded at pretty much the same time (Hey Jude among them -- no transgressing there) I think the "white" album would be far, far more than good. I mean, it's already got Dear Prudence, I'm Tired, Yer Blues, Glass Onion, Piggies, Revolution, Revolution 9, cry baby cry ... and those are just the tracks that immediately come to my fatigued middle-aged mind.

Which doesn't mean I'm not skeptical about this particular project, which seems to be far more about fetishising on something than genuinely loving it for what it genuinely is -- the best damned Beatles album of 1968.
posted by philip-random at 1:04 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is wonderful. It really hits the spot for me.
I would like to see him take the album covers and use them
as a grey scale to create photo realistic portraits of
the fab four. Just like the four that came with the album
Think Chuck Close... The images would be quite light and washed out for lack
of a dark end on the scale, giving the photos an aged or historical feel.
posted by quazichimp at 1:47 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had a similar idea a few years ago, but my collection is Tubular Bells, and I deliberately collected a round 100 copies. I catalogued them all too, but rather than make one recording by layering them, I wanted to play them all at the same time in a live performance, on 100 portable players, with the timing discrepancies inherent in cheap decks multiplying over the course of Tubular Bells' 23 minutes to create some kind of syncopated cacophony. A well known music / arts venue even got in touch with me to discuss making this happen, and were on their way to sourcing 100 decks when their live art department was shut due to budget cuts. I guess these days you could crowdsource the decks somehow, but I just moved onto other things. Still would love to hear what it would sound like though...
posted by iivix at 2:50 AM on February 17, 2013 [7 favorites]


What I love about the White Album, and I think what makes it great, is its sheer diversity and the way that its sequencing allows for odd detours. The final side in particular - the way it lurches from rocker to cheese back to rocker to bizarre tape experimentation landing up on Ringo's schmalzfest. If you look at it as a musical sequence it seems to be the first of the progressive rock albums - it goes on a long meandering journey the way that Close to the Edge or Supper's Ready do. Of course one might not like that, and subsequently not rate the album as highly as Rubber Soul (whereas I like it very much and rate it higher).
posted by Grangousier at 2:59 AM on February 17, 2013


I like how the discussion of whether or not the White Album is a worthy Beatles album is a conversation every twenty-something person has had at a bar at some point in their lives.
posted by Fizz at 6:39 AM on February 17, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's generally possible to segue that conversation into one about double albums that would have been better as single albums.
posted by box at 6:54 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


it goes on a long meandering journey

A long and winding road, if you will.
posted by cortex at 7:34 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, yes, I suppose I have to now.
posted by Grangousier at 7:59 AM on February 17, 2013


The White Album rocked my world when it came out. I was 13. What album rocked your world when you were 13?

And to be on topic...I think this is a cool project.
posted by rmmcclay at 8:01 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


The White Album rocked my world when it came out. I was 13.

Same here. I was 11.

What album rocked your world when you were 13?

That'd probably be a tie: Cosmo's Factory and Abbey Road.

Unless I'm forgetting something, which I probably am cause of the copious amounts of weed that were blowing in the wind starting just about then...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:26 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's generally possible to segue that conversation into one about double albums that would have been better as single albums.

Obviously, there are cases where this is so, starting with every double live album that ever had a drum solo. But in general, this position annoys me, particularly when it's a top band at the peak of its powers ... because what you get with the double album is a smorgasbord, a wide selection of choices. Combine with a cassette deck (I'm thinking it's 1974 now) and you have the option of making your own version of the album, which is exactly what I did with Beatles White when I was around fifteen ... and yes, I did include Revolution 9 as the final selection.

What album rocked your world when you were 13?

I'd be lying if I didn't say Thick As A Brick by Jethro Tull. All one song, 40 plus minutes, with an album cover you could spend weeks exploring. Someone gave it to my older brother for his birthday, but he had no interest being more of a Neil Diamond fan, so it ended up with me -- the first cool (ie: non Top 40 pop) album I'd ever owned.
posted by philip-random at 10:36 AM on February 17, 2013


I hadn't really dug into mainstream pop or rock at 13; I was still listening to a weird jumble of Weird Al and Dr. Demento tapes and the soft rock station on my clock radio, but somewhere around 14 or so a friend gave me The Wall and that had a profound effect on me, right around the time I started writing my own songs. There's a lot of sort of dramatic, whinging faux-Watersism to the stuff I was writing in the first couple years especially, because I was really taken by the narrative drama of that album in particular.

I listened to it on CD originally, again and again and again while also exploring the internet for the first time, but a little later in high school got myself a garage sale turntable and a not-too-beat-up copy of the actual album and just spun the hell out of that thing.

And I can say just as many eye-rolling things about problems with The Wall as anyone can about any double album—there's problems, for sure—but at the same time it's hard not to like that great big pile of work by a group all just laid together. Especially something from far back enough that a double album like that was something crazy long rather than just someone writing to the entire CD.
posted by cortex at 10:44 AM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


In reference to a previous post here: in the BEATLES ANTHOLOGY film, producer George Martin clearly explained his exasperation with the White Album, pointing out that he thought there were only enough "good" songs to make a single album. Worth noting.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:29 AM on February 17, 2013


Currently 14.5 minutes into the Side 1x100. Fan fucking tastic. It sounds like a kind of quasi-rhythmic sonic smear that occasionally erupts with a round of 'hey buffalo bill....'
posted by kaibutsu at 12:35 PM on February 17, 2013


John Wesley Harding forms a much better possible template for Rocky Raccoon: Western motif, goofy story songs w/ religious undertones, and having been actually released before the White Album (Blood on the Tracks wouldn't be born for another 7 years)

In light of JWH I can totally see Rocky as a Dylan parody!
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:14 PM on February 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Revolution #9" was a parody of Slow Train Comin' Dylan. But the Beatles didn't even want to future-listen to 80's Dylan any more than we want to past-listen to it, so they just made a track with a lot of noises.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:30 AM on February 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


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