Rutherford Chang - Side 1 x 100 (The White Album)
I linked to this yesterday, and I will do so again now, because I woke up thinking about this … collage (song? artwork?). Actually, I woke up thinking about the song and the Jagger/Richards lyric “Did you ever wake up to find a day that broke up your mind, destroyed your notion of circular time”
I think for many people, like me, their entry point point into The Beatles in the early 70s was the Red album and the Blue album. Great places to start. The Red album presented what were essentially singles from the first half of the band’s recorded output. We fell in love with it, the harmonies, the production. Then we advanced to the Blue album, where for many people it got interesting. The differences in style between Lennon and McCartney really came through. The weirdness emerged. It was here that one generally stated their allegiances to either Paul or John. These opened a portal into the actual records - Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sgt Peppers and, eventually, the White Album.
The thing about the White Album is that, at first, it was confusing, I remember wondering, is this another compilation to go alongside the Red and Blue? The rub was that it wasn’t, but also that it was. The intensity of this sprawling masterpiece was that it reflected in song the conflicts emerging amongst the members of the band. It was their last record - if not in actual music they recorded, but in emotional outpour.
And a wonderful record that it is, it reminds me of Sandanista by The Clash in that it is a collection of songs that cannot be contained, no amount of editing will contain the diversity and styles that we hear song to song. It is an outpouring of wonderful, joyous, music, and at the same time hints at so many more musical ideas.
So, when you start to go deep into The Beatles, the White album, blows your mind and breaks your heart at the same time.
So from there we get to Side 1, 8 incredible diverse songs. The opening of a musical portal. And on song 7 we get While My Guitar Gently Weeps. The mindfuck of this song was that, in a catalogue full of beautiful, beautiful songs, here might be the prettiest. The guitar and bass lines, the lyrics, the voice. Wait, this is George Harrison? The mental model of the band is, maybe, forevermore changed at this moment. Maybe, just maybe, George wrote their greatest song, buried as song 7 on side 1 of a sprawling record late in the game?
What Rutherford has done is he has flipped this whole model and forced a reexamination of the record, but a different type. My belief is that Side 1 of the White Album, the grooves of it, are seared into the brain synapses of millions of people. Well, at least me. Every note. Rutherford knows that, and presents that, but by the time we get 20 minutes in or so, by the time it’s the place on Side 1 that While My Guitar comes up, it is completely unrecognizable. But it also isn’t, because we know it’s there. Is this the sound of a million people listening at the same time?
I remember when I saw The Gates
in Central Park a few years ago - my perception of a park where I grew up was forever changed. My perception of a city, a space. I’m having the same reaction now.